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Doc U (RMP goes to SXSW)

March 19, 2013

For some, SXSW is a giant party. For me, it was also an opportunity to see films in some of the finest theaters in downtown Austin, and attend a veritable Documentary University. In other words, I filled my weeklong schedule with workshops, panel discussions, mentoring sessions with successful producers, screenings followed by Q&As with filmmakers and documentary subjects, and an array of seemingly random (but also powerful!) conversations in lines and on shuttle buses – I believe that all of these activities are part and parcel to a path leading towards success. For a documentary filmmaker success means getting a project in front of as many eyes as possible, opening a slew of them to something new, and maybe even changing a few hearts and minds.

It is my hope to follow in the footsteps of those who screened this year by adhering the advice I gleaned, understanding the challenges ahead, and possibly even collaborating with those I met in Austin. In the meantime, I’d like to recommend several of the documentary films that I believe have major potential in terms of social impact. See these as soon as you can:

TINY: A Story About Living Small – This duo decides to make a movie while they build a very small house, and they are novices at both. And yet, they do both quite well. Talk about a couple of overachievers setting the bar quite high for anyone else! I promise you’ll be impressed; watch the trailer and sign up to learn about future screenings, here:

Fall and Winter – While this film is gorgeous to watch, the first 3/4 of the movie cover environmental calamity and you will want to slit your wrists. However, to the folks walked out of the film especially; things did lighten up and the focus did shift to positive actionable steps that everyone should take. Now that I’ve seen this film, I want to read all the books they reference, and learn some of the skills covered in the film. This one is definitely for the choir and anyone who is ready to wake up from the Bling Era bs:

The Network – While I did find a trailer and IMDb page for this film about Tolo, a television network in Afghanistan, I couldn’t seem to find a website. Then again, maybe that is why Eva Orner seems to crank out projects at such a high-speed:

The Act of Killing – This movie is highly disturbing, and I don’t think I’ll ever fully process what I witnessed or what it says about human nature. I knew I was signing on to see War Lords excited to reenact their most famous torture techniques and story of bloodshed, but the Bollywood nature of it all is beyond bizarre. Most of the crew didn’t even want to have their names associated with the project as evidenced by the longest list of “anonymous” I’ve ever seen. I was too stunned to even attempt taking a picture.This one is only for the very brave of heart:

I saw more than 15 docs during SXSW and my opinion doesn’t always match what gets reported in the press or what gets voted as the best by audiences, so I’m always happy to have the opportunity to see films that may never be distributed or played on a screen near us.

On another note, I’d also like to recommend 512’s Pecan Porter – a damn fine local beer – which I drank nearly every day once I discovered it! Luckily my two favorite theaters, The Alamo Ritz and the Violet Crown, both served this beer.

Also, here is a video from my time at SXSW:

My first documentary is forthcoming, but a bit further out. Stay tuned!


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