It’s opening night at the 17th Annual Austin Film Festival and Conference and downtown’s Paramount Theatre is pulsating. Inside the lower rim of the 1,100-seat venue, screenwriters and film buffs scramble for the right spot to soak in the world premier of Exporting Raymond, director Phil Rosenthal’s fish-out-of-water travelogue about bringing Everybody Loves Raymond (which he created for CBS) to Russia. Once the lights go down, the laughs quickly follow, although many come courtesy of old Raymond TV footage. Despite its fluid pacing, the documentary’s laugh-track sensibilities eventually deliver the awkward feeling of watching a stale sitcom with a few hundred of your closest friends.
Things are much more low-key the next day for the world premier of Mexico’s Adiós Mundo Cruel in the cozy Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz. Directed by Jack Zagha this quirky comedy follows a hardworking accountant forced into crime when the economy implodes and he’s fired from his job. With equal nods to Jim Jarmusch and Savage Steve Holland, Zagha’s film depicts a Mexico gorging on telenovelas even as it grows increasingly fed up with reality’s criminal dramas.
The Alamo City was well represented at this year’s festival with SA native Robert Rodriguez receiving the Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award, which in years past has gone to the likes of Ron Howard, Oliver Stone, and Sydney Pollack. San Antonio Director Ya’Ke Smith and his producer Ralph Lopez continued their stellar festival run with the jury award for Best Narrative Short courtesy of their haunting film Katrina’s Son. Having now won enough awards to be eligible for an Academy Award nomination, viewing Smith’s standout short made waiting on his feature film debut that much harder.
Katrina’s Son screens again at The Hideout Theatre as part of the Shorts 3 program on 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 27. The Austin Film Festival winds down on Thursday, October 28, with the closing night film Casino Jack directed by George Hickenlooper and featuring Kevin Spacey as the real life Jack Abramoff. For more info visit austinfilmfestival.com.