Sunday, July 12, 2009

Screen Door Film closes "The Texas Cinema Series" at St. Edward's University, looks ahead to next season.

Another successful season comes to a close for Screen Door Film, Austin's premiere microcinema, and true to form, the Texas Cinema Series' inaugural program was chock full of amazing films and riveting personalities.

In January 2009 we kicked off the "Texas Cinema Series" with The Unforeseen, Laura Dunn's seminal documentary which examined the environmental movement in Austin, focusing on the ill-fated Barton Creek development. The post-screening panel was moderated by St. Ed's professor Peter Beck and included Laura Dunn and Bill Bunch, director of the Save Our Springs Alliance. The audience was able to learn about current challenges at Save Our Springs, and get their questions about the film answered.

Andrew Shapter's latest documentary, Happiness Is, screened in February to standing room only crowds. Mr. Shapter is widely known for his previous film, Before The Music Dies, which played at Screen Door three years ago. Happiness Is dares to ask one of man's most profound questions, "what is happiness?", and gets an answer. Our insightful panel was moderated by Khotan Harmon from KOOP radio, and included Andrew Shapter, Alan Graham of Mobile Loaves and Fishes, Cathy Requejo from AISD's Project Help, and charismatic UT professor H.W. Brands.

UPDATE: Happiness Is is going on a 15 city nationwide tour, starting in July 2009, so spread the word if you have friends in any of these cities, or purchase a DVD of this uplifting film:

They Killed Sister Dorothy screened in March, a documentary that chronicles the death of Catholic nun Sister Dorothy Stang in the jungles of the Amazon, as well as the subsequent trial of her accused murders. It was a special night at St. Edward's because we were honored to have Sister Dorothy's Brother, David Stang, available for Q&A. Mr. Stang was interviewed by St. Edward's provost Sister Donna Jurich, who was lifelong friends with Sister Dorothy. Mr. Stang provided an update on the trial and shed some light on the complexities of the Brazilian legal system.

In April, Screen Door turned it's attention to the death penalty issue, screening the award-winning Steve James documentary At The Death House Door. The film is an intimate look at the death penalty in the state of Texas, seen through the eyes of Pastor Carroll Pickett, the Huntsville prison chaplain for 15 years. Mr. Pickett presided over the first lethal injection execution in the state of Texas.

Our all-star post-screening panel included Pastor Pickett himself, alongside death penalty activist/musician Sara Hickman, Kristin Houle from the Texas Coalition to Abolish The Death Penalty, Gabe Solis from the Texas After Violence Project, and Brother Richard Daly from St. Edward's. Journalist Ellen Sweets moderated this panel which covered some great information about the current state of the death penalty in Texas, and where the issue is likely to go in the future.

The Whole Shootin' Match came next in May, the recently "rediscovered" 1978 masterpiece from star-crossed Austin director Eagle Pennell. After seeing the film in Dallas in 1980, Robert Redford credits Shootin' Match as the reason he founded the Sundance Institute, beginning a legacy of supporting independent film in America.

Our panel included Sonny Carl Davis, who plays Frank in the film, Chuck Pinnell, Eagle's brother and score composer, alongside film historian Alison Macor. Louis Black, editor of the Austin Chronicle, led the discussion which uncovered some amazing stories from Sonny Carl about the making of the film, and the subsequent fast rise to notoriety that Eagle experienced. The evening was dedicated to Shootin' Match actor Lou Perryman, who passed away unexpectedly just three weeks before the screening.

UPDATE: Alison Macor's new book, "Chainsaws, Slackers, and Spy Kids: Thirty Years of Filmmaking in Austin, Texas" will be coming Spring 2010 from University of Texas Press! Based on revealing interviews with Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez, Mike Judge, Quentin Tarantino, Matthew McConaughey, George Lucas, and more than 100 other players in the local and national film industries, this book explores how Austin has become a proving ground for contemporary independent cinema.

Completing the six film series was Nancy Schiesari's Fort Hood documentary Tattooed Under Fire. Tattooed is a character-driven portrait of Iraq-bound and returning US soldiers as they go under the tattoo needle, sharing their secrets and confessing their fears. Our panel included producer Laura Sobel, as well as some of the soldiers featured in the film.

Screen Door is currently assembling our program for 2009/2010, so stay tuned for details as they emerge.

As always, Screen Door thanks you for supporting independent film in Austin!