Independent Movies Under The Stars: Cinema East's Summer Season Preview

Holly Herrick previews this year's Cinema East season. All Cinema East screenings take place on the French Legation grounds.

Summer movies outdoors are not only the creation of the American drive-in, they are a pleasure the world over, and enjoyed in outdoor amphitheaters from Ouagadougou to Athens, Australia to India. Austin’s open spaces mean that outdoor movie going appear frequently on the city’s agenda, but at AFS, we always have our eye on Cinema East, whose excellent location (the French Legation) and good presentation are matched by their exciting programming, always focused on a select few ambitious and ultra low-budget American indies. 

If you are a movie lover who’d like to see new independent films flung far from the limits of convention, the four films offered in Cinema East’s summer program are absolutely for you.
The series starts on Sunday, June 28th with Jennifer Phang’s ADVANTAGEOUS, a feminist dystopian sci-fi, which was awarded a special jury prize at Sundance this year. This is the sophomore feature of the San Francisco-based filmmaker, who has been praised for her thought-provoking visions of the future in her shorts and in her first feature, HALF LIFE.

We’re particularly excited for FUNNY BUNNY, which screens with Cinema East Sunday, July 12th, and will have an encore screening with AFS at the Marchesa on August 18th (at which the director, Alison Bagnall, will be in attendance). The film premiered at SXSW to rave reviews, and Bagnall’s knack for getting exciting performances from wonderful actors is on display here. As a screenwriter, Bagnall does fascinating work with oddball characters (she is co-writer, with Vincent Gallo, of the indie classic BUFFALO ’66).

One of the most versatile and prolific characters of independent film as of late, Onur Tukel, has become a fixture of Cinema East both as a director and star. It’s hard to describe Tukel to those who’ve never experienced his work; he’s a Turkish-American southern painter with a gift of gab that would silence a young Woody Allen, and his comedy films, in which he always stars, have run the gamut in subject matter, from genital disfigurement (DING-A-LING-LESS) to a satire of Brooklyn vampires (SUMMER OF BLOOD). His latest feature ABBY SINGER/SONGWRITER, will screen in the series on July 26th.

The series wraps up on August 9th, with the SXSW selection NAZ & MAALIK, a Flatbush, Brooklyn-set day in the life of a black Muslim teenage gay couple; shot on the streets and so connected with the setting that it feels like a time capsule for summer, 2014.