SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2010
By Don Simpson | March 20, 2010
I am pretty much running on empty by this point in the festival. I have viewed about 45 feature films and for the first time in my life I think I am reaching a temporary movie burnout.
Nonetheless, I hopped the bus down to the Alamo South Lamar for Pelada. I didn’t expect many people to be at this screening, so finding out that it was sold-out upon my arrival was a bit of a downer. I think the theater manager saw the disappointment and frustration on my face, and she very kindly pull up a folding chair for me! The co-directors of Pelada (Luke Boughen and Gwendolyn Oxenham) were once collegiate soccer stars with dreams of going professional. When they realize that their dreams are not going to be recognized, they decide to travel the world looking for pick-up soccer matches – known in Brazil (the first country they visit) as pelada (which means “naked” in Portuguese). They travel to 25 countries in all, playing pick-up soccer matches with locals in alleys, side streets, dirt fields, prison yards and concrete courts. The universal language of soccer thus opens doors for Boughen and Oxenham to immerse themselves into even the most foreign of cultures. I had no idea what to expect from Pelada but I left the theater fairly impressed. Neither Boughen nor Oxenham purport to be filmmakers, but that only adds more charm to this intimate travel journal.
Next, I was off to Mars – a low-budget animated rom-com which is brilliantly disguised as a sci-fi film. It follows Charlie (Mark Duplass), Casey (Zoe Simpson) and Hank (Paul Gordon) as they travel to Mars in search of two lost robots – Beagle II and ART – and to finally answer that age-old question of whether there really is life on mars. Gordon’s dry comedic monotone playfully duels with Duplass’ heroic cockiness and Casey’s sexy smarts. Somewhat crudely animated over the actors’ live action performances, the highly color-saturated Mars resembles a very low-budget graphic novel version of Waking Life…which I mean in the very best way possible. It is the little things – like the every changing hairstyles or Charlie’s embroidered astronaut suit or the blue screens of death at NASA master control – that really add something special to this fairly simple plot. Before SXSW 2010 began, I knew that Mars would be one of my favorite films of the festival – and it certainly is.
The post-screening bliss of Mars left me somewhat dazed. I waited for the #3 bus downtown but I was running out of time so I hoofed it downtown to the Alamo Ritz (for the third day in the row – thanks Capital Metro!) for Brotherhood. Will Cannon’s film is a relentless assault of tension. We start off with a van full of guys being initiated into a frat by robbing various convenience stores. Due to a miscommunication, the last robbery goes horribly wrong. Rather than heading to the hospital or the police, the frat leader hopefully tries to cover everything up. The lies begin to snowball, causing other serious accidents to occur – eventually someone dies and there is no choice but to involve the police. During my bus ride home, I heard someone comment that Brotherhood was “an indie film whose plot and structure was so mainstream” – I could not have said it any better myself.
Tomorrow I am finally going to see Tiny Furniture! I can’t wait!!!