Film at SXSW: It's Not Just About The Music


Universal Pictures

Hordes of music fans will descend on Austin, Texas next week for the annual SXSW festival—and the Atlantic Culture Channel's Sam Machkovech will be there to listen and report back. While the event's music offerings get most of the attention, in the last decade the film component has emerged as a destination in its own right: over 260 films will be screened this year, with high-profile world premieres like Kick-Ass and panels featuring the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Michel Gondry, Jeffrey Tambor, and Robert Rodriguez.

It's also a festival that sets itself apart from the others by not taking itself too seriously. One of the world premieres at SXSW Film this year is MacGruber, yet another SNL skit taking a shot at the big screen, and the question on everyone's mind is: Will it be a Wayne's World or Ladies Man? The trailer, below, at least seems promising. There are also panels like "Floating Heads are Dead: Why Traditional Posters Suck" and "Five Fatal Fuckups—The Biggest Mistakes Every Indie Producer Makes."

SXSW Film also tries to be more democratic, both in its selection of films—for every big-buzz film there are half a dozen lesser known works—and in the composition of the audience itself. There are no special press screenings at SXSW Film, no celeb-only showings—you buy a pass, get in line early, and you get to see the same film, at the same time, as everyone else.

The festival also keeps a close tie to the musical roots of SXSW by featuring several music documentaries. This year's docket includes films on The Doors, Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kimister, Joe Strummer of The Clash, The Magnetic Fields' Stephen Merritt, The White Stripes, and The Band's Levon Helm.

This year, I'll be covering SXSW Film for The Atlantic's new culture channel here, posting reports and reviews from the festival. The panels promise plenty of food for thought, and I hope we'll be able to engage in some further discussion in the comment threads (we'll be posting videos as they become available). The reviews will not be heavy-handed or engage in high criticism—I'm not a film critic, and I won't be using phrases like mise en scene. Instead, I hope to capture the experience of the film festival experience from an everyman's point of view, and from there explore some thoughts on the various films, actors, directors and techniques on display. I hope you'll enjoy reading along and hopefully find some new gems to add to your viewing queue.

For a preview of our SXSW music coverage, click here.