I started another rainy day at SXSW with Sundance holdover "The Imposter," which luckily I had not read too much about. The less you know going in the better on this truth-is-stranger-than-fiction doc, which leads you through the filmmakers' own discovery process, which they call a "slightly bewildering journey." This is the best con-man story since "Catch Me If You Can."
Filmmaker Bart Layton started checking out one thread and wound up digging into one particularly outrageous case where a 23-year-old man with a strong European accent and brown eyes successfully persuaded a San Antonio family that he was their blond, blue-eyed missing son, remarkably changed by four years of kidnapping and abuse.
The filmmakers effectively mix interviews with the participants with a trove of archive footage which helped with reenactments; this is yet another example of how documentaries often prove to be the most unpredictable entertainment out there. Indomina will release March 16. "Truth is elusive," said Layton at the Q & A. "It was key to the way we structured the film." Each interview they did would change the story, sometimes diametrically. "We all believe what we want to believe. It's about our subjective versions of the truth."
One of the best characters in the film, a larger-than-life private investigator named Charlie Parker who on his own initiative helped to break the case that had stymied the FBI, showed up at the first Austin screening to see the film for the first time and take a bow.
Next up at the Alamo Lamar was actress-filmmaker Amy Seimetz's steamy Florida noir "Sun Don't Shine," a well-shot micro-budget portrait of a couple on the run for murder in the mold of James M. Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice" or Terrence Malick's "Badlands." Seimetz recruited fellow experimental filmmaker Kentucker Audley and actress Kate Lyn Sheil to star as the couple, one rational, the other an "emotional fireball," trying to escape from a bad situation. Seimetz shot up close in intense July Florida heat with grainy Kodak Super 16 for her first stab at not-so-conventional narrative. She decided to avoid her intellectual/referential side in favor of a more emotional nightmare, she said at the Q and A. "I wanted to make a movie based on pure anxiety and emotion."
At the after party at the Gibson Bar across Lamar, Seimetz talked to me about the community of indie filmmakers --including her director Joe Swanberg--who got to know each other at SXSW and help each other out on their low-budget films. (Video is below.)
Back at a packed Alamo Lamar, the North American debut played well to Welsh filmmaker Marc Evans' semi-autobiographical high school musical "Hunky Dory," which stars a winning Minnie Driver as a drama teacher in 1976 who puts on a production of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," complete with David Bowie and ELO pop classics. Driver based her performance on all her "unconventional teachers who swore at you a lot," she said at the Q & A. The movie, shot in Swansea, was conceived long before "Glee," and feels both authentic and universal, as we root for the gang to put on their show. Local actor on-the-rise Aneurin Barnard and the rest of the young cast sing live. He also stars in SXSW horror click "Citadel.""We got to do Shakespeare on stage with music in the moment," he said at the Q & A. "It was happening there and then."