SXSW Film is pretty special. Sure, there’s Sundance and Cannes, but SXSW Film really opens up its screenings, and gives the people access to all films that are screening like no other film festival. It was my first SXSW, and I had absolutely no idea to expect. It’s pretty clear now though, that by far, the Film component was my favourite.
Where else would a movie fanboy like me get to sit in on so many world premieres and screenings and interact with the cast, director, writer and producers of films?! The Q&As were a part of film I’d hardly experienced, and I grew deeply in love with them, and the context derived from them, with the movie being so fresh in your mind.
From the star-studded Source Code and The Beaver premieres, with the likes of Jake Gyllenhall, Michelle Monaghan, Jodie Foster and Anton Yelchin, to the hilarious Paul, with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the story of how Hobo With a Shotgun came about with Jason Eisener and the film geekery overload discussion between Guillermo Del Toro and Harry Knowles re: Dragonslayer; these Q&As were some of the best parts of SXSW Film.
On average, I waited over an hour for each film I saw, and many of these by myself, that is, until every line wait inevitably turned into a fantastic conversation with the person[s] in front of, or behind me. I’m not the type of person that talks to random people, but I had amazing conversations with complete strangers, and towards the end, almost looked forward to the lines as a chance to meet yet another new person! I think this reached its height when I was waiting around two hours for Hobo With a Shotgun, and was surrounding by bloggers from some of my favourite film sites! Again, a new aspect around film I absolutely loved!
The films themselves. Now, this was my first year, and I was pretty darn disorganised. Looking back at it now, 15 seems like a low number, but with the other million things that are all happening at the same time at SXSW, I’ll take 15.
I can honestly say I didn’t see a bad film. If anything, the opening night premiere of Source Code was a relative disappointment, but even that, I still enjoyed.
Apart wins it for me. I wrote a review of The Beaver pretty much as soon as I saw it, waiting in line for another film, and as much as I loved everything about it, Apart, for a feature length directorial debut, took a chance, was daring, different, and worked beautifully. I guess you’d call it a non-linear, tense psychological romantic thriller, and murmurs of Memento were brought up during the Q&A, but the relationship played a much bigger role in this, and I fell in love with both the leads.
Cinematography, acting, sound editing, screenplay – check, check, check and check. I really hope it gets a release and is seen by more people.
Anyway, the list, ranked top to bottom. I’ve tried to be as objective as possible, rating only the movie itself, and not the experience surrounding it. It would’ve been messy if all that had to be considered, but let’s just say that Dragonslayer would be a lot higher.
Added my original tweets about each movie, even though some don’t sound that great in retrospect…
A non-linear, psychological romantic thriller of the highest magnitude. Tense the whole way through and very haunting.
- The Beaver
A deeply moving, dark affair. Beautifully scripted and directed, with a stellar cast led by a fantastic Mel Gibson.
- Natural Selection
Is it too out there to call for a Rachael Harris Oscar nomination? An almost perfect, more-so-comedy dramedy.
- Wasted on the Young
A party gone wrong with devastating consequences. Destructive, tense, and two wonderful lead performances.
A grandiose ruse to expose spiritual leaders ends in an experience of helping others and the self. A fantastic doco!
Darkly funny, quirky, sweet and original. Definitely not another teen movie
- Hobo With a Shotgun
Sick, twisted and gory as hell; grindhouse done perfectly!
An E.T. buddy caper movie of epic, laugh-out-loud fun! The packed out theatre went nuts!
- Sound of My Voice
The faith of a couple trying to expose a cult is questioned, with an ending I certainly didn’t expect, but loved!
- A Year in Mooring
A broken man and a broken boat, restoring one another with the help of others. Beautiful.
It scared the crap out of me [not a great indicator], but the first half especially, played really well on the mind.
- Source Code
Not mind-blowing, but a solid blockbuster with a very good Gyllenhall.
The AICN secret screening. An old school monster flick with balls, and a lot of fun. Guillermo Del Toro Q&A ftw!!!
A decent dramedy about a bunch of misfit school kids that went completely off the rails in one long, out of tone scene.
A girl on the verge of marriage. A guy trying to get her back. It’s been done before, and done better.