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First Texas Film Festival ends in Austin &# 171; covid era&# 187;
Festival program: mirages of the past and echoes of reality
In the Texas city of Austin, the 27th International Film Festival (Austin Film Festival, abbreviated AFF) has ended. More than thirty feature films and several dozen short films were included in the program of the show, which was held in virtual format for the first time..
The American press, including the correspondent of the Russian service “Voice of America”, covered the festival “remotely”, watching films on schedule and participating in meetings with their creators on the AFF online platform.
The programmers of the show divided the films into several categories – the main section, the special screening, comedy, thrillers and horror films, documentaries, independent films of Texas and the youth section..
The logo of the Austin Film Festival depicts a typewriter – the main tool of work of writers and journalists in the pre-computer era. AFF differs from many other American film festivals in its credo – an interest in screenwriting as a field of creativity, in the contribution of screenwriters to the process of making a film..
If you look from this angle at the ambitious crime thriller “Two Deaths of Henry Baker”, which is included in the main program, directed by Felipe Mukchi, one can state some scenario redundancy in the number of intertwining storylines and, at the same time, a paucity of motivations. There is a secret treasure, the location of which the father shows to his son Henry, who in turn, many years later, entrusts this information to his son. But there are enough people who want to join the Baker family secret to make the screen clouded with smoke from endless gunfights. The emerging heroes are obsessed with hatred for each other.
&# 171; The Two Deaths of Henry Baker&# 187;
“The script by Sebastian Pigott is a complete mess, filled with extra characters,” writes Douglas Laman, columnist for The Spool in Chicago, about The Two Deaths of Henry Baker. “One could assume that at least one of them would leave an impression, but all these similar figures replacing each other only glint in the sea of rage fueled by testosterone.”.
A much more coherent impression is left by the road movie Fugitive Dreams, stylized in the aesthetics of the films of the 30s, directed by Jason Neulander. The main characters here are a white vagrant drug addict and a black runaway. They travel the vast expanses of the American Midwest in a half-empty freight train car. They will be accompanied for a while by an equally colorful couple – a cheerful, impudent bum and an older woman whom the bum jokingly calls mommy. In a mysterious forest, where the tramp hero will find himself, having changed his means of transportation against his will, he will meet a strange type in a fur coat who calls himself a Canadian from Quebec and is proud that he can sing a song from the repertoire of Edith Piaf.
&# 171; Runaway Dreams&# 187;
Runaway Dreams is a kind of game with a binary identity, where the characters appear alternately in reality and in the world of memories and fantasies. In building the narrative, in stringing the heroes’ encounters with equally colorful outsiders, the “scum of society” on the main plot, Neulander’s film is somewhat reminiscent of Chloe Zhao’s “Nomadland”, which is considered the main favorite of the upcoming awards season. The fundamental difference is that Zhao’s tape follows the truth of life in big and small, while Runaway Dreams draws the viewer into a mystery full of visual charades and understatement.
During an online conference, Neulander talked about how, while remaking Caridad Switch’s play for the screen, he was inspired by pre-war American film classics, as well as the poetics of Jim Jarmusch’s film Outlaw. The director remarked that the film would not have been possible without cameraman Peter Simonite, who, according to Neulander, made a huge contribution to its creation..
“I was attracted to the idea of creating a specific visual language,” said Peter Simonite. – We talked a lot about this with Jason (Neulander). The concept of desolation, wasteland was key. We filmed in central Texas, where we found very expressive landscapes that became a kind of additional hero. I was also attracted by the idea of alternating black and white frames with color ones. Some unexpected energy is generated by these contrasts “.
The AFF comedy section includes the Polish film Time for Love and the American Reboot Camp..
&# 171; Time for love&# 187;
The first was directed by the Colombian-born director Miguel Velez, who works in Poland. This is a lyrical comedy with elements of black humor, as well as a kind of road movie, which takes place on Christmas Eve in a passenger train carriage. A young hero jumps into it as a hare, falling in love at first sight with a charming and slightly mysterious passenger. In the course of the train’s movement, a lot of funny and unexpected scenes will take place with the participation of the hero and the object of his romantic interest, as well as the chief conductor, a cute barmaid and all kinds of passengers.
The “Restart Camp”, filmed in the fashionable genre of satirical “mocumentari” by the American director Ivo Raza, is very relevant. Upon learning that his wife has spent all the family’s savings on self-proclaimed gurus who turned out to be adventurers, the hero of the film Seymour, along with his brother-film lover Danny, decides to conduct a daring experiment. He proclaims himself a “great teacher” and lures all kinds of people into a “self-help” and meditation group, promising them to open the way to salvation and hidden truth. Seymour achieves his goal surprisingly easily, fooling dozens of “students”. But getting out of the game isn’t easy. After all, he created a whole cult, and his followers flatly refuse to believe that all this is a bad joke..
&# 171; reboot camp&# 187;
Another comedy, Film Fest, directed by Marshall Cook, targets the independent filmmakers themselves, or “indie” as they are called in the film community, from the English indie as a humorous target. The guys did a kind of feat, collecting bit by bit money for their first film. They were denied participation in dozens of festivals, and now there was one who accepted the film into the program. And even if this is a miniature, amateur festival, with many annoying and ridiculous problems, success on it, albeit almost symbolic, will clearly inspire the guys to new projects.
In an AFF animated commercial, venerable director and playwright Laurence Kasdan appeared before streaming the next film and told the audience the long-suffering story of his script for “The Bodyguard”, which became a successful blockbuster with Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. Walking through the studios and producers’ offices was a painful experience for Kasdan. The script was rejected 57 (!) Times, calling it irrelevant, banal, boring, etc..
During online conversations with filmmakers, the topic of the survival of the “addicted”, especially in the face of competition with the commercial mainstream, was constantly raised. Perseverance and obsession are the qualities that allow hundreds of young and not so young talents to stay afloat and wait for their finest hour..
Journalist, film critic, correspondent for the Russian Service «Voices of America» in New York.