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The (Indie) Stars at Night – The Hill Country Film Festival

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The house lights dim. The audience hushes. The movie screen fills with bright illumination from a projector. The sound system begins pumping out a country hit from a half century ago –Hank Williams wailing “Why don’t you love me like you used to do?”

The Last Picture Show flickers to life in glorious black and white with a pan over a bleak, flat, mesquite covered landscape littered with the detritus of a dying town – Anarene – as we enter the lost world of 1950s small town Texas. Based on a work by the Dean of Texas authors, Larry McMurtry, it’s been 45 years since the night of the premier of this now classic Peter Bogdonovich film and it is the headline opener for the Hill Country Film Festival.

Texas Hill Country Film Festival
Photo: Fritztown Theatre in Fredericksburg, by John Dean

The Hill Country Film Festival is a relative newcomer in a world dotted with movie events. The granddaddy is the Cannes Festival in France on the legendary Cote d’Azure. It is also the largest film market in the world, every hotel and restaurant filled to overflowing, and the price of everything in town triples. Sundance, the most prestigious festival in the US, is mostly an opportunity for LA heavy hitters to talk smack over Chardonnay and snow ski.  SXSW has become the best festival and industry showcase in the US.

What makes the Hill Country Film Festival unique in the firmament of film is this — it offers intimacy. Here, nestled in the Hill Country venue south of Fredericksburg, young filmmakers and their audience can meet and mingle and discuss their love (and hate) of the art (and business) of the greatest story telling device ever invented – The Motion Picture.

The Hill Country Film Festival began in 2010, the brainchild of Executive Director and TCU grad Chad Matthews, who brought the program to the beloved site of the summers of his youth.  He teamed with Program Director Gary Weeks, himself an actor with over eighty film projects to his credit, to create a unique and intimate festival in Fredericksburg, the spiritual Heart of the Texas Hill Country.

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