SXSW ‘06 – Day 5 – Tuesday

In Austin you gotta start the day with a breakfast taco. So off I went to Taco Shack. Conveniently located near the Austin Convention Center it was taco time and for less than 4 bucks it didn’t hurt my budget either (I’m starting to sound like Rachel Ray!). Tummy full I went to see Shadow Company, a doc about private military companies PMC’s). The film is well made and reminded me of the MTV True Life series. This one would be True Life: I’m a mercenary. A mercenary is someone that fights in a war for money and not based on their personal beliefs. Filmmakers Nick Bicanic and Jason Bourque got incredible access to this industry that works within the law, but below the radar.

Then I hung around just a little to long and missed the panel I was going to attend about small screen distribution. Lucky for me Air Guitar Nation was starting in 2 minutes. What a treat! When I read the catalog description I couldn’t help thinking that this looked like the lamest film. That may be true, but I was entertained as ever! I literally laughed from the first frame on. “To err is human. To air guitar is divine.” says air guitar enthusiast Bjorn Toroque (say it out loud – you’ll get it – Born to Rock). The film follows the 2003 World Championship of Air Guitar – something CNN called “the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.” But the film is structured so well you hardly have to speak English to understand it. To quote a college professor I had a “Rocky moment,” (that’s a moment that makes you stand up and cheer). All I can say is – just see it. It’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

On what was turning into a veritable Austin food tour I stopped at the Hideout for a hummus plate before parking it in James Scurlock’s Maxed Out, a doc about the credit card industry and credit card debt in America. The film injects a little humor into what is a pretty bleak topic. It is carefully structured, shot well and covers the topic pretty completely.

The film left me feeling pretty despondent. Luckily I had a party to go to celebrating AFI’s Music Docs series. The Refugee All Stars played and people hung around outside drinking margaritas and chowing on the Mexican fare. I was having such a nice time meeting people and hanging out but I had to get going to make it to the Dobie and The Treasures of Long Gone John. This film screened at the same time as the Awards Ceremony and seemed a little under the radar to me. I felt like I was getting to see something really special. The Treasures of Long Gone John charts the life and endeavors of Long Gone John, founder of Sympathy for the Record Industry, co-owner of Necessaries Toy Foundation and art collector (not necessarily in that order). Using John as the spark the film also covers the urban vinyl toy scene and many low-brow artists (I hate this term as much as they do) including an incredible time-lapse of Todd Schorr painting a gigantic piece commissioned by John plus interviews with Camille Rose Garcia, Gary Baseman, Mark Ryden, Shag, Frank Kozik and many others. Filmmaker Greg Gibbs invited the entire audience to a party at the Continental Gallery to celebrate the film’s premiere.

From the Continental I grabbed a cab and headed to the official closing night party. It was loud with Sleater Kinney playing away. Before I could get comfy my phone rang and it was time to go get something to eat. Magnolia Café is a great place for 24-hour diner dining – don’t miss the dessert!!

I’m still bummed I didn’t get to see Lifelike and many other docs – but there’s just never enough time. While SXSW is clearly a place to make a splash as a premiere, it’s not the most accessible festival to an outsider. In an article during the fest Variety said the festival has a, “loose, fuck it attitude,” and I can’t say I disagree. And it’s one I can’t decide if I like or not.

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