In such intense and crazed times, film and music of soothe and feed the soul; SXSW 2003 provides plenty to feast on.
The SXSW Film venues are the Paramount Theatre, the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, the Hideout, the Austin Convention Center Theater (ACC), Westgate, and the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex. Elsewhere in this issue is a map for the Millennium, which offers great programming and plenty of parking. Westgate also offers a SXSW slate; for those who want to watch Festival films without braving the central city, there are these choices.
Editing the SXSW Film section of the SXSW supplement in this issue really brought home how outstanding the Festival lineup is this year (I don't judge our program, so this isn't self-congratulatory).
SXSW Film Opening Night, Friday, March 7, has added two great screenings at the Millennium. Actor Thomas Haden Church (TV's Wings and Ned and Stacey) presents Rolling Kansas, his directorial debut, at 9pm; this will be the locally shot film's Austin premiere. The late Eagle Pennell's classic Last Night at the Alamo shows at 7pm.
One of the major world premieres and Friday night shows is Ron Mann's Go Further at 7pm at the Paramount, introduced by the filmmaker and Woody Harrelson. When SXSW showed Mann's Grass, the turn-out at the Paramount was stunning. Go Further follows Woody and gang's environmental-consciousness-raising West Coast trip in a bus fueled by hemp-seed oil. As Mann notes, "Harrelson tests his belief that the transformation of our planet begins with the small personal transformations that are within the grasp of each and every one of us, after which ... we'll go further." Among those in the film are Dave Matthews, Natalie Merchant, Ken Kesey, Bob Weir, Michael Franti, Anthony Kiedis, and Medeski, Martin, and Wood. Not surprisingly, it features a great score. This is a really delightful film that not only raises important environmental and social-consciousness issues, but has a hell of a good time doing it. My favorite scene has a woman deciding to hook up with the gang for a few days and packing to go as the filmmakers' cameras catch her boyfriend seething as he watches. Based in Toronto, Mann is one of Canada's foremost documentary filmmakers. Mann's film explores the way culture works, but rather than simply instructive texts, they are wittily alive, nuanced studies that have a deep cultural resonance. Comic Book Confidential is my favorite, but all -- including Grass, Twist, and Poetry in Motion -- are impressive. I can't wait for his forthcoming documentary on Big Daddy Roth.
Also at the Paramount that night is The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, which makes sense of recent events in Venezuela, chillingly capturing Chavez's ouster, as well as his triumphant return.
Last week I gave a rundown of Friday-night movies. Check the SXSW supplement and the Screens section in this issue for more information. I have to highlight a few films:
Assassination Tango will be introduced by director and star Robert Duvall, a film legend who has appeared in so many great Texas films. A brand-new print of the gorgeous 1971 classic Western The Hired Hand will be introduced by its director and star, Peter Fonda.
One of my favorite directors, Nancy Savoca (I love all her films, but feel a unique affinity with Dogfight), presents two new films. Dirt is the powerful story of Salvadorian immigrants in NYC. Rebel Without a Pause captures famed performance artist Reno's take on 9/11.
In this town, I figure a documentary on the history of the Weather Underground should do extremely well (so it's being shown), but before it is "Asylum," a powerful and disturbing short about African female genital mutilation by my old friend Sandy McLeod. What seems like an abstract, weird ritual becomes a terrifying, inhumane problem as the film unfolds.
Other late additions: Director Joel Schumacher introduces Phone Booth, with Colin Farrell, Forest Whitaker, and Kiefer Sutherland. Set entirely within and around the confines of a New York City phone booth, the movie features Farrell as a man trapped by a sniper who tells him he will kill him if his instructions aren't followed precisely (March 11, Paramount, 7pm).
Pauly Shore introduces You'll Never Wiez in This Town Again (which he directed and wrote) with Shore, Tom Sizemore, Todd Bridges, Ben Stiller, Bill Maher, Sean Penn, Heidi Fleiss, and Tommy Lee. The film asks the until-now-unasked question: "What would the world be like if Shore had unexpectedly died before his time?" (March 11, Alamo, 9:30pm)
Soul legends Sam Moore, Isaac Hayes, Wilson Pickett, the Chi-lites, Jerry Butler, Mary Wilson, and Carla and Rufus Thomas are featured in the documentary Only the Strong Survive. The latest film from legendary documentary filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker is about these great Motown and Stax soul singers, who are still around and working (March 12, Paramount, 4:30pm).
The Austin Lounge Lizards celebrate 20 years in Lizard Times Twenty: The Austin Lounge Lizards Live at Antone's, the world premiere of a new film by Steve Mims (March 13, Paramount, 7pm).
Shot at the Austin Studios, Screen Door Jesus was directed by Kirk Davis and stars Jo Harvey Allen, Earl Poole Ball, and Josh Berry. It is based on Christopher Cook's short stories (March 12, Paramount, 11am; March 14, Paramount, 11am).
The Austin Music Awards officially begin SXSW Music Festival on Wednesday, March 12, at the Austin Music Hall. The bill begins with Ruthie Foster, followed by Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez. The Hole in the Wall Gang is a revue featuring Hole veterans Paul Minor, Jane Bond, Beaver Nelson, Troy Campbell, Scrappy Jud Newcomb, Tony Scalzo, Miles Zuniga, Barbara K., Darin Murphy, Ted Roddy, Andrew Duplantis, and Matt Hubbard. Survivors of the Great Progressive Country Music Scare of the mid-Seventies reunite in the Improbable Return of Redneck Rock, featuring Steve Fromholz, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Rusty Wier, Ray Benson, Billy Joe Shaver, and Bob Livingston. Paul Ray is the emcee. There will, of course, be dozens of awards, as well; expect surprise guests and presenters.
Check the SXSW Music Festival information in the supplement and the issue. It is extraordinary, and there is too much good music to mention. It should be a great and crazy year.
In such intense and crazed times, film and music soothe and feed the soul. The next 10 days will be about culture and about Austin, about talent, and about people. Let's all enjoy this one together.