It is still very unclear to me why SXSW Film opted to forego their Lone Star States category in 2012, but what seems abundantly clear is the shortage of feature-length films by local filmmakers at the festival this year. As I continue to rummage through the schedule to plan my nine-day marathon of film screenings, various questions keep popping into my mind. Did fewer local filmmakers submit their features to SXSW this year? Has SXSW lost the desire to support local filmmakers? Do SXSW’s standards exceed the quality of local film productions? What does all of this say about the Austin film community? Inquiring minds want to know!
The lack of local films in this year’s feature-length film categories would not have been as much of a shock if Austin had not enjoyed such a powerful presence at SXSW 2010 and 2011. In 2010, SXSW Film screened seven feature films by Austin filmmakers: Dance with the One, Earthling, The Happy Poet, Lovers of Hate, Mars, Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission, and When I Rise. In 2011, SXSW screened eight feature films by Austin filmmakers: Blacktino, Building Hope, Five Time Champion, Incendiary: The Willingham Case, My Sucky Teen Romance, Otis Under Sky, Outside Industry: The Story of SXSW, and Wuss.
This year the number of feature-length films by Austin filmmakers at SXSW has dropped to five: America’s Parking Lot, KID-THING, Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Taiwan Oyster, and Trash Dance. Note that I am not counting the special presentations of Slacker 2011 or Richard Linklater’s Bernie, because both films have already screened several times (including in Austin) and presumably did not adhere to the same application process as the other films programmed at SXSW 2012. That said – I am very excited that Slacker 2011 is screening during SXSW since it does showcase our local talent so well (more about that here); and I guess, in a way, it makes up for the lack of local films featured in this year’s program. It is also worth noting that three of the five local filmmakers who are screening feature-length films at SXSW 2012 also participated in Slacker 2011 (the Zellner brothers and Bob Byington directed segments and Jonny Mars acted in a segment).
America’s Parking Lot – Jonny Mars’ documentary follows two die-hard Cowboys fans who are the de facto leaders of the legendary “Gate 6” tailgate party during the Cowboys’ last season at the historic Texas Stadium. When the Cowboys move 20 miles west to Arlington, the shifting politics and economics of major league football threaten to dissolve the friendships and traditions they have built over the last 20 years.
Kid-Thing – David and Nathan Zellner world premiered Kid-Thing at Sundance 2012 and they just returned from the film’s European premiere at Berlin 2012. Now Kid-Thing is finally coming back to Austin for a regional premiere. Kid-Thing is a drama about a young girl named Annie (Sydney Aguirre) who relies on shoplifting for survival; her life becomes increasingly complicated following a strange discovery in the woods near her home. Aguirre (who made her cinematic debut in the Zellner Brothers’ short film, The Virile Man) shares the screen with David Zellner, Nathan Zellner and Susan Tyrrell (Cry-Baby, Fat City).
Somebody Up There Likes Me – Bob Byington’s Somebody Up There Likes Me is about Max (Keith Poulson), his best friend Sal (Nick Offerman) and the woman they both adore, Lyla (Jess Weixler). Byington’s quirky bro-mance/rom-com also stars Kevin Corrigan, Andrew Bujalski, Chris Doubek, Allison Latta, Anna Margaret Hollyman, and Jonny Mars.
The Taiwan Oyster – Writer-director Mark Jarrett’s The Taiwan Oyster tells the story of Darin (Jeff Palmiotti) and Simon (Billy Harvey), two American ex-patriots who steal the corpse of a fallen countryman and embark on a quixotic road trip through the Taiwanese countryside in search of a suitable burial place for a person they barely knew. Set in Taiwan in the year 2000 (thirteen years after the lifting of Marshall Law rule), The Taiwan Oyster explores deep existentialist questions regarding personal demons and the Southeast Asian ex-patriot experience.
Trash Dance – Choreographer Allison Orr finds beauty and grace in garbage trucks, and in the men and women who pick up our trash. Orr joins Austin’s sanitation workers on their daily routes to listen, learn, and ultimately to convince them to collaborate in a unique dance performance. After months of rehearsal, two dozen trash collectors and their trucks perform an extraordinary spectacle. Trash Dance director Andrew Garrison teaches film and digital production at the University of Texas at Austin.
All of this discussion about the lack of local feature-length films at SXSW 2012 is not meant to lessen the significance of the quantity of local short films screening at this year’s festival. SXSW did retain the Texas Shorts and Texas High School Shorts programs and both categories feature several Austin filmmakers.
Cinematic Things To Do in Austin This Week:
3/6 – Alamo Rolling Roadshow — The Alamo teams up with Open Road Films to put together a FREE Rolling Roadshow advance screening of Silent House at an undisclosed, super creepy location. (More Info)
3/6 – Alamo South Lamar — AFS’ Essential Cinema Series – Children of Abraham/Ibrahim 6 – continues with Granaz Moussavi’s My Tehran For Sale. (More info)
3/7 – Alamo South Ritz — The Alamo Drafthouse presents a special screening of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou featuring a fish and chips dinner and your very own Team Zissou-issue red knit cap. (More info)
3/9–3/17 — The 2012 SXSW Film Festival (More info)