Oh God, What Have I Gotten Myself Into? A Guide to SXSW Film 2013A column article, Shot For Shot by: Dylan Garsee
SXSW is the magical time of year where everyone in the world comes to Austin, clogs the bus system and drinks all of the Topo Chico. For those unfamiliar with the festival, SXSW is mainly a three part interactive conference/film festival/music festival that, unlike regular conferences and festivals, takes over the entire goddamned city of Austin. There’s parties at the convention center, screenings at museums, concerts in warehouses, and dance parties behind Wendy’s. Everyone who lives in Austin either stays in their homes or fully embraces the insanity. And this year, Comics Bulletin Austin will be joining in.
Over the past three weeks, Janelle Revord, Dylan Tano, Nick Hanover, and myself have been researching every video game panel, listening to every artist (seriously, Janelle, there’s like 2000 bands), and watching every film trailer. While the former two will be focusing mainly on the interactive and music side, Nick Hanover and I will be tackling the massive 9 day film portion. While Nick is still (at this time) organizing the logistics of everything, I have made my complete schedule for the nine days, culminating in 36 features films, 3 film panels, 2 short films, and 1 gay brunch. So, as a treat to our readers, I collected the top 10 films I am most excited for. The other 26 films I’m seeing can suck it! (but you’ll still be able to read up about them in our SXSW daily coverage).
Dir: Fede Alvarez (Friday, March 8)
I must admit, I haven’t watched the trailer for this yet. I haven’t read any details. I don’t even know who is starring in it. All I know is that Sam Raimi is involved, it’s going to be super bloody, and my body isn’t ready for it. Evil Dead is opening the festival along side The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, but from the few sourced I’ve been reading, it will scare the pants off of me. I love the original, and even though most remakes of classics are less than perfect, this may be a rare instance where the remake stands up with the original.
Dir: Shane Carruth (Friday, March 8)
Upstream Color follows two people who are “unknowingly drawn into the life cycle of a presence that permeates the microscopic world, moving to nematodes, plant life, livestock and back again.” This may sound like a confusing mess of a plot that lacks emotion but is scientifically fascinating and baffling, because it most likely is. Shane Carruth has made only one other film, the much loved and much discussed still Primer, the film equivalent of squiggly lines. The film already premiered at Sundance earlier this year, with initial reports unanimously made up of “huh?” and that’s why I’m so excited for it. Primer made my brain itch in ways I have never felt before, and I can’t wait to scratch it again.
Dir: Simon Ennis (Friday, March 8)
Documentaries don’t always have to be about war or glaciers or Israel/Palestine. Sometimes, they can be light and fun. Enter Lunarcy!, a documentary that follows a group of people obsessed with the moon. Some people sell moon plots, some people just want to move there. They may seem crazy (okay, let’s face it, they’re a little crazy) but they are also deeply passionate about the moon. And I can’t say anything about obsessions, considering I woke up this morning singing the Rural Juror song from 30 Rock.
Dir: Dayna Hanson (Saturday, March 9)
Part mockumentary, part dance flick, and part Muppet Movie (I think) Improvement Club by far seems the most interesting small film at SXSW this year. The trailer doesn’t give much away, but the concept of a dance troupe attempt to expose fatal flaws in the American Revolution sounds much more interesting than most of the other films playing at the fest (and I’m pretty sure there’s a Harry Connick Jr./ Willie Nelson Christmas movie premiering).
Dir: Lotfy Nathan (Sunday, March 10)
I have made no secret about my love of the greatest show ever made, The Wire, which may be why I am so excited for 12 O’Clock Boys. This documentary follows a gang of urban dirt bike riders whose sole purpose is to ride ATVs and dirtbikes through the streets of Baltimore (apparently). The film focuses on a young boy who joins the gang and follows him as he grows up in this still economically depressed city. Why am I lying, I mostly want to see this because the little boy in the movie has A$AP Rocky hair.
Dir: M. Blash (Sunday, March 10)
You know what the world needs more of? Devastation. And of all of the films I researched for SXSW (i.e. all of them) The Wait looks absolutely soul-crushing. Chloe Sevigny and Jena Malone play sisters who receive a call from a mysterious woman claiming to be a psychic that says their recently deceased mother will be resurrected. And so they wait. And wait. I can feel the tension just from reading the synopsis (thankfully, there’s no trailer), and for a lack of a better word, I can’t wait.
Dir: Harmony Korine (Sunday, March 10)
Okay, I’m not going to lie. This movie will either be the greatest movie ever made, or the most spectacular failure ever. Words can not describe this film, so it is better to just watch the trailer. All you need to know is that it's Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez acting alongside James Franco, who is essentially playing rapper Riff Raff, and Gucci Mane, with music by Skrillex, all directed by the Harmony Korine. My mind may be fucked with Upstream Color, but the rest of my body will be fucked by Spring Breakers.
Dir: Mitchell Altieri (Sunday, March 10)
I have been baptised twice, once as a Lutheran and once as a Pentecostal. The Lutheran baptism is boring, they just pour water from a shell on you. The Pentecostal baptism, however, is a full on dunking in a pool while everyone speaks in tongues around you and it’s scary and awesome. While I may not be following either denomination now, I always loved going to Pentecostal church in the backwoods of East Texas, because it was terrifying. And now, Hollywood has tapped the very unused terror that is backwoods churches. Part Sound of My Voice and part Red State (but hopefully better than both), Holy Ghost People looks destressing and unsettling, but with less tambourines and more cobras.
Dir: AJ Schnack and David Wilson (Monday, March 11)
We Always Lie to Strangers gives us a behind the scenes of the city of Branson, Missouri, a town that’s sole purpose is to attract tourists looking for good old-fashioned family values. With the rapid change in what “family values” means, the city struggles with staying relevant in a world that would much rather see Spring Breakers than see a vaudeville show. Can this old fashioned city survive? I’ll see on Monday.
Dir: Zal Batmanglij
SXSW’s closing film The East stars indie darling Brit Marling, who is still running on the good will from the amazing Another Earth. So much good will that I think the world is ready to forgive her for Sound of My Voice. Which is why she and SOMV collaborator Zal Batmanglij return for what seems like a gender switched SOMV. I still believe that they can recover from that disaster, mostly because Another Earth is so amazing.
So that’s it. I will be seeing 26 other films, and there are plenty of other movies I am not seeing. But these are the ones I am most excited for, some more than others (Spring Breakers, oh my god). SXSW will kill a man, but I’ll be loaded up with breakfast tacos, Emergen-c, and Topo Chico to keep me running for at least 9 days.
Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is studying sociology, and when he's not winning trivia nights at pork-themed restaurants, writing a collection of essays on the gay perspective in geek culture. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can't afford and crying. You can follow him on twitter @garseed.