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AFF announces lineup; ‘Imitation Game’ and others set

Joe Gross
jgross@statesman.com

The Benedict Cumberbatch vehicle “The Imitation Game,” which took home the coveted People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, will top the marquee screenings at this year’s Austin Film Festival, organizers have announced.

Directed by Morten Tyldum, the World War II code-breaking drama stars Cumberbatch (aka Sherlock Holmes in the smash BBC TV series “Sherlock”) as Alan Turing, the brilliant code-breaker and mathematical genius who helped invent the modern computer. In 1952, Turing was prosecuted for homosexuality, which was illegal in the United Kingdom at the time. Turing died in 1954.

Three of the past six People’s Choice Award winners — “The King’s Speech,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and last year’s “12 Years a Slave” — have won Oscars for best picture.

Other marquee screenings include Tommy Lee Jones’ “The Homesman,” which stars Jones and Hilary Swank as a unlikely duo trying to transport three mentally disturbed women across the Midwestern Plains in the 1800s; “The Sound and the Fury,” James Franco’s adaptation of the William Faulkner classic; Nick Hornby’s “Wild,” with Reese Witherspoon starring as best-selling author Cheryl Strayed; “Black and White,” with Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer locked in a legal battle; “Escobar: Paradise Lost,” starring Benicio del Toro and Josh Hutcherson; and the hockey documentary “Red Army.”

The festival will also host multiple world premieres, most notable of which is “21 Years: Richard Linklater,” a documentary about the Austin director from Michael Dunaway and Tara Wood.

Several documentaries have Texas ties, including the world premiere of “The Texas Promise” from Academy Award-winning documentarian Vanessa Roth; “61 Bullets” by Austin director David Modigliani; and “Crazy Carl,” on Austinite Crazy Carl Hickerson who ran for Austin City Council eight times, twice for mayor and as as write-in candidate for Texas governor.

Texas-tied features include “Flutter” with writer/director Eric Hueber, producer Andy Cope and cast members Lindsay Pulsipher, Glenn Morshower and Johnathan Huth Jr. in attendance; and Ricky Kennedy’s amazingly titled “The History of Time Travel,” which was Kennedy’s thesis film at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Other premieres include “7 Minutes,” “A Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce,” “Dawn Patrol,” “Hardy,” “Jimmy Vestvood: Amerikan Hero,” “Listopad,” “Looking for Lions,” “Morphine Journey of Dreams,” “Once Upon a Crime: The Borrelli-Davis Conspiracy,” “One-Eyed Girl,” “Phantom Halo,” “Skin Deep,” “Terrible Love” and “The Barkley Marathons.”

The festival’s family series presents kid-friendly fare the first weekend, Oct. 25 and 26, including the upcoming Disney/Marvel comics adaptation “Big Hero 6,” the Las Vegas street performer movie “Popovich and the Voice of the Fabled American West” and that animated classic “The Lion King.”

The festival also hosts a highly regarded conference on screenwriting. Look for a session with former Michener Center fellows Brian McGreevy, Lee Shipman and Philipp Meyer discussing the formation of El Jefe, a new company that’s trying to adapt novels for television. They’re currently working on adapting Meyer’s “The Son” for AMC.

Other must-attend conference events include Noah Hawley and “True Detective” director (and Internet sensation) Cary Fukunaga discussing FX’s “Fargo” and the changing landscape of TV, as well as Austin director Kat Candler (“Hellion”) discussing the indie film climate.

Top names at the conference include such screenwriting notables as Matthew Weiner, Jim Sheridan, Richard LaGravanese, John Ridley, Terry George, Whit Stillman, Nicole Perlman, Phil Rosenthal, Randall Wallace and Susannah Grant.

Weiner, who will receive the 2014 Outstanding Television Writer Award, will present episodes from “The Twilight Zone” and “Mad Men.” Sheridan, who’ll receive the Distinguished Screenwriter Award, will join writer/director George to present “In the Name of the Father.” Jenny Lumet, the writer of “Rachel Getting Married,” will present “Network,” the film by her father Sidney Lumet. And Wallace will present “Braveheart.”

For more information and for festival badges and film passes, go to www.austinfilmfestival.com.