Report from Park City
Texas films grab center stage at Sundance, including David Lowery's Ain't Them Bodies Saints
It is shaping up to be a banner year for Texas-centered films and filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival, which kicks off Thursday and runs through January 27. More than a dozen films with Texas ties will be screened in the two drama categories, two documentary categories, short film category and edgy NEXT category.
One of the hottest tickets is the documentary premiere of Linsanity, featuring Jeremy Lin, the Harvard basketball player who came from a humble background and was undrafted by the NBA only to have an unbelievable run as an NBA player. (He now plays for the Houston Rockets, of course.) A portion of the film was shot in Houston.
The documentary, which was filmed by Lin's close friend Evan Leong, begins when Lin was a college student with no pro prospects, long before his magical run with the New York Knicks last season. The film premieres on Saturday, January 19, with not a ticket to be had.
One of the hottest tickets is the documentary premiere of Linsanity, featuring Jeremy Lin.
In the 12-entry category for World Dramatic, Houston, a dark, psychological drama featuring a German executive recruiter and alcoholic who comes to Houston to recruit an energy executive, premieres January 22. The film was — no surprise given its title — filmed in Houston and El Campo, as well as in Germany.
Houston is the first U.S. film from German director and screenwriter Bastian Gunther, who is a part-time Austin resident.
On Sunday, January 20, Austin-based director Richard Linklater will show his latest movie, Before Midnight — a follow-up to Before Sunrise and Before Sunset — starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. Linklater will also co-host a party saluting 10 Texas films that will be shown at the festival.
Among those films are Mud, starring Matthew McConaughey as a charismatic outlaw who recruits two boys to aid his clean getaway, and Prince Avalanche, which writer/director David Gordon Green adapted from the Icelandic film Either Way and clandestinely shot in Austin.
Sundance’s NEXT group features "pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to storytelling" — usually made on a modest budget. Computer Chess, Pit Stop and A Teacher are three of the 10 submissions.
Sure to be controversial, A Teacheris a psychological drama about a high school teacher who has an affair with one of her students. This film was shot entirely in Austin and marks the first Sundance entry for film director and screenwriter Hannah Fidell.
Sure to be controversial, A Teacher is a psychological drama about a high school teacher who has an affair with one of her students.
Computer Chess, the fourth feature length film by Austin director Andrew Bujalski, is an existential comedy about a computer convention in 1980 and the men who taught machines to play chess.
Pit Stop, by director and screenwriter Yen Tan, tells the parallel stories of two working class gay men in a small Texas town who come together after each suffering struggles and heartbreak in other relationships.
Tan's script for Pit Stop was selected out of hundreds of entries to participate in the Outfest Screenwriting Lab in 2009, and the project was awarded a $7,000 grant from the Austin Film Society’s Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund. The producers used crowd-funding from USA Projects to raise another $32,000 for the project.
Tan immigrated to Dallas from Malaysia in 1996 and currently lives in Austin, where he is also the go-to person for graphic design of movie posters for independent films. Tan was assisted in co-writing duties by Dallasite David Lowery.
Filmmaker Lowery is a busy guy. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a film he wrote and directed, is one of one of the most buzzed-about films of the 16 submissions in the U.S. Dramatic category. It tells the story of an outlaw who escapes from prison and sets out across the Texas hills to reunite with his wife and the daughter he has never met.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is one of one of the most buzzed-about films of the 16 submissions in the U.S. Dramatic category.
Featuring an all-star cast of Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck and Ben Foster, the film opens in the “A” venue — the 1,100-seat Eccles Theater — on the first weekend of the festival. Ain't Them Bodies Saints follows Lowery's debut feature, St. Nick, which premiered at SXSW in 2009 and was released commercially in 2011.
In the 65 films that will screen in the Shorts Competition, Texans directors get the nod in Black Metal, The Cub and Thank You.Black Metal, made in Austin, is a nine-minute film focused on the actions of a fan of the lead singer of a black metal band.
The Cub, filmed by Austin director Riley Stearns, is a short five-minute film that examines the relationship of a wolf and its cubs.
Thank You, a 12-minute animated film by Austin directors Pendleton Ward and Tom Herpich, focuses on a snow golem that is attacked in the forest by a pack of wolves, who accidentally leave a cub behind after their retreat. The golem’s life is thrown into chaos as he attempts to reunite the cub with its family.