SXSW Film Festival Winners Announced

by HFPA March 12, 2014

SXSW continues till March 15, in the meantime Film Awards were announced at the customarily informal Austin ceremony. The HFPA's Katherine Tulich was there and filed this report

Fort Tilden by first time feature directors Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers is poised
to be the next break out hit from SXSW Film Conference and Festival, picking up the
Grand Jury Prize in the Narrative competition last night. The day in the life of two twenty something slacker Brooklynites (played by Clare McNulty and Bridey Elliott) joins past Grand Jury winners including last years wildly praised Short Term 12 and Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture, which set the platform for her future success. (Dunham returned as keynote speaker at this year’s Festival).

Actor Oliver Platt who was one of the jurors presented the kudos last night at the Paramount Theater in downtown Austin, stating the decision was unanimous.

“Sitting in that chair for the last half-hour was the best workout I could have had,” Bliss said as she accepted the prize with Rogers. “My heart is pounding so fast.”

A special jury prize for “courage in storytelling” went to actor and screenwriter David Dastmalchian for his feature Animals. It tells the actor’s very personal journey of a young couple (played by Dastmalchian and Kim Shaw) living out of their car and battling drug addiction in Chicago. Dastmalchian was in tears accepting the award. “I hope that anyone who sees this movie remembers, you never give up on people,” he told the audience.

The acting duo award went to Natalia Tena and David Verdaguer for their performance
as long distance lovers connected online in Carlos Marques-Marcet’s 10,000 KM
(Long Distance)

In the Documentary competition a special jury mention was given for political courage to Vessel, Diana Whitten’s film about pro-choice activist Rebecca Gomperts while Print the Legend about the burgeoning 3D printing industry picked up an award for editing and storytelling. The Grand Jury Prize for Documentary went to Margaret Brown’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill expose The Great Invisible.

Recognizing the wealth of talent of female directors, the Festival also handed out their SXSW Gamechanger award to director Jen McGowan for her debut Kelly and Cal starring Juliette Lewis and Jonny Weston. Kat Candler’s Hellion also received a special mention in this category.

Festival co-founder Louis Black noted in his opening comments that this years festival presented a broad and exciting line up, stating that it will remain true to its roots. “I don’t want SXSW to become a marketplace. I don’t want it to become another Sundance. It’s about people who are passionate about film and would make them even if no one was there
to watch them,” he told the audience. “I want it to be a pure and wonderful celebration”.

There is no denying that SXSW Film Festival, which is celebrating its 21st Edition
(running through to March 15) is increasingly drawing more focus every year. The weekend began with a high profile splash as Jon Favreau debuted his new comedy Chef on opening night. The much-buzzed big screen version of Veronica Mars screened as well as the debut
of the Seth Rogen, Zac Efron comedy, Neighbors. Diego Luna’s first English language directorial effort, Cesar Chavez also hosted its North American debut with cast members Michael Pena, America Ferrara, Rosaria Dawson and Gabriel Mann in attendance. SXSW is becoming an important arena to launch films especially suited to the hipster crowd drawn to Austin (Spring Breakers also held its U.S. premier here).

The Film Festival also has the unique position of being in the midst of a three way festival - the widely attended Interactive as well as the pulsating music festival, that draws not only hundreds of bands from around the world, but A list music celebs like Lady Gaga, Pitbull, Coldplay, Kanye West and Jay Z all in town this week to perform. Where else could you spend the day in large exhibition halls with the latest high tech gadgetry on display, wander over to see one of the 115 feature films being screened over the nine days, and end up walking through the hipster crowd on 6th street (where many of the music venues reside).

The film festival also stays close to its music roots, with a large program of music documentaries and music videos. The widely acclaimed Leave the World Behind, about the break up of electronic band Swedish House Mafia makes its world premier here, while 80’s new romantics Spandau Ballet are plugging their confessional Soul Boys of the Western World and launching a U.S. tour with an intimate club performance.

Katherine Tulich