You know what makes a film festival special? Watching the unbelievable true story of a man wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife, spending 25 years in jail essentially coming to terms with his situation and accepting it, then finally being set free by saints that relentlessly fought for him.
OK, no, that’s a darn good story. What makes it special is the man himself, Michael Morton, walking on stage with John Raley, the attorney that worked pro bono for 7 years, and the director of this story, Al Reinert. The audience stood clapping for a good five minutes, tears flowing from basically everyone. His spirit and attitude to forgiveness during the Q&A was something to marvel. Being part of that moment, with those people, is an incredible feeling. It elevates a film to an experience, and that’s what film festivals are all about.
People think I’m crazy when I say I like lines, and lining up. Every line at SXSW is a chance to make transient friends. It’s not even a chance, it always happens. You get to know people from all over the world, all makes of life, brought together by a common love of film. You’re pretty much guaranteed to meet them again throughout the festival, sharing your favourites, plotting a crazy schedule for the days left, geeking out about film in general. It’s like /r/movies IRL.
The star-studded intros and Q&As get everyone excited, adding SO much to the film. The best part of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was Jim Carrey’s hilarious improv during the Q&A. Continuum! I felt Don Jon was superficial and preachy, but hearing Joseph Gordon-Levitt talk about it at least helped me understand his well-meaning intentions. Joss Whedon, Richard Linklater, Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling all shared awesome insights into their writing process. And, I got to stalk my celebrity crush, Anna Kendrick, sitting within lunging distance of her!
I hate horror films. Boy am I glad I got dragged into the Evil Dead. Watching it with a packed, raucous Paramount crowd that gleefully cheers every gruesome death and moment of badassery is fun, fun, fun!
Hearing three different interpretations of Upstream Color from the three actors on stage solidified the genius of Shane Carruth. I wish Amy Seimetz talked for hours longer. Her state of mind in real life is so inextricably linked to her character’s that it seems more like fate than good casting. I’ve spent hours talking about it to people since, and get chills every time I look at this still.
Aside from the three films mentioned, Short Term 12, The Fifth Season, The Act of Killing, Before Midnight, Much Ado About Nothing and The Punk Singer are all standouts too.
This is my third year at SXSW; I’m counting down the days until the fourth.
A huge thank you to Janet Pierson, Jarod Neece, the volunteers, and everyone else involved in making SXSW Film all it is.