Father & Daughter Film Report

One of the many pleasant surprises when attending the Hill Country Film Festival is the artful town its held in - Fredericksburg, Texas (just over an hour drive west of Austin) which offers a lot more than its world famous - and we mean world famous - wines and peaches.  When one arrives for the festival in late April, there are some pretty exceptional strawberries, black berries, and nectarines that are ripening too. World Famous, World Class.

The executive director of the film festival, Chad Mathews, knows all about doing things with a five-star rating due to his extensive background in making things classy at the Four Seasons Hotels, and this translates to a first class experience at this festival, whether you are a film maker, screenplay writer, or lucky member of the audience.  Tired of going to film festivals that has the atmosphere of a county fair?  Crowded. Messy. Hectic. Then come to here.  The Hill Country Film Festival is prepared in a fun, relaxed, yet classy atmosphere - kind of like attending a state dinner at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, then stepping outside to enjoy the Love Parade.

In between film blocks, the festival’s slogan of “Eat. Drink. Be Inspired” not only applies to what is being served at the film festival itself (again, five stars for the “Filmmaker’s Lounge" they have set up, which is like an all-you-can-eat buffet in Las Vegas, but includes the exceptional wines from around the area), but inspiration can also be had by the many, many local establishments that offer a multitude of choices to grab a bite to eat - or drink - that reflects the films themselves that are submitted from all over the world: Spain, Kosovo, the UK, Mozambique, Germany, Australia, Denmark, China, and France, to name a few.

But let’s get back to Fredericksburg...and their slogan Eat. Drink. Be Inspired.  Usually slogans are just that…slogans.  Words.  Words that attempt to rally individuals around some institution or idea.  However, Hill Country Film Festival’s slogan is for real.  It is accurate. It really DOES inspire so that you can be…well, really inspired!  And we mean everyone there is inspired, and that's what makes it special.  You feel it, both young and those of us who are a bit older.  No "standing around, posed, or stagnate" people mulling around at this festival.  These days are packed with power.  A power that creates energy, and excitement.  You can see it in photos:


See?  People here are bouncing off the walls with inspiration! Look at the intensity of the discussions that go on all around. This is a kind of energy that you don't see in other festivals (and by the way, look at the photos of some other festivals, most of them reveal a stiff & staged atmosphere, you know the feeling, you've been to these). 

The energy going on and around Hill Country; in the films shown, in the film-maker's discussions after the films, in the networking going on all around, and even in the audience - is electrifying.  As Emillo Estevez's character Otto said in the movie Repo Man; "THIS IS INTENSE...!!!"  

It is intense.  So much so Amanda and I didn't want to leave...!  We live for that kind of artistic energy....

And the drink?  What film festival in the world would have their Day-After-The-Awards-Ceremony-Send-Off-Party at a world famous wine vineyard? (Thank-you, Pedernales Cellars….great balance, bouquet, and body - on all your great wines!)  Again. FIVE STAR treatment...even when we were heading home!

I believe we already discussed the food….?

Of course we can’t describe all the wonderful and impressionable films we saw, but this baby boomer and millennial could both agree on two films EVERYONE should put on their “must-see list”, they are:

Job Interview

Written, & Directed by Julia Walter - Short  (10 mins)  Produced by Rovolution Film

The last time I was at the edge of my seat totally scared for a full 10 minutes was watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie when I was 9 years old.  Over 50 years later, Frau Director Julia Walter has done it again, and keeps us guessing until the very, very end. Along the way you think you understand where this film headed, then it gets a little strange and you see this job interview is not what it seems at all.  Then it gets creepy, really creepy...

All I can say is, I’m glad I don’t work for THAT firm, and there’s no way either Amanda or I would ever go to this place to look for a job. We don’t want to give any the story away, that’s part of the drama…all we can say is, a girl goes on a job interview and each question gets more, shall we say, strange.  The film is in German with subtitles, which adds to the mystic.  But let's get real, in any language, creepy is creepy…and this film is…well, creepy.  But delivered in a universal way that it fulfills our psychology need to be scared.  That’s probably why it's been screened in over 70 film festivals around the world, winning more awards than I have space here to list.

This isn’t just a psychological thriller, this is psychological TERROR on film.  Stefanie von Poser plays the eager, wholesome, job applicant perfectly, and realistically.  Sinikka Schubert is like a female Jack Nickolson in The Shining. Eeeeee! Amanda said she was never more frightened by any movie she had ever seen that didn’t have any zombies, aliens, or monsters in it. - This was pure terror of the mind.  Eeeeee!  Here, check out the trailer and see for yourself:

The background to this film is just as amazing as the film itself, for it started out simply as an exercise in an acting seminar, that grew…and grew.  When interviewed, Director Walter gives all film-makers some great insight and wonderful advice on casting.  Doing a casting is not about testing people if they can act.  It’s about making the perfect choice of who to cast because it will shape your film immensely.” Wow.  She is 100% so correct, and one definitely sees that in this piece. Most great directors take decades to learn such concepts.  Frau Walter apparently has gotten a lot of this down after making just her second film.  Can we see her birth certificate?  We wouldn't be surprised if this director is really a clone of Stephen King & Alfred Hitchock.

How else could one explain the intensity of The Silence of the Lambs, The Shining, Psycho, Taxi Driver and Basic Instinct in a 10 minute film?  You don't think that's possible?  Then go see Job Interview for yourself... 


Directed by Lindsay Crouch & Andrew Cagle - Documentary (85 min.) - TexAgs Films

If you are into college football, this film is a must see documentary.  

If you are not into college football, this film is a must see documentary.  

This is the first documentary that we have ever featured in our review of film festivals.  This says something pretty powerful...that's because what this film reveals is pretty powerful.  I love college football, am pretty well versed in some of the "news" and behind the scene reports one gets on ESPN or via Sports Illustrated.  But this was like seeing, for the first time, a 60 Minutes in-depth-investigation into the complicated web of power & money that is involved with college football.  Amanda is kinda of so-so about college football, and she was blown away too.

This documentary is something special.  In the same way Woodward & Bernstein unraveled Watergate for the Washington Post, Crouch & Cagle have done the same in college football for TexAgs Films.  In fact, I don't need to say too much here since I have their excellent trailer to give you a pretty good idea of what's going on:

Yes.  See? This is a behind the scenes story of Texas A&M’s move to the Southeastern conference recounting all the political drama, back-room negotiations, and broken promises that stood in their path.  Even though this is a documentary it was presented like watching Perry Mason, Network, and Jerry McGuire all rolled into one.  

That's right: SHOW ME THE MONEY....!!!  (and wait until you see just how much of it is involved here)

I don’t care what team you root for - you’ll love how deep they go down the rabbit hole in seeing what goes on in college football on, and OFF the field.

In conclusion:

Luckily, Amanda was able to re-enter the real world by all the fabulous shopping on Main St. - and I was able to explore my love of history by seeing one of the best WWII museums anywhere (yes, even those in Washington, DC), the National Museum of the Pacific War, having an entire section to their hometown hero, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz.

            You may have visions of rustic settings when you hear “Hill Country” and probably think of cowboys when you hear “Texas”, but make no mistake, this film festival is a world-class gem that occurs in late April - one you should plan on attending. Especially if you enjoy world-class (locally grown) food, world famous wine, and some of the most interesting films you’re going to see anywhere in the world.

 Amanda and I rate this festival a MUST GO TO - whether you are in the film industry and want to show your work, or just like seeing excellent films, you won’t be disappointed one milligram.  You will…truly…Eat, Drink, and be Inspired.  Totally.