Film occupies Texas-sized heart

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still-of-lorelei-linklater,-gene-gallerano-and-catherine-elvir-in-occupy,-texas-(2017)-large-picturePreston Barta // Editor

Cinema has graced the screen with all kinds of great and compelling sibling relationships. We’ve seen it used to enhance a film’s drama, humor and sometimes even horror. Whatever the combination — brother and sister, brother and brother, or sister and sister — movies aim to entertain, inform and shock viewers through family connection.

One such vigorous bond can be found in the film OCCUPY, TEXAS, which held its premiere at the Dallas International Film Festival last week.

The film, starring and penned by Dallas-raised filmmaker Gene Gallerano (upcoming STARRING AUSTIN PENDLETON), centers on the story of Beau Baker (Gallerano), an Occupier who leaves his movement in New York to return to his home in Texas after the untimely death of his parents. Upon arrival, he learns his parents’ dying wish is for him to come back home and be the legal guardian of his two younger sisters (Lorelei Linklater, daughter of filmmaker Richard Linklater, and Catherine Elvir).

In an instant, his thoughts of where to sleep next and what to do tomorrow are replaced with the worry of finding work and paying bills, all while dealing with grief and anxiety. This is a harsh reality moment that Beau faces in the film, and an honest and detailed narrative for Gallerano to dive into.

The cast and crew of OCCUPY, TEXAS at the film's premiere at the Dallas International Film Festival. Photo courtesy of the Dallas Film Society.

The cast and crew of OCCUPY, TEXAS at the film’s premiere at the Dallas International Film Festival. Photo courtesy of the Dallas Film Society.

“I left Texas when I was 19, and I have sisters, one of whom is 10 years younger than me. Before I left, my younger sister was an awesome, unique kid. She would come in and light up a room with her personality. We loved this kid,” said Gallerano during his Texas visit for the film’s premiere. “She was the baby in our family, a product of all of us. And I think if you talked to her, she would say a lot of this film, especially all the playful banter, comes from the things we learned and talked about with each other.”

Elvir, better known by her nickname ‘Cappy,’ plays Beau’s youngest sister, Arden. Compared to most sisters portrayed in movies, Arden, like Gallerano’s own sister, is so full of life and weird that it’s difficult not to crack a smile when she’s on screen.

“Arden is so much like myself,” said Elvir. “She says a lot of bad jokes and puns, which is very much what I do around my older brother in real life. So the only preparation this film required was memorizing lines and understanding my objective in the scenes.”

Gellerano recognized a spark with Elvir as a performer that made working out their brother-sister relationship so much easier and natural in his story.

“[Elvir] had never acted in a movie before this,” said Gallerano. “She was 12 at the time, which was the age we were looking for. Both Jeff Barry [the film’s director] and I circled her out of the first group of girls who auditioned. She had something that was so different and she hit it out of the park.”

Linklater, on the other hand, is no stranger to encapsulating the bond of family, having played an older sister in BOYHOOD and being an older sister in real life.

“I have two younger sisters, but I’ve never had an older brother,” said Linklater. “Exploring what that would be like was challenging, but I have a lot of older brother-like figures in my life, like my uncle on my mom’s side.”

What gives the film its lasting impression is how universal its themes are. Whether it’s the complexities of family relationships, deciding what’s worth it and thinking for more than one’s self, OCCUPY, TEXAS is an exceptional film that educates as much as it entertains.

All information on the film and updates on its release can be found on www.occupytexasfilm.com.

Previously published on DentonRC.com

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.