Here's a column that I will be doing daily leading up to the opening of the South By Southwest Film Festival, starting March 9th and concluding March 17th. I want to showcase big films, small films, and the ones in between; the can't-miss features and the quiet, intimate films that need all the help they can get. This will be my second year covering the festival - last year I smashed into it with only 2 and a half days, and I don't know how coherent I was at the end of it. This year I'm here for 5 days and while I'll see as much as I can, I'm pacing myself.
I'm a firm believer when covering a film festival not to have any expectations about what you're seeing - just to roll with the punches and keep my ear close to the ground. If I hear buzz about something good, I'll try my best to seek it out. The fun thing about film festivals is being surprised and genuinely knocked on your ass by a film you didn't expect - last year ATTACK THE BLOCK did that for me, and there's a few potentials this year that I'm really anxious to check out. I'm not even going to be able to see all these films I'm writing about; I'm just not going to have the time at the festival. But I'd love to hopefully see some of them after, or maybe before, depending on my schedule.
I'm really excited about this year's crop, so let's get started:
UNDER AFRICAN SKIES
Director: Joe Berlinger
Paul Simon's GRACELAND is, without a doubt, one of the best albums of the 1980s. It's probably my personal favorite album from the time. I was picking and choosing through my SXSW schedule and I knew this was going to be a must-see for me. Joe Berlinger is one of our greatest documentarians, first off, and the film explores not only the cultural and musical significance of the album but also the political significance. It could be argued that GRACELAND was the album that led to the dismantling of apartheid; Simon showed the world the culture of South Africa at a time where most musicians were told to stay away. UNDER AFRICAN SKIES explores the making of the album, and returns 25 years later to visit with some of the other artists that worked on the album and how their lives were changed as a result. I can't wait to see it - this one's one of my can't miss films of the whole festival.
PLAY TIMES: 6:00 PM Tuesday, March 13th, Alamo Lamar B; 6:45 PM Thursday, March 15th, Vimeo Theater; 8:00 PMFriday, March 16th, Alamo Ritz
THE AGGRESSION SCALE
Director: Steven C. Miller
It's being called HOME ALONE meets HOSTEL; a teen action film of home invasion. It's got some names you might recognize - Derek Mears (FRIDAY THE 13th), Ray Wise (TWIN PEAKS), but the trailer does a terrific job of selling the tension of the piece. A group of teens try to fend off a bunch of hitmen looking for their $500,000. This is one of the SXSW Midnighters and it's already got quite a bit of buzz about it. It's a World Premiere at SXSW, and I have the feeling this one may be one of those talked about movies. There's always a Midnighter that kicks everyone's ass, and this one could be it.
PLAY TIMES: 11:59 PM, Saturday, March 10th, Alamo Lamar A; 1:00 PM, Sunday March 11th, Violet Crown; 11:59 PM Tuesday, March 15th, Alamo Lamar A; 11:59 PM, Wednesday March 14th, Alamo Ritz 1
WIKILEAKS: SECRETS AND LIES
Director: Patrick Forbes
So who is Julian Assange? Is he a hero? A villain? An exposer of truth or someone who has put us at risk? Honestly, while I think Wikileaks shined a light on a lot of Bad Things, I can't help feeling that Assange has played us somehow. WIKILEAKS: SECRETS AND LIES has an exclusive interview with Assange and dives into the whole affair. This whole story has a "don't shoot the messenger" vibe about it; I still don't know what kind of person Assange is, but no doubt, the information that Wikileaks released to the public put a huge burden on the countries that it affected. For better or worse, it's out there now, and it might not be as important as to how it got out, but what we, as a people learn from it. A controversial documentary, to be sure.
PLAY TIMES: 9:45 PM, Friday, March 9th, Vimeo Theater; 7:15 PM, Tuesday, March 13th, Alamo Ritz 1; 5:00 PM, Wednesday, March 14th, Violet Crown 1; 4:30 PM, Saturday, March 17th, Alamo Lamar C
And that's it for tonight; tomorrow I'll have three more films playing SXSW 2012 this year that you should look out for. It's going to be a hell of a year this year, and whatever doesn't kill me makes me geekier, or something like that.