Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Kristen Stewart Is First American Actress Nominated for César Awards in 30 Years; 'Saint Laurent' Leads with Ten Kristen Stewart Is First American Actress Nominated for César Awards in 30 Years; 'Saint Laurent' Leads with Ten How They Sustained the Times Square Momentum in 'Birdman' VIDEO How They Sustained the Times Square Momentum in 'Birdman' VIDEO 6 Things to Know About Sexy Sundance Breakout 'Diary of a Teenage Girl,' Part of Sundance's Women's New Wave 6 Things to Know About Sexy Sundance Breakout 'Diary of a Teenage Girl,' Part of Sundance's Women's New Wave Sundance Raves About Ewan McGregor as Jesus and the Devil in 'Last Days in the Desert' Sundance Raves About Ewan McGregor as Jesus and the Devil in 'Last Days in the Desert' Filmmakers, Give Us Your Numbers! Sundance and Cinereach Unveil The Transparency Project Filmmakers, Give Us Your Numbers! Sundance and Cinereach Unveil The Transparency Project Top Ten Takeaways: Polarizing 'American Sniper' Speeds Past $200 Million; Lopez Trounces Depp Top Ten Takeaways: Polarizing 'American Sniper' Speeds Past $200 Million; Lopez Trounces Depp Arthouse Audit: Panic Time? 'Mommy,' 'Red Army,' 'Black Sea,' 'Cake,' 'Duke of Burgundy' All Disappoint Arthouse Audit: Panic Time? 'Mommy,' 'Red Army,' 'Black Sea,' 'Cake,' 'Duke of Burgundy' All Disappoint 2015 PGA Winners: 'Birdman' Steals 'Boyhood''s Awards Season Thunder 2015 PGA Winners: 'Birdman' Steals 'Boyhood''s Awards Season Thunder Watch: Nicole Kidman Talks 'Strangerland' at Sundance (Exclusive Video Interview) Watch: Nicole Kidman Talks 'Strangerland' at Sundance (Exclusive Video Interview) Sundance Acquisitions Market Heats Up with 'The Bronze' and 
'The Witch' Sundance Acquisitions Market Heats Up with 'The Bronze' and 'The Witch' Sundance: Netflix Inks Four-Picture Deal with Duplass Brothers Sundance: Netflix Inks Four-Picture Deal with Duplass Brothers Early Reviews Portend Sundance Breakout in Stylish Historical Horror 'The Witch' Early Reviews Portend Sundance Breakout in Stylish Historical Horror 'The Witch' Sundance: 5 Things to Expect From Alex Gibney's Damning Scientology Doc 'Going Clear' Sundance: 5 Things to Expect From Alex Gibney's Damning Scientology Doc 'Going Clear' Sundance Reviews: 'The Bronze' Is "Potty-Mouthed," "Vinegar-Spirited," Racy Gymnast Comedy Sundance Reviews: 'The Bronze' Is "Potty-Mouthed," "Vinegar-Spirited," Racy Gymnast Comedy 'American Sniper' Writer Jason Hall Addresses Concerns About Clint Eastwood's Controversial War Pic 'American Sniper' Writer Jason Hall Addresses Concerns About Clint Eastwood's Controversial War Pic Martin Scorsese Breaks Long-Awaited 'Silence,' Set to Begin Filming This Month Martin Scorsese Breaks Long-Awaited 'Silence,' Set to Begin Filming This Month Watch: Meet the Women of 'Birdman' (Exclusive 4-Minute Featurette) Watch: Meet the Women of 'Birdman' (Exclusive 4-Minute Featurette) Watch: Hitchcock's Thwarted Holocaust Documentary Comes to HBO Watch: Hitchcock's Thwarted Holocaust Documentary Comes to HBO Best Actor Oscar Predictions 2015 UPDATED Best Actor Oscar Predictions 2015 UPDATED Oscar Predictions 2015 Oscar Predictions 2015

SXSW 2013 Wrap: Best in Show, Disappointments and Four Takeaways from a Festival First-Timer

Thompson on Hollywood By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood March 19, 2013 at 1:27PM

I got the chance to attend the SXSW Film Festival for my first time this year, and was impressed with the enthusiastic and respectful vibe of the festival, the warm reception from Austin locals and out-of-town festival goers alike, and -- importantly! -- the films. Below, my four takeaways from covering SXSW, and my rundown of best of the fest, buzzy titles I missed, and disappointments.
3
Adriene Mishler and Jonny Mars in "Good Night"
Adriene Mishler and Jonny Mars in "Good Night"

I got the chance to attend the SXSW Film Festival for my first time this year, and was impressed with the enthusiastic and respectful vibe of the festival, the warm reception from Austin locals and out-of-town festival goers alike, and -- importantly! -- the films. Below, my four takeaways from covering SXSW, and my rundown of best of the fest, buzzy titles I missed, and disappointments.

"Swim Little Fish Swim"
"Swim Little Fish Swim"
1. Strong lineup. Of all the films I saw, I would approximate that half I really liked, and none I disliked. As anyone who's been to a festival knows, these are pretty good odds. The Narrative Competition section was a particular standout, boasting titles like Chris Eska's "The Retrieval," a meditative and lushly paced African-American Civil War drama featuring good performances and gorgeous cinematography, and Ruben Amar and Lola Bessis' "Swim Little Fish Swim," a portrait of artistic idealism clashing with the realities of grown-up life, set against a vibrant New York cityscape (it also stars co-director Bessis, a charming young Frenchwoman who is a dead ringer for Rose Byrne). Meanwhile, Joe Swanberg's latest, "Drinking Buddies," is one of the better and more observant relationship films I've seen in a long time.

2. The benefits of arriving late. I didn't arrive in Austin until late Sunday afternoon, by which point the festival had been in full swing for more than two days. I was worried this would put me at a disadvantage in terms of coverage, but it actually helped things considerably. SXSW has a massive lineup, and it can be hard to know what one most wants to see. This is aided by having a few days of buzz preceding one's arrival. Also, in being late to the party, I was able to hit a few titles premiering later in the game that weren't receiving much coverage, like Sean H.A. Gallagher's terrific suburban drama "Good Night," and Narrative Competition title "Burma," which was uneven but featured notably strong performances. (The film went on to win the Grand Jury Award for Ensemble Cast.)

"William and the Windmill"
"William and the Windmill"
3. Don't stick to the plan. I've often found at festivals that the films I'm most anticipating ultimately disappoint, while the titles I'm less familiar with, that I attend as a spontaneous change of plan, bowl me over. Hitchcock diehard that I am, I was really looking forward to the "Bates Motel" series preview, starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore, and then ended up hating it (despite the appealing casting). Meanwhile, a last-minute swing by "William and the Windmill," the Grand Jury documentary-winner focusing on Malawian wind-energy inventing whiz William Kamkwamba (of "The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind" fame), proved delightful, and an insightful portrait of varying cultural definitions of success and fulfillment. 

4. The solitude of the festival reporter. Not only was it my first time at SXSW, it was my first time attending a film festival solo for multiple days in a row. (My boyfriend, a fellow cinephile, is usually my partner in crime at such events.) Austin's bustling downtown, which reaches epic proportions during the multi-tiered festival, is well laid-out for rambling around by oneself, even at night. And there's a certain liberty to being the sole dictator of one's own schedule.

But I certainly felt the loneliness, particularly during long waits in line (abated slightly, of course, by other friendly badge holders), and then the post-screening scamper back to my conveniently-located hotel room, knowing that I had hours of writing ahead of me. (I love writing, and hate sitting down to write.) But the loneliness was instructive. Pushing through it is a skill I will continue to hone, while also learning to balance my time and stress levels so, in the future, I can head to the occasional fest party without feeling like a mountain of missed screenings and writing hours is looming over me. Yes, that's right: I didn't go to any SXSW parties. Film nerd, indeed.

BEST OF THE FEST:

"Before Midnight" (dir. Richard Linklater)

"Drinking Buddies" (dir. Joe Swanberg)

"The Fifth Season" (dirs. Peter Brosens, Jessica Woodworth)

"Good Night" (dir. Sean H.A. Gallagher)

"Maidentrip" (dir. Jillian Schlesinger)

"The Retrieval" (dir. Chris Eska)

"Spring Breakers" (dir. Harmony Korine)

"Swim Little Fish Swim" (dirs. Lola Bessis, Ruben Amar)

"William and the Windmill" (dir. Ben Nabors)


GOOD, BUT NOT GREAT:

"Burma" (dir. Carlos Puga)

"Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer" (dirs. Mike Lerner, Maxim Pozdorovkin)

"Milo" (dir. Jacob Vaughan)

"Short Term 12" (dir. Destin Cretton)

"Upstream Color" (dir. Shane Carruth)

"You're Next" (dir. Adam Wingard)


LESS THAN MEETS THE EYE:

"At Any Price" (dir. Ramin Bahrani)

"Bates Motel" preview (dir. Carlton Cuse)


MUST-SEES BASED ON BUZZ:

"The Act of Killing" (dir. Joshua Oppenheimer)

"Before You Know It" (dir. P.J. Raval)

"The Bounceback" (dir. Bryan Poyser)

"Coldwater" (dir. Vincent Granshaw)

"Downloaded" (dir. Alex Winter)

"Loves Her Gun" (dir. Geoff Marslett)

"Mud" (dir. Jeff Nichols)

"Prince Avalanche" (dir. David Gordon Green)

"Some Girl(s)" (dir. Daisy von Scherler Mayer)


This article is related to: Festivals, SXSW, South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW), Drinking Buddies , Good Night, The Retrieval, Burma, Festivals


E-Mail Updates