Firsts After 29 Years
Here in Festival Land we don’t have too many events that are so firm in the zeitgeist they can be called something as straightforward as, say, the Austin Film Festival. The event is nearing three decades since its start in 1994, and is the city's default film event outside of South by Southwest.
The 29th annual event spans eight nights (October 21-28) with Q&A sessions, competitions, and world premieres. One world premiere, for Sam & Kate on October 28, is a bundle of firsts. Oscar-winning actors Dustin Hoffman and Sissy Spacek join their respective children, Jake Hoffman and Schuyler Fisk, for the first time as co-stars. The story follows two romantic couples of two generations, with each parent-child relationship intact in the film through fictional characters.
Sam & Kate is also the directorial debut for actor and surrealist painter Darren Le Gallo, who is no stranger to familial relationships in the film industry through his marriage to Amy Adams, who executive produced the film. Roger O’Donnell of The Cure is hopping on the list of debuts, with his first original film score, assuming it is the one he teased without naming the project in August. Vertical Entertainment will release the film on November 11.
The festival plans “33 World, North American, US, and Texas Premieres,” including titles like Daniel’s Gotta Die (starring Bob Saget in his last film), The Wild Man, and Dance Dads. The opening night film The Whale — an A24 film featured alongside The Inspection, by the same studio — tells the story of a gay widower estranged from his teenage daughter, whose binge eating is a focal point of the film.
Brendan Fraser stars, wearing controversial prosthetics to add hundreds of pounds; reviewers seem to agree that the film handled the subject with relative nuance and sensitivity. (Viewers should still keep in mind that A24 is not known for pulling punches.)
The festival also announced the full schedule for its Writers Conference, which builds out a writer’s career track over the festival’s four days with advice on research, editing, funding, collaboration, and creative maintenance. Conference admission comes separately from a festival badge.
Passes (starting at $80) all festival and conference schedules are available at austinfilmfestival.com.
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A Gelato for the Road
Gelateria Gemelli, an East Sixth Street gelato shop known for its creative flavors like Fernet stracciatella and Vietnamese coffee, announced its upcoming closure in a September 28 Instagram post.
“Y’all, it’s been a long road,” owner Andrew Sabola wrote. “8 years of negronis, spritzes, teaching people how to say ‘stracciatella,’ first dates that turned into marriages, pop ups, cones on cones on cones, birthday parties, Fernet shots, laughter, and tears.”
Sabola attributes the closure to the COVID-19 pandemic, which slashed the customer base. Some loyal supporters kept the business going, but it never returned to its pre-pandemic sales. The gelateria will keep the lights on until November 1, giving the business plenty of time to say goodbye to fans and get some last cones out there.
The shop opened in 2015, after Sabola returned from a trip to Bologna with a friend — both Gemini — learning from gelato masters and getting accustomed to finishing off dessert with aperitivi like negroni. Living up to this one-two punch, the gelato shop served coffee and old fashioned cocktails. It had a broad selection of amaro sorted by provenance.
Sabola has always been outspoken, and has made news in the past talking about social issues. In 2015, he told L Style G Style that in building the shop, he shrugged off the notion of gendered bathrooms with trans customers in mind. In 2020, he told Eater that his glass door, broken in protests against police brutality, did not matter compared to the sociopolitical issue at hand.
The business stayed closed a little longer than necessary in May of 2020 after Texas businesses started opening up again, to protect its staff. It also made CultureMap’s 2021 list of eateries that were continuing to require masks after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that mandates would be lifted.
On the tail end of the pandemic, trends in closures and openings are hard to predict. Some businesses have gone so far through the rollercoaster of losing and gaining business that they have returned after seemingly permanent closures. Second Bar + Kitchen, G’Raj Mahal, and Ski Shores Cafe have all performed this very contemporary song and dance since June of 2022.
“From the bottom of my cold, gay heart: thank you for making Gemelli your own,” wrote Sabola. “I wanted to build something beautiful and put it out into the world and hoped that y’all would love it. You did.”