Wed, 19 April 2023
This week on On Story, AFF Moderator Andy Volk sat down with writer-director Elegance Bratton and actor Raúl Castillo for a post-screening Q&A of their latest feature film, The Inspection.
Released last November by A24, The Inspection is an absolutely heart-wrenching drama inspired by Bratton's own experience. The film follows Ellis French, a young, gay black man played by Tony-nominated actor Jeremy Pope who is rejected by his mother and family. With very few options for his future, Ellis joins the Marines, doing whatever it takes to succeed in a system that has cast him aside. This deeply moving film is a sharp look at how one can find strength, support, and a sense of belonging in the most unexpected places.
Just as inspiring as the film is Elegance Bratton's own artistic trajectory, which exemplifies perseverance and determination in creation. Bratton began making films while serving as a US Marine after spending a decade homeless. Now an acclaimed, boundary-breaking director, writer, and producer, Bratton's films have played at over two hundred film festivals worldwide, including Sundance, Outfest, BFI, New York City, Black Star Film Festival, and of course, at the Austin Film Festival. Beyond Bratton's festival success, he made his television debut as the creator and executive producer of the Viceland series, My House, which was nominated in 2019 for the GLAAD Media Award's Outstanding Documentary category. Additionally, his 2019 documentary, Pier Kids, made its streaming debut in August of 2021. Also in 2021, Bratton received the Film Independent Truer than Fiction Spirit Award presented to emerging directors of non-fiction features. And let's not forget that Bratton holds degrees from both Columbia University and the NYU Tisch Graduate School of Film. Yet summing up Elegance by merely his degrees, accolades, and awards does not provide the full picture. A master of harvesting film narratives and the overlooked stories right in front of us, Elegance uses his vision to highlight the universal power of our shared humanity.
Joining Bratton is actor, playwright, and Texas's own Raúl Castillo. Castillo stars in the film as Rosales, a drill instructor who takes French under his wing. Castillo's artful performance is a nuanced depiction of masculinity and vulnerability, subverting traditional narratives through the duality of Rosales's stern yet nurturing mentorship, a complexity Castillo was eager to explore. Known for his starring roles in Amexicano, Cold Weather, We Are the Animals, as well as his role as Richie Donado Ventura in the HBO series, Looking, Castillo is known for his truthful embodiments of complex masculinity. Originally a playwright, Castillo has brought authentic Latinx stories to off-Broadway stages through his plays Border Stories, a trio of one-acts about life at the US-Mexico border, Knives and Other Sharp Objects, which premiered at the Public Theater in New York City, and his dark comedic family drama, Between You, Me, and the Lampshade, developed with the Atlantic Theater Company.
We were thrilled to have both Elegance and Raúl, two exceptional storytellers, at the Austin Film Festival to speak to their creative process behind the film. So, do I have your attention yet? Are you standing at attention? Good. Let's dive deeper into The Inspection.
Clips of The Inspection courtesy of A24.
Wed, 5 April 2023
This week on On Story, AFF Moderator and Senior Programmer, Andy Volk, sat down with writer, director, and producer James Gray for a post-screening Q&A of his coming-of-age drama, Armageddon Time. A deeply personal film inspired by Gray's childhood, Armageddon Time is a reflection on the strength of family, the complexity of friendship, and the realities of class as seen through the eyes of a young Jewish boy growing up in 1980s Queens. Through the brilliant performances of its all-star cast, which includes leading actors such as Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong, Armageddon Time is a beautiful, detailed, and intimate portrait of how privilege, inequality, and prejudice are integral to the American experience.
AFF was ecstatic to welcome the preeminent writer-director James Gray, not only to speak more about the film but also to honor him as the 2022 recipient of AFF's coveted Bill Wittliff Award for Screenwriting, an annual award presented to leading storytellers within film, television, and new media. A true visionary, Gray made his directorial debut with his acclaimed film, Little Odessa, which earned him nominations for both Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay at the 1994 Independent Spirit Awards. Other acclaimed features in Gray's canon include The Yards, starring Joaquin Phoenix, who is in fact a frequent collaborator of Gray's, and We Own the Night, starring Mark Wahlberg, in addition to his films Two Lovers, The Immigrant, The Lost City of Z, and Ad Astra, all of which are critically acclaimed and set the bar for both screenwriting and direction.
So join us and the legendary director James Gray for a little trip back to the 1980s and a closer look at Armageddon Time.
Clips of Armageddon Time courtesy of AT Picture Ventures LLC.