Posts Tagged ‘festival’
Spring break for geeks. That’s what the mainstream news media christened the South by Southwest Interactive Conference in 2008, just as this self-curated, little-engine-that-could collection of daylong panels, trade shows, and wowee-zowee multimedia presentations—dwarfed in past years by the debauched and much more heavily attended Music Festival—began to draw increasing numbers of registrants. (The current estimate is in the high thousands, a 40 percent bump since 2009.) Running concurrently with this orgy of interactivity, of course, is the SXSW Film Festival, an event that when I visited Austin eleven years ago, pre-mumblecore, seemed destined to become a perennial sidebar on Sixth Street, the city’s famed boulevard of bars, clubs, and intoxicated hipsterism. Who’d want to hole up in a movie theater or audit a panel on “HotBot vs. AltaVista: How to Get the Most Out of Your World Wide Web Search” when the Supersuckers and Fu Manchu were making tattooed eardrums bleed at Stubb’s? Geeks, obviously.
The presumed equivalence between film nerds and techies makes sense on the surface. Both tribes, you might say, are addicted to screens. In 1994, when the fest organizers added these strands, film and interactive (dubbed “multimedia” at the time) were conjoined, only to be separated a year later, perhaps for logistical reasons. Certainly, emergent technologies affect the way films are made and exhibited, as well as how we communicate, and the increasingly sophisticated manner in which advertisers brand entertainment experiences. But how easily do these worlds coexist in Austin’s week of wonders? How compatible, really, are the coffee-swilling entrepreneurs and propeller heads congregating at the obscenely spacious Austin Convention Center with the beer-and-a-burger indie-film set, who mostly haunt the old Paramount and State Theaters on Congress Avenue and the Alamo Drafthouses on Sixth Street and (even more conspicuously) South Lamar, miles away from the madness on the far side of Town Lake?
For any dedicated cinephile, there’s a certain comfort in the daily routine at Sundance: wake, drink coffee, queue up half an hour before the first day’s screening, absorb film, queue again, repeat until exhausted. (Twelve hours is my personal limit.) Sitting in a darkened theater all day long, it’s easy to feel you’re existing in a bubble, as the rest of the world falls away like molted skin. Yes, the place is ablaze with the LED glow of various mobile devices as people compulsively check email and try to maintain a haiku-like thread of electronic contact with coworkers and loved ones. But the theater is also a refuge from normal obligations, where the chatter concerns films seen, and little else. People exchange heated opinions, discuss the latest acquisitions, and share recommendations. Here in Park City, as far as I can tell, few people are trying to wrap their heads around the protests in Egypt or Obama’s State of the Union speech, even if they’ve glimpsed the day’s headlines on a news feed. The world could be ending and no one would notice. Read the rest of this entry »
My first full day at the Stockholm International Film Festival was unusually adventurous, at least for me. I was staying at the Elite Hotel Marina Tower, a relatively new masterwork of modern Swedish design in residential Saltsjöqvarn, overlooking the fog-laden harbor, and had planned to spend the day watching films in Norrmalm, the city center. Unbeknownst to me, my hosts had arranged for a day trip through the Stockholm Business Region Development office, perhaps as a grand gesture of welcome. I’m not one for sightseeing tours, however sophisticated, but thought it would be rude to decline. So late Thursday morning, I boarded a minivan with an equally puzzled Italian journalist fromVogue, a Croatian festival director from Zagreb, and an editor at Variety, all fun, easygoing people, and it was easy to bond with them as we all had only a vague idea of where we were headed. It turned out to be worth the trip. Fifteen minutes out of town, we landed at Regissörsvillan, an elegant farmhouse restaurant at Filmstaden Solna, the historical grounds where Ingmar Bergman shot many of his movies. Joining us for lunch were Sweden’s film commissioner and Katinka Faragó, Bergman’s longtime assistant (and production manager on Fanny and Alexander), who regaled us with stories of the moody maestro. Then it was off to the scenic island district of Södermalm, Greta Garbo’s birthplace and the city’s chic artistic hub, for a VIP tour that was focused, unfortunately, on Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. Despite the fact that none of us had read the late author’s books, our guide was unfazed and disarmingly enthusiastic, proudly showing us the real-world settings for Lisbeth Salander’s adventures. Cynicism has no guard against such hospitality.
A couple of weeks ago, the press officer for the Stockholm International Film Festival got in touch with me with a generous offer, wondering if I’d like to travel to Sweden at their expense and cover this year’s programming, an international meld of features, shorts, and documentaries, most making their Nordic debut. After a glance at the competition films (many of which I’d seen at the 2010 Berlinale or elsewhere) and sidebar sections (Latin Visions, Asian Images, Twilight Zone), I decided there was enough here to chew on: a dozen or so world premieres, works-in-progress by up-and-coming Scandinavian filmmakers, and plenty of entries from Cannes, Venice, and Toronto. Besides, I’d never been to Stockholm, a beautifully preserved archipelago city with cinematic associations stretching from Victor Sjöström and Greta Garbo to Ingmar Bergman and Stellan Skarsgård. Never mind that it would be wet and wintry, or that the sun sets sharply at 3:30 p.m. in late autumn. The thought of stuffing myself on foreign cinema and braised reindeer meat a few days before Thanksgiving seemed to be the only antidote to post-election November blues.