This Week at the Movies
What to watch: Arson and prejudice on Austin screens
With five of the Alamo South Lamar's screens dedicated to Fantastic Fest 2011 and an abundance of quality films held over from previous weekends (hint: the one word title movies like Warrior, Drive and Contagion are all very good), there's little to discuss this week in terms of quality indie cinema. Rarely prone to completely dry spells, though, this week Austin does see the opening of a politically charged documentary about an arson case and a new film depicting the fight against outdated prejudices in small South African communities.
This Weekend at Violet Crown
The much-talked-about (and extremely topical) documentary Incendiary: The Willingham Case, which was a hit at this year's SXSW Film Festival, opens Friday at Violet Crown. The film tells the story of Cameron Todd Willingham whose Corsicana, Texas home burned down in 1991, killing his three daughters. Willingham was tried for and convicted of arson and, in February of 2004, he was put to death. Incendiary chronicles the arson evidence used to convict Willingham and how the science was changing when he was put to death. The film villifies Texas governor Rick Perry who, the film argues, ignored advancements in technologies that convicted Willingham and could have potentially proven him innocent (or, at least, would have shown the prosecution's evidence was not accurate). The second half of the film is full of little too much redundant political smearing, but the strong first half—which is scientifically fascinating and emotionally harrowing—makes this an easy recommendation.
This Weekend at Regal Arbor Cinemas
Opening Friday at Regal Arbor Cinemas is Life, Above All, an adaptation of Allan Stratton's novel Chanda's Secrets. The film centers around Chandra, whose baby sister has recently died and whose mother is sick as well. Because it is a taboo in her South African community, her mother is afraid to seek medical attention for what is most certainly AIDS. Chandra is pressured to not only take care of her family but defend herself and her loved ones from ignorance and prejudice. It's an uplifting story about strong women taking a stand against outdate mindsets.
Beyond the Weekend
Over at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz next week are a few great events. First, Music Monday (9/26) continues its ACL Reel Rarities series with a screening of the 1983 episode of Austin City Limits featuring B.B. King. The next day, Terror Tuesday (9/27) is hosting a rare 35mm screening of the 1987 horror film The Gate. In it, Stephen Dorff plays Glen, a young boy who accidentally opens the gates to hell and must stop the forces of evil along with his nerdy, heavy metal-loving friend Terry. Featuring special effects that are still quite impressive and some truly spooky atmosphere, The Gate is the kind of '80s-defining horror film that Terror Tuesday specializes in.