Tuesday, March 11 found our intrepid Arts editor Cheyenne Langkamp on the beat at South by Southwest for sweet tunes and good movies. Here’s some of the things she saw down in Austin, Texas:
Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals departs on a North American tour to showcase his newest solo efforts, but also—and more interestingly—to track the mysterious journey of his ancestor John Adams, who in 1792 left Wales to search for what was believed to be the last tribe of Welsh Native Americans in the new world. What may at first sound like a boring History Channel feature becomes an enveloping tale through Rhys’ genuine half-silly, half-serious approach and the sincerity he encounters from local experts and Native American tribesman along the way.
In the end, “American Interior” is a story about connections—to places and people—told through the intersection of history, language and song, the fundamental elements of any culture. The film’s black and white shots interspersed with psychedelic color are also a nod to Rhys’ experimental rock background and keep the film alive for viewers.
Filmmaker Iva Radivojevic’s documentary feature on the life of ostracized migrants in Cyprus, many of whom are asylum seekers, is a string of crisp shots paying homage to the beautiful land and daily interactions of its myriad people. What makes the film appealing and impacting are not the visual elements, but the personal essay from Radivojevic herself, a migrant out of Yugoslavia, which narrates it. In a Q&A after the premiere she said she wrote the film’s script first as a letter to a friend and then edited her video material to fit the story line.
What she has created is a visual essay exposing a war on identity in Cyprus that receives little mainstream attention. Radivojevic lays before her audience a place in the world where who you are to fellow citizens and government entities alike rests on the place you call “home,” whether you call it that with love or despair. For the viewer, it becomes a meditation on how we define ourselves and others and the impact of the borders we create between these identities.
KCRW Showcase at Haven
For a first experience of SXSW Music, this showcase did not impress. It seemed the venue was having technical issues as the microphones cut out for a good portion of one song in both of the sets we saw. However, Glass Animals and Arthur Beatrice—both from the U.K.—were good sports and continued singing and playing through the silenced vocals.
The two indie rock groups both played decent sets despite the complications, but didn’t manage to stand out. For someone who went in as a huge fan of Arthur Beatrice’s track “Grand Union”—which was equally impressive live—it was unfortunate to come out of the set without any new favorites. With Tuesday, March 11 being only the first day of the Music portion of the festival, hopes are still high that other acts will make a lasting impression.