Let's talk SXSW. I've been a big fan of the fest since my first trip down there years ago. Great lineup, great city, great audiences. This might have been the year of ascendancy for SXSW interactive (and, yes, interactive folks were EVERYWHERE), but the more things change the more they stay the same. Janet Peirson & Jarod Neece put together an incredibly strong line-up of films, and may, in my humble opinion, have set a new high bar for the fest. I think I set a new record for most movies I've seen at a fest, and each one was worth it. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Audience Award winner Brotherhood an intense piece of filmmaking that broke out of the gates with a kinetic opening sequence and kept at full sprint all the way to the end. I didn't know much about the film prior to slipping into one of the last seats at the Alamo S. Lamar. Now, I'm eagerly awaiting whatever director Will Canon does next. Equally impressive (and not nearly as much of a surprise - I've been to all his SXSW screenings since Dance Party, USA) was Aaron Katz, who with Cold Weather gave us an insightful portrait of a relationship between brother and sister masked by a smart thriller/mystery. It's hard to make a good genre film, harder still to make one that works while you are simultaneously undercutting those genre elements. Katz pulls it off in spades. Other treats were the quirky romantic, comedy Barry Munday, which managed to successfully walk that fine line between broad comedy and romantic connection and Helena From the Wedding, an intimate film filled with terrific performances, none stronger than lead Lee Tergesen. With small glances and gestures Tergesen conveyed the complex emotional currents running beneath Alex's "good host" exterior to bring to life a truly sympathetic character who really connected with the audience. Unfortunately I missed Jury Award winner Tiny Furniture due to my mentor sessions. I'll have to check that wherever it plays next. And if you're wondering if I saw any docs, the answer is yes. But you'll have to wait for my thoughts until next week.