Note: A 2012 Guide for Locals and Passholders is now available.
Last year, SXSW Film seemed more frustrating than usual for Austin festgoers with film passes, or people who wanted to buy tickets for a couple of movies. The Interactive conference practically exploded in size, and a lot of those attendees had Gold badges, while others queued up en masse for the screenings that were also open to Interactive badges. The opening-night film filled up before passholders could get in (badgeholder line from Kick-Ass pictured above; what's not pictured is that it completely circled the Paramount block). And I'm still frustrated that I missed Thunder Soul because I could not find any parking within a mile of the Paramount for under $20 that day.
It looks like SXSW Film access will be much better overall this year, and special care has been taken to ensure that Austin filmgoers can see festival movies. For example, this year Interactive-only badgeholders can't use their badges to get into any screenings. And a couple of remote theater venues are intended to appeal to locals. Movies playing at Alamo Ritz tend to play larger venues as well.
If you haven't bought a badge yet, you can still enjoy SXSW Film. The film passes for SXSW 2011 are already sold out, but tickets are available even now for some SXSW screenings, and we bet you'll be able to walk up and buy tickets easily at the more remote venues.
Being both a tech geek and film enthusiast, I'm determined to find a balance between satisfying both interests during SXSWeek as the SXSW Interactive Conference overlaps with the beginning of the Film Festival and Conference. Luckily SXSW features several opportunities to explore both film and interactive industry topics.
Last year Slackerwood featured the "SXSW 2010 Guide: Balancing Film and Interactive" to help SXSW attendees know what was up. Although a lot of the core advice is the same, there are several significant changes this year.
SXSW Interactive-Related Films
In the past, SXSW has allowed Interactive badgeholders to get into certain film festival screenings with their badges ... but not so in 2011. Those attendees interested in films related to Interactive (IA) content will either need to have a Gold and Platinum badge or buy a ticket at the screening (based on availability 15 minutes prior).
I was going to do this big write-up about Austin films at SXSW, and Austin Film Society beat me to it on the Persistence of Vision blog. Thanks, Bryan, you did my work for me. Mosey on over there to see a comprehensive list of the Austin-connected films at SXSW this year.
Trying to pick which films to see from that list is hard, and I'm going to try to see them all, although I have to admit my personal favorite on that list is My Sucky Teen Romance, by Emily Hagins, which has such good buzz it's premiering at the Paramount. Watch this space for my interview with Emily over lunch at Olivia in South Austin this weekend. I unashamedly admit I’m not entirely objective, since I know Emily and quite a few people who worked on the film (not bragging, honest!) but when the SXSW film team chose the Paramount for very good reasons. It's Austin, indie, sending up pop culture, it's all good.
But wait! There's more! AFS announced the Austin Film Society ShortCase 2011, featuring AFS member shorts. If you aren't a festival veteran, you know that the shorts reels at Austin festivals are outstanding and SXSW is certainly no exception, and AFS isn't just a film appreciation society but an active association of filmmakers of all levels. This year's ShortCase includes The Man Who Never Cried, which you may remember Slackerwood's Debbie Cerda reviewed earlier this year. As I was researching this, I saw that Jackson worked on Script Cops, which played as bumpers for Austin Film Festival a few years ago. Hilarious stuff. Just remember that the shorts reels are very popular, so don't wait til the last minute to get to the venues when they play.
SXSW Film Festival has just announced the last round of features included in the 2011 festival, in the Midnighters and SXFantastic categories. "SXFantastic" is a joint venture between SXSW and Fantastic Fest, and the films generally screen at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, often with wacky hijinks from the Alamo gang. In addition, SXSW has also announced its substantial short film lineup, including narratives, documentaries, animation and music videos. One category is dedicated to Texas shorts, which is great to see.
You can see the full lineup here. Although none of the new features are Austin movies as far as I can tell -- in fact, few are American -- we'll post an article soon with details on the Austin-connected shorts. In the meantime, here are a few highlights and notes on Austin connections, no matter how tenuous. The actual schedule for SXSW Film should be announced within another week or so, along with info on film passes and other details.
- Hobo with a Shotgun is about as close to being an Austin film as a movie shot in Nova Scotia by a Canadian can possibly be -- I explained why when the film officially premiered at Sundance. I hope to see this but it's a midnight movie and you all know how wussy I am about seeing movies at that hour (the last SXSW film I stayed up that late to see was Drag Me to Hell).
- British filmmaker Simon Rumley was at SXSW 2010 with his Austin-shot horror film, Red White & Blue. This year, he's back as one of the writer/directors of a horror anthology from the UK, Little Deaths. Rumley's segment is called "Bitch" and is about a couple in a destructive sadomasochistic relationship. (Horror Asylum has a poster and longer synopsis of Rumley's segment.)
The SXSW Film Festival always has a great showing of documentaries and narrative shorts and features from Austin filmmakers. A number of films are also shot in the Central Texas area. It's starting to feel like it wouldn't really be SXSW without a shot of the Frost Bank Building in at least one movie. Austin films aren't merely limited to the Lone Star States category, either -- you can find them in many of the fest's offerings.
Here's the best list we've been able to compile of Austin connections in SXSW films this year. If we missed your film, please let us know in the comments. We will update the list if needed when the SXFantastic and Midnighters films are announced this week. We'll also do a separate article for short films after they are announced.
A note to filmmakers: If your movie has some link to Austin, we would love to interview you about it and see the film. Please drop us a line ASAP so we can set something up before the fest begins.
Remember Clay? Last year at SXSW, My Blackberry Ate My Clay Liford Interview when I talked with him and producer Barak Epstein about Clay's cerebral science-fiction genre-crossing movie Earthling, and touched briefly on his 2008 short My Mom Smokes Weed. The man is batting a thousand -- getting two features into SXSW two years in a row is no mean feat. He spent a Sunday brunch at Olivia a couple of weeks ago chatting with Jette and me about his latest projects -- we all ate smoked gouda grits, and the Blackberry did not eat the interview this time.
As it happens, My Mom Smokes Weed star Nate Rubin plays the lead in Wuss. Rubin stars as Mitch, a high-school teacher who can't seem to escape the fate of the eponymous archetype the title implies, being repeatedly bullied by his own students until an unlikely alliance results in a "friendship that stretches the use of the word 'inappropriate'." Wuss also stars Tony Hale (Arrested Development, Chuck) and local actor/filmmaker Alex Karpovsky (Lovers of Hate, Tiny Furniture) among others.
SXSW Film Festival has just announced its 2011 lineup. We'll post a complete (we hope) list of all the Austin and Texas connections very soon, but in the meantime, you can read the full announcement here. The short films, midnight movies and SXFantastic films will be revealed next week, and the full panel/conference lineup on Feb. 15. SXSW Film Festival takes place from March 11-19 this year.
Immediately obvious Austin films: Heather Courtney's Where Soldiers Come From, in the documentary competition; Aaron Burns' blacktino, produced by Elizabeth Avellan and with a cast including Danny Trejo and Jeff Fahey; Turk Pipkin's latest film Building Hope; Steve Mims' documentary Incendiary: The Willingham Case; and hey! Emily Hagins' My Sucky Teen Romance. Quite pleased to see Clay Liford's feature Wuss included too, since Jenn Brown just interviewed him; look for us to publish that very soon.
More quick notes: Outside Industry: The Story of SXSW, directed by Alan Berg, is in the music section of the fest; Being Elmo, about the little red menace of Sesame Street, will screen after a successful debut at Sundance (how I'd love to interview either Kevin Clash or Elmo himself); Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams in 3D; Monte Hellman's Road to Nowhere; Errol Morris's Tabloid.
Sebastian Gutierrez, who entertained a SXSW 2010 audience memorably after his print of Elektra Luxx broke, is back with Girl Walks Into a Bar; Greta Gerwig also returns to the fest, starring in Alison Bagnall's film The Dish & the Spoon. Nicolas Lopez, so charming at Fantastic Fest 2008 with his film Santos (produced by Avellan) is at SXSW with the U.S. premiere of Fuck My Life. Catherine Hardwicke will host a special screening of her latest film, Red Riding Hood. And The Cameraman with live accompaniment. And ... and ... and ...
Austin fans of actor Edward Norton (Fight Club, American History X) will be able to get a double -- or should I say triple -- dose of him this weekend with two major film events. Norton will be in town for the premiere of Stone at Fantastic Fest on Friday, September 24 at 7 pm -- a gala screening at the Paramount Theatre. He'll also be at Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz for the sold-out 8 pm showing of Leaves of Grass, which opens in Austin this weekend.
Don't assume Leaves of Grass is a "stoner comedy," as I almost did. This movie defies typecasting into one genre, as it ranges from comedy to drama to thriller. Norton stars as twin brothers -- Bill, a straight-laced Ivy League professor; and Brady, an uncultured pot grower in the backwoods of Oklahoma. Actor and director Tim Blake Nelson also wrote the screenplay, which is centered more around classical tragic themes in such a manner that viewers won't take long to forget that the characters are played by the same actor.
I sat down with several other film critics during SXSW this past March for a roundtable discussion with Norton and Nelson the day after Leaves of Grass played the fest. To find out why Nelson has inspired me to read classic Latin literature, read his and Norton's responses to our questions after the jump, and check out my review of the film appearing later this week:
I thoroughly enjoy interviewing filmmakers and actors, but I was particularly enlightened by Austin video game developer and recent astronaut Richard Garriott during our podcast interview about the documentary Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission, specifically regarding his motivation. I asked Garriott what science-fiction authors had inspired him in his youth, to want to travel to space. The answer? None -- he read fantasy, hence the inspiration for his first game, Ultima.
For Garriott, space travel wasn't anything out of the ordinary. His father Owen Garriott was an astronaut, and all of their neighbors were in the NASA space program as well. It wasn't until Garriott was older that he discovered that not everyone goes to space, and his poor eyesight would prevent him from being a part of the NASA space program. He was determined to find a way to travel to space, and in 2008 it became reality as he joined a Soyuz mission into space.
If you didn't get a chance to see Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission during SXSW 2010, be sure to catch an encore screening at Fantastic Fest, which begins next Thursday. Screenings will be announced here.
When it comes to contemporary scary tales, most films resort to fantastic gorefests and extremism to provoke reactions from the audience. Thankfully, The Last Exorcism rarely resorts to such cliched convention.
Shot in documentary style, the subject is Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a reforming evangelist who's out to prove how believers can be convinced that demonic possessions and exorcisms are faked to exploit them. Cotton is arrogantly charming, fully aware of his power to persuade, and how that factors into his ability to hoodwink the faithful. When he randomly selects a request to perform an exorcism to expose the trickery behind them, he and the documentary crew are off to rural Louisiana to answer a desperate farmer's pleas. Unfortunately for Cotton, he is asked by a desperate father to perform an exorcism he never wants to do; one on a child.
The acting in The Last Exorcism is outstanding, starting with Fabian (Big Love) as Cotton, whose glee at revealing his tricks could have been annoying, if it wasn't clear his goal is to help people. Ashley Bell, Caleb Landry Jones and Louis Herthum as the Sweetzers all seem straight off the farm, with homespun earnestness and love for their family that expresses itself in different ways for each character.