Magazine article Variety

Building the Best Little Arthouse in Texas

Magazine article Variety

Building the Best Little Arthouse in Texas

Article excerpt

On the eve of SXSW's opening night, the Austin Film Society will present its 17th annual Texas Film Awards, which spotlights the org's programs and honors a group of stalwart Texan filmmakers. But this year's event will also look forward to the completion of an initiative first announced at last year's ceremony, as the Austin Film Society prepares to open its own dedicated, full-time two-screen cinema later in the spring.

For Richard Linklater, who founded the AFS 32 years ago, the cinema will be the culmination of years of planning and fundraising, and will allow the society - whose programs encompass everything from artist services to grants, education programs, an ongoing screening series, and a home on Austin's public access TV station - to have a real public-facing hub.

"It was just a great leap that we had to make," Linklater says. "We do that about every 10 years, where the organization takes a great leap forward. At year 10 it was the production fund, the grants we give out. Ten years later it was starting the Austin Film Studio. So it seems about right that we'd take the leap to having our own cinema.

"Austin's a wonderful cinema town, and we have wonderful relationships with all the places where we show our movies. But to have your own two screens gives you a lot of leeway, for special programming, to hold films over. Kinda like our Austin version of the Film Forum in New York, where a documentary can actually have a theatrical run."

As for the Texas Film Awards themselves, this year's honorees, who will be inducted into the organization's own Texas Film Hall of Fame, encompass a wide range of filmmakers. Hector Galan ("Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement," "The Hunt for Pancho Villa") will be the first documentarian to be honored, a move that AFS CEO Rebecca Campbell calls "long overdue." Shirley MacLaine will receive the society's lifetime achievement award, as well as accept the Star of Texas award, given to a quintessentially Texan film, for "Terms of Endearment."

The other three honorees - director Jeff Nichols, producer Sarah Green, and actor Tye Sheridan receiving the Rising Star honor - will need no introduction to one another. Green has worked with Nichols on his previous four films (including last year's "Loving" and "Midnight Special"), and gave Sheridan his first film role, as producer of Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life." (Sheridan would go on to work with Nichols in "Mud.")

Campbell notes that the connections among the three offer proof of "that sense of our regional film culture being really strong, growing, and continuing to be home to and attract top-caliber talent. …

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