Austin Filmmaker Alex Holdridge comes home tonight with his new film MEET ME IN MONTENEGRO, a love letter to Americans in Europe falling in love, falling out of love, seeking dreams, abandoning dreams, and generally just getting their crap together. With the first screening at the Violet Crown sold out, the theater has added another, and Holdridge and co-star/writer/director Linnea Saasen will do a Q&A after both, moderated by Richard Linklater.
How did we get here? It seems like forever ago that Holdridge’s first film, “Wrong Numbers,” played Austin Film Festival (2001 actually), and his 2007 In Search of a Midnight Kiss graduated to SXSW and took home the Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards. It’s been a long time since we’ve heard from one of Austin’s most distinctive voices (although now he is more of a Berliner than an Austinite (did I just call him a jelly donut?)). MEET ME IN MONTENEGRO premiered at TIFF last year and I was shocked when it didn’t show up at Sundance or SXSW. It seems like had this movie come out in 2009 or something, it would have been a shoo-in for both. I actually was able to get Holdridge back to town in 2013 for a retrospective screening of “Wrong Numbers” in the midst of shooting this movie and he told me then that part of the plot of his new film concerned just how hard it is to get a film made if it’s been seven years since your last one. This is a primary concern in the film, but the lead character as filmmaker is really just a back drop to a much more heartwarming and visceral story about the girl that got away and and with her took an artist’s will to dream.
According to Holdridge and Saasen, a real life couple as well, the idea came from their own personal experiences of meeting when they both thought their lives were headed in very specific directions, only to have their plans suddenly change. After writing the script in Berlin, they lived in a small apartment in Montenegro for four months shooting and editing, then moved all the hard drives to Berlin where the same occurred there for years, then finally to Los Angeles with hard drives and cameras then back to Berlin to finish. They could do this because the crew was so small and were also their friends. By playing themselves and co-directing, they were able to gather material and shoot for a length of time no other production could imagine. Some of their real life friends play into the movie, and Anderson’s agent is actually Holdridge’s agent back in Los Angeles – one of the most memorable characters on screen.
In the end, MEET ME IN MONTENEGRO is a triumph of indie filmmaking, and hopefully Holdridge won’t make us wait another seven years for his next film. MEET ME IN MONTENEGRO screens tonight at the Violet Crown theater, with directors in attendance, and will open in Austin theaters on July 31st.