Waving Goodbye to the Austin Film Festival
A spontaneous sing-a-long, some last words, empty corridors — until next year
The 14th annual Austin Film Festival ended with the Closing Night Screening of Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, directed by Sidney Lumet. The cast of the family drama with a twist included: Albert Finney, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Immediately before the screening, a joker shouted “Everybody sing” just as the festival’s sponsor reel was coming on. The animated reel had signs for the festival sponsors dangling from cranes, complete with some nonsensical background music. Incredibly, a number of the audience members –who had seen the reel before every film–sang along to with the reel’s ..”Na NA na nana na na, Na NA na nana na na” Austin bills itself as the “Live Music Capital of the World” so perhaps having a spontaneous sing-a-long at a film festival here isn’t a shocking turn of events!
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead was just one of several high profile films that played the big screen of Austin’s glamorous downtown 1915 Paramount Theater. Other festival films that showed in this vintage space included: Chicago 10, The Walker, Reservation Road and director Oliver Stone presenting Born on the Fourth of July.
The screening was followed by the festival’s Closing Night Party at the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant. This is a spot familiar to viewers of the MTV series The Real World: Austin. The loft where the cast of the show lived has now been converted to an eatery, but elements of the building familiar from the television show are still recognizable. The indoor pool is now a fountain in the main dining room.
Most of the attendees of the closing party seemed to be from Austin, and many seemed to be directly connected with the festival operations.
“That was so much fun when we sang,” said Mary Simpson, 30, about the spontaneous pre-screening sing-a-long. The tall brunette Simpson had volunteered as theatre manager during the festival for the Alamo Lakecreek and Arbor theaters. Simpson, a North Austin resident, had chosen to manage the two northern-most festival outposts.
“I got to meet D.B. Sweeney and Dan Savage,” Simpson said, naming meeting the two as a festival highlight. “I also got to go up to the projection booth for the first time.”
“I [liked it] mainly because it’s a chance to connect with other artists who think like I do,” Benjamin Martin, 30, of Austin’s Red Mars Studios said, when asked if he had enjoyed the festival. Martin was also excited about the personal contact that the festival had provided with other artists.
“That’s what attracts everyone here. There’s so much passion here,” Wade Carney, 32, said about the appeal of the Austin Film Festival. Carney had volunteered as a script reader for the festival’s screenwriting contest.
A quick stroll through the Driskill Hotel before the closing party revealed that things were really over for the event. Instead of the hotel’s corridors being filled with people with festival badges, the spaces were empty. Instead of overhearing snippets of discussions of films and screenplays, there was only the sound of a radio turned to a Spanish station, echoing in the hotel’s kitchen. The Austin Film Festival is over for another year.
Prizes awarded at the Austin Film Festival included the following Film Jury Award Winners.
Narrative Feature : Shotgun Stories
Writer/Director: Jeff Nichols
Documentary Feature : Hijos de la Guerra (Children of the War)
Director: Alexandre Fuchs
Narrative Short : Deface
Writer/Director: John Arlotto
Narrative Student Short : Salt Kiss
Writer/Director: Fellipe Barbosa
Documentary Short: Absolute Zero
Director: Alan Woodruff