The Austin Chronicle

The Way of the Iron Dragon

Action film festival gets really hands-on

By Marc Savlov, August 10, 2018, Screens

What's more ass-kicking, crazy-fun than spending a weekend at home streaming a tsunami of mind-blowing martial arts mayhem starring the likes of Donnie Yen, Chow Yun-fat, or Tak Sakaguchi as they relentlessly batter the bad guys bloody? That's easy: Spend this weekend attending Austin's newest genre film festival, the second annual Iron Dragon TV Action Fest with Sakaguchi (Versus, Sion Sono's Why Don't You Play in Hell?, Tokyo Gore Police) and director Yuji Shimomura on hand for Re:Born, their first film together since 2005's spectacular Death Trance.

Yeah, take a minute to let that sink in. Quaff some Juyondai saké if you have to and then head out to this weekend's action celebration at the Galaxy Highland and AFS Cinema, featuring a wealth of short films, panels, and madcap martial artistry demonstrations taught by no less than Sakaguchi himself. It's been nearly two decades since The Man from Ishikawa forever changed the face of modern ninjitsu filmmaking in Ryuhei Kitamura's legendary zombie/Yakuza/sword-and-slaughter magnum opus Versus, and the advance word on Re:Born has been uniformly enthusiastic.

The fest is the brainchild of Iron Dragon TV CEO and all-around badass-and-black-belted martial artist Janell Smith – who incidentally also helped found Austin's first martial arts stunt academy, the Fighting Stunts Association and Action Film Institute. She explained that she "basically launched IDTV Action Fest to promote Iron Dragon TV, and to have a place for indie action filmmakers to screen their work. Right now most of the content on Iron Dragon TV is larger films with stars like Donnie Yen and Jet Li, and I definitely wanted to help promote the up-and-coming action filmmakers."

Aside from Re:Born, this year's IDTV Fest also features a selection of ultra-action-oriented features and short films, plus conversations with Altered Carbon and Matrix Reloaded actor David No, stuntman Gui DaSilva-Greene (Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther), and The Boondock Saints' Sean Patrick Flanery, among others. There's also a panel (with added self-defense workshop) on female empowerment in both on-reel and in real life. Smith said, "We're calling it the 'Women in Power Hour' and it revolves around everything female-related about kicking butt." In addition, they'll be bringing writer/action actress Marissa Labog and producer Emily Wanserski for a screening of their 2016 short "When Kids Grow Up." Smith said, "That kind of goes hand in hand with the theme of women's empowerment. We want to let women know that they can get in there and learn self-defense tactics through martial arts. I actually teach that on a regular basis out of UT, and so anytime I can partner with other women who are doing the same thing, that's great."

Smith added, "We're also having a tricking seminar on Sunday."

Wait, a what seminar?

"Tricking is basically taking martial arts to the next level. When you see those guys spinning in the air and doing 720-degree roundhouse kicks, that's tricking. There's a lot of air time involved."

IDTV Action Fest, Aug. 10-12 @ Galaxy Highland and AFS Cinema. Tickets and info at Iron Dragon TV is available in 4K via Google Play and Roku. Details at

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