Austin Film Festival (AFF), the premier film festival recognizing writer’s and filmmaker’s contributions to film, television, and new media; supporting creatives at all levels, including its support for the WGA and SAG-AFTRA in their ongoing strike efforts. For 30 years, AFF has been a platform for open discussion, a place where the screenwriting community comes together to pass on experience, craft, and the writers’ journey from script to screen. Today AFF announced its first wave of screenings to be included in their 2023 film slate, taking place Thursday, October 26 – Thursday, November 2.
Opening the 30th Annual Festival is the MGM and Amazon Studios film, Saltburn, a thrilling tale of privilege and desire from Academy Award®-winner Emerald Fennell, who will be in attendance. Fennell’s highly anticipated sophomore film stars Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, and Rosamund Pike. AFF will also screen the debut feature American Fiction from writer/director Cord Jefferson, which perfectly encapsulates the writer’s dilemma between preserving the integrity of their voice and catering to the marketplace, starring Jeffery Wright, Sterling K. Brown, and Tracee Ellis Ross. In addition, 2015 Distinguished Screenwriter Brian Helgeland returns to Austin Film Festival with his newest project, Finestkind, that takes him back to his roots and tells the story of two brothers set against the backdrop of commercial fishing and crime syndicates of Massachusetts, starring Ben Foster, Tommy Lee Jones, Toby Wallace, and Jenna Ortega.
This year’s festival includes exciting new World Premieres including Lena Headey’s feature directorial debut, The Trap, featuring Michelle Fairley and James Nelson Joyce. AFF will be also hosting the World Premieres of satirical comedy Not An Artist, the Portuguese heartfelt drama Autumn, the stoner comedy Soweto Blaze from South Africa, and a family drama from Texas, I’ll Be There.
AFF FIRST WAVE:
AMERICAN FICTION (USA) – ORION/MGM
Written/Directed by: Cord Jefferson
Cast: Jeffery Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross, John Ortiz, Erika Alexander, Leslie Uggams, Adam Brody, with Issa Rae and Sterling K. Brown
Synopsis: Cord Jefferson’s hilarious directorial debut, which confronts our culture’s obsession with reducing people to outrageous stereotypes. Jeffrey Wright stars as Monk, a frustrated novelist who’s fed up with the establishment profiting from “Black” entertainment that relies on tired and offensive tropes. To prove his point, Monk uses a pen name to write an outlandish “Black” book of his own, a book that propels him to the heart of hypocrisy and the madness he claims to disdain.
In attendance: Writer/Director Cord Jefferson
SALTBURN (US/UK) – MGM/Amazon Studios
Written/Directed by: Emerald Fennell
Cast: Barry Keoghan Jacob Elordi Rosamund Pike Richard E. Grant Alison Oliver Archie Madekwe
Synopsis: Academy Award® winning filmmaker Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman) brings us a wicked tale of privilege and desire. Struggling to find his place at Oxford University, student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) finds himself drawn into the world of the charming and aristocratic Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who invites him to Saltburn, his eccentric family’s sprawling estate, for a summer never to be forgotten.
In attendance: Writer/Director Emerald Fennell
FINESTKIND (USA) – Paramount+
Written/Directed by: Brian Helgeland
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Ben Foster, Jenna Ortega, Toby Wallace
Synopsis: Finestkind tells the story of two brothers (Ben Foster & Toby Wallace), raised in different worlds, who are reunited as adults over a fateful summer. Set against the backdrop of commercial fishing, the story takes on primal stakes when desperate circumstances force the brothers to strike a deal with a violent Boston crime gang. Along the way a young woman (Jenna Ortega) finds herself caught perilously in the middle. Sacrifices must be made and bonds between brothers, friends, lovers, and a father (Tommy Lee Jones) and his son are put to the ultimate test.
In attendance: Writer/Director Brian Helgeland
NOT AN ARTIST (USA) – Utopia Distribution
Written by: Alexi Pappas, Jeremy Teicher, Matt Walsh
Directed by: Alexi Pappas, Jeremy Teicher
Cast: Ciara Bravo, Cleopatra Coleman, Haley Joel Osment, Alexi Pappas, Matt Walsh & RZA
Synopsis: In an exclusive artist-in-residency program overseen by an enigmatic patron (RZA), artists in turmoil face a make-or-break ultimatum: unlock their full creative potential or abandon art forever. Yet, the unexpected intrusion of an outsider (Matt Walsh) jeopardizes the program’s delicate balance.
THE TRAP (UK)
Written/Directed by: Lena Headey
Staring Michelle Fairley, James Nelson Joyce
Synopsis: Content in her life of solitude, Michelles’ simple world is interrupted by a stranger seeking to belong.
Written/Directed by: Chase Joliet
Synopsis: After a devastating divorce, Travis is forced to move back into his childhood home with his eccentric, newly sober mother.
Written/Directed by: António Sequeira
Synopsis: A bittersweet story about a small-town family adjusting to their new life, and some uncomfortable truths after their son leaves to attend university overseas.
FOR WHEN YOU GET LOST (USA)
Written by: Jennifer Sorenson
Directed by: Michelle Steffes
Synopsis: In this coming-of-middle-age dark comedy, June Stevenson drags her estranged sisters on a road trip up the Pacific Coast in order to make amends with their difficult father before he dies. Along the way, she distracts herself with picturesque landmarks, craft breweries, and picturesque men in craft breweries, but ultimately, she must face the fact that there’s more to her family’s fractures than she thought. Inspired by a real road trip.
BOLT FROM THE BLUE (USA)
Written/Directed by: Jack Martin
Synopsis: An overlooked engineer is sent to Alaska to investigate an eccentric scientist’s claim that capturing lightning could be the next monumental source of renewable energy.
SOWETO BLAZE (South Africa)
Written/Directed by: Brad Katzen
Synopsis: A hyper-stylized stoner-comedy set amidst South Africa’s vibrant streets in Soweto: a small-time pot dealer’s dreams go up in smoke when his clueless friends sweep him up in a wacky kidnapping caper and their fiery hostage, a feisty young woman, flips the script on them with her own plans.
I’LL BE THERE (USA)
Written by: Cindy McCreery
Directed by: Andrew Shea
Synopsis: A large, blended family is thrown together unexpectedly against the surreal and nostalgic backdrop of their childhood hero’s death.
THE BATTLE (Brazil)
Written/Directed by: Vera Egito
Synopsis: October 1968. During the Brazilian dictatorship, students and professors of the Left Student Movement face attacks by the Communist Hunting Command coming from across the street, in a pivotal night known as The Battle of the Students.
North American Premiere
THE PHILADELPHIA ELEVEN (USA)
Directed by: Margo Guernsey
Synopsis: In 1974, a group of women and their supporters organize their ordination as Episcopal priests in an act of civil disobedience and challenge the very essence of patriarchy within Christendom
EGGHEAD & TWINKIE (USA)
Written/Directed by: Sarah Holland
Synopsis: After coming out to her parents, an Asian American teenage girl takes off on a road
trip to meet her online crush with the help of her nerdy best friend
The complete list of Festival programming, including over 100 films as well as hundreds of panels, will be announced in late September.