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Austin Film Festival 2020: First Wave of Programming Announced

The film festival season is looking very different in 2020. The Austin Film Festival is going virtual and will be held October 22 to 29. The festival is often called “the writers’ festival.” It recognizes writers’ and filmmakers’ contributions to film, television and new media. I’ve made a lot of memories attending this festival, and I’m happy it’s going to continue in some way during this unprecedented time. And the first wave of programming, which includes various panels and films, has been released.

AFF 2017 Sun Dogs
Jennifer Morrison at 2017 AFF Premiere of “Sun Dogs” | Photo credit: Austin Film Festival

AFF’s Senior Film Program Director Casey Baron is looking forward to the new virtual format taking place this year: “We’re excited to support our selected filmmakers and continue championing such wonderful storytellers in an incredibly challenging time for our industry. It’s an added bonus that AFF will welcome back some good friends from our alumni community, and give all involved an opportunity to find their audience on an international stage.”


The 2020 Writers Conference will welcome a strong roundup of prominent screenwriters in film and television, including Tanya Barfield (writer, “Ms. America”), Paul Feig (director, “Last Christmas,” “Bridesmaids”), Scott Frank (writer, “Get Shorty”; writer/director, “Godless”), John Logan (creator, “Penny Dreadful”; writer, “Skyfall,” “Gladiator”), Gina Prince-Bythewood (writer/director, “The Old Guard,” “Love & Basketball”), Kevin Willmott (co-writer, “BlacKkKlansman,” “Da 5 Bloods”) and Tracey Scott Wilson (writer, “Respect”). AFF’s Writers Conference, which will feature over 30 virtual panels on the art, craft and business of screenwriting, will be held the first five days of the Festival (October 22 to 26).

The complete list of programming, including over 100 films as well as this year’s panels, will be announced in late September.


“Blinders” (North American Premiere)

Director: Tyler Savage

Writers: Tyler Savage and Dash Hawkins

In the wake of a messy break-up, Andy Escobedo decides to start fresh, relocating from Austin to Los Angeles. Eager to make new connections, he befriends Roger, an unusual rideshare driver. But when Roger’s behavior gets too strange for comfort, Andy blows him off, choosing to focus on a budding relationship with Sam. This unhinges Roger, who begins to torment Andy, ensuring that his stay in L.A. is short-lived.

Death of a Telemarketer” (Texas Premiere)

Writer/Director: Khaled Ridgeway

When a smooth-talking telemarketer preys upon the seemingly perfect mark, he must pass a twisted test on ethics if he wants to live to sell another day.

“Fugitive Dreams” (U.S. Premiere)

Writer/Director: Jason Neulander

In this allegorical road movie touching on themes of homelessness, mental health and addiction, two lost souls embark across a dreamscape America. Their darkly strange journey confronts them with their traumatic pasts and bonds them in compassion and love.

“Horton Foote: The Road To Home” (World Premiere)

Director: Anne Rapp

“Horton Foote: The Road To Home” is a documentary that chronicles the creative journey of acclaimed Texas writer Horton Foote through his own eyes and voice at the end of his life. Foote, who was born and raised in Wharton, Texas, went on to become a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, the winner of two Academy Awards for screenwriting, an Emmy Award for television writing, and a recipient of the National Medal of Arts, among numerous other theatrical and literary prizes. His long and successful 70-year career of writing consisted primarily of stories set in the small town of Harrison, Texas, a fictitious version of Wharton. Horton was known for his delicate, yet deeply layered and profound storytelling — about family, human connections, struggles, resilience and redemption.

“Open Field” (World Premiere)

Director: Kathy Kuras

She plays by NFL rules in NFL stadiums. She wins world championships. She’s at the top of her game. What does she have to do to level the playing field?

“Paper Tiger” (World Premiere)

Writer/Director: Paul Kowalski

A widowed immigrant mother in LA fears her schizophrenic teenaged son is turning into a school shooter. Inspired by true events, “Paper Tiger” unfolds as a timely conversation about gun violence, mental illness and immigration; it also plays as a riveting psychological thriller, showcasing Paul Kowalski’s feature debut as a crafted and cinematic roller coaster.

“Reboot Camp” (World Premiere)

Writer/Director: Ivo Raza

After losing his life savings and his wife to a self-help guru, Seymour is on a mission to expose false prophets who fleece people for money. He teams up with his brother Danny, a filmmaker, and they start a fake self-improvement group called Reboot Camp. While Seymour transforms into the charismatic Gordon St. Pierre, a larger-than-life persona who teaches a path to bliss through a process called “rebooting,” Danny films. They succeed handsomely as even the most ludicrous group activities are met with unbridled enthusiasm from the members. But as Reboot Camp grows, Seymour and Danny must request additional funds from the producer, who pushes them to hire his niece Claire to supervise.

“The Catch” (World Premiere)

Writer/Director: Matthew Ya-Hsiung Balzer

A troubled woman returns to her estranged family in coastal Maine.  With her lobsterman father caught up in a turf war at sea, she and an ex-boyfriend make plans to hijack local drug runners.

“The Get Together” (World Premiere)

Director: Will Bakke

Writers: Will Bakke and Michael B. Allen

A recent college post-grad, a possibly soon-to-be-engaged couple, and a failing musician all deal with the realities of growing up as their three stories intersect over the course of one night at a house party in Austin.


Writer/Director: Aldo Miyashiro

Leonardo Oviedo is an ambitious theater director whose plays haven’t accomplished the success he dreamed of. Seeking some recognition, he decides to write a play for four characters: a one-performance only, where all actors have to die onstage. He casts an old, alcoholic has-been actor, an overweight actress, an endearing and intellectually disabled boy and a black actor who has only been cast for the color of his skin. The play brings on a media hype never seen before, is an instant success and everyone is eager for the opening night. With defenders and detractors, the whole country talks about Leonardo Oviedo, and he will be willing to get to the very end to fulfill this sickening artistic ideal.

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