If you love films, but are lacking the time and/or funds to travel to a far-away festival like those in Toronto or Sundance, your time has come. Nearby Austin is about to open its 20th Annual Austin Film Festival (AFF). AFF is actually both a week-long festival and conference, lasting from October 24th-October 31st. Film showings are scattered across different Austin venues from the 90-seat Hideout Theater to the 1100-seat Paramount Theater. AFF is known for being relaxed and accessible (especially when compared to other festivals), making it relatively easy for the casual festival-goer to attend. AFF will be screening both marquee “big” films as well as small, independently made films.
A few festival highlights include:
‘The Little Tin Man’ (10/24): A Texas premiere. Deemed a comedy-drama-romance, indie ‘Tin Man’ is the story of a dwarf intent on being cast in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Wizard of Oz’ remake.
‘Philomena’ (10/24): A Texas premiere. An anticipated new Dame Judi Dench film slated as a touching comedy-drama. A woman searches for the child she had to leave behind 50 years ago.
‘Nebraska’ (10/25): A Texas premiere. A highly anticipated film directed by Oscar-winner Alexander Payne (‘The Descendants’). An elderly, possibly dementing, father (Bruce Dern) makes the long road trip to Nebraska with his estranged son (Will Forte of ‘SNL’ fame), believing he is to claim a sweepstakes prize. This black-and-white drama has created big buzz and is a highlight of the festival. Will Forte will be in attendance.
‘Icebound’ (10/26 &10/28): A US premiere. Narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart, this documentary details the real-life 'Serum Run' to Rome, Alaska, in 1925. Known as the ‘Great Race of Mercy,’ 20 mushers and 150 sled dogs raced across Alaska in five and a half days, saving Nome (and especially its children) from the incipient diphtheria epidemic by delivering an antitoxin.
‘August: Osage County’ (10/25): A Texas premiere. Another very big film that will be in your awareness very soon. Starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, and based on the darkly comedic play of the same name, the drama follows the story of the Weston family women, who have separated from each other in adulthood. A pressing family issue brings them all back to their home in Oklahoma, where they must deal with the dysfunction of their upbringing.
‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ (10/25): A Texas premiere. Idris Elba (BBC’s ‘Luther’) stars in this much-buzzed-about biopic of South Africa’s most famous president. The drama spans his childhood to his election as the country’s first democratically elected leader.
‘Big Sur’ (10/25): A Texas premiere. Starring Kate Bosworth, Anthony Edwards, and Jean-Marc Barr, this drama (also presented at Sundance) is based on Jack Kerouac’s novel. Kerouac (known here by the name Jack Duluoz), heroic author of the Beat Generation, finds himself lost in fame, drugs, and alcohol in New York. He leaves to find physical and/or spiritual salvation in an isolated cabin in California, where he must deal with desperate breakdowns in his quest to find a version of inner peace.
Look for more coverage of the festival in the days ahead. If you are interested in attending any of the films, individual tickets, passes, and badges are available at austinfilmfestival.com or follow AFF on Twitter @austinfilmfest.