Screening Calls

What to see and when and where to see it at SXSW Film 04

<i>Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed</i>
Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed

All listings subject to change. For the full schedule of SXSW Film 04 screenings, including ticket information, see the 12-page pullout in the middle of the issue. For panel information and updates, see www.sxsw.com/film. For information on the Life and Times of Bill Hicks panel on March 16, see the Arts feature on p.34. For a preview of the 24 Beats Per Second program, which features 11 music films, see p.80. For future reviews, photos, interviews, competition-film coverage, and more, see The Austin Chronicle's daily editions on Thursday, March 18; Friday, March 19; and Saturday, March 20, as well as austinchronicle.com. Please keep in mind that our recommendations are based on the pool of films that we've viewed as of press time.

Azumi

D: Ryuhei Kitamura; with Aya Ueto, Kenji Kohashi, Hiroki Narimiya, Jô Odagiri, Kazuki Kitamura, Yoshio Harada

Narrative Feature 'Round Midnight, Regional Premiere

Disowned by her seemingly duplicitous master and banished from her adoptive assassin clan, Azumi realizes the divide separating honor and conscience cuts hairline thin. In the same open vein of his hyperviolently choreographed Versus, director Kitamura ups the ante and keeps up the action – both wirework and Wachowski Brothers – imbuing Azumi's quest to slay three feudal warlords with sickly reds, greens, and Dramamine-popping photography. Her climactic one-woman battle against fey sadist Bijomaru Mogami burns Tarantino's House of Blue Leaves to mulch. – Wells Dunbar

Alamo, 3/16, 12mid; Arbor: 3/18, 9:30pm; 3/20, 7pm

Big Enough

D: Jan Krawitz

Documentary Feature Special Screenings, Regional Premiere

Krawitz's follow-up to 1984's Little People catches up with three of the earlier film's subjects, all dwarfs, 20 years later. A fourth family, comprising two dwarf parents and their 12-year-old daughter, also appears. Krawitz's approach is cinematically understated, with crisp parallel editing. There are minor day-to-day moments (one couple, washing clothes in a machine, laments the pocket change forever irretrievable at the bottom) and big issues (since 1984, the dwarfism gene has been isolated, making it possible to eradicate the condition through fetal testing and termination). – Marrit Ingman

Alamo: 3/15, 3pm; 3/19, 5:30pm

Black and White

D: Craig Lahiff; with Robert Carlyle, Kerry Fox, David Ngoombujarra, Colin Friels, Ben Mendelsohn

Narrative Feature Special Screenings

When the dingo got Meryl Streep's baby, Australia secured its place as a great setting for the true-crime genre. In Lahiff's Black and White, an innocent aborigine, Max Stuart, goes to trial for murdering a white girl – a case that made Australia's 1959 headlines. When Stuart's lawyer (Carlyle) and his drunk partner can't succeed, Rupert Murdoch saves the day. Police corruption isn't strictly L.A.'s gig, and it's interesting to see how the people Down Under handle it. Plus, those funny Australian courtroom wigs are awfully entertaining. – Courtney Fitzgerald

Millennium, 3/12, 7pm; Arbor, 3/16, 7:30pm

Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed

D: Shola Lynch

Documentary Feature Special Screenings, Regional Premiere

Good thing there's so much archival footage of Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American or woman to run for U.S. president. Otherwise, the unknowing might not fathom how a "fringe" candidate could have had such an impact on the national consciousness. Essentially a centrist Democrat but certainly no mealymouthed pantywaist, Chisholm was able to challenge the Democratic establishment and draw support from emerging left-wing interest groups by dint of offbeat charisma, fierce eloquence, and a passion for inclusion – not to mention political savvy won from her years as the first African-American U.S. congresswoman. In Chisholm '72, all are abundantly present, unflagging from early success through abandonment by NOW and the National Black Caucus and eventual betrayal at the Democratic National Convention. Viewers who see parallels with the current political climate (Dems shunning fired-up changemeisters for fear of an evil Republican) should proceed with caution: There's no one like Shirley Chisholm. – Cindy Widner

Paramount: 3/15, 11am; 3/19, 2:45pm

Cosmopolitan

D: Nisha Ganatra; with Roshan Seth, Carol Kane, Madhur Jaffrey, Purva Bedi

Narrative Feature Special Screenings, Regional Premiere

Early retirement for Gopal (Seth) quickly sours when his wife (Jaffrey) abandons him and their suburban lifestyle for a spiritual quest to India. In her absence, Gopal takes up reading ladies' mag Cosmopolitan and then applies his newfound knowledge to the divorcee next door (Kane). Director Ganatra (Chutney Popcorn) charmingly inserts Bollywood-style song-and-dance numbers throughout (helping to pad the extremely lean running time of 57 minutes), and Seth and Kane achieve a nice chemistry together as the fumbling new romantics. – Kimberley Jones

Dobie: 3/12, 9:30pm; 3/17, 12:30pm; 3/19, 7:15pm

Dead & Breakfast

D: Matthew Leutwyler; with Ever Carradine, Brent David Fraser, David Carradine, Bianca Lawson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Erik Palladino, Oz Perkins, Jeremy Sisto

Narrative Feature 'Round Midnight, World Premiere

Telltale signs that you and your bratty, city-dwelling friends have mistakenly checked in to a dead & breakfast: 1) Your friends resemble actors from shows like Six Feet Under and Buffy the Vampire Slayer; 2) the chef's dead in a pool of blood, and the sheriff suspects you; 3) a country-music-singing narrator keeps providing exposition to an invisible audience; 4) you glimpse an Evil Dead poster while searching for weapons to defend yourself from the redneck zombies doing the choreographed "Thriller" dance outside. – Nora Ankrum

Alamo, 3/14, 12mid; Millennium: 3/17, 9:45pm; 3/19, 9:30pm

Double Dare

D: Amanda Micheli

Documentary Feature Special Screenings, Regional Premiere

It's a glass ceiling that even the likes of Wonder Woman can't break through. Jeannie Epper, former stand-in for Lynda Carter, is in her 60s and running out of options: Career advancement, which pretty much begins and ends with big-budget stunt coordination, is a boys' club, while brief stints as an (unused) double for a sad little Joanna Cassidy scuffle in Six Feet Under just aren't doing it for her. Plus, you've got plastic surgery, grandkids, and kidney transplants. Enter up-and-coming Kiwi Zoë Bell, twentysomething and at the top of her game after her "first job out of school" – Lucy Lawless' stuntwoman in Xena – went better than well. Should she leave her family in New Zealand for a chance at rare stunt stardom? Can she reinspire Epper? Will she nail the Kill Bill auditions under Epper's wing? All of this and walking through a fountain in a latex dress at the Taurus Awards. Trust me.

– Shawn Badgley

CC, 3/15, 3pm; Alamo, 3/17, 2pm; Dobie, 3/20, 5:30pm

The End

D: Kirby Dick

Documentary Feature Special Screenings, World Premiere

It's hard to imagine the end of life without fear or regret. In this emotional documentary by acclaimed director Dick (Sick, Derrida), five patients of Kaiser Permanente Hospice Program tell their stories through humor and silence while they slowly die of cancer. As morbid as it might seem, The End is truthful and sincere, never once veering off the path toward self-realization and empowerment, and teaching that there is simply no time for regret.

– Darcie Stevens

CC: 3/14, 2:30pm; 3/16, 2:30; Dobie, 3/18, 3:45pm

Farmingville

D: Carlos Sandoval, Catherine Tambini

Documentary Feature Special Screenings, Regional Premiere

Proud to be an American? Watch Farmingville. Illegal immigration isn't just a Texas thing. In suburban Long Island's Farmingville, alien day laborers line street corners, waiting for work. But the white townspeople are scared. What about their daughters? Their property values? When white supremacists severely beat two immigrants, the town splits. City Council meetings get heated. Accusations of racism fly. Presenting both sides of the dispute, the filmmakers show that an American flag bumper sticker can mean just about anything. – C.F.

CC: 3/15, 11am; 3/18, noon; 3/19, 7:30pm

Hair High

D: Bill Plympton

Narrative Feature Special Screenings, Regional Premiere

Cult filmmaker Plympton (25 Ways to Quit Smoking) is fresh off his massively popular animation tour with co-conspirator Don Hertzfeldt and ready to warp both hearts and souls with this bizarre animated feature about a young love triangle set against the backdrop of Fifties-era high school life. Did we mention the young lovers are murdered and return as zombies to wreak comedy on those that done them wrong? But of course. Plympton's fast and loose animation – in which bouffant hairdos take center stage and the bad guy gets a comeuppance only this animator could have designed – is the showstopper here, a perfect follow-up to the director's previous feature, the equally winning Mutant Aliens. – Marc Savlov

CC: 3/16, 9:45pm; 3/18, 4pm

Homework

D: Kevin Asher Green; Isaach de Bankolé, Paz de la Huerta, Evan Neumann

Narrative Feature Emerging Visions, Regional Premiere

Sara is a 16-year-old ballet student, white and well-to-do, and her world has rigid parameters. Even though she manages to meet her goals, she's aloof in life and detached from her boyfriend and mother. She purges at the slightest weight infraction. Then she meets the plumber Jean, who comes to her apartment to fix a leak. Jean is a black immigrant who moonlights as a plumber when he's not teaching modern dance. Soon, all of Sara's pipes begin bursting. – Marjorie Baumgarten

Alamo: 3/14, 2:30pm; 3/16, 4:30pm; 3/19, 3:15pm

Killer Diller

D: Tricia Brock; with Will Lee Scott, Lucas Black, Fred Willard, Niki J. Crawford, Taj Mahal

Narrative Feature Special Screenings, World Premiere

The winning premise of Killer Diller – teen criminals are reluctantly rehabilitated by playing in a Baptist band – is owed entirely to Clyde Edgerton's source novel, but credit for capturing the sexy, sweaty beat of the Missouri blues goes to writer/director Tricia Brock. The performance footage of this gospel-band-gone-bad-to-the-bone-blues is terrific, and goes a long way in tempering the more saccharine aspects of this feel-good redemption tale. And in a fine ensemble cast, Sling Blade's Lucas Black stands out as the autistic piano player. – K.J.

Paramount: 3/16, 7pm; 3/18, 4pm; Arbor, 3/20, 4:30pm

The Naked Feminist

D: Louisa Achille

Documentary Feature Emerging Visions, U.S. Premiere

Hey, guess what! Some porn stars like their jobs! They even find them (drumroll) empowering! Achille's The Naked Feminist allows these stars (many of whom could have second careers in stand-up comedy) to debunk stereotypes, recount the rise of female directors in the Eighties, and explain why male stars have it way worse – all tastefully cut together with footage of the women hard at work. Oh, how I blush.

– Rachel Proctor May

Paramount, 3/14, 11:45am; CC: 3/16, 12:30pm; 3/20, 7:30pm

Small Ball:

A Little League Story

D: Andrew Kolker, Louis Alvarez

Documentary Feature Special Screenings, World Premiere

Yeah, right, it's just a game. Tell that to the 12-year-olds playing on the Aptos Little League championship team. Last year they made it through three tournaments, and this year they're aiming for the World Series in Williamsport, Penn. The question is: Who has invested more in the team? The players, the coaches, or the parents? While the boys live baseball every day, the adults watch in anticipation, all yearning for the glory of winning.

– D.S.

CC, 3/12, 7pm; Paramount, 3/17, noon; CC, 3/20, 3pm

Slasher

D: John Landis

Documentary Feature Special Screenings, World Premiere

Upon hearing that Landis was in Memphis shooting a movie, one might understandably guess that the multitalented filmmaker was in that city of Southern blues and barbecue cooking up another Blues Brothers opus. Wrong. In Slasher, Landis switches gears into documentary mode to show a weekend in the life of one of the world's greatest used-car salesmen. Ever wonder what goes into those slashed-prices sales? Can you really buy a car for $88? – M.B.

Paramount: 3/15, 9:45pm; 3/17, 9:30pm; 3/20, 1:30pm

Straight-Jacket

D: Richard Day; with Matt Letscher, Carrie Preston, Jack Plotnick, Michael Emerson, Victor Raider-Wexler, Veronica Cartwright, Adam Greer

Narrative Feature Emerging Visions, Regional Premiere

Set in 1950s Beverly Hills, Straight-Jacket takes a satirical look at Hollywood's plasticity. Guy Stone is the biggest star in the industry, but in order to lock down Ben-Hur (the character), he will have to prove his heterosexuality to the public. Joseph McCarthy just wouldn't approve otherwise. Delving into current issues such as the "don't ask, don't tell" farce and the far-right fight to disallow gay marriage, Straight-Jacket is just the right medicine for this thus far sick century. – D.S.

Paramount, 3/15, 3:30pm; Millennium: 3/18, 10pm; 3/20, 9:30pm

Trading With the Enemy

D: Jawad Metni

Documentary Feature Emerging Visions, Regional Premiere

Now that the Bush administration has made it immensely more difficult for American citizens to travel to Cuba, Jawad Metni's 60-minute documentary on one Austin man's attempts to smuggle a cache of cigars out of the land of Fidel Castro may be the closest you'll ever get to the fading regime. Shot in 1995, this exposé of the shadowy, cloak-and-dagger world of unsanctioned tobacco is a delight, not because of the light it shines on the thriving black market, but because it catches the day-to-day rhythms of life in Havana: hookers, Cohibas, and all. – M.S.

Dobie: 3/15, 3pm; 3/18; 6pm

24 Hours on Craigslist

D: Michael Ferris Gibson

Documentary Feature Emerging Visions, World Premiere

We all have needs. Immediate gratification isn't bad, either. On Craigslist, finding a sperm donor is a day's work. And the waiting period for ballroom dance lessons takes just an afternoon. Best of all, satisfy your urges, however base and outlandish, for free! In 24 Hours on Craigslist, meet the people behind the posts as eight film crews surf San Francisco's cyber landscape. Watch the virtual exchanges of Aug. 4, 2003, transform to flesh in the city where the online adventure was born. – C.F.

Dobie: 3/14, 10:15pm; 3/19, 9:30pm

Welcome to the Waks Family

D: Barbara A. Chobodsky

Documentary Feature Special Screenings

With 17 children, the Australian Waks family faces obvious challenges, from simply devising transportation to ensuring each child adequate attention. But as Orthodox Jews who eschew movies, pop music, and fraternization between boys and girls outside the family, they must also confront inevitable teenage rebellions and the logistics of maintaining a five-oven kosher kitchen. Helmed by a father with Sixties "eat, drink, and mate" roots, the Waks family offers a seven-year glimpse into the struggles of maintaining both "nice" and religious lives. – N.A.

Dobie, 3/15, 5:15pm; CC, 3/19, 12:30pm

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