The South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas is consistently one of my favorite times of year. This year marked my fourth anniversary attending the festival and, with two films world-premiering (EARTHLING & AUDREY THE TRAINWRECK) and another screening (LOVERS OF HATE, which premiered at Sundance), I was certainly a busy bee! SXSW was jam packed with film industry folks, celebrities, distributors, press and publicity, festival programmers and movie lovers from all over the world. Unfortunately, as much as I love selling out screenings, people were turned away in droves―one issue, I believe, SXSW is remedying next year. As swamped as I was with my own films, I did have a limited opportunity to catch some other people’s films, along with sitting in on a few panels and attending as many parties and film-related events as I could.
The Houston area, in particular, was on the scene in Austin this year with its own party, featuring an appearance by former Houston mayor Bill White, celebrating Houston at SXSW. Several films at the festival were shot in the area and/or documented all things Houstonian; one of those films, FOR THE SAKE OF THE SONG: THE STORY OF ANDERSON FAIR, I actually caught a few days before SXSW, when I happened upon an invitation to a cast and crew screening. As the title suggests, the film documents legendary hippy folk music venue, Anderson Fair. With heartfelt testaments and rare footage from true troubadours like Lucinda Williams, Robert Earl Keen, Townes Van Zandt and especially Lyle Lovett―who’s extensively interviewed―the film unfolds a story about an eccentric place where volunteers and performers were paid in spaghetti and the music was all that mattered.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Belgium, the town of MARWENCOL is busy drinking and dancing and fighting off Nazis. Made from 12” G.I. Joe figures and catfighting Barbie Dolls, the inhabitants of MARWENCOL, are mostly all named for real people who’ve interacted with their creator, Mark Hogancamp. Having suffered from brain damage and amnesia after a viscous assault, Hogancamp, in a bout of self-therapy, spends the vast majority of his time building his town, setting scenes, and coping with the horror he knows happened but can’t recall. Not only has Hogancamp built this town in his backyard, but he’s got thousands and thousands of amazing photographs and detailed stories to go with them. The intricate stories set him apart from other hobbyists and toy photographers, but what’s most interesting is that he’s doing all of this while investigating who he was in the past and discovering who he is now.
Other discoveries made at SXSW was painterly shot short doc, SELTZER WORKS, featuring the last bottler in Brooklyn discussing the finer points of bottling seltzer and why it’s a dying trade―women in the workforce, old folks retiring to Florida, one-liter bottles at supermarkets; super bizarre psychedelic trip, ENTER THE VOID, which takes several turns for the weird, culminating in the rebirth of the lead via his sister; and KICK ASS―probably one of the most intense, adrenaline-packed cinematic experiences I’ve ever had. But most appealing were the short festival bumpers―SXSW is notorious for having some of the best on the circuit―which preceded every screening. David Lowery (ST. NICK) was given the prestigious honor of creating four of the five this year. Each “handmade“ piece presents an idea that film, as we know is, is changing―the way films are made and the way films are presented. Most disturbing was a piece where a filmmaker’s head suddenly bursts into flames.
As far as my own films are concerned, we had a great turnout for all of them and most of the screenings were completely sold out. According to io9, EARTHLING is “destined for cult status” and Karina Longworth, film editor for the LA Weekly, writes, “Unjustly underbuzzed was AUDREY THE TRAINWRECK”―perhaps we should have hired a publicist after all! LOVERS OF HATE, which the New York Times called “viciously amusing,” was the feature of an NPR broadcast and became available on IFC On Demand concurrent with the festival. Each of the films has a long festival road ahead and LOVERS OF HATE will go theatrical later this year. Additionally, Lowery, my producing partner James M. Johnston, and I, met with our distributor for ST. NICK. We’re currently preparing deliverables in an effort to get the film out on DVD by the end of the year. A limited theatrical release is also in negotiations. Next up for me is the Dallas International Film Festival, taking place the second week of April; EARTHLING and LOVERS OF HATE will be screening and we’ll be announcing another project as well.
The year’s been great so far, dear readers; and I’m certain it will only get better. To prove this point, I’ll ask that you keep up with my endeavors, not only in The SCENE Magazine, but also on my website at www.adamdonaghey.com. And add me on Facebook; but when you do, mention The SCENE!
***Originally published in the April 2010 edition of The SCENE Magazine***