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Page Two: The Incredibles

SXSW Film lines 'em up

By Louis Black, Fri., March 13, 2009

What SXSW Film Hath Wrought

When famed independent filmmaker Eagle Pennell died in July 2002, a wake was organized at the Alamo Drafthouse, where his first classic indie feature, The Whole Shootin' Match, was shown. The sound on the print was terrible. This kicked off a quest to find a decent print, but none could be found in any format. The film is fun to watch, but it is also important: It's one of the very first regional independent American films. It proved a catalyst for so much that followed, inspiring Robert Redford to start the Sundance Institute as well as a generation of young filmmakers to go out and make their own films. It excited critics, played festivals, had theatrical runs, and was a hit in Europe.

Somewhere along the way, Mark Rance and I partnered in this search. Mark found a pristine print in Germany. The film was transferred and improved. A rough version was premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival a couple of years back. It was the first time a good copy of the movie had shown in decades. A near-final version screened at a later SXSW Film.

Now, after almost two decades, Eagle Pennell's legendary film, long thought lost, is available for the first time on DVD. Watchmaker Films has released a special package that includes The Whole Shootin' Match, Eagle's short film "A Hell of a Note," a documentary on Pennell, a bonus soundtrack CD, and a 48-page booklet. Locally, this package is available at Waterloo Records. It has earned rave reviews and should be available at better video and DVD stores everywhere. If you don't see it, be sure to ask!


SXSW 2009, My SXSW

It's about two years ago in Toronto at the film festival. I'm waiting for my friend Michael Hollett, publisher and editor of NOW, Toronto's weekly, to show up with tickets to get a friend and me into Man From Plains, Jonathan Demme's documentary on Jimmy Carter. It's getting late, but Michael still hasn't shown; I've tried every way I know to contact him. Jimmy and Rosalind Carter are going to be at the screening. Michael is good friends with the Sony Pictures Classics guys, whose movie this is, so I figure Michael is in the back talking to one of the Carters and has forgotten about us. Maybe one minute before the film starts, Michael is at the front door of the theatre, making all kinds of apologies and hustling us along. He says he has been talking to the Carters but only for five minutes. Later, when he writes about his meeting in NOW, he will mention that he was talking to them for a half hour, which is what I figured all along.

Moving quickly, we burst into the backstage area. Bursting in proves not to be the cleverest move, as several Secret Service agents traveling with the ex-president seem extremely unhappy upon seeing us enter. The Sony Classics guys are unhappy as well, probably because the Secret Service guys are that way. It is an awkward moment.

A young man comes over to me to say: "Hello, I'm Jimmy Carter's grandson. I had a film at the South by Southwest Film Festival. It was a terrific experience." Everybody in the room relaxes.

In the middle of being interviewed, I hear over the Chronicle intercom system that Elliot Roberts' office is on the phone for me. I break off the interview. Elliot is one of the smartest people I've ever met. He is Neil Young's manager. The list of artists that he has managed over the years is stunning. He's calling to see if SXSW Film will show Neil Young Trunk Show, Jonathan Demme's new Young performance film. This is the third or fourth time we've worked together in conjunction with SXSW over the years.

When I slip into one of my reactive, defensive modes, I should remember incidents like these, which happen all the time. On occasion, someone is heaping so much praise on SXSW in the course of an unexpected encounter that I'm embarrassed. I'm comfortable with neither praise nor compliments.

SXSW 09 kicks off on the cover date of this issue. It's the 23rd SXSW since we started in 1987. Back then, the energy and anticipation was so explosive that it was like a weeklong, nonstop electric storm, with lightning exploding across our interior skies; calling it "disorientation" would be a weak way to describe the hyper, sometimes almost unreal, mental state. Now, the excitement is still there; it's a lot more modulated, but there is still the thrill at the fireworks show of creative explosions that will go on all over Austin from March 13 to 22. SXSW is not about us; it is of Austin and about the amazing number and extraordinary range of talents who come together and interact during the event.


SXSW Music Wristbands

A limited number of $165 wristbands will be put on sale at Waterloo Records starting Saturday, March 14, when it opens at 10am, until they sell out. One per customer, and the wristband must be fastened on the wrist at time of purchase. Please be mindful of Waterloo's neighbors, and don't park in inappropriate lots.

There will be more $165 wristbands on sale beginning Wednesday, March 18, at certain SXSW Music Festival venues, including the Austin Music Hall and Stubb's, as well as several more. The SXSW Music Festival team will consider overall capacity, badges, and number of wristbands already out there to determine how many to sell. For more information go to wristbands.sxsw.com.


SXSW Film Festival Passes

Friday, March 13, marks the beginning of the SXSW Film Festival. Passes will be on sale at Waterloo Records and also at the Austin Convention Center theatre box office, Alamo South, Alamo Ritz, and the Hideout for $70.


SXSW FREE

SXSW has always offered free events developed and run by different members of its staff. This year, SXSW Cruise Director John Rodriguez collected all these events under one umbrella, called SXSW FREE. The most complete information is available at www.sxsw.com/free.

South Buy Sell Trade is open to all, without charge, at the Austin Convention Center on Saturday, March 21, and Sunday, March 22, 10am-6pm. Featured events are:

• The Austin Record Convention

• The Texas Guitar Show

• The Flatstock 20 Poster Show (note special hours: 11am-6pm): This show will also be open free to the public at the Austin Convention Center Thursday-Sunday, March 19-22.

The Free Concert Series at Auditorium Shores, the traditional three nights of free concerts at the SXSW Auditorium Shores Stage on Lady Bird Lake in Downtown Austin: Thursday & Friday, March 19 & 20, 6-9pm, and Saturday, March 21, noon-9pm.

ScreenBurn at SXSW Interactive: The ScreenBurn Arcade is the ultimate hands-on video-game play space – and it's totally free and open to the public. Located on the first floor of the Austin Convention Center, Friday, March 13, 2-6pm; Saturday, March 14, noon-6pm; and Sunday, March 15, noon-6pm. For more details, visit www.screenburnfest.com.

SXSW Events at George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center: In conjunction with the Austin Parks & Recreation Department, SXSW Music, Film, and Interactive Festival will present a series of events at the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center Friday-Sunday, March 13-15. The Carver Center is located at 1165 Angelina (974-4926).

Along with other events, SXSW and the Austin School of Film present a free Youth Filmmaking Workshop on Stop Motion Animation on Saturday and Sunday, March 14 and 15, 9am-5pm, at the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center.


Austin Music Awards

The Austin Chronicle presents the Austin Music Awards Show on Wednesday evening, March 18, at the Austin Music Hall. This year is a tribute to Doug Sahm. The musical lineup includes David Yow with the Dicks, Roky Erickson with the Black Angels, Bob Schneider with the Fireants, and Suzanna Choffel, Ruthie Foster, and Carolyn Wonderland. Playing in tribute to Doug Sahm will be his son Shawn Sahm; the pounding, driving keyboard master Augie Meyers; and Alejandro Escovedo. (Advance tickets on sale at Waterloo Records.)


Already Recommended SXSW Films and Events

Sunshine: As the film's support material says: "It all starts with getting knocked up. An unplanned pregnancy for an unplanned girl sets off Sunshine, a ... self-portrait of an adopted woman driven to search for answers through reconnection with her biological mother."

The Best of Trailers From Hell With Joe Dante: Dante will be hostingthe Best of Trailers From Hell, bringing a live version of his wonderful TrailersFromHell.com website/series.

Neil Young Trunk Show: The premiere of Jonathan Demme's new Neil Young performance film.

Know Your Mushrooms: Austin favorite Ron Mann (director of Grass, Comic Book Confidential, Tales of the Rat Fink) brings his new film.

The Promised Land: A terrific film about Louisiana and a supergroup of local musicians who come together to make extraordinary music.

Saint Misbehavin': The Wavy Gravy Movie: Although not an Austinite, he's passed through town a number of times; if there were ever a sensibility perfectly matched to Austin, Texas, it's Wavy Gravy's. The film celebrates the man, the legend, the social explosion – with Wavy in attendance.

My Suicide: Gabriel Sunday's challenging, electrifying film, which just won a prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

Eggshells: Director Tobe Hooper's first film, long thought to be lost, will screen at SXSW Film 09.

Drunken Angel: The Legend of Blaze Foley: I haven't seen the film but again let me note Sybil Rosen's memoir Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley, because it is damn wonderful.

SX Global: Featuring critically acclaimed, award-winning, and outstanding international documentaries.

Texas filmmakers: Everyone involved with SXSW Film this year has commented on the quantity and quality of films made by Texas and Austin filmmakers, many of whom come out of the University of Texas Radio-Television-Film Department. Notable among these are Bradley Beesley (Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo); Michel Orion Scott, whose Over the Hills and Far Away premiered at the Sundance Film Festival; Ben Steinbauer (Winnebago Man); David Hartstein (Along Came Kinky ... Texas Jewboy for Governor); and Keith Maitland (The Eyes of Me).

And all those films listed above barely begin to scratch the surface of the incredible SXSW Film Festival schedule this year.  


See "Never Say Goodbye," Music, for more information on the Austin Music Awards and this week's Screens section, beginning with "Good Company," for our extensive SXSW Film preview.

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