King of the Hill
It's lights, camera, action for the Hill Country Film Festival in Fredericksburg
If diving headfirst into the beautiful mayhem of the South by Southwest Film Festival necessitates beta-blockers and brown paper sacks for you, perhaps a laid-back weekend getaway to the heart of the Hill Country might be more your style. But even the most gung-ho film fest lovers will relish in the country charm of the fourth annual Hill Country Film Festival, running May 2-5 in Fredericksburg.
Presented by the 501(c)3 Hill Country Film Society, the fest benefits the independent film community and supports arts education and creativity in the Hill Country. In addition to a lineup of four features, more than 40 shorts, and eight short screenplay finalists, the festival includes parties at local restaurants, Q&A sessions, and panels full of independent film industry folks. A family-friendly outdoor screening kicks off the festival, and the remainder of the weekend's films will screen at the 250-seat Steve W. Shepherd Theater. Tickets are a steal with three options still available at press time. One Ben Franklin (seriously: only $100!) buys an all-access badge, or you can get a day pass for $40 for either Friday or Saturday, and individual screenings run $10 a pop.
Need help getting started? We've plucked a few shorts and features to highlight below. See the website for tickets and more details: www.hillcountryff.com.
Stuck in Love
D: Josh Boone; with Logan Lerman, Lily Collins, Jennifer Connelly, Kristen Bell, Stephen King, Greg Kinnear
At any age, the notions of love and family are riddled with peculiarities. Described as a "dramedy," Stuck In Love examines both the parallels and perpendiculars of one family's forays into relationships of all sorts. A famed writer (Kinnear), divorced from his remarried ex-wife (Connelly), cannot shake his belief that she will one day rejoin him and their teenage children (Collins, Lerman) at their beachfront property dining table. As his writing takes a back-burner to his pain, both his son – a bridge over the family's troubled waters with his own crush – and his daughter – a burgeoning writer with a knack for calculated cover-ups of the heart – navigate young love's bumpy ride. Bell, in a small supporting role, lends the majority of the film's comedic relief, and Connelly's famous furrowed brow and 100-watt smile round out the other end of the emotional gamut. A cast of likeable characters, despite their many idiosyncrasies, coupled with a steady-paced plot and reasonably relatable story yield a film sure to inspire a tear and a chuckle.
D: Ben Shelton; with Skyler Caleb, Meg Cionni, Tim Daly, Jean Smart
With a great job and a great girl, Ben's life is picturesque. In fact, save for his car's metaphorical faulty ignition, it is only getting better. The plots develops when a chance encounter at the park reveals his buried desire for a new, sparkly adventure in love ... with a stranger he can communicate with during REM sleep. Part arthouse dreamland, part indie romcom, Waking puts a new spin on relationships and that inevitable moment of "What the hell am I doing?" every twenty/thirtysomething encounters. Written by lead actor Skyler Caleb, the film engages from the beginning and sustains curiosity. Ben flashes back and forth between dreams and reality, real-time screw-ups and therapy sessions, Amanda and Nadia. The sporadic bits of comedy keep the film from going full What Dreams May Come, and Ben's predicament reflects upon the gray areas of head and heart, effectively rendering the story a psychologist's dream case and worst nightmare in one: a fascinating case situated in the middle of a busy personal intersection.
D: Evan Viera
An epic story packed into 12 minutes, Evan Viera's computer-animated short portrays the universe as seen by a young girl living with mental illness. Reality is above ground: It is blank faces and pills; it is society's perceived normal, haunting her. A moment's decision ushers in her psychosis, and with it, a vivid underwater paradise; it is peace, however fleeting.
D: Chad Mathews
Filmed at a Catholic school in Fredericksburg and featuring several Hill Country kids, "Detention" tells the true story of a childhood incident. Exchanges of kids' conversations and an elementary school joke will tickle even the resident curmudgeon ... unless she is a nun with detention on her mind.
D: Jenny Goddard
Filmed in Austin and featuring a shot of Freddie's Place, "Happy Voodoo" is as creepy as it is endearing. Damien hand-fashions replicas of his friends and employs black magic to positively enhance their lives. Hilariously, his motives also may be slightly self-serving.
The Boondi War
D: Claire Marshall
This 7-minute Australian comedy about the afterschool lives of young boys at first comes off like a lighthearted documentary. Engaged in a longstanding mud-clump turf-war with rivals of the same age group, the boys deliver one-liners and action sequences à la Stallone and Willis as they hurl red clods and fall like soldiers in battle.