SXSW 2013: Behind the Eight Ball

SXSW Day 1

This is one of the rare moments in one’s life when jury duty calls…. you emphatically say, yes. Yours truly is headed to the 2013 edition of the SXSW Film Festival as one-third of jury for the fest’s Narrative Feature Competition. On this site, we heart film festivals for their uniqueness, quirks, rebel attitude, flamboyancy, spirit and how the top fests all individually contribute in shaping up a given year in film – and the cornerstone signs are that when you’re running a quality fest is when you look back at the previous editions and take inventory of the gem discoveries that were offered.

As film critics we can’t help but continually rank, sort, classify the films we see… so this juror gig doesn’t come across as unfamiliar terrain, but its definitively a privileged position when you care about film and the filmmakers the way we all do on our site and since we’ve covered SXSW before, I’ve been taking inventory of how they’ve moved from being the birthplace for the mumblecore movement and becoming peddlers for a generation of new voices in filmmaking to even pushing Sundance to took note and create their NEXT section which highlights the indie micro-budget films that this fest is home to….it further compliments and cements the importance of SXSW in the American independent film landscape. Let’s just say I’m super stoked to be part of the process….potentially being a part of this rich history.

Question of keeping the cat in the bag, I’ll quarantine my own thoughts on each of the eight films — a number which the festival’s head honcho Janet Pierson’s programming team had the mind-bending task of narrowing down out of a whopping 1200. The eight films include Josh Barrett and Marc Menchaca’s This Is Where We Live, Jonathan Singer-Vine’s LICKS, Dayna Hanson’s Improvement Club, Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12, Todd Sklar’s Awful Nice, Carlos Puga’s Burma, Ruben Amar and Lola Bessis’ Swim Little Fish Swim and Chris Eska’s The Retrieval. Whichever film tops the group is bound be outfitted by a distributor and/or find further film fest homes: last year’s Gimme the Loot would go onto (it gets released theatrically this week) to show in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section, 2011’s Natural Selection was picked up by The Cinema Guild folks, and the year before that, it was Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture that grabbed the top honors. So tag along for the ride folks, should be a blast!

Eric Lavallée is the founder, editor-in-chief and film critic at IONCINEMA.com (founded in 2000). Eric splits his time between his home base in Montreal, NYC, and is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: Almodóvar (Talk to Her), Coen Bros. (Fargo), Dardennes (La Promesse), Haneke (Caché), Hsiao-Hsien (Three Times), Kar-wai (In the Mood for Love), Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry), Lynch (Mulholland Dr.), Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho), von Trier (Breaking the Waves)