Austin Critics Announce the Five Best Austin Films of 2022

Linklater and mountain lions, the pandemic, the legacy of slavery, and the fight for abortion rights all part of this year’s AFCA Austin Film Award short list


Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood

Pandemic or not, Austin remains a vital center of filmmaking, and 2022 proved no exception as the short list for the Austin Film Critics Association's Austin Film Award shows. Announced on Jan. 3, the selection includes documentaries about the fights for abortion rights and wildlife, an archaeological search for a hidden sin, and two experiments by local filmmaking legends that push the form of cinema.

The selections are just part of the full list of award nominees voted on by the AFCA membership (which includes several Austin Chronicle staff and writers), and the winners will be announced on Jan. 10,. But if you can't wait to watch all five nominees, here's where you can catch them streaming right now.

Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood

Richard Linklater's never been one to shy away from experimental filmmaking, bittersweet looks back at the past, or quasi-autobiographies, and those three urges combined in possibly his most personal film to date. Set in the suburbs around NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center at the height of the space race, Apollo 10½ is a fantastical look back at Houston in the time of AstroWorld and psychedelia, all seen through the eyes of a young boy (newcomer Milo Coy) who dreams he becomes part of the adventure. The live-action footage is given extra vibrancy through character animation by an international team including Austin's Minnow Mountain.

Streaming now on Netflix. Read our glowing review, as well as our interviews with director Richard Linklater and stars Milo Coy and Glen Powell.

Deep in the Heart

Deep in the Heart

Ben Masters follows up his 2019 South by Southwest award-winning journey along the wild and spectacular environments of the Texas border, The River and the Wall, with a tender and breathtaking exploration of the wildlife of the Lone Star State. Many creatures will be familiar, like the gigantic colony of Mexican free-tailed bats at Bracken Cave in the Hill Country, but Masters and his team spent months patiently waiting for a glimpse of the state's rarest inhabitants, from returning bears to the endangered ocelot. Narrated by Matthew McConaughey, it's a call for all human Texans to remember that they are not the state's only inhabitants, and that the fates of all its creatures are very much intertwined with our own.

Available now on VOD. Read our four-star review and interview with director Ben Masters.

Descendant

Descendant

Margaret Brown returns to her hometown of Mobile, Alabama, where she filmed her 2008 breakout, The Order of Myths, to track the detective work behind uncovering the evidence of a very particular crime: the Clotilda, America's last slaving ship, scuttled in 1860 somewhere in the swamps. As the importation of slavery had been banned four years earlier, the very existence of the Clotilda has been contentious, and Brown portrays how its discovery validated the family histories of the descendants of the community of Africatown.

Streaming now on Netflix. Read our SXSW review and interview with director Margaret Brown.

Shouting Down Midnight

Shouting Down Midnight

June 26, 2013: a date that will live in Texas political history because of Fort Worth Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis' filibuster of Senate Bill 5, the Republican effort to strip away reproductive rights. It was actually her second filibuster, after the oft-forgotten disruption of the 2011 school finance bill, and while the night was won, the battle was lost as Gov. Rick Perry simply recalled the Legislature for a special session and passed the bill two weeks later. But as documentarian Gretchen Stoeltje shows, the war rages on through the women inspired by that night to become activists.

Streaming now on Peacock. Read our SXSW review and interview with director Gretchen Stoeltje.

There There

There There

Andrew Bujalski was at the heart of the DIY filmmaking revolution known as mumblecore, although he has moved on to bigger, star-studded studio projects like Support the Girls and Results. When the pandemic hit, he responded by going back to his "work with what you have" roots – although what he had was a list of well-known actors (Lili Taylor, Lennie James, Jason Schwartzman, and more) and a series of two-handed, interlocking scenes. Rather than create a single COVID-safe set, Bujalski's experimental piece keeps each performer in splendid isolation, expanding the concept of the Zoom movie beyond the lockdown into a unique inquiry into the spaces between us.

Available now on VOD. Read our review and our interview with director Andrew Bujalski.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin Film Critics Association, AFCA, Austin Film Award, Apollo 10 1 / 2, Deep in the Heart, Descendant, Shouting Down Midnight, There There, Margaret Brown, Andrew Bujalski, Richard Linklater, Ben Masters, Gretchen Stoeltje, AFS Cinema, Netflix, Peacock, VOD, Milo Coy, Glen Powell

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