Other Worlds Austin (OWA) 2016 kicked off on a chilly Thursday for those with Supernova and Super Massive Black Hole Badges. Those lucky people enjoyed a screening of the 1980’s classic Battle Beyond the Stars. The film, made back when its art director James Cameron was “Jim,” starred an impressive cast in Richard Thomas (The Waltons), Robert Vaughn (The Magnificent Seven, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), John Saxon (Enter the Dragon), George Peppard (The A Team), and Sybil Danning (Reform School Girls).
Sybil Danning attended the screening and was presented with the inaugural Defender of the Universe Award. In her acceptance speech, she expressed her gratitude and appreciation, declaring, “This is my Oscar.” Afterwards, nearby Tech Shop hosted an after-party where delighted guests could meet Sybil Danning and request autographs.
Friday the event expanded to all badge holders with the opening film OMG I’m a Robot?!, an Israeli comedy about a wimpy guy who, (can you guess?) discovers he is a robot. Later that night, Austin writer Owen Egerton’s The Axe Murders of Villisca screened. The film was based on a real unresolved murder.
The Saturday morning screening of Battledream Chronicle blew my mind. The animated film hailing from Martinique, which is a Frech speaking-region in the eastern Caribbean (thanks Google maps), provides dynamic visuals. Alain Bidard’s film, my favorite of the weekend, truly captivates attention with so much awesome animation. I’m not sure what was sexier, the beautifully created visuals or the French dialect. Both put a smile on my face.
Blood Hunters shows the best (or worst) “what the hell happened while I was out” moment of any film I’ve seen recently. The Canadian film overall was pretty entertaining, although sometimes characters did things that just made me want to smack them, and the acting was a bit hit or miss in places.
A family of sisters surviving in a post-Apocalyptic world deal with some drama in The Tribe, not to be confused with the Ukranian sign-language film of the same name. This The Tribe has dialogue and a score. Entertaining if not a little predictable in places, The Tribe showcases some pretty strong performances from its young cast.
We Go On takes a unique look at ghosts and one man’s obsession to conquer his debilitating fears. Thoroughly enjoyable all the way through with strong character development, it’s a ghost story like you have never seen before.
Travis Milloy’s Somnio takes us inside a futuristic prison with the most entertaining computerized jailer imaginable. It felt a little laggy in parts, but I might attribute that more to my being sleepy and less to the film. Visually well thought out, Somnio was a great way to end the night.
Sunday afternoon Austria’s Stille Reserven transports us into a future where “the right to die” has a slightly different meaning. In a future where bodies can be kept alive and used for various purposes, death insurance companies provide an option for wealthy people to be allowed to die completely. Part mystery and part grim futuristic world, Stille Reserven carried my interest throughout.
Origin examines what happens when bio-tech students let personal feelings affect their work. It plays out much like you’d expect, but gives a lot of fresh and interesting bits throughout. Certainly an entertaining bit of cinema.
While occuring in the future, Virtual Revolution portrays a relevant, believable view of the direction in which we are heading. This French film, falling into the category of Cyberpunk Noir, treats the eyes to some of the most spectacular visual elements of the festival. I loved this film, despite the overuse of voiceover to explain key ideas and plot points.
What’s the best way to survive a viral outbreak? In Domain the answer appears to be to keep survivors isolated while allowing them to interact through a video interface. Providing some mystery and interesting characters, Domain does a great job keeping the scenes visually captivating despite the limitations of the set. I felt it could have taken the tension up a notch in spots, and there were a few things I would have preferred if they were done differently, but I’m just being picky. The film effectively entertains, and accomplishes what it intended.
The closing night film, The Unseen, takes an intriguing and original idea and assembles it nicely in this dramatic, character-driven story. I thoroughly enjoyed Aden Young’s performance in this pseudo family drama which took me to places I wasn’t expecting.
That’s my semi-brief recap of Other Worlds Austin 2016. All in all, a variety of styles screened to fans with diverse tastes. Check back for more in depth reviews and interviews from the festival over the next several days.