♦ The 24th Austin Film Festival is taking shape as it adds some high profile titles to the lineup. Taking place October 26-November 2, the festival will be opening with Lady Bird, written and directed by Greta Gerwig. And we know that Austin has an affinity for the name “Lady Bird”. Closing out the festival is Chappaquiddick, the Ted Kennedy drama starring Jason Clarke and Kate Mara. Other titles to be featured include the Armie Hammer starrer Call Me By Your Name, Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour, and Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Retrospective screenings of the 1973 drama The Seven-Ups, Jack Fisk’s Raggedy Man (1981), and fan favorite action flick Predator will also be featured. These are just a few of the over 150 films scheduled for the fest along with television programming from Hulu with Shut Eye and HBO with the finale of The Deuce.
♦ In other AAF news, the Austin Film Festival Writers Conference has announced filmmaker Walter Hill and comedian/filmmaker Keenan Ivory Wayans as two honorees for this year’s event. Hill, known for his films such as 48 Hrs. and The Warriors and his TV work on Deadwood will be awarded the Extraordinary Contribution to Film Award. Wayans work in launching and creating the groundbreaking In Living Color is seeing him receive the Extraordinary Contribution to Television Award. They join the previously announced Kenneth Lonergan who will be the recipient of the Distinguished Screenwriter Award at the event. The three honorees join other film and television writers as panelists for this year’s conference which will include writers from such titles as Blade Runner: 2049, Girls Trip, Queen Sugar, This is Us, Kong: Skull Island, Arrival, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Wire, Twin Peaks, Logan, Moana, Power, and Star Trek Beyond.
♦ This year’s Fantastic Fest wrapped up with a bevy of new films, but it’s the controversy around the event itself that really grabbed the headlines. Prior to the festival even starting Alamo Drafthouse and founder Tim League were in hot water for the rehiring of Devin Faraci, the former editor-in-chief of the in-house magazine Birth.Death.Movies. who had quit last October after accusations of the sexual assault of a female co-worker. When it was revealed that Farci had quietly been rehired or perhaps had never actually stopped working for Drathouse, one of the Fantastic Fest co-organizers resigned, Fox Searchlight pulled a screening of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri from the lineup, and social media backlash was rampant with calls for boycotting both Fantastic Fest and Alamo Drafthouse. Faraci has since resigned from his position again.
♦ In addition, Harry Knowles, Ain’t It Cool News founder and Fantastic Fest co-founder was also facing allegations of sexual assault on Jasmine Baker, a former Alamo Drafthouse employee at recent Drafthouse events. Tim League and wife Karrie were reportedly upset over her story but told Baker to try and avoid Knowles without taking any formal action. Baker says she wanted to speak out on her experience to draw attention to the “boys club” mentality prevalent today. As a result, Fantastic Fest dropped Ain’t It Cool News as a sponsor, some writers have left the site, and the Austin Film Critics Association have officially voted to remove Knowles from its membership.
♦ Amid all this controversy leading up to Fantastic Fest, the secret screening of the long-lost Ed Wood soft-core porn comedy, Take It Out In Trade, which features scenes of violence against women was met with mixed reviews. Some felt that a film festival mired in allegations of sexual assault and gender discrimination was not well-served by surprising audiences with the film that came without any content warning. Several attendees left the screening early and claimed that the decision to screen it as “tone deaf”.
♦ Tim League has released a statement stating “Recent perspective has made it clear that we didn’t always do the right thing, despite what we thought were good intentions. To the women we have let down, Karrie and I both sincerely apologize.” League, who did not attend Fantastic Fest this year, went on to explain that he skipped the event because he felt his time would be better served in traveling to all of the Drafthouse theaters, “talk with our staff and listen”. The statement also included his promised that the staff at Fantastic Fest had gathered feedback to ensure that the theater chain is creating a “safe, inclusive environment for our staff at both the theater and the festival as well as the community at large.” He also announced that Fantastic Fest is building a new Board of Directors which will be run by Kristen Bell, the festival’s Executive Director.
By Ellen Lloyd