Give and Let Live

Cause-driven film festival Lights. Camera. Help. hits the sweet spot between heart, mind, and action

Amplify Austin
"Amplify Austin"

Harnessing the creative power of Austin's blossoming film industry and the longstanding dedication to community, the fifth annual Lights. Camera. Help. Film Festival channels inspiration into action with 18 activist films.

Three features and 15 shorts will be spread out over three evenings, each benefiting an organization, in the 501(c)(3) nonprofit's brainchild. The fingerprints of the capital city can be found throughout many of the films, including local nonprofits (the Austin Children's Shelter in "Transforming Lives" and I Live Here, I Give Here in "Amplify Austin"), music by Shakey Graves and Dana Falconberry, and scenes shot around town. Other films shine light on work that's physically a little further from home but emotionally right up the alley of Austin activists: planting fruit trees in school yards situated in food deserts ("Let's Get Real"), creating vertical bricks of oyster larvae to slow receding shorelines ("Coastal Erosion Restoration"), advocating for legislation to protect sex workers ("Advocacy in Albany: No Condoms as Evidence"), healing through art ("Learning Photography in Haiti"), enhancing urban afterschool programs ("This Is Renzi"), and supporting elderly dementia patients ("Community Report: Health – Greater Twin Cities United Way"). These films offer a cinematic passport into the real stories of humanity's fractures and restorations manifesting as a call to action when the festival connects causes with agents of social change.

The stories transcend time, too: A young boy retells a 1985 Schwarzenegger plot in "Alex Presents: Commando," all the while debunking a stereotype. Friday's feature, When I Rise, illuminates the racial divide at the University of Texas in 1957 through opera student Barbara Smith Conrad's powerful story. But one of the most stirring of the festival's entries is a story of today and now: "A Fighting Chance" follows several families, one living in our own backyard, who are honest in their struggles to survive the devastating grip of poverty. Addiction, exorbitant medical bills, and sometimes just really bad luck spell a slippery slope despite valiant efforts to thrive. Organizations big and small want to help, and Lights. Camera. Help. is on a mission to deliver the messages.

Genre specifics pale where political, racial, gender, and socioeconomic issues threaten to divide families, yet the hand-picked schedule's filmmaking styles and creative effects are not lost among bootstraps and heartstrings. Comedic moments are a testament to the individual personalities; horror is revealed in the startling realities of everyday life; romance is not limited to love. The films' portrayal of personal truths present hope through an accessible and artistic medium, allowing the magic of humanity to catalyze solutions.

A panel of judges – "usually a nonprofit person, a filmmaker, and a communications professional," explains Executive Director Aaron Bramley – will select several films and their corresponding organizations to receive cash prizes. With one dedicated Alamo Drafthouse Village screen (other movies will be playing on other screens), Bramley says, "We plan on filling every one of the 120 seats we have available to us. Ticket sales directly impact the amount we can support the causes behind our winning films." Festival success is measured in funding the LCH mission through inspired collaboration within an engaged community.

The Lights. Camera. Help. Film Festival takes place Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 15-17, at the Alamo Drafthouse Village (2700 W. Anderson). Tickets are $25-30 for a one-night pass, $70 for a three-night badge, and $20 for the closing party. See for complete details.

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