Not surprisingly, you can see more foreign films in Austin than anywhere else in the state. Founded in 1985 by director Richard Linklater, the Austin Film Society is the city’s crown jewel of indie cinema. The Society’s two-screen theater, 6406 N. I-35 Frontage Rd., #3100 (520/322-0145), curates a standout selection of films, from little-seen documentaries to new restorations to celebrated foreign cinema. On the UT campus, Showtime hosts weekly Blockbuster and Late Night film series at the Texas Union Theater, Texas Union Building, 2308 Whittis Ave. (512/475-6636). In 1997, Alamo Drafthouse, 1120 S. Lamar Blvd. (512/707-8262), started the national trend of making “dinner and a movie” into a one-stop affair; while it’s a bit more mainstream than in the early days, the owners are still dedicated to providing a distinctive experience (for example, they might offer a Pakistani menu when filming The Big Sick). Other Austin locations of Alamo Drafthouse include one downtown in the old Ritz Theater at 320 E. Sixth St.
Austin has long had an undercover Hollywood presence, and today the city is widely recognized as one of the biggest centers of indie filmmaking in the country. The cult classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre was shot by UT students in the 1970s, and during the past 3 decades, more than 90 films were made in the city and its vicinity. Yet you’d be hard-pressed to identify Texas’s capital in most of them: With its wide range of landscapes, Austin has filled in for locations as far-flung as Canada and Vietnam.
The city has less of an identity crisis behind the camera. It first earned its cred as an indie director–friendly place in 1982, when the Coen brothers shot Blood Simple here. And when University of Texas graduate Richard Linklater captured some of Austin’s loopier denizens in Slackers—adding a word to the national vocabulary in the process—Austin arrived on the cinéaste scene. Linklater, later known for Dazed and Confused and, most recently, Boyhood, is often spotted around town with Robert Rodriguez, who shot all or part of several of his films (including El Mariachi, Desperado, The Faculty, and the Spy Kids series); and with Quentin Tarantino, who owns property in town. Mike Judge, of Beavis and Butthead and Silicon Valley fame, lives on and off in Austin, too.
Of the many cinematic events held in town, October’s Austin Film Festival is among the more interesting. Held in tandem with the Heart of Films Screenwriters Conference, it focuses on movies with great scripts. For current information, contact the Austin Film Festival, 1604 Nueces (www.austinfilmfestival.com; [tel] 800/310-FEST [310-3378] or 512/478-4795). And the film component of S[ts]SW (see box p. ###) gets larger every year. Panelists have included Linklater and John Sayles, whose film Lone Star had its world premiere here.
The Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival, held in early September in several venues around town, was renamed in 2018 as the All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival (aGLIFF; 512/406-9699). Founded in 1987, the 4-day event screens more than 100 films covering a wide range of issues. aGLIFF also collaborates with the Austin School of Film on the Queer Youth Media Project. Participants in the free progam, open to ages 12 to 20, create a short film that is screened at the film festival.
Every July and August, in partnership with Do512 and the Alamo Drafthouse, the Long Center holds Sound & Cinema, an outdoor movie screening paired with live music that complements the film’s theme.
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