Austin’s SXSW festival has earned its unruly reputation for the five-day bacchanal of live music that ends this spring event each year. Many people who’ve come to town in past years seemed truly surprised that SXSW also consists of an interactive conference and a world-class film festival.
This year, the movies certainly seem to be weighted toward the music – so let’s quickly run down some of the top music-related films screening in Austin during the week.
Probably the most anticipated is “Marley,” a documentary on the late legend Bob Marley directed by Kevin MacDonald. It has the distinction of being the first film authorized by Marley’s family and Bob’s son Ziggy serves as executive producer. Ziggy also helped to dig up rare film footage, along with featured interviews and amazing performances. “More important than the footage … are the stories,” Ziggy said at the post-screening Q&A. “Stories like the Wailers rehearsing in a cemetery, even the issue of race – the color of Bob’s skin, those are things that (make the viewer) understand him.”
Another documentary, “Under African Skies,” tells the story of the making of Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” the political debate that followed, and Simon’s return to South Africa in 2011. The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and will make the international festival circuit as well as a limited theatrical run before it airs later this year on A&E channel.
“Shut Up and Play the Hits” goes behind the scenes as LCD Soundsystem front man James Murphy dismantles his decade-old band, while Jay Bulger’s documentary “Beware Of Mr. Baker” tells the unsurprisingly sordid life story of former Cream drummer Ginger Baker.
Stepping again into the past, we have a documentary on power popsters Big Star and its doomed front man Alex Chilton, “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me.” And if that isn’t enough, they’ve restored the Beatles’ 1968 animation fantasy “Yellow Submarine” to go along with all that remastered music.
Closing out the film portion of the festival (and the music part too, for all intents and purposes) will be the documentary “Big Easy Express,” which follows the folksy bands Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros and the Old Crow Medicine Show on their April 2011 tour across America by way of vintage trains. Following the band’s journey from town to town, rail yard to rail yard, “Big Easy Express” exposes the performers’ boundless passion for music, and the extremes they took to get their melodies heard.
“Express” will run in downtown Austin’s Paramount Theatre on Saturday afternoon, but later that night Mumford & Sons and the Magnetic Zeroes will host a larger screening, followed by a full-blast concert on the football field of Austin High School. MySpace will webcast the concert live and offer an HD version the following day. Click here to check it out (Saturday 7 p.m. CDT).
All of the SXSW films aren’t about music – Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard have unveiled their long-delayed horror flick “The Cabin In The Woods.” We all know the deal with these: throw in some teen heartthrobs, some sort of weekend getaway, sex and eventual graphic-but-edging-on-comical bloodshed of said teen heartthrobs – and there you have it, a horror movie that will attract high school kids to mall-tiplexes across America on a Friday night. But “Cabin” takes the modern horror film genre and questions, mocks and redefines it. Judging from the trailer, it seems Goddard has crossbred science fiction with horror, and we’re excited to see how that’s turned out.
There’s “21 Jump Street” with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, for an early taste of summer fare, and if you don’t know what it’s about see “TV Land.” And there’s “The Babymakers,” a heist film involving an ex-mobster and a sperm bank, and that’s enough of a hook for us. Starring Olivia Munn and Paul Schneider as a married couple trying to have kids, this film addresses what so many young married couples worry about – infertility (that is what young married couples worry about, right?).