Viva Les Amis looks at one local café as an example of a national
trend: The loss of the mom and pop shop. The film explores the 27 year history
of Les Amis Café – a sidewalk café that served almost three decades of eclectic
customers and staff. Through the eyes of Newman Stribling, once manager of Les
Amis Café, now cab driver, the film delves into the long history of Les Amis,
and reveals the present: Les Amis Café replaced by a Starbucks.
The audience travels with Newman in his yellow cab through the streets of
Austin, Texas. He takes us past construction sites, shows us places that used
to be, and his cab provides an interview space for passengers picked up on the
way. Newman struggles with how to represent what is gone. Testimony of ex-
customers and staff, black and white photographs, and VHS footage of the café
combine to provide a sense of Les Amis Café. The clientele included students,
artists, musicians, and in some cases lost souls.
The film also looks at Les Amis Café and Austin by decade. During the 1970’s, a
counterculture of hippies, musicians, mimes, and protesters flocked to the
café. In the 1980’s, punk rock dominated the landscape. Les Amis held an
occasional punk rock show, and countless customers watched skateboarders whiz
by on the street. In the 1990’s, big business, hi-tech companies, and a rapidly
growing population changed the face of Austin. As a city grows, what is lost?
The filmmaker goes to the site of what once was Les Amis Café and interviews
several employees of Starbucks. The films shows the contrast of then and now,
of local versus corporate establishments. Viva Les Amis explores how a
local place contributes to the culture and identity of a city, and mourns the
loss of locally owned businesses like Les Amis Café.