The Realest

Austin film club emerges from at-home streak with free outdoor birthday bash

Austin film club emerges from at-home streak with free birthday bash

Racerwave poster
Poster by Ivan Alvarado

At-home movie nights can get old. Sure, you could watch Legally Blonde again. But isn’t it time to step out of your comfort zone? Sometimes we need a push to do something a little different, like watch a movie ostensibly about racing, but everything is teal and pink and there is no discernible, concrete plot.

On August 14, Austin’s Hyperreal Film Club will celebrate its fifth birthday with its first in-person event since March 2020. The main event is a 90-minute screening of racerwave // speed vapor, an edit of the already overstimulating film Speed Racer. The new film, made by the video editing collective Racer Trash, cools the original footage into something dreamy and abstract. It also intersperses other work by the collective for a longer, more diverse cut than its original 56 minutes.

In Alexis Ong’s profile of Racer Trash for The Verge, she says the collective accomplishes “an absolute subversion of our cultural reverence for larger-than-life blockbusters simply by virtue of their prestige and value. ...” The collective, started as a pandemic project, exists as the antithesis to Hollywood production companies with big budgets and major influence. It just exists to exist, and film lovers find that invigorating.

You don’t have to understand the ethos of a rogue filmmaking troupe to enjoy the anniversary party. Before and after the showing are DJ sets from DJ Ariel, a vaporwave photo booth, drinks from Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and beer from 4th Tap. The free party in the outdoor gallery at Co-Lab Projects offers a fun way to connect with other film nerds or initiate friends into a new lighthearted but heady art community.

“All of those movies that we choose to show [are] going to be fun and accessible to watch with a group of people who are already friends, or who hopefully will become friends,” says one of three co-founders, David McMichael. “I think that — in a film world that sometimes gets more fractured by streaming or sometimes is difficult to access — is an important thing to provide.”

Hyperreal is a flexible project with an ever-expanding scope, now encompassing releases, showings, written reviews (by more than 40 writers in the past year), podcasts, educational cultural programming, and audiovisual zines. The nonprofit is completely volunteer-run, so while artists are paid with grant funds, there is little reason to lock down a particular structure.

The creative direction of Hyperreal is driven largely by creative whims. Club membership is equally loose; it’s technically not a club at all, in that there is no defined process to enter, nor any knowledge barriers. On the nonprofit’s horizon are opportunities to pitch original works to larger networks.

“In the last five years, Texas film has become more DIY, more inclusive, and more unpredictable,” says co-founder Tanner Hadfield. “Hyperreal’s purpose has evolved from creating a community of artists and art lovers to supporting a community of artists and art lovers.”

The evolution of local film is explored in Hyperreal’s newest podcast, Texas Film in Focus, which deals with the film scene in more tangible terms than just the art it births. It’s a distillation of the film club’s goal to invite enthusiasts behind the scenes, and it may open listeners’ eyes (and ears) to different ways to engage in film than simply consuming it.

So far there are episodes on cinema houses, festival logistics, supporting filmmakers, curation, and youth intensives. Host Samantha Lopez has 12 episodes and an entire team to explore the Texas film community, making this podcast Hyperreal’s most involved. Between more academic interviews with professors and industry experts, Lopez mixes in stories of her personal experience.

Regarding the diversity and accessibility of Texas film, co-founder Jenni Kaye writes, “I’ve been driving around small towns in Washington the past couple of weeks and I’m lucky to find a single screen theater. But at least in Austin you can go to an art house theater (AFS), a big traditional theater with the comfiest seats in the world (Galaxy), a weirdo drive-in (Museum of Human Achievement), and so much more.” Over time, she adds, “since everything is so much more expensive, [DIY] spaces are quickly disappearing, meaning we have to get creative or make the right connections to exist. We’re always up to the challenge, though!”

There is doubtless more change coming for film lovers and makers as the whole world works on squashing the pandemic for good. For now, there are movies to watch together and birthdays to celebrate. No tickets or RSVPs are required for this one, and you don’t have to know anything about film. All are welcome, with doors opening at 7:30 pm.

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UPDATE: With COVID-19 projections for this weekend, Hyperreal Film Club has indefinitely postponed its fifth birthday celebration. The event will remain the same when it returns. “But lo, those four cases of Tito’s in our shed’ll keep till we can make one big trash-can punch and gather ’round to drink through 100 bendy straws with all of you.” - Hyperreal Film Club/Instagram