Introducing The Lone Star Slate: Stream Texas Films & Support Filmmakers

The Austin Film Society was established to support a community of filmmakers based in Texas. The scene blossomed from a few DIY filmmakers scattered across the state to a booming independent film community, featuring artists of all backgrounds, with diverse influences and practices. AFS has directly funded over 500 independent film projects by Texas filmmakers, most of them with tiny budgets but big vision.

AFS is proud to announce that, beginning today, we are sharing work by AFS-supported artists via our “Virtual Cinema”, a selection of films christened “the Lone Star Slate”. Where finding Texas-made independent films to stream used to require a bit of internet digging, we are now featuring a varied catalog right here at AFS. From our portal, each title is available as a video-on-demand rental. The collection features a bit of something for everyone, from engaging social justice documentaries, to imaginative comedies, experimental work and beyond.

While the slate of titles may rotate, we look forward to continuing to provide this portal for cinema lovers to find these important regional stories, a wonderful alternative to corporate streaming services.

The first releases from AFS’s Lone Star Slate collection are listed here. VOD purchases support the filmmakers and the Austin Film Society.

ABOVE ALL ELSE

Documentary Feature, John Fiege, 2014, 95 min.

In this dramatic, firsthand account of activists on the front line of the climate fight, one man risks it all to stop the tar sands of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from crossing his land. Shot in the forests, pastures, and living rooms of rural East Texas, ABOVE ALL ELSE follows David Daniel, a retired stunt man and high-wire artist, as he rallies neighbors and activists to join him in a final act of brinkmanship: a tree-top blockade of the controversial pipeline. What begins as a stand against corporate encroachments on one man’s land becomes a rallying cry for climate protesters nationwide.

BULL

Narrative Feature, Annie Silverstein, 2020, 108 min.

A selection of the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. Kris, a headstrong teenager from a rural neighborhood on the outskirts of Houston, is destined to follow her mother to the state penitentiary, until she’s forced to work for her equally willful neighbor, Abe, an aging bullrider struggling to keep a foothold in the rodeo circuit. Drawing consolation from an unlikely bond, Kris and Abe both attempt to right their paths, before it’s too late. Noel Murray of The Los Angeles Times says, “This movie has a rare sense of place. It preserves an entire world and the fragile people within it.”

CABALLERANGO

Documentary Feature, Juan Pablo González, 2018, 61 min.

In the Mexican village of Milpillas, a family remembers the last day they saw their youngest child, Nando, a lifelong horse wrangler. Exploring a rural community’s daily rituals, CABALLERANGO evokes the presence of those who have parted. In the words of Vikram Murthi of RogerEbert.com, “González employs a creative rhythmic strategy to communicate his empathy towards the Milpillas community. He conditions his audience to observe the mundane at length. Thus, when the unexpected invades the frame, it engenders surprise or awe, like a late-night vigil that stalks the streets. It’s an attempt to inure the audience into the pace of life in Milpillas while also demonstrating how ghosts, metaphoric and literal, permanently disrupt everyday lives. The spectral drives CABALLERANGO while the people themselves reside at its center.”

CALL HER GANDA

Documentary Feature, PJ Raval, 2018, 97 min.

When Jennifer Laude, a Filipina transwoman, is brutally murdered by a U.S. Marine, three women intimately invested in the case an activist attorney (Virgie Suarez), a transgender journalist (Meredith Talusan), and Jennifer’s mother (Julita Nanay Laude) galvanize a political uprising, pursuing justice and taking on hardened histories of U.S. imperialism.

“While the facts were relatively straightforward, the aftermath soon became maddeningly complicated. ‘My life has value,’ Ms. Laude once declared. She was right, and this film takes that truth to heart.” – Ken Jaworowski, The New York Times

CANINE SOLDIERS

Documentary Feature, Nancy Schiesari, 2016, 76 min.

CANINE SOLDIERS explores the experience of going to war with a Military Working Dog, trained to find bombs before they can kill or maim soldiers, often at the expense of the dog’s sanity. Schiesari’s open, observational style allows the viewer a direct experience of the war dog program, pushing us to make our own observations and judgements about America’s defense project and the acceptability of war’s lasting wounds. 

NOTHIN’ NO BETTER

Documentary Feature, Ben and Bo Powell, 2020, 70 min.

Meet the people of Rosedale, Mississippi, in this gently composed peek at life in a fading but beloved Delta town. All sorts of people make their homes in this quintessential and iconic American community. Despite a painful past and an uncertain future, Rosedale’s still hanging on.

NOTHIN’ NO BETTER hides what must have been a staggering amount of research and time spent in the community to get so many voices into such a small package. There’s no sit-down interviews – the only direct interaction with the filmmakers are a few brief portrait shots in front of a hastily hung sheet. Instead, a representative cross section of the townfolk gets a few minutes each in front of the camera, undertaking the most mundane of tasks. Each momentary glimpse of a life feels fleeting, yet the end result is like walking through a small town art gallery, where every picture is by a local artist who captures something raw, small, and organic. It’s not the moments, but the entirety that create the real picture.” – Richard Whittaker, Austin Chronicle

Features a pre-recorded Q&A with Directors Ben and Bo Powell. 

NOW, FORAGER

Narrative Feature, Jason Cortlund and Julia Halperin, 2011, 94 min.

A food lovers’ film. Lucien and Regina are foragers – they gather wild mushrooms and sell them to New York restaurants. Their lifestyle is simple, their income unstable. As Regina seeks more stability and Lucien wants to devote himself to full-time nomadic foraging, their individual desires put the marriage to a test. The late Roger Ebert, a fan of NOW, FORAGER, has called it “an uncompromising film about two people who don’t deserve each other – but maybe nobody deserves either one of them.”

PAHOKEE

Documentary Feature, Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas, 2019, 112 min.

Ivete Lucas and Patrick Bresnan create a portrait of PAHOKEE, a small rural town located in the Florida Everglades, a community tightly knit together that struggles with financial insecurities and a bleak future. Through an extremely precise observational approach, the film manages to capture the daily life of the town with a great wealth of nuanced details. From sports events to school beauty contests, the filmmakers observe how, through social and collective rituals, the ideas of gender and identity are publicly displayed while creating new narratives. Moving past the crucial Wiseman lesson, which Lucas and Bresnan have fully absorbed, the film possesses the distinct feel of a Gil Scott Heron song, with its deep streak of rural blues tinged with urban echoes. A complex and multi-layered work that recalls also both the gritty social realism of the new American cinema as well as the neorealist touch. PAHOKEE is a powerful portrait of a forgotten America absent from the current political discourse.

“With a patient and unobtrusive eye, filmmakers Lucas and Bresnan paint impressionistic portraits of a quartet of charismatic teenagers over the course of a pivotal school year.” – Jen Yamato, Los Angeles Times

PETTING ZOO

Narrative Feature, Micah Magee, 2015, 92 min.

A story of love, sex and teen pregnancy in San Antonio, Texas. PETTING ZOO is the portrait of a young woman coming into her own, in an environment that does not always present ideal circumstances.

“It may read like a familiar tale, one you’ve seen a few times before. But the devil’s in the details and it’s to the film’s credit that PETTING ZOO gets those details right every single time. Whether it’s the spot-on, nonsensical conversations of stoners sprawled across a living room; the soul-sucking, endless routine of working in a crappy diner; or an intimate, cathartic moment cuddling with a cat, Magee’s direction illuminates both the hope and the drudgery that cumulatively amass as we make decisions that irrevocably alter our lives, whether we realize it or not.” – Josh Kupecki, Austin Chronicle

SLASH

Narrative Feature, Clay Liford, 2016, 100 min.

Neil is a questioning teen who secretly writes erotic fan fiction about a popular SciFi hero. When his classmate Julia discovers this, she leads him on an adventure of self-discovery. With strong performances from leads Michael Johnston and Hannah Marks as well as a surprising turn from Michael Ian Black.

“An engaging comedy-drama about adolescent outsiders who dabble in fan-fiction while inventing themselves.” – Joe Leydon, Variety

SOMBRAS DE AZUL

Narrative Feature, Kelly Daniela Norris, 2013, 98 min.

In the wake of her brother’s suicide, a young Mexican woman (Seedne Bujaidar) journeys to the place he’d always dreamt of going – Cuba – where, through tortured ruminations and the guidance of a devoted stranger, she searches for answers, and must decide whether to open herself up to love and loss once again. SOMBRAS DE AZUL is something of a film elegy; a poetic re-imagining of the director’s own experience of bereavement following the death of her brother.

 

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