The Austin Film Society is taking steps to help Texas filmmakers during the coronavirus pandemic, and you can help, too.
The non-profit organization announced today that it is streaming what its calling the Lone Star Slate, a new virtual screening library of Texas films by Austin Film Sociey-supported filmmakers.
“The options available to us via streaming these days are overwhelming,” says Holly Herrick, AFS head of film and creative media. “ Finding independent and regional stories can be like looking for a needle in the haystack on the corporate streaming services.”
So Herrick says AFS wants to “champion Texas filmmakers and connect them with audiences.”
The society used to do that at its AFS Cinema, before the pandemic. But COVID-19 has changed things, of course.
“Advances in VOD technology allow us to partner with our filmmakers, creating an opportunity for them and for our audiences,” Herrick says.
This doesn’t mean that the filmmakers are forgoing distribution deals. That can happen, too. But the Lone Star Slate might be able to get the filmmakers the attention that will help with marketing.
The series is kicking off with “Nothin’ No Better,” a quirky and unconventional documentary about the various characters living in the Mississippi Delta town of Rosedale. It’s directed by Austin-based Ben Powell and his New York-based brother, Bo. The film was expected to play at various spring and summer festivals, but, well, we all know what happened.
There are many more films that will be available at the Lone Star Slate portal on the AFS website.
Here’s what’s available to watch today — and what’s available to support if you care about Texas film.
“Above All Else” screened at 2014’s South by Southwest. It’s directed by John Fiege and documents the efforts of activists to stop the Keystone XL oil pipeline. It’s a stirring look at one man’s efforts to rally neighbors to block the controversial pipeline and sound the alarm about climate change.
“Bull” screened as the opening film of the Un Certain Regard section of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. That’s part of the official selection of the world’s most prestigious festival. And it’s unprecedented for a female Texas filmmaker to get the kind of exposure. The director? Austin’s Annie Silverstein. The movie focuses on a troubled young girl and her unlikely bonding with a troubled African-American rodeo worker who lives next door. It’s all kind of wonderful.
“Caballerango,” a documentary from Juan Pablo González, focuses on a rural community in the Mexican village of Milpillas, where family members reflect on the last day say they saw their youngest child, Nando, a horse wrangler. This movie will be available through Aug. 15.
“Call Her Ganda” comes from Austin filmmaker PJ Raval, who also teaches at the University of Texas. It’s a documentary dealing with the murder of a Filipina transwoman by a U.S. Marine. The woman was named Jennifer Laude, and her friends stage a political uprising for justice.
“Canine Soldiers” takes a documentary look at the working dogs of the military. They’re trained to find bombs before they can kill or main soldiers. It’s directed by Nancy Schiesari.
“Now, Forager” is a narrative feature from Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin. It focuses on Lucien and Regina, a couple who gather wild mushrooms and sell them to New York restaurants. As the AFS puts it, this is “a food lovers’ film.”
“Pahokee” takes a documentary look at a small town in the Florida Everglades. It tries to capture the daily life of a town full of rituals but facing a bleak future. It’s from directors Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas and has obvious comparisons to “Nothin’ No Better.”
“Petting Zoo” is a story of love, sex and teen pregnancy in San Antonio. It’s a a narrative feature, not a documentary, and it’s directed by Micah Magee.
“Slash” is another narrative feature about a teen who secretly writes erotic fan fiction about a sci-fi hero. It’s from director Clay Liford.
“Sombras de Azul,” a narrative feature, focuses on a young Mexican woman who is struggling with her brother’s suicide and decides to go on a trip of self-discovery to Cuba. It’s directed by Kelly Daniela Norris.
Ticket revenue for each film is shared on a sliding scale between the filmmaker and the Austin Film Society.
There’s one exception. For “Now, Forager,” all proceeds will be donated by the filmmakers to benefit the AFS Cinema.
Lone Star Slate: austinfilm.org/the-lone-star-slate/