It turns out the Newport Beach Film Festival—where since opening Thursday has hosted live appearances by the likes of Gary Oldman, Billy Burke and Aishia Tyler—was not the only Orange County film fest with star power last weekend.
The first ever AutFest International Film Festival at the AMC 30 Saturday and Sunday brought out Ben Affleck, Cheap Trick’s Tom Petersson and Ed Asner for its closing reception at Café Tu Tu Tango, which is just across the walkway from the movie theater at the Outlets in Orange.
Of course, it helped getting Ed Asner out to the event that it was founded by Matt Asner, the veteran actor’s film producer son who is also the Autism Society’s vice president of Development. Ed Asner has another son, Charlie, who is autistic, as are three of Matt Asner’s sons.
With AutFest, Matt Asner’s goal is to shine a light on autism through films about the affliction and/or filmmakers who are on the autism spectrum. For his good works, he received the Golden Goody Award from Autism Guardian Angels founder David Luber.
Asner’s festival is part of the Autism Society’s eight-year partnership with AMC theaters for AMC Sensory Friendly Films, a screening program that allows families with special needs to see films in welcoming environments. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, AMC theaters nationwide also show the Autism Society’s recently released public service announcement created by autistic animation artist Dani Bowman.
After Affleck participated in an audience Q&A moderated by ABC7 reporter George Pennacchio following the screening of The Accountant, in which he portrayed a forensic accountant on the autism spectrum, the Oscar winner walked over to Café Tu Tu Tango, where he received from Ed Asner the AutFest Awareness Award.
After Pixar filmmakers Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera took part in an audience Q&A moderated by Terry Flores, senior editor at Variety, after the screening of the pair’s Inside Out, Matt Asner presented them with the AutFest Vanguard Award, because the animated film has been embraced by the autism community.
“AutFest is proud to honor outstanding filmmakers Ben Affleck, Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera for their cinematic contributions reflecting the autism community,” Matt Asner says. “Presented by the Autism Society, AutFest’s mission is to celebrate films that promote autism awareness ‘from spectrum to screen’ and support autistic filmmakers and artists that have chosen film as their profession. We were touched by the overwhelming support of the filmmaking and autism communities and look forward to making this an annual event.”
Also attending the closing reception were singer/actress Becky G (Power Rangers), David Marciano (Homeland) and The Voice season 11 contestant Tarra Layne.
The 1st Annual AutFest International Film Festival winners include:
Best Film: Po, directed by John Asher
Best Documentary: Swim Team, directed by Lara Stolman
Best Short: The Buddy System, directed by William Harris and Megan Smith-Harris
Best Performance: Julian Feder, Po
Audience Award: The Accountant, directed by Gavin O’Connor
Best Autistic Filmmaker: Zac Davis, Even in Death
AutFest Honorary Committee Members included Ed and Matt Asner, actors Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Sarah Silverman, Gary Cole, Autism Speaks co-founder Bob Wright, The Suzanne Wright Foundation president Liz Feld and Warner Bros. president and CCO Peter Roth.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.