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ARFF Review: Opening Night with ‘A Chance of Snow’

The Austin Revolution Film Festival (ARFF) kicked off the 2018 edition on September 18, with a chance of snow. No, it didn’t snow in Austin, but after a networking event and a series of mind-bending shorts, the filmmaker-heavy audience watched the feature, A Chance of Snow.

ARFF has been honored as one of MovieMaker magazine’s “50 Film Festivals Worth the Entry Fee in 2018.” It also gets the accolade for best reviewed film festival on Film Freeway. Why is that?

It focuses on real indie films – not “Hollywood indies.” They make an effort to recognize achievements in a wide variety of the skills and crafts that it takes to make a film, and there is a friendly atmosphere that I never encountered at the LA Film Festival, even though I attended it for many years. This was only my second visit to ARFF and I wondered if anyone would remember me. When I got there, I was greeted with a hug, like a family member coming home for Christmas.

A Chance of Snow

ARFF
Alyssia Rivera plays Noel in “A Chance of Snow”

Speaking of family members coming home for Christmas, this was the premise of James Christopher’s A Chance of Snow. This film was not in the competition, because Christopher runs ARFF.

The film focuses on Tyler, who comes back from college for the Christmas break with a new girlfriend he wants to get engaged to. His family still likes his old girlfriend – named Noel — who hangs out with his parents. Just to add to the Christmas “joy,” Tyler’s two sisters also have issues. One hasn’t heard from her husband, an Army lieutenant deployed to Afghanistan, and she is beside herself. The other, still in high school and sinks into depression because she can’t bring herself to tell the boy she has know since third grade that she has feeling for him.

Other than that, everything is just jingle bells and eggnog. Oh, eggnog is Tyler’s favorite drink and his new girl hates it.

I saw one of Christopher’s films last year, and was a bit turned off. Now, I understand his style and can appreciate his talent. He goes deep into human relationships and explores joy and disappointment in an intimate style, but with a touch of humor to make the experience bearable. He breaks filmmaking rules, but to good effect. And, what would you expect at a film festival with revolution in its title?

Death, Apples, and Clementine

ARFF
‘Falling’ is the most intense music video I have ever seen

The shorts on the first night were intense and touching. Short films are the jokes, poetry, aphorisms, and essays of filmmaking. It is sometimes difficult to describe a short without giving away the punch-line or reveal. Even the one music video in this block made me want to order another beer. (You can do that at the Alamo Drafthouse Theater, where the first few nights of the fest take place.)

The music video, Falling, demonstrates the musical talents of the group The Black Market Club, while asking what happens when you get into an auto accident? The hyper-slow-motion effects that the video uses to explore this subject will leave you shaken. You can watch it on Vimeo.

In the U.S. Shorts category, Rex and Death (and Disco Fries) dealt with the challenges of dementia and what happens when you die. The latter at least added humor to the otherwise somber shorts.

Clementine, in the Texas Short category, explores our grip on reality. This falls into the “meta genre,” as it is a film about people making a film. A documentary crew interviews Clementine who describes her life as a dream. Maybe it really is.

Also in the Texas Short category, Apple Seed goes full fantasy and asks “What would happen if an apple tree began to grow in your head?” The special effects were memorable and make one consider the question, “Do my friends really see me?”

I’m looking forward to the rest of the festival which runs through September 22. To find out more about ARFF and future festival dates, check their website.

 

 

 

About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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