By Erin Steele

Killeen Daily Herald

The entertainment world's "third coast" will play host to industry insiders and film fanatics this week as the Austin Film Festival kicks off another year of cinema and socializing tonight.

The festival has long been a showcase for writers, focusing on their creative contributions to the film and television industries. At first only comprised of the Heart of Film Screenwriters Conference, AFF now includes the Screenwriters Conference, Heart of Film Screenplay Competition, Prime Time Television Competition, Film Competition, Film Screenings Program, Friends of the Festival Membership Program and the Young Filmmakers Program.

This year, the film festival will take place from today through Oct. 27, with the Screenwriters Conference running through Sunday.

Even those who aren't attending the festival to hone their craft can enjoy a plethora of films that showcase the best in writing, directing and acting. Some of the most anticipated films include:

"Bee Season"

Writer: Naomi Foner Gyllenhaal (in attendance)

Director: David Siegel, Scott McGehee

Cast: Flora Cross, Juliette Binoche, Kate Bosworth, Max Minghella, Richard Gere

Showtime: 7 p.m. Saturday, IMAX Theatre

Eliza Naumann has no reason to believe she is anything but ordinary. Her father, Saul, a beloved university professor, dotes on her talented elder brother Aaron. Her scientist mother, Miriam, seems consumed by her career. When a spelling bee threatens to reaffirm her mediocrity, Eliza amazes everyone: She wins.

Her newfound gift not only garners an invitation to the national competition, but also an entree into the world of words and Jewish mysticism that have so long captivated her father's imagination. But Eliza's unexpected success hurls the Naumann family dynamic into a tailspin, long-held secrets emerge, and she is forced to depend upon her own divination to hold the family together. "Bee Season" is based on the nationally bestselling Myla Goldberg novel of the same name.

"The Ice Harvest"

Writer: Richard Russo, Robert Benton (based on the novel by Scott Phillips)

Director: Harold Ramis (in attendance)

Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Connie Nielsen, John Cusack, Oliver Platt, Randy Quaid

Showtime: 7:45 p.m. Friday, Paramount Theatre

It's Christmas Eve in rainy, icebound Wichita, Kan., and this year Charlie Arglist just might have something to celebrate. Charlie, an attorney for the sleazy businesses of Wichita, and his unsavory associate, the steely Vic Cavanaugh, have just successfully embezzled $2,147,000 from Kansas City boss Bill Guerrard. Even so, the real prize for Charlie would be to slip out of town with the stunning Renata.

However, as daylight fades and a storm whirls, everyone from Charlie's drinking buddy Pete Van Heuten to the local police begins to wonder just what's in Charlie's Christmas stocking.


Writer: Steve Martin

Director: Arnand Tucker (in attendance)

Cast: Steve Martin, Jason Schwartzman (in attendance), Claire Danes (in attendance)

Showtime: 7:50 p.m. today, Paramount Theatre

The film follows Mirabelle, a disenchanted salesgirl and aspiring artist who sells gloves and accessories at a department store. She has two men in her life: wealthy divorcee Ray Porter and struggling musician Jeremy. Mirabelle falls in love with the glamorous Ray and her life takes a magical turn, but eventually she realizes that she must empower herself and choose between the two men.

Based on Steve Martin's intimate and revealing novella, "Shopgirl" explores the choices and mistakes people make in the universal human quest to find connection.

"The Sisters"

Writer: Richard Alfieri (based on the play "Three Sisters" by Anton Chekhov)

Director: Arthur Allan Seidelman (in attendance Monday)

Cast: Chris O'Donnell, Elizabeth Banks, Eric McCormack, Erika Christensen, Maria Bello, Mary Stuart Masterson, Rip Torn, Tony Goldwyn

Showtimes: 7:10 p.m. Friday, IMAX Theater; 7 p.m. Monday, Arbor Theater

The film centers on four siblings who struggle to banish the ghost of their dead father and create some semblance of harmony using a college on New York's Upper East Side as their surrogate home. Flashing between the chaos of Manhattan and the seemingly perfect sanctuary of Charleston, the dramedy explores and explodes the myths of family and friendship.

"The Squid and the Whale"

Writer: Noah Baumbach

Director: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Owen Kline, William Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Laura Linney, Jeff Daniels (in attendance)

Showtime: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 27, Paramount Theatre

Based on the true childhood experiences of writer/director Noah Baumbach and his brother, "The Squid and the Whale" tells the story of two young boys dealing with their parents divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s.

For more information on all films, panelists or AFF-related parties and events, visit the Web site at

Contact Erin Steele at

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