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?
In the last of our Talkie teasers, Eric Hynes and filmmaker Kyle Smith take a break from SXSW bedlam to toss the pigskin around and discuss Smith’s unique, assured debut TURKEY BOWL. Here Kyle relates the high school sports moment that might have consigned him to a lifetime of filmmaking.
In our latest Short End teaser, Reverse Shot’s Eric Hynes strolls the Austin Convention Center with Azazel Jacobs (TERRI, MOMMA’S MAN) in search of SXSW cool.
Bored with dry land and inspired by the bizzaro river journey undertaken in THE CATECHISM CATACLYSM, the Reverse Shot team sets sail on Town Lake in downtown Austin with director Todd Rohal, who reveals the names of those in the mumblecore set harboring truly unspeakable urges. Meanwhile, co-stars Robert Longstreet (TAKE SHELTER, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS) and Steve Little (EASTBOUND & DOWN) get comfy in the most feared ship on the high seas.
“Most of my work refers to the historical memory of Chile and Latin America,” says acclaimed documentarian Patricio Guzmán (Salvador Allende, The Pinochet Case), a Santiago native who has lived in exile for more than three decades, after reflecting on the arc of his long, legendary career. “It’s a passion — creative territory that I have always followed.” Best known for his monumental three-part film The Battle of Chile (1973), an on-the-ground account of democratically elected leftist Salvador Allende’s brief term in office before a U.S.-backed coup d’etat brought dictator General Augusto Pinochet to power, Guzmán has always fought to rescue his native country from cultural amnesia through the art of eyewitness cinema. But his tireless examinations of remembrance (and the violence of forgetting) have been just as trenchant to his many projects.
Guzmán crystallizes these lifelong fixations in his brilliantly self-narrated new documentary, Nostalgia for the Light, a soulful exploration of science, astronomy, politics, and the question of how past and present intermingle in physical spaces, as well as the minds and hearts of the living. In Chile’s Atacama Desert, a coast-hugging ribbon of Martian landscape that is reputed to be the most arid region on Earth, Guzmán discovers a milieu that, while seemingly devoid of life, is steeped in history. Astronomers he meets at the Páranal Observatory, like Gaspar, surveil the night sky utilizing some of the most powerful telescopes in the world, searching for answers about the deep past — Where do we come from? What are we made of? — like archaeologists of the cosmos. In the desert flats surrounding the observatory, veteran scientist Lautaro digs up mummies and pre-Colombian relics, studying the more recent history of humankind. And in yet another torque to the film’s gyre of concerns, we meet two middle-aged women, Victoria and Violeta, who for 28 years have patiently probed the pitiless Atacama sands with small shovels, hoping to exhume the remains of their “disappeared” loved ones, victims of the Pinochet regime. With inexhaustible patience for the stories of those he interviews — nearly all of whom have been touched by the crimes of the post-coup dictatorship — Guzmán creates a somber, often poignant after image of that tragic epoch when hope yielded to corruption, correlating celestial and earthly realities, personal and political histories with magisterial skill.
As part of our ongoing 2011 SXSW video coverage, team Reverse Shot sat down with Greta Gerwig to discuss her new film, The Dish and the Spoon. In this clip, she looks back on her first trip to SXSW in the halcyon days of 2006.
On the ground in Austin for SXSW 2011, the Reverse Shot team chatted with Marie Losier (THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE) about a particularly surprising meeting with a wasp during a screening of Azazel Jacobs’s TERRI. In advance of our full-length Talkie with Losier, shot at the Texas State Capitol building, we’re posting this “short end.”