Staff Picks: Favorite Discoveries at AFS Cinema in 2018

As the year winds down, end-of-year critics lists begin popping up everywhere, focusing on the best new releases of 2018. For us at AFS, we’re exploring new and classic films daily at AFS Cinema. So, for our end of year wrap up, we asked the AFS staff about which film discoveries stuck out most with them. We showed a lot of films this year (over 400 individual titles) so there’s plenty of variety among the selections.

What were your favorite discoveries at AFS Cinema this past year? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

CONTEMPORARY COLOR

Rebecca Campbell, CEO

Contemporary Color (2016)

This was a feast for the ears and eyes and turned me on to color guard, a sport of the arts I wasn’t familiar with prior to watching this film.

One Sings, The Other Doesn’t (1977)

Agnes Varda is a genius. This film brings alive the rallying cry of 60s feminism, “the personal is political.”

The Florida Project (2017)

Addresses the plight of being stuck in poverty in a way that’s full of humor and empathy.

The Gospel According to Andre (2018)

It’s always fascinating to see into the lives of iconic people from industries like fashion.

The Secret Life of Lance Letscher (2017)

This is a loving portrait that provides a look into the methods and the mind of a brilliant artist.

My 2019 film resolution: more Miyazaki films, and sneaking away for the 4:15 show on occasion.

HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING

Holly Herrick, Head of Film & Creative Media

HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING (2018)

This played in our inaugural Doc Days festival, and the Q&A with RaMell via Skype was one of the highlights of the weekend. Doc Days is returning for year 2 in early June! 

MRS. HYDE (2017)

A terrific new release from France, starring Isabelle Huppert in an unconventional role.  

Films of Moustapha Alassane

I had never seen this foundational Nigerien director’s work until we worked with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy to bring a limited retrospective to Austin. His features TOULA and RETURN OF AN ADVENTURER should be in the global cinema canon and are ripe for re-release– it was pretty thrilling to present them at AFS even in their un-restored versions.

COLD WATER (1994)

This was one of the highlights of my year. Long unavailable in the US, I had only seen this film on TV in France. Presenting this with director Olivier Assayas in person last March was not only a highlight of my year but of my career in film programming.

Films of Jiri Trnka

I watched a few dozen of his short animations to curate the shorts program that we brought to the cinema in November. They are all incredible, particularly THE HAND, which is one of the best films I’ve ever seen about authoritarianism. 

CURE

Gabe Chicoine, Marketing Associate

CURE (1997)

The perfect restraint of this horror/mystery about a serial killer who hypnotizes others into committing his murders cemented my respect for Kiyoshi Kurosawa (PULSE) as a master of art horror.

DIVA (1981)

Vespa chases through the glistening neon streets of 1980s Paris. A plot that hinges on a purloined cassette tape that could either contain a bootlegged aria or a crooked cop’s confession. All set to an immersive score by Vladimir Cosma – what’s not to love?

PERFECT BLUE (1998)

There is a meticulous virtuosity to PERFECT BLUE that earns it’s title. Everything is impeccable, from the colorful, yet cold aesthetic of the animation to the carefully-wound plot that unfolds like a master labyrinth.

RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: CODA (2017)

This documentary about the latest chapter in the legendary composer Ryuichi Sakamoto’s career–in which he turns his gaze both inward after a cancer diagnosis, and outward at the changing climate that threatens the future of his country–unlocked new perspectives on how one can approach art and life. 

THEY’RE COMING TO GET YOU (1972)

The 35mm presentation of Sergio Martino’s potent cocktail of occult rituals, pseudo-psychology and black-gloved murders was elevated by an excellent live demonstration of the instruments used in giallo soundtracks.

MIDNIGHT EXPRESS

Charles Wright, Production & Programming Associate

Midnight Express (1978)

Great film, it’s brutal and beautiful at the same time. 

Pillow Talk (1959)

Simple concept that is very well executed and probably not something that would never be thought of considering modern technology and current social norms.

MFKZ (2018)

Weird, a whole lot of fun… but weird.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Its a modern classic that I have seen many times and will watch again many more times… yet some how the movie was better on the big screen at the cinema.

The Warriors (1979)

I love this movie, I’ve watched it several times this year alone. I loved the experience of seeing it on the big screen for the first time at AFS Cinema. It was a nearly religious experience for me and I thank everyone there who made it happen.

New Years Resolutions: Make it to the cinema at least once a month. Watch more than Horror, SciFi and Super Hero genre movies.

BURNING

Yolanda Gamble, Youth Media Specialist

Burning (2018)

South Korean cinema just continues to rise and captivate so hope to see more of that in 2019!

Minding the Gap  (2018)

I’m excited about Bing Liu, as an emerging Asian-American filmmaker voice and to see more from him.

Searching (2018)

The filmmaker Q&A on this one was my favorite of the year. To hear the production process from start to finish and how they were able to get John Cho to star in their film was fascinating and stuck with me. 

The Big Heat (1953)

Definitely, the Noir Canon. That was one of my favorite series and I’ve discovered a new love for those good old fashioned who done its. 

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

I’ve discovered Miziyaki late in life and I’m catching up. I also liked AKIRA when we showed it!

My 2019 film resolution: Recently, I watched COFFY (1973) for the first time. I’ll be diving into more Blaxplotation cinema into 2019. Included on the list: FOXY BROWN, SUPERFLY, CLEOPATRA JONES.

THE ADDICTION

Graham Young, Equipment Specialist

The Addiction (1995)

Embarrassed I hadn’t seen this before. I’m a huge Abel Ferrara fan. This is one of his best films. 

Fascination (1979)

I’ve watched 7 films from director Jean Rollin this year. It all started with THE NUDE VAMPIRE and FASCINATION at the AFS cinema. 

Night and the City (1950)

Jules Dassin doesn’t get enough credit. His films are amazing and NIGHT IN THE CITY is no exception. Richard Widmark’s performance is spectacular. 

Out of the Past (1947)

The noiriest film noir of all time. 

The Rite (1969)

This really took me by surprise. You can’t call yourself a Bergman fan unless you’ve seen THE RITE. Don’t sleep on this one! 

My 2019 film resolution: Watch the films of Jacques Demy, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Jacques Rivette, David “The Rock” Nelson, and Bruno Mattei.

THE FLORIDA PROJECT

Ellie Kotapish, Development Manager

THE FLORIDA PROJECT (2017)

I saw this on New Year’s Day at the Cinema and bawled like a baby at the end.

KEDI (2016)

Loved seeing the documentary again at the Cinema, and it was great partnering with APA!

THE FINAL YEAR (2017)

Seeing this film was a sad but inspiring experience. One of my favorite docs of the year!

MINDING THE GAP (2018)

I caught this during our first Doc Days festival, and I was very impressed with the filmmaker. The footage and story were very impressive!

NEVER GOIN’ BACK (2018)

I found this film super relatable since I grew up in a small suburb of Fort Worth, where arts & culture lacked. Augustine Frizzell was great during the Q&A!

My 2019 film resolution: See more international films! I tend to fixate on documentaries and American dramas, but luckily AFS programs tons of international series a year.

THE WARRIORS

Shannon Kors, Sales Manager

THE WARRIORS (1979)

Because even though I am a child of the 80s, I managed to miss this one and loved discovering it in all its camp.

TAXI DRIVER (1976)

Somehow I never saw it even though it’s a well-known classic. It lived up to all its hype!

KUSAMA: INFINITY (2018)

A superb documentary about an amazing artist; inspired my Halloween costume this year!

THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE

Chris Engberg, Manager, Austin Studios

THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE (2017)

This was my first Aki Kaurismäki exposure. I’ve since visited his earlier work, which is much in the same vain. All concisely assembled and bleakly enjoyable.

BEGGERS OF LIFE (1928)

I love early cinema and opportunities to see great silent films on the big screen. Louise Brooks blew me away in this. I hope we get to see more silents in the future!

MIDNIGHT EXPRESS (1978)

We were asked our top five of of the year. I’ve been going down the list chronologically and am still in January here. This movie floored me! I think this one isn’t as widely seen as it should be by people of a younger generation.

 PAPER MOON (1973)

Another one I probably should’ve seen years ago but hadn’t. A flawless movie and so glad to experience at the AFS Cinema.

THE LONE WOLF & CUB [series]

Slight cheat since this is six movies. Engaging, sensational, violent, touching, wildly inappropriate, foul, fun — these had it all! 

BOMB CITY

Austin Culp, Marketing Strategist

BOMB CITY (2018)

Growing up in Amarillo, this was a story that I was very familiar with. Watching the big screen version of added a whole new layer to my understanding of the events.

BURNING (2018)

I had been waiting for this one since it premiered at Cannes. Once I finally saw it, I was not disappointed. Slow moving, yet fully engrossing. Some of the best scenes of the year.

WAIT TILL THE SUN SHINES, NELLIE (1952)

Any of the Jewels in the Wasteland screenings hosted by Richard Linklater that I made it to were memorable. So add in Karina Longworth, host of You Must Remember This, and you’ll have an event you’ll never forget. Plus the movie is just unbelievable for all the stops that it pulls out.

BABY FACE (1933)

If I could, I’d mark down the entire pre-code series as a highlight for 2018. Looking back at the ’30s, there’s always a rosy glow feeling that every one was pure and saintly back then. This film says “nah, not quite” and I enjoyed every minute of it.

SUSPIRIA (1977)

I somehow missed the new restoration when it played it 2017, so when more screenings were added in April of 2018, I had to go. It’s an experience that I wouldn’t want to have anywhere other than a movie theater.

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