Green and Cinema East Reviewed

The 2011 summer comes to a close, and Cinema East wraps up its second, annual summer film series.  A relative newcomer to the Austin area, Cinema East had a bit of rocky beginning this season.  But, sometimes growing pains are necessary and they seem to have made Cinema East an even better experience.

Cinema East, headed up by Maggie Lea, moved from last year’s venue, the lot next to Baby Blue Studio, to the lusher grounds of the French Legation Museum.  Charging a nominal fee of $3 per person (although the couple in front of me managed to get away with a $5 due to the till’s lack of them), patrons are encouraged to bring blankets, lawn chairs and coolers full of beverages of choice.  Cheer Up Charlie’s was on site with an ice-cold trough full of hard cider.  Several local food vendors were also there to provide pre-screening snacks—Pie Fixes Everything and pizzas from Salt and Time.  Both are regular vendors for the Hope Farmer’s Market, which also had a table set up with literature and cold bottles of water for purchase.

The films, screened every other Sunday, begin once the sun goes down; and a DJ sets up to please the crowd with a variety of tunes.

The films are chosen from local, state and international festivals – including SXSW, Austin Film Festival and Sundance. Last week’s film, Green, included a brief Q&A with the film’s writer-director Sophia Takal and male lead Lawrence Michael Levine.  Green, which was a SXSW 2011 Official Selection, is a story of intimacy and jealously.

Green, the film came to be from a flare of jealously the supporting female actress/director-writer, Takal, experienced on the set of another film with leading actor; Takal and leading man are engaged. What evolved is a beautifully shot film, perhaps slightly overacted, but realistic nevertheless.  Moreover, Takal is roommates with the lead leading lady, Sheil. Their natural ease with one another is directly contributed to their off-screen relationships.

Sebastian (Levine) is a New York writer and an intellectual snob.  He and girlfriend Genevieve (Kate Lyn Sheil), who doesn’t lack in snobbery herself, move from the city to a house deep in the country in order to provide the setting for Sebastian’s latest article on sustainable farming.  The two wonder what they’ll possibly do for their yearlong adventure, when Robin (Takal) drunkenly appears and passes out on the front lawn during the middle of the night.

Robin, however, becomes a bit of a fixture in the couple’s lives, and for a portion of the film really seems to connect with both Genevieve as well as Sebastian.  While clearly not their intellectual equal, she is interesting and refreshingly innocent.  The friendship between the two females begins to take a dark turn as Genevieve increasingly believes Sebastian is attracted to Robin and vice versa.

The film explores jealousy at its naturally evolving pace—slowly—amongst beautiful scenery and sensual imagery.

Green was just one of many films screened this summer by Cinema East.  The final film of the series, Bad Fever, is also a SXSW 2011 Official Selection.  The films are generally followed by an after party at Cheer Up Charlie’s.  While Austin has many film festivals, outdoor and in, it’s wonderful to see films such as these on a big screen, without the hassle of an expensive badge or costly airfare.  It’s yet another reason why I love Austin in the summer, even if it is the hottest summer in history!

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