By Lindsay Utz, 2012 Fellow
My favorite film at SXSW was Monsieur Lazhar, a Canadian drama that premiered at Toronto and subsequently picked up a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film at this year's Oscars. It will be coming out in US theaters in April and I highly recommend it. It's not only a powerful story of the immigrant experience, but also a haunting and beautiful mediation on childhood, love, loss and how we grieve. I felt pretty emotional after leaving the theater, and I carried that emotion with me into the awards ceremony later that evening, where Garret presented me with the KSFEF. He did a beautiful job talking about Karen, as a person and editor, and what she meant to those around her. When he finally called me up onstage I was pretty choked up and the speech I had worked on in my hotel in the hours prior to the awards ceremony was suddenly useless. I tried to just speak from the heart about what it meant to me to be chosen as this year's fellow. If you've ever been to the SXSW awards ceremony, you know that it's anything but a serious affair; but the theater got very quiet during the KSFEF part and I think people were genuinely moved to hear about Karen and the Fellowship. After the ceremony I had the honor of meeting some of Karen's friends who shared with me some wonderful memories of her.
Aside from the awards ceremony, the week was full of the usual parties, screenings, free drinks, and FOOD CARTS! I think it would be fair to say that I thoroughly ate my way around Austin: lots of tacos, of course (the surf & turf kind topped off with creamy slaw and crispy radishes), fried pickles, and the best late-night buffalo burger on the planet. Having spent a lot of time in Portland, OR, which is a food cart mecca, I was pretty impressed with both the ubiquity of the carts and the variety and quality of food offered. Another mouthwatering highlight was the best drink all week at Cheer Up Charlie's--a bar that serves Kombucha on tap (a drink that I'm told Karen loved). Why don't more places do that?! Austin is so cool. Their house cocktail was a mix of Kombucha, whiskey and ginger infused simple syrup. I'm going to try to make this at home.
On Monday afternoon we held a KSFEF meet-up at Lovejoy's, an appropriately dark (just like an edit room) dive bar just off 6th Street. Lots of editors showed up, including Jen Lilly (Electrick Children), Penny Falk (Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work), Nat Sanders (The Do-Deca-Pentathlon), Jane Rizzo (Compliance, See Girl Run), David Franklin, and Nathan Whiteside (Pilgrim Song). Julie Goldman (Producer, Sergio) was there as well. It was wonderful to get to talk to all of them.
Another cinematic highlight of the week was the late night horror anthology V/H/S (disclaimer: a good friend from film school, Tyler Gillett, was one of the 6 directors who worked on the film, so I was pretty proud to see him up on stage after the screening). I love going to the late night films at festivals because the crowd is rowdy and the films are fun. Not always masterpieces, but fun.
The documentary The Impostor was a well-done thriller based on a real story. The film reminded me a lot of The Thin Blue Line with its stylized flashbacks and spellbinding score. I really loved one particular editing technique used to transition from interview to flashback, cutting mid-sentence from the main character recounting the story straight into him reenacting it. The old adage "truth is stranger than fiction" couldn't be a more appropriate way to describe this film. About 5 minutes into the screening I realized I had read a New Yorker article years ago about the film's subject, Frédéric Bourdin--it's a must read.
I had a blast in Austin and fortunately a lot of the films I missed there will be playing at IFFB next month. I will report back then!