AUSTIN, Texas— Sunday brought more excitement to the film scene down in Austin, Texas. At the Convention Center, Kerry Washington gave her insight on the positives and negatives of social media and how she chooses to portray herself within the public eye. Later, the cast and creator of “Mr. Robot” discussed the authenticity behind the making of the series, commenting that they have an actual FBI consultant to make the series as realistic as possible in crafting the narrative surrounding Rami Malek’s character Elliot. Theater venues like the Paramount premiered screenings of “The Trust,” starring Nicholas Cage and Elijah Wood, “Don’t Think Twice,” with Keegan-Michael Key and “Hardcore Henry” by director Ilya Naishuller.
Day Four of SXSW had been on my radar since I first began planning for the festival. Not only was the Paramount Theater showing “Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey,” a behind-the-scenes look of the making of “Episode VII,” but J.J. Abrams, director of the film, would be giving a talk later that day. As a Star Wars fan, the in-depth look at the film as well as Abrams’ discussion on the connections between humanity and technology provided a new layer of understanding to the creative processes behind major projects.
Seth Rogen’s “Sausage Party (Work-In-Progress)” was also screened. This is the first R-rated computer-animated film, and it simultaneously made me laugh and squirm uncomfortably in my seat. These events kept the momentum of the festival going strong throughout days three and four.
— Samantha Marz, Film Columnist
As Tuesday brings another day at the SXSW film festival, the music festival is just beginning. The past few days of my attendance have led to a refreshing broadening of scale and scope in my perceptions of film as a medium, specifically in documentaries. SXSW has provided an opportunity for close examination of the film medium, while also raising an ever-present question relevant across all art mediums and communities: How can a work’s formal qualities operate alongside the greater purpose or meaning of a piece?
The first film I saw upon arriving in Austin was beautiful on most accounts. “Teenage Cocktail,” directed by John Carchietta is a narrative feature-length coming-of-age romantic thriller. The film drew me in formally with its impeccable bubble-gum-dreamy art direction, skilled cinematography, unexpected violence and what appeared at first to be an earnest depiction of queer teenage sexual exploration. However, the film quickly became an overt appeal to the male gaze and a sexual exploitation via an overdone fantasy and the perpetuation of a prominent cultural stereotype of teen girls, leaving me feeling a bit empty as I left the theater.
Luckily, I was later revived by two impactful documentaries. “Ovarian Psycos,” directed by Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle, detailed the lives of a female cyclist group in LA and their efforts to band together to empower women of color and enact change in their community. It was the perfect marriage between excellent cinematic formal qualities and telling an empowering story that would not otherwise be told. The film sat directly on the intersection between arts and activism, stunningly documenting the incredible efforts and struggles these women face on a day-to-day basis.
In a similar manner, “The Space In Between - Marina Abramovi? and Brazil,” directed by Marco Del Fiol was a flooring medley of sheer physical and emotional beauty that was transformative to its core. The film followed well-known performing artist Marina Abramovi? through an intimately raw spiritual transformation through Brazil. Visually, it was one of the most stunning films I’ve ever seen, actually managing to take my breath away at several points, but the amazing film production also functioned to support its profound message of spiritual performance, metamorphosis and the ways that art can function as a spiritual catalyst.
A festival like SXSW that allows art across genres and mediums to be displayed side-by-side in a wide collection of innovative works provides a healthy space for conversations and comparisons regarding both works individually and the function of art within a society, a discussion that will only grow further as the SXSW festival’s medium spreads into music today.
— Amileah Sutliff, Arts Page Editor