My First SXSW (South by Southwest) Film Festival Experience: Chapter 4

by Dino-Ray Ramos
Sunday Mar 20, 2005
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Alas, the SXSW film festival has come to an end. Although the nine days of non-glamorized independent films have indulgently exhausted me and made me want to swim back to the shallow end of the cinematic ocean for a bit, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

My last days were not as eventful, but I did manage to end with two great films. Being the hip-hop connoisseur I claim to be, I went to a screening of Scratch: All The Way Live. More of a follow up than a sequel to 2001’s turntabilist documentary, Scratch, the film showcased performances of Z-Trip, Mix Master Mike, Jazzy Jay and the X-ecutioners at the Los Angeles leg of the Scratch tour. I tried my best throughout the film not to get up and perform my b-boy moves in fear of embarrassment. The audio in the film made the theatre at the Drafthouse South boom with bass and had everyone in the audience jamming. I couldn’t blame them because I was feeling like I was actually in the midst of the sold-out crowd at the concert in L.A. Once again, producers of the film were on hand after the screening for a Q & A. They informed us that it was not going to be released into theatres, but it will be a straight to DVD project. Needless to say, for those who want to discover more about the unknown art of turntablism or want to become more of a hip-hop head, I highly recommend this film (and its predecessor) to immerse oneself in the hip-hop element of DJ’ing.

As I walked out of the theatre with my ears delightfully ringing, I waited for the next film, Four Eyed Monsters. I had no idea what this film was about. All I knew was that it won 2nd place in the “Emerging Visions” category at the awards ceremony. With that in mind, I took out my handy SXSW guide to familiarize myself with the project. Four Eyed Monsters follows the relationship of two people who meet on the Internet. After they meet in person, they realize that live, non-verbal communication would be a better way for them to interact. Through exchanged Post-its, notepads, videotapes and e-mails, the film tells this interesting story of relationships.

I went into the theatre expecting the film to be avant-garde and artistically complex, but once it began, I was wrong. They weren’t lying when they said that this film was an “emerging vision”. They shot the film in so many textures, yet it didn’t take away from the compelling story line. Instead, it added so much more interest, especially for those of us with aesthetic ADHD. The film not only centered on the relationship between Susan Buice and Arin Crumley (who were also the filmmakers), but it gave us different perspectives on relationships through a series of brief interviews. Afterwards, Buice and Crumley were there to give us more introspect on the film and to tell the audience how impressed they were with their first time visit to Austin. The Q & A was basic, but I really couldn’t think of anything to ask them. Their work spoke for itself. I definitely enjoyed this one considering my opinions on the interesting creatures called “couples”, hence the title of the film, Four Eyed Monsters.

My last two films were a good finale to what seemed like an epically comparable film festival. Among the 13 films that I took in, here is a rough list of my top three (if they are wide released):

1.) Oldboy: In this brutal story of vengeance, a man is held captive for 15 years. After he is released, he is forced to participate in a twisted game of chase as he is sent to discover his captor within five days. If he doesn’t comply with the conditions, deadly consequences will be enforced in what has already been a gruesome journey.

2.) Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic: Behind her innocent smile, comedian Sarah Silverman devilishly tests the comedic limits of issues concerning race, politics, religion and other social taboos that seriously infect society today. Through a series of skits woven into her stand-up routine, Silverman delivers a hilarious take on topics we normally wouldn’t laugh at.

3.) All We Are Saying: Rosanna Arquette’s documentary about musicians and the industry provides a personal outlook on music and everything related to it. In an endless list of interviews, Arquette showcases rock stars more as humans as they discuss the pros and cons of the current state of music.

Based on my taste and general knowledge, here are two films that I wanted to see that would be worth checking out:

1.) Hooligans: Elijah Wood portrays a young man recently expelled from Harvard that travels to London and discovers the brutal underground world of English football.

2.) The Edukators: In an act of political activism, two young German friends make it a hobby of breaking into the houses of the wealthy elite. Instead of vandalizing or stealing belongings, they rearrange the furniture and leave cryptic notes to their unknowing clients. When one of the friends’ girlfriends is brought into the picture, things start to complicate.

So ends my journey at the SXSW Film Festival. I learned a lot about film and tested my endurance of sitting in a theatre for hours a day. The talent that is showcased here is so unique and impressively mind-boggling. The variety of film that is offered is something that makes this festival stand out. Also, I think that a film festival like this is very distinct because it isn’t full of celebrity glamour and all that nonsense. It adheres to the art of filmmaking. Hopefully the festival will remain true to the city’s motto “Keep Austin Weird” and not turn into a commercial circus of “seen and be seen”. I hope that you learned a little about Austin and make an effort to come visit this wonderful city despite the rep that Texas has. SXSW is a festival that is worth experiencing. Who knows?— maybe I will indulge my musicality and attend the music festival in 2006. One thing is for certain: I will not do this next year unless I have one of those pompous badges.

Dino-Ray is a Bay Area-based journalist (both freelance and full-time) who is a film fanatic, fashion snob, hip-hop head, pop culture junkie and everything in between. Still not convinced? Check out his blog


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