The Austin Revolution Film Festival (ARFF) is a relative newcomer to the festival scene, completing its sixth year, September 19-23. It’s focus, venues, and spirit make it a great experience. Since I began writing about film in 2009, I’ve probably attended over 30 film festivals. ARFF was the best experience I have ever had. And, yes, they do make dog jokes about how their acronym is pronounced.
ARFF’s hashtag is #BlueCollarFilmmaking. The organization supports independent and beginning filmmakers by trying not to fund the festival “on the backs of filmmakers.” At the same time, ARFF avoids sponsors that would want to have a say in the selection process, so that the films are judged on their merit, not because a certain star is in a film and having that person there will increase the bottom line.
The award categories are also oriented toward giving everyone a fair shot. Often, in other festivals, audience awards end up going to local films whose producers can pack the house with their friends. ARFF does present Texas-oriented awards, but also has U.S. and World categories, in addition to an award for best overall film.
The venues are fun. The first three nights of the festival were hosted at the Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter Lane. Alamo Drafthouse theaters have a seating arrangement which eliminated typical front-row seats, ensuring everyone a good view. They also incorporate a restaurant, which serves food during the shows. I usually opt for pizza, but you can choose bottomless popcorn or from a selection of sandwiches, entrees, snacks, and desserts. They also have salads, if you’re into that kind of thing. To wash it down, besides classic theater drinks, Alamo Drafthouses feature adult beverages.
The Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane lobby opens into 400 Rabbits, a cocktail lounge with indoor and outdoor seating. It specializes in tequila and mezcal-based cocktails and shares the kitchen with the theater. Before and after screenings, filmmakers networked there.
Friday night was “A Bloody Night Out” featuring indie horror at the Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In. The Blue Starlight is a pop-up drive-in which only takes 40 to 50 cars so that attendees don’t get lost in a crowd. It is adjacent to several food vendors and you can order food online. Besides watching the flicks from your car, there is a “hang out area” where you can sit at tables.
Friday and Saturday also included screenings, panels, and the awards ceremony at a local Hilton affiliate near the University of Texas, to facilitate participation by student filmmakers.
The festival is run by and for filmmakers. I learned things and felt like I was viewing films with old friends and family. I made new friends as well.
ARFF organizers are wasting no time on getting going on 2018. Submissions will begin to be accepted in October. I cannot recommend this festival too highly. Get your film or screenplay ready and go for it. If you’re not a filmmaker, put it on your calendar, anyway. It’s a great event. To find out more about ARFF 2018, check their website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, or FilmFreeway.
A video highlighting this year’s films is linked below.