SXSW is over! It was a great week (with a few exceptions that you’ll see below).
Here is a link to the Audience Award winners. Somehow I only managed to see one of these movies so next year I’ll need to do a better job of selecting movies! Here are the Jury and Special Award Winners. I saw just one of these also!
Here are some of the highlights of the films that I (Bill C.) did see during SXSW days 4-9.
Getting Back to Abnormal – 4 out of 5
A really good documentary about race and politics in post-Katrina New Orleans. Some very interesting characters make this a very entertaining doc.
The Retrieval – 3 out of 5
A good narrative set during the Civil War about two former slaves trying to find and bring back another former slave for the bounty. Very well acted.
Muscle Shoals – 3 out of 5
One of two entertaining documentaries about recording studios (the other was Sound City). This little town in Alabama had not one, but two, recording studios that produced some amazing music. The ‘Swamp Boys’ backed bands on a lot of the recordings and appeared at the music portion of SXSW later in the week (although I did not get to see them).
Hawking 4 out of 5
An excellent biography of Stephen Hawkings. Hawkings also serves as the narrator. It dealt with his discoveries and public life, his dealings with his disease as his health deteriorated beginning during his college days, and his personal life.
Sound City – 3.5 out of 5
The second documentary I saw dealing with a sound studio, this was directed by David Grohl (of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters). It reminisced (and jammed) with some of the people/groups that made music there, including Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana, Neil Young, John Fogerty and others. While never recording there, Paul McCartney appeared in a very entertaining segment. Grohl and the rest of the Foo Fighters backed Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, and Rick Springfield at a great concert at Stubbs later in the week!
William and the Windmill – 3.5 out of 5
Another documentary. William built a windmill just based on pictures he saw in a book to provide electricity and water to his impoverished village. Benefactors then provided William the opportunity to get a formal education. This is his journey as he continues to aid his village.
Elena – 4 out of 5
This was a moving documentary about Elena directed by her sister about Elena’s life and suicide and the impact it had on the director. It included home movies of Elena and her sister as well as recordings by Elena
Some Girl(s) – 3 out of 5
A successful journalist travels around the country to supposedly set things right with some of his old girlfriends. Pretty entertaining and well acted. Men are scum!
A Band Called Death – 4 out of 5
This documentary is the year’s Searching for SugarMan! Three brothers from Detroit recorded some music in the mid-seventies and 35 years later they become overnight sensations. Definitely see this if you can. Death also performed at SXSW, but I didn’t get to see them.
Good Ol Freda – 3.5 out of 5
Freda was a big fan of The Beatles in Liverpool when they were regulars at the Cavern. When The Beatles starting gaining traction, they needed a secretary and so Freda was with them from the age of 17 until they broke up. This film includes great music, old footage, and an interesting vantage point for The Beatles’ story.
Maladies – 2 out of 5
James Franco and Catherine Keener in a very strange movie set in the 1950’s about people with problems. The movie had problems too.
Computer Chess – 1.5 out 5
This year’s ‘Trash Humpers’ (the worst movie I ever saw at SXSW). This was set in the 1980s at a tournament for chess playing computers. Clearly I didn’t get it.