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Seven Movies You’d Be Crazy to Miss at the Austin Film Festival


What’s so special about seeing a movie at a film festival? Listening to the filmmaker talk about their creative process, seeing the stars, being among the first people to see a buzzed-about movie before its national release, the respite of a cool, dark theater after an insanely hot summer… That last one’s reason enough in Austin, but I’d argue that what makes going to a festival so special is the communal experience of being part of an audience that enthusiastically gives itself over to a new world with characters and stories that leave you changed from who you were when you first sat down.

The 23rd Annual Austin Film Festival, October 13-20, presents a slate of films across the genre board – comedies, horror, sci-fi, drama, foreign, and more that promises to do just that. Whether your preference is a potential blockbuster, an art house gem, or the chance to see an old favorite on a big screen again – or for the first time – the Austin Film Festival has you covered. Because one thing you’re guaranteed when you go to a film programmed by a festival that stands out for its celebration of screenwriters is a great story.

Following are just some of the movies on my watch list for the 23rd Annual AFF:

1. Loving
Austin’s own Jeff Nichols presents his first period piece – the real-life story of interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving whose civil rights case to legalize their marriage, Loving v. Virginia, went all the way to the Supreme Court.

2. La La Land
I’ve been watching this trailer for weeks and can’t imagine a more fitting venue than the historic Paramount Theatre to see what promises to be a beautiful romantic musical whose songs I’ll be singing for the next year.

3. The Salesman
From Asghar Farhadi, the director of A Separation and The Past comes a new psychological drama that Variety calls “another gem of neorealist suspense.” A slow-burning, visceral drama explores the psychology of vengeance and a relationship put under strain, while exploring the condition of women in Iran and the male psyche.

4. Lion
Adapted from the nonfiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierly, Lion follows the challenges a young Indian boy faces after taking a wrong train, being separated from his family, and being adopted by Australians. 25 years later, armed only with sparse information and Google Earth, he sets out to find his lost family. A whole box of tissues might not be enough.

5. The Big Spoon
A love letter to Austin from writers Mallory Culbert and Carlyn Hudson and directed by Hudson, when two couples cohabit a tiny house the situation proves more stressful than they bargained for and each has to decide which relationships are worth holding onto and which are not.

6. My Mother’s Wound
A Turkish film from Ozan Aciktan about Salih, who, upon turning 18, leaves his orphanage in search of his parents and a new, better life for himself. Unfortunately, Salih soon learns that sometimes the wounds of war never heal.

7. Brave New Jersey
On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles’s legendary “War of the Worlds” radio show is broadcast to the nation, leading millions to believe America was actually being invaded by Martians. As the citizens of one New Jersey town are faced with what they believe is their last night on Earth, their lives will change forever. With cast in attendance, including our favorite “bag man” Tony Hale, and a story inspired by “War of the Worlds,” this is not to be missed.

The Shorts Programs:
Film festivals are often the only place audiences get to see short films and AFF has 12 thoughtfully curated shorts programs grouped by theme – “A Stranger Comes to Town,” “Trouble in Paradise,” “Are You Afraid of the Shorts?” documentary shorts, and more.

For the full film schedule and ticket and badge information visit:
(Top photograph of Paramount Theater sourced by Austin Film Festival.)

Maya Perez is a writer and producer. Her work has appeared in The Masters Review, Electric Literature, and Misadventures, and she is co-editor of the books On Story: Screenwriters and Their Craft and the upcoming On Story: Screenwriters and Filmmakers on Their Iconic Films, both from University of Texas Press. Maya is also a producer for the Emmy-winning television series On Story: Presented by Austin Film Festival, now in its sixth season on PBS. Maya is a graduate of Vassar College and the Michener Center for Writers.

Local director Carlyn Hudson on the set of "The Big Spoon," one of the films that will be screened at this week's festival.
Local director Carlyn Hudson on the set of “The Big Spoon,” one of the films that will be screened at this week’s festival. Photograph by Patrick Rusk.

Read more from the Architecture Issue | October 2016