Hill Country Film Festival Brings Movie Magic to Small-Town Texas
Hollywood meets Fredericksburg
Name the great destination film festivals. Cannes. Berlin. Fredericksburg?
Though higher-wattage festivals like SXSW or the Austin Film Festival may hog the spotlight in Texas, the Hill Country Film Festival hopes to share some of the comforts and coziness that can only be had in small-town Texas. With everything from high-energy sci-fi to documentaries about the reality of immigration, the HCFF has a little bit of something for every weekend traveler.
Nine years ago, brother-sister duo Chad Mathews and Amy Miskovsky founded HCFF because they wanted to share their love of the visual arts with the community they loved. "When we were kids, we would spend our summers in Fredericksburg," Miskovsky said. "It was essentially our home away from home. We wanted to showcase and share independent film in a community that didn't have access to that."
At the time, Mathews was living in L.A., working on his own films. After attending festivals across the United States in unfamiliar places like the Beaufort International Film Festival in South Carolina, and Sundance when it was still in tiny Ogden, Utah, he was inspired to make Fredericksburg a destination festival as well. "What I really liked about festivals as an outsider is that you get to explore a new region or place that you would have never gone to otherwise," Mathews said. "I thought, 'Well, I know enough filmmakers, we could have a film festival. We could take a chance.'"
Though they began small, the HCFF team sees its size as something that distinguishes it. "It's an intimate fest," Miskovsky said. "You'll get to know filmmakers, you'll get to know other attendees, and you'll get to know the team."
When it comes to deciding what should show at the festival, Mathews, who handles programming, takes a rather mellow approach to booking, with only one criterion: "We want our programmers to [say], 'I recommend that you go see this film, I think it's worth checking out.' These filmmakers have a story to tell, and they're doing it very creatively."
This year, the festival will screen 14 features, 10 blocks of shorts, as well as host filmmaker Q&As and panel discussions, plus a special family-friendly screening of The Goonies. Although they show films by directors from all over the world, Miskovsky and Mathews are always on the lookout for films with a Texan connection. The roster of Texas films this year includes the sci-fi adventure Time Trap and a reimagining of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, set in a preparatory high school. SXSW titles with a local link like sex comedy The Unicorn and award-winning documentary Daughters of the Sexual Revolution: The Untold Story of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders return to the region. The latter was even partially filmed in Fredericksburg since the late Suzanne Mitchell, the spirit behind the cheerleaders, retired in the town. "We love when a film incorporates the Hill Country, or something specific about Fredericksburg," Miskovsky said. "Those are the things that we try to get behind."
Though beautifully crafted and full of heart, not all films make it to distribution. However, Mathews said the purpose of festivals like HCFF goes beyond just being a place to show movies. "We're able to serve a filmmaker and their product and get it out to an audience. If it gives them encouragement to keep doing what they're doing, then it's worth it."
Hill Country Film FestivalApril 26-29 @Fritztown Cinema, Fredericksburg.
Passes $90-200, individual tickets $10.