Michael Bergeron
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Austin Film Festival 2016 Preview

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This year’s edition of the Austin Film Festival promises great premieres, both mainstream and independent, informative seminars and mix-and-mingle parties where some solid industry contacts are just waiting to be made. The AFF runs October 13 through October 20 and is celebrating its 23rd year.

The Austin Film Festival devotes itself to the art of writing so there is a heavy WGA presence, lots of writer/directors as well as a script writing contest the winners of which more often than not see their script produced.

Some of the premieres that will be available in theaters before the end of the year include opening night film, Jeff Nichols’ Loving, a dramatic portrayal of a mixed race couple in the late 1950s who were arrested for their marriage. Eventually the subsequent legal battles went all the way to the Supreme Court. Loving will resonate emotionally with audiences and features award winning performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. Michael Shannon, a common face in previous films by Nichols plays a supporting role as a Life magazine photographer.

Other prominent films playing are La La Land, the third feature from Whiplash director Damien Chazelle; the Texas premiere of The Edge of Seventeen starring Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson; Jackie, the Jacqueline Kennedy biopic starring Natalie Portman and helmed by Pablo Larrain; and Jim Jarmusch’s Iggy and The Stooges documentary Gimme Danger.

Additionally the opening night welcomes the sophomore feature from Jonás Cuarón, Desierto, a take-no-prisoners action thriller that pits a group (including Gael García Bernal) crossing the Mexican border into the United States who become the object of a crazed killer (Jeffrey Dean Morgan in top form).

Scheduled speakers and panelists read like a who’s who of current in-demand writers, showrunners and directors: Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang); Paul Feig (Ghostbusters); Marta Kaufman (Friends); Nancy Meyers (The Intern); Michelle Ashford (Masters of Sex); Rooster Teeth’s Evan Bregman; actress Alexandra Daddario; writer Katie Dippold (The Heat, Ghostbusters); Jason Segal; James Hart (Bram Stoker’s Dracula); and literally dozens of others.

Some independent films and world premieres are also in the line-up and a good chance to catch an advance buzz on new talent, undiscovered films, or perhaps movies that may never get a wide release and are perfect film festival catches.

These include: Wakefield with Bryan Cranston as a man who moves into his attic and spies on his family, written and directed by Robin Swicord; Brave New Jersey, set in a New Jersey town on the night of Welles’ 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast; the Spanish drama The Cliff about a mass suicide in the Canary Islands; Delinquent, a robbery gone wrong thriller set in rural Connecticut; Imperfections, about a Hollywood bound actress (Virginia Kull) who gets involved in a diamond heist; the documentary Finding Oscar, about the Dos Erres massacre in Guatemala in 1982 by producer Frank Marshall (Raiders of the Lost Ark) and director Ryan Suffern; the comedy Diani & Devine Meet the Apocalypse; the Texas lensed comedy Hot Air; Long Island based drug dealing thriller Suburban Cowboy; Blood Stripe, about a female USMC vet adjusting to returning home; a prescription drug documentary titled Dr. Feelgood: Dealer or Healer?; and The Big Spoon shot in Austin by distaff helmer Carlyn Hudson.

If you can see or catch even half of these events you will lead a long and prosperous life.

— photos from top: Loving, La La Land, Imperfections