You won’t have trouble finding someone to recommend buzzed-about movies like "Marriage Story" or "Just Mercy" at this year’s Austin Film Festival. So, the festival’s staff clued us in on some gems you might not have heard about that they think are worth seeing. Go to austinfilmfestival.com to find scheduled screenings.


— Eric Webb, Austin360 editor


"Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need To Have a Serious Talk"


This film is a pitch-black dive into relationships and the way we think about our past. It starts with the kind of absurd premise and awkward humor that you might find in something like a Yorgos Lanthimos film, but as it progresses, it becomes something else entirely. It fully executes on the premise — a man learns he is the carrier of a sexually transmitted disease that kills all the women it infects — and twists and turns down some unexpectedly dark pathways. There’s an undercurrent of dark humor, but the film really came to grab me as the main character takes a trip though his past relationships and tries to get a grip on who he is and who he has been to the people in his life. The script, also, is full of satisfying set-ups and pay-offs. It’s efficient; every character and scene serves a specific purpose. Well-shot, consistently engaging and completely unique, "Not To Be Unpleasant, But We Need To Have a Serious Talk" is easy to recommend. I haven’t seen a film in quite some time that has captured the nostalgic melancholy of seeing someone who used to be important to you.


— Patrick McFarland, AFF registration director


"A Patient Man"


When people think of Korean cinema, two names tend to come up a lot: Bong Joon Ho and Park Chan-Wook, both of whom have made spectacular films around the concepts of "revenge" and "family." As a Korean American, I have grown up around these stories for decades. They seem to capture the imagination of Korean storytellers who oftentimes can’t help but feel the effects of a mysterious cultural phenomenon known as "Han." Han, according to theologian Suh Nam-dong, is "a feeling of unresolved resentment against injustices suffered, a sense of helplessness because of the overwhelming odds against one, a feeling of acute pain in one’s guts and bowels, making the whole body writhe and squirm, and an obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong — all these combined."


"A Patient Man" invokes this feeling in a Western setting, creating a sense of beautiful sorrow as we watch our protagonist struggle with the loss of his wife from a tragic car accident. Uniquely structured and meticulously paced, the film takes you on a journey of recovery, revenge and revitalization. It makes you question that journey every single step along the way. How do you build your life back up when you’re filled with anger? How do you view the world when you feel that the system in which you live is unjust? How do you find happiness again when the memories of tragedy haunt you? And most importantly: What would you do to quell that "obstinate urge to take revenge and to right the wrong"?


— Joe Choe, AFF community outreach coordinator


"Sawah"


"Sawah" is an extremely funny and charming film that tells the universal tale of an outsider in an unfamiliar land. Samir is invited abroad, but in an unfortunate turn of events, rather than being welcomed as a neighbor, is viewed as an adversary. The sudden shift in how Samir is treated, which is fueled by racial and cultural discrimination, serves as a larger commentary on the global treatment of refugees and immigrants in contemporary society. "Sawah" seamlessly blends multiple languages and cultures in a nuanced, endearing way. At the same time, it addresses significant, pressing issues our world faces today.


What is amazing about "Sawah" is that it celebrates Egyptian culture and presents universal experiences that any viewer from anywhere can relate to. By featuring scenes from the historical events of the January 25th Revolution, "Sawah" sparks hope that the revolution continues.


It is truly wonderful to see a film that depicts Egyptian (and in turn Arab) culture in a positive light on the international stage.


— Jordan Bellquist, AFF volunteer coordinator