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SXSW: The Austin Film Barbeque

On Super Tuesday, with 22 Presidential primaries unfolding on the same day, the Presidential nominees will be in place and the hint of a new chapter will be in the air. SXSW, the South By Southwest Conference and FilmFestival, decided to unveil its program on what could be a significant date in current American discourse and affairs. The Festival, based in the libertarian outpost in Texas (Austin), the Festival has seen its reputation rise rapidly in the past decade. These days, it is second only to Sundance in its embrace of American independent film.

While some wags might comment that SXSW's proximity to the Park City circus means that the American indie gems have all been unveiled in Utah, so the program remains somewhat "under the radar". But the truth is, that many of the most critically acclaimed indie films of the year originate here. Last year's HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS (a true Austin discovery) not only was a "success d'estime" but it seemed a seminal film in a certain kind of low-budget yet expressive filmmaking style.

This year, the Festival's edition is a mix of just-made-it-at-Sundance films and a healthy sampling of big name and newcomer indie talents. In all, the Festival, which runs from March 7 to 15, will screen over 100 fiction and documentary feature films. The event, while will open Robert Luketic's "21," will close with Stephen Walker's Young@Heart. Several of the high profile titles screening in the Spotlight Premieres section, include such Sundance breakout hits as Nanette Burstein's "American Teen," Jay & Mark Duplass' "Baghead," Aaron Rose & Joshua Leonard's "Beautiful Losers," Clark Gregg's "Choke," and Nicholas Stoller's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall,". Among the more high profile films form some established indie talents, the list includes Michael Almereyda's "New Orleans Mon Amour," Joe Swanberg & Greta Gerwig's "Nights and Weekends," Martin Scorsese's "Shine A Light," Kimberly Peirce's "Stop-Loss," Liz Mermin's "Shot In Bombay," and Morgan Spurlock's "Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?".

A major reason for the Festival's success is the energy and ideas of festival producer Matt Dentler, who has become a regular on the international film festival circuit. The Festival shows films in the two main competition sections, the Spotlight Premieres, Emerging Visions, 24 Beats Per Second, Lone Star States, 'Round Midnight, and Special Screenings. One can be sure that the films will be eclectic, controversial, thought provoking, abit outrageous and definite challenges for the distributor community. But the same guts required to make the film needs to be matched by any buyers looking for cool gems in the hot city of Austin.

For more information on the film festival, the parallel music festival, and panel discussions, log on to the webiste: www.sxsw.com

Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Circuit Editor

SXSW 2008 Competition Lineups

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION

"Bulletproof Salesman," director by Michael Tucker & Petra Epperlein
Fidelis Cloer is a self-confessed war profiteer who found The Perfect War when the US invaded Iraq. It wasn't about selling a dozen cars, or even a hundred, it was a thousand-car war where security would become the ultimate product. (World Premiere)

"FrontRunners," director by Caroline Suh
The campaign for student body president at Stuyvesant, perhaps the most prestigious public high school in the country, is almost as sophisticated as any presidential election. But unlike presidential candidates, they also have to do their homework, take their SATs and write their college applications. (World Premiere)

"Full Battle Rattle," directed by Jesse Moss & Tony Gerber
A feature documentary about life inside the US Army's Iraq Simulation in California's Mojave Desert. The film follows one Army Battalion's efforts to pacify the town of Medina Wasl, one of thirteen villages in the simulation, as it tips precariously on the brink of civil war. (North American Premiere)

"The Matador," directed by Stephen Higgins & Nina Gilden Seavey
The epic tale of David Fandila's quest to become the world's top-ranked bullfighter. Heart-wrenching setbacks and thrilling successes dramatize his three-year journey across Spain and Latin America and into the pages of bullfighting history. (World Premiere)

"Sex Positive," directed by Daryl Wein
A look at the life of Richard Berkowitz, a revolutionary gay S&M hustler turned AIDS activist in the 1980s, whose incomparable contribution to the invention of safe sex has long since been forgotten. (World Premiere)

"Some Assembly Required," directed by Dori Berinstein
Over 2000 kids. 400 teams nationwide. Eight months of brainstorming, designing and building. One goal: to create the next great toy. (World Premiere)

"They Killed Sister Dorothy," directed by Daniel Junge
On February 12th, 2005, a 73 year-old Catholic nun from Ohio, was shot six times at point blank range and left to die on a muddy Amazon road. Who was this woman, and why was she killed? What will become of her murderers, and who else was involved? What are the implications of her murder and these trials on the future? (World Premiere)

"We Are Wizards," directed by Josh Koury
An entertaining and comprehensive portrait of the passionate culture of Harry Potter fans. (World Premiere)

NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION

"Explicit Ills," directed and written by Mark Webber
Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci, Frankie Shaw, Tariq Trotter, Rosario Dawson, Noamie Harris, Paul Dano. Young love, drugs and poverty collide in the city of Philadelphia creating a beautiful tale of hope and the power of coming together. (World Premiere)

"The Lost Coast," director and written by Gabriel Fleming
Starring: Ian Scott McGregor, Lucas Alifano, Lindsay Benner, Chris Yule. As a group of old high school friends wander through San Francisco on Halloween night, two of them are forced to confront their unspoken sexual history. (World Premiere)

"My Effortless Brilliance," directed b (...)

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