This week sees the start of the 23rd annual Austin Film Festival. If last year is anything to go by, the festival promises to be a 10-day audiovisual cultural delight and one of the premier events on this year’s U.S film festival calendar.

The festival aims to celebrate past and present narrative, documentary, short and animation films. What makes the Austin Film Festival a refreshing insight into the world of film is the fact that it was originally founded to celebrate the art of screenwriting. The festival includes The Conference, which is a series of debates, lectures, and workshops that aim to help aspiring scriptwriters learn the craft of great scriptwriting.

The Conference is widely considered as the most important part of the festival and draws in film lovers from all over the U.S, particularly as it was the first such event to be part of a film festival anywhere in the world. It is therefore not surprising that the festival’s Screenplay Competition receives more entries than any other festival in the U.S, or to discover that many past winners have gone on to win at other prestigious awards such as The Oscars or The Cannes Film Festival.

Most of the film screenings are accompanied by Q&A sessions with members of the cast and production team with the aim of giving the general public a chance to gain detailed insight into how they were made. Each year, the festival proudly lends its support to independent filmmakers by allowing them to showcase their films to large audiences, where they hope to gain increased attention and acclaim.

In the past years, the festival has drawn in a number of A-list celebrities including The Coen Brothers, Robert Rodriguez, Claire Danes and Russell Crowe. This year’s attendees include producer Gale Ann Hurd, Academy Award winner Kenneth Lonergan, Walter Hill, and Keenen Ivory Wayans, all of whom will be taking part in their own workshops.

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What can we expect from the 2017 Austin Film Festival?

This year’s lineup looks set to dazzle festival attendees like never before. With over 100 full length and short films on show this year, along with a multitude of special events such as script workshops and parties, the 2017 festival is packed full of great movies and unique events that should not be missed.

If you would like to see the full festival program, you can do so by clicking this link. To give you an idea of some of the highlights that you should definitely not miss, we have put together a short list of our top films from this year’s festival.

Most anticipated feature films:

Meerkat Moonship (North American Premiere) – Writer/Director: Hanneke Schutte

This South African film has been gaining quite a lot of critical acclaim since it first premiered. After the main character Gideonette’s father dies, she is sent to live with her grandfather. Gideonette is blessed with an amazing imagination and soon discovers that her grandfather is building a rocket ship which is to be piloted by her new friend, a young deaf boy who lives nearby. Things suddenly turn sour when Gideonette discovers the real reason her grandfather is building the rocket ship, leaving her trapped as the film rushes towards its nerve-racking climax.

Bullitt Country (World Premiere) – Writer/Director: David McCracken

Four friends get a lot more than they bargained for when a drinking trip turns into a nightmare that they can’t seem to escape from. After taking a road trip to their favorite distillery only to find that it is now a winery, the friends decide to head out into the woods to search for long lost prohibition money, never stopping to think about the dangers that may lie ahead.

Darkest Hour – Director: Joe Wright

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated feature film of this year’s festival is Darkest Hour. Academy Award® nominee Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill in a role that is widely anticipated to win him numerous best actor awards. The film follows the early days of WW2, when Britain looks certain to fall under the cloak of Nazi Germany. After leader Neville Chamberlin is forced to resign, the fate of the nation and indeed the world falls into the hands of one man.

Most anticipated short films:

Acid Test – Writer/Director: Jennifer Waldo

Shortly after she decides to take her first acid trip, 16-year-old Jenny is discovered by her parents and begins to understand their relationship in a vastly new ways. Through the conflict she learns the real power that rebellion ultimately holds.

El Almuerzo – Writer/Director: Jocelyn Cooper

An interesting relationship study, this U.S film follows a family that is thrown into disorder after the father dies suddenly. What follows is a journey into how people cope with loss and the tremendous pressures it puts families under.

Kafou – Director: Bruno Mourral

Crime thriller Kafou only just squeezes itself into the short film category with a running time of 58 minutes. The main protagonist Doc finds himself spiraling deeper and deeper into danger as he agrees to do a job for organized crime to try to raise the money to help his sick mother.

Most anticipated documentary films:

Augie – Director: James Keach

This touching film documents the life of Augie Nieto who was once described as the “The Henry Ford of the fitness industry”. Finally on top of the industry he helped to create, Augie is diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a non-curable condition that causes neurons that enable muscular control to die. Augie discovers that ALS will eventually lead to problems moving, talking and even breathing. The film pays homage to an incredible man who refuses give in, but rather uses the disease as a motivation to help others.

Beauty and Ruin – Writer/director: Marc de Guerre

One of the films in this year’s festival that will be hoping to find a distributor is Beauty and Ruin. Director Marc de Guerre does an excellent job of documenting the dramatic decline in fortunes of the city of Detroit. The film follows the fight to save the Detroit Institute of Art’s collection from being sold off in order to raise funds to help pay off some of the city’s debts.

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