Home Life and Arts Austin Film Festival: Opening Weekend Recap

Austin Film Festival: Opening Weekend Recap

The State Theatre Oct. 14 during the Austin Film Festival. A variety of films were screened in the theater during the duration of the festival.
Photo by: Russell Reed | Staff Photographer

Writers, actors, producers, directors and film lovers gathered this past weekend for the opening days of the 23rd Annual Austin Film Festival.

AFF took place in various Austin theaters Oct. 13-20.

Friday night dramas and love stories dominated as films “One Night” and “The Writer’s Burrow” took the screen.

Minhal Baig, “One Night” director, said the indie romance was inspired by others’ and personal relationships.

“One Night” explored the ups and downs of relationships through the contrast of a high school romance and a struggling marriage.

“I think a lot about the relationships people in my life had like one of our producers,” Baig said. “That inspired a lot of my writing.”

“The Writer’s Burrow”, a Spanish film ended by giving the audience a peak into the writer’s mind and his need for love and a career.

Kurro González, “The Writer’s Burrow” writer, said having one-on-one feedback and interacting with others at the festival was a personal highlight of the weekend.

“It’s everything,” González said. “The (audience) enjoyed it and really liked it. We’ve gotten really good feedback. I’m also a panelist and had the opportunity to speak with other filmmakers.”

AFF allowed general admission for single films for those who didn’t have a badge or film pass.

Jennell Lewis, Austin resident and first time attendee, said she appreciates the personal interactions with filmmakers during her time at the festival.

“What I love is when you go to the films and someone from the film is there,” Lewis said. “Like the directors or actors—that part is really interesting.”

Augusto Aguilera, AFF volunteer, said volunteering allowed him to see a variety of films and interact with panelists.

“I love film,” Aguilera said.  “I’m actually in the film program at UT so I thought it was a cool way of getting involved.”

Aguilera said he was anticipating the musical film “La La Land”, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.

The line for “La La Land” wrapped around the theater and festival attendees began to line up an hour prior to the films start time Saturday evening.

“I think this (“La La Land”) may be my favorite part,” Aguilera said. “They say it may be nominated for the academy awards.”

Documentaries proved their place amongst the featured films at AFF.

“An Acquired Taste” written and directed by Vanessa Lemaire followed the story of three adolescents whom choose to learn locavore hunting.

Unlike traditional hunting, locavore hunting is for those who are ‘conscious eaters’ and believe in ethical hunting by seeking to avoid the least amount of pain when hunting.

Lemaire’s documentary explored the mind of adolescents and gave audience members a first-hand look at question of ethical standards of killing, life and death.

Lemaire said the documentary was a five-year process as she began to follow eight different students and their journey of locavore hunting.

“I wanted to tell a story that hadn’t been told,” Lemaire said. “A film that can reconnect with nature.

Lemaire said she developed a respect for locavore hunters during her time making the film.

“I really admire vegans and hunters,” Lemaire said. “Because they made their own choice. People who bother are me and the ones in-between.”

“Canine Soldiers” a documentary based in Killeen followed the relationship between military dogs and American soldiers.

Nancy Schiesari, director of “Canine Soldiers”, said her producers were inspired after finding training footage of military dogs from the U.S Department of Defense.

“It just seemed like something that was deeper than the story being told,” Schiesari said.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder was carried as a theme through the documentary, as it explored the mental illness in both soldiers and animals.

Danielle Jennings, a sergeant who was featured in the film, addressed the moral dilemma of putting military dogs in war zones.

“They do not have a choice,” Jennings said. “But when you snuggle down with that dog at night and he found a bomb and saved a whole platoon you have a different way of thinking about life. These dogs may not have a choice but they save lives.”

Overall, AFF’s opening weekend provided a weekend of intriguing and unique art to the craft of film.