Festival co-founder directs documentary on Austin's Richard Linklater
The South by Southwest Music, Film and Interactive Festival is underway in Austin, Texas, attracting tens of thousands of filmmakers, journalists, actors, musicians, web developers, entrepreneurs, barbecue enthusiasts and one Commander-in-Chief.
President Obama helped kick off the 30th edition of the event, participating in a keynote Q&A that underscored the dramatic social-cultural-artistic significance of the festival. His wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, travels to the festival in a few days for take part in another keynote discussion -- hers focusing on education.
The first full day of the festival saw the premiere of The Bandit, the Jesse Moss documentary on the unlikely success of Burt Reynolds' 1977 movie Smokey and the Bandit.
Reynolds, who turned 80 in February, came out for the premiere of the film at the historic Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin.
Another Bert -- Bert Berns -- was celebrated in the opening night documentary BANG! The Bert Berns Story, co-directed by Berns' son Brett and Bob Sarles. Berns, who died at 37 in 1967, wrote and/or produced some of the greatest hits in rock n' roll history, including "Piece of My Heart," "Twist and Shout," "Under the Boardwalk," and "Brown-Eyed Girl." He played an important role in launching the careers of Neil Diamond and Van Morrison.
Musician and actor Steven Van Zandt narrates the documentary on Berns.
"His life in the business was very, very short, but what he accomplished in such a short time," Van Zandt marveled in an interview with Nonfictionfilm.com. "He's just one of those cool guys I wanted people to know about... He was a great producer as well as a great songwriter."
On Saturday, SXSW showcased the documentary Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny, directed by SXSW co-founder Louis Black and Karen Bernstein, a beautifully-rendered portrait of the filmmaker behind Boyhood, Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, Slackers, among many others, who has made his career in Austin.
Bernstein told Nonfictionfilm.com she admires Linklater's unpredictability as an artist and director.
"That's what I find most wonderful about him," Bernstein told NFF, "is that he didn't decide to become a genre filmmaker. And, you know, next month he may decide he's going to do a blockbuster with lots of special effects. Doesn't seem likely, but you know what, I wouldn't be surprised."
The SXSW attention to documentaries isn't limited to screenings. The conference portion of the festival, which attracts thousands of attendees, features keynotes, panels, interactive demos and mentoring opportunities for aspiring filmmakers -- nonfiction and otherwise.
Saturday's film keynote featured Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page and writer-filmmaker Ian Daniel, the stars and creative forces behind the new Viceland documentary series Gaycation. The show follows best friends Page and Daniel as they travel the world exploring the realities and conditions of LGBTQ people in different cultures.
"We've always wanted to collaborate, we've always wanted to work together," Page told the audience at the Austin Convention Center. "The show is all these extraordinary people we are meeting around the world."
Nonfictionfilm.com will be posting more pieces on the documentary films, panels and related events at SXW as the festival continues. We will post a gallery of photos from SXSW as well.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.