Austin Film Festival revealed the first wave of films in their 25th-anniversary program, taking place October 25 to November 1. Included in this first announcement is Boy Erased, written and directed by Joel Edgerton and based on Garrard Conley’s memoir about a gay teenager forced to participate in a church-supported gay conversion program. The film stars Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe, and Nicole Kidman. AFF will also host the regional premiere of Can You Ever Forgive Me?, directed by Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl) and starring Melissa McCarthy as real-life controversial celebrity biographer Lee Israel.
Also playing AFF this year is Little Woods, Nia DaCosta’s directorial debut starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James as estranged sisters in a North Dakota fracking boomtown and The Long Dumb Road, Hannah Fidell’s new road trip comedy starring Tony Revolori and Jason Mantzoukas. This year’s Cannes Palme D’or winner Shoplifters, directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, will also join the fest’s slate.
AFF will host a variety of World Premieres, including horror/thriller The Black String, which stars Frankie Muniz as a lonely store clerk who is plagued by illness and nightmarish visions and believes he is the target of a sinister plot. Other world premieres so far announced include family cult drama Fishbowl, faith-grappling drama Speaking in Tongues, and high school football documentary Fathers of Football, directed by Austin local Bradley Beesley.
As part of its continuing retrospective series, AFF will host a screening of Roger Corman’s 1957 cult classic Rock All Night, presented by Robert Rodriguez and Corman himself, already announced as AFF’s Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking honoree this year.
2018 Austin Film Festival FIRST WAVE
The Black String
Writers: Brian Hanson, Richard Handley
Director: Brian Hanson
Starring: Frankie Muniz, Cullen Douglas, Chelsea Edmundson
After a lonely convenience store clerk goes on a blind date with a mysterious woman, his world begins to unravel in horrifying fashion. Plagued by illness and nightmarish visions, the clerk desperately searches the suburbs for this mysterious woman. His friends and family believe he’s losing his mind, but he believes he’s the target of a sinister occult plot.
Writer/Director: Joel Edgerton
Starring: Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton
Jared (Hedges), the son of a Baptist pastor in a small American town, is outed to his parents (Kidman and Crowe) at age 19. Jared is faced with an ultimatum: attend a conversion therapy program – or be permanently exiled and shunned by his family, friends, and faith.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Writers: Nicole Holofcener, Jeff Whitty
Director: Marielle Heller
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Julie Ann Emery
In CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?, Melissa McCarthy stars as Lee Israel, the best-selling celebrity biographer (and cat lover) who made her living in the 1970’s and 80’s profiling the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Tallulah Bankhead, Estee Lauder and journalist Dorothy Kilgallen. When Lee found herself unable to get published because she had fallen out of step with the marketplace, she turned her art form to deception, abetted by her loyal friend Jack (Richard E. Grant).
Fathers of Football
Director: Bradley Beesley
Fathers of Football follows the triumphs and struggles of life in a small Oklahoma town, where high school football is not only the brightest stage, but also the best ticket out.
Writers: Stephen Kinigopoulos, Piero Iberti
Directors: Stephen Kinigopoulos, Alexa Kinigopoulos
Starring: Rick Kain, Belle Shickle, Emily Peachey, Caroline Coleman
In a small town filled with secrets, a struggling family prepares for the Rapture.
Writer/Director: Nia DaCosta
Starring: Tessa Thompson, Lily James, Lance Reddick
A modern Western that tells the story of two sisters, Ollie and Deb, who are driven to work outside the law to better their lives.
The Long Dumb Road
Writers: Hannah Fidell, Carson Mell
Director: Hannah Fidell
Starring: Tony Revolori, Jason Mantzoukas, Taissa Farmiga, Ron Livingston,
College-bound teenager Nat offers itinerant 30-something mechanic Richard a ride during a stop-over in small-town Texas
Rock All Night (1957) presented by Roger Corman and Robert Rodriguez
Writer: Charles B. Griffith
Director: Roger Corman
Cloud Nine, the local teen hangout, has been taken over by a pair of escaped killers, who hold the local teens hostage. The bartender realizes it’s up to him to save the kids.
Writer/Director: Hirokazu Koreeda
Starring: Lily Franky, Ando Sakura, Matsuoka Mayu
After one of their shoplifting sessions, Osamu and his son come across a little girl in the freezing cold. At first reluctant to shelter the girl, Osamu’s wife agrees to take care of her after learning of the hardships she faces. Although the family is poor, barely making enough money to survive through petty crime, they seem to live happily together until an unforeseen incident reveals hidden secrets, testing the bonds that unite them
Speaking in Tongues
Writers: Nathan Deming, Lawrie Doran
Director: Nathan Deming
A lonely college student grieving the loss of his mother finds purpose at a local mega church’s summer internship evangelizing the ‘lost.’ As the summer continues, his new faith is put to the test.