Two film festivals are scheduled for September in Austin, each with unique qualities.
Story By: Erica Todd
This month, two remarkable film festivals precede the city’s most famous fall cinematic event, the Austin Film Festival. The Lights. Camera. Help. Film Festival and Fantastic Fest are a couple of pioneering and innovative festivals. Each one showcases an amazing selection of films while reinforcing Austin’s reputation as a consummately creative city with an appreciation for great movies.
Lights. Camera. Help. Film Festival
Sept. 12–14, Texas Spirit Theater and Scottish Rite Theater
In 2009, Lights. Camera. Help. became the first film festival of its kind. This three-day cinematic event is dedicated to showing nonprofit and cause-driven films.
Audiences attending the festival can choose from a variety of documentaries, public service announcements and short films made here in Austin, throughout the country and abroad. Life in rural Mexico, the use of technology for nonprofit causes and the foster-care system are some of the subjects explored in the screenings.
This year, the Lights. Camera. Help. Film Festival includes a keynote address. Turk Pipkin, cofounder of The Nobelity Project with his wife, Christy, is the speaker. A celebrated filmmaker himself, his most recent film, Building Hope (2011), documents the construction of the first high school in a Kenyan community. Pipkin’s film raised money and awareness for his nonprofit’s Kenyan Schools Fund.
Pipkin’s philanthropy and creativity are emblematic of the spirit of the Lights. Camera. Help. Film Festival, which raises money for nonprofits by giving a portion of the proceeds to the winning films’ causes. During the past three years, a number of nonprofit organizations have received more than $7,000 in awards, while more than 70 films shared an array of cause-driven stories with the festival’s audiences.
Nonprofit organizations and filmmakers will be celebrated at the awards party the final day of the festival. The festivity will include plenty of tasty food and a selection of drinks at the open bar. The historic Scottish Rite Theater is the stunning locale, and sets by DJ Ulovei will ensure a fun atmosphere to conclude the event.
Here are some of the films showing at this year’s Lights. Camera. Help. Film Festival:
— From the Streets to the Fields (2012/Spain/80 minutes): Carlos Sánchez-Llibre and Josep Maria Badell’s documentary shows the power of sport on some young Spaniards. From the Streets to the Fields follows three junior soccer players and their inspirational meeting with idols from their World Cup-winning national team.
— Let There Be Sight (2012/U.S./short film): Speaker Turk Pipkin’s short film premieres following his keynote address. Let There Be Sight records the Nobelity Project’s aim to help provide eye care in Nepal through its partnership with The Seva Foundation.
— Maestra (Teacher) (2011/Cuba/33 minutes): Catherine Murphy’s documentary chronicles the 1961 Cuban literacy campaign. Contemporary interviews with eight women reveal their experiences as several of the thousands of volunteer teachers. Through their stories, audiences gain insight in to their lives as teenage teachers during Castro’s Cuba.
See the full list of films and the schedule at lightscamerahelp.org. Tickets start at $10 for a single screening. Admittance to the keynote address and party is included in the price of badges, or can be purchased separately. There are also opportunities to volunteer.
Sept. 20–27, numerous venues (primarily Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar)
This weeklong cinematic extravaganza is the largest genre film festival in the United States. Horror, fantasy, sci-fi and action are the main fare at Fantastic Fest, and the selection of films has afforded it significant acclaim across the country. Charlie Koones, former president and publisher of Variety, ranked the festival among some of the greats like Cannes and Toronto.
Attending Fantastic Fest affords audiences the chance to see several of the directors and cast members in person. Past talent has included Paul Rudd, George Romero, Kevin Smith and Bill Murray. Many of films at the festival are premieres in the region or the United States, and in some cases, the world. Given the wide variety on show, there should be an attraction for everyone, regardless of filmic taste.
In the theater, viewers can re-experience performances of film legends like Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980/U.S.) or Elizabeth Taylor in Joseph Losey’s Secret Ceremony (1968/UK). John Hyams’ Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (2012/U.S.) is one of the many new films scheduled. There will also be a selection of films from international filmmakers, such as Philippe Lefrebvre’s cop thriller Paris By Night (2011/France) and Yeun Sang-Ho’s animated indie film King of Pigs (2011/South Korea).
Fantastic Fest also puts the spotlight on new genre filmmakers. Eight films from seven countries will be showcased as part of the 2012 AMD Next Wave competition. The directors will be honored at the annual Fantastic Fest awards presentation.
Here’s a sample of the films showing this year at Fantastic Fest:
— Frankenweenie (2012/U.S./90 minutes): At this world premiere, viewers can check out director Tim Burton’s stop-motion, animated film before its release this October. The 3D, black-and-white flick is a remake of Burton’s 1984 short film of the same name. The disastrous results of young Victor’s decision to bring his cherished dog Sparky back to life are the focus of this comedy-horror.
— Graceland (2012/Philippines/84 minutes): The Texas premiere of writer-director Ron Morales’ crime thriller will take audiences on a tense journey in to a criminal underworld set in Manila. Graceland centers on Marlon Villar, the driver for a corrupt congressman who is kidnapped after picking up his and his boss’ daughters from school.
— The American Scream (2012/U.S./81 minutes): Michael Paul Stephenson’s documentary delves in to the significance of Halloween for three households in Massachusetts. The American Scream records the touching process the occupants have of transforming their homes in to horror havens and the satisfyingly scary results.
See the full list of films at fantasticfest.com. Badges start at $59 for daytime-only screenings, with availability of individual tickets dependent on the popularity of the screening. There are also opportunities to volunteer.