SXSW Film Review: 'Harmontown'

'Community' creator lets it all hang out

Neil Berkeley must be magnetically pulled to mad geniuses.


Following up his terrific portrait of artist Wayne White, 2012’s Beauty Is Embarrassing, Berkeley documents another draw-outside-the-lines creative force, TV writer Dan Harmon (Community), as he embarks on a 20-city tour taping his popular Harmontown podcast in front of live audiences. Berkeley effectively mixes footage from the freewheeling performances and backstage ephemera with archival clips from Harmon’s often-troubled career (Heat Vision and Jack, The Sarah Silverman Program) and affectionate but frank testimonials from his friends and co-workers.

“A human hand grenade with a predilection for pulling his own pin out” (as John Oliver puts it), Harmon lets it all hang out for the camera – his black moods and shame spirals, that devastatingly sharp tongue and a dizzying number of drinks poured – but Harmontown, a large-hearted film, also illustrates what Harmon calls “the misfit quality” that bonds him to his audience and his collaborators. Chief among those collaborators is scene-stealer Spencer Crittenden, a shy dungeon master who joins the show almost by accident and becomes a cult hero. You might not know what he means when one shiny-eyed fan squees to the camera, “Spencer signed my D20!” – but then again, you know exactly what he means. As much a portrait of a community as of its brilliant, de facto mayor, Harmontown is a stirring tribute to the restorative power of finding your people.


Harmontown


Documentary Spotlight, World Premiere
Saturday, March 8, 9:30pm, Vimeo
Sunday, March 9, 4pm, Alamo Village
Wednesday, March 12, 5pm, VCC
Friday, March 14, 2pm, Vimeo

READ MORE
More South by Southwest
SXSW Expands SouthBites Programming
SXSW Expands SouthBites Programming
David Chang announced as featured speaker

Brandon Watson, Sept. 30, 2014

Two More Acquisitions for SXSW Alumni
Two More Acquisitions for SXSW Alumni
'Honeymoon' and 'Thank You a Lot' picked up

Monica Riese, March 28, 2014

More SXSW
White House Announces South by South Lawn Lineup
White House Announces South by South Lawn Lineup
Event features Leonardo DiCaprio, Lumineers, Stranger Things cast

Tucker Whatley, Sept. 26, 2016

Fede Alvarez Says <i>Don't Breathe</i>
Fede Alvarez Says Don't Breathe
On Detroit, Uruguay, and shooting that scene

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 26, 2016

More by Kimberley Jones
The Dressmaker
Kate Winslet stars in this adaptation of the Australian best-seller

Sept. 30, 2016

My Blind Brother
Indie romantic comedy has plenty of bite

Sept. 23, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

South by Southwest, SXSW, SXSW 2014, SXSW Film 2014, Harmontown, Neil Berkeley, Dan Harmon, documentary, review, Spencer Crittenden, Community

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)