FILM THREAT’S 2008 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL WRAP-UP

The March days of beer and BBQ in Austin are over, and it’s time to take a look back at the images, reviews, blogs and general insanity that was the 2008 SXSW Film Festival.

The Death of “Mumblecore” at Film Threat!
It’s no surprise that practically every film outlet across the world had a story about the “mumblecore” gibberish this year; it was the saturation point. Oddly enough, despite everyone being sick of the designation, folks still used it (myself included) and no one had any grasp on what it actually meant (myself included). In an effort to get to the bottom of the “movement,” Film Threat’s Don R. Lewis did the research and took the steps to get the real scoop on “mumblecore” straight from filmmaker Joe Swanberg and SXSW Festival Producer Matt Dentler’s mouths. And you know what he found out?

“Mumblecore” is bullshit! It’s a lazy way for “journalists” to lump together a bunch of friendly filmmakers into one pile for easy dissection. Very rarely are the supposed “mumblecore” films similar to each other in anything but, say, actors or crew (and again that’s an offshoot of filmmaking friendships as opposed to similar films). Listen, I was guilty of doing it too. I saw the names “Gerwig,” “Bujalski,” “Swanberg” or “Katz” and I immediately winced. Great, here we go again, right? I was wrong. “Nights and Weekends” and “My Effortless Brilliance” helped me see the light, and from talking to Don, “Yeast” rocked the house as well.

Therefore, “mumblecore,” at Film Threat at least, is dead. If there was a funeral or wake, it was the 2008 SXSW Film Festival. In my mind and on the pages here at FT, “mumblecore” is no more. We’re not going to use the term, we’re not going to discuss the term. We did our part, we came up with out own conclusions and… R.I.P you despicable classification.

Film Journalists Need to Learn How to Cover a Film Festival!
First off, I was a cranky asshole at the 2008 SXSW Film Festival. I’ve still got a ton of residual angst going, but I’m hoping by getting my thoughts and concerns out there that we, as an online film community, can turn a very important film coverage page together. That said, I can’t stand it when the bulk of the coverage of a major film festival goes to mainstream releases that will be in theaters in a matter of weeks or months. Fuck those films! As film critics, reporters, journalists, whatevers, you’ll get to see those movies anyway. Usually at a junket where you can cattle-grab your way through the stars and filmmakers of the films. Why focus on those films during a major festival devoted to new voices?

The mainstream flicks at the 2008 SXSW Film Festival were in the minority, but they got the majority of the coverage. This is not a new situation by any stretch. I bet “21″ was a fine film, but I didn’t need to still be seeing coverage of it three days into the festival when so many other flicks had played.

Film journalists, I’m not naive, have become a simple piece of the promotional puzzle. We’re just another cog in the machine. Most film websites are nothing more than press release aggregators that do their best to spin non-exclusive content in such a way as to make it appear as if it is exclusive (very rarely is anything exclusive anymore). It’s a game, and we’re all playing our part… which is why I think it’s time we changed the rules.

Film sites focus on mainstream because that’s what they think the audience wants. That brings the traffic, etc. But the audience only wants it because that’s all the audience gets. It’s a self-perpetuating system of shit. If coverage were to focus on real gems of the film festival circuit, the filmmakers in competition, for example, then audiences would get a certain coverage and, over time, would come to expect it and the promotional game becomes less about the rich getting richer and more about the talent rising to the exposure it deserves.

Would You Like Some Cheese with that Whine?
When all is said and done, a film festival should succeed or fail based on the merits of the its programming, and in this regard the 2008 SXSW Film Festival was a rousing success. I only saw, and this is a festival first, one film that I disliked (and it was a short). In talking with people in line for films and other writers I found that the films people didn’t dig were few and far between as well. In other words, it is safe to accept that the programming was pretty solid. To Matt Dentler and team, I say kudos for the great job, and I look forward to next year’s fest!

Read on for the return of the Burger Hut promos and more in Part Two of Film Threat’s 2008 SXSW Film Festival Wrap-Up>>>




Posted on March 18, 2008 in Features by
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