Michel Gondry’s “The Thorn in the Heart,” Aaron Katz’s “Cold Weather” and Chris D’Arienzo’s “Barry Munday” were among the higher profile screenings Saturday night in Austin at the SXSW Film Festival. Despite a warm sunny day with virtually every restaurant or party space offering beer and outside seating, good crowds showed up for the afternoon screenings of director Jeff Deutchman’s “11/4/08 and Jeff Malmberg’s “Marwencol.”
The films were just some of the events in Austin as the SXSW Film Festival opened with Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass.” The fest unofficially started with the Austin Film Society’s Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards Thursday night, benefiting the organization founded by Richard Linklater. Among this year’s inductees were Quentin Tarantino, Lukas Haas and Monkees band member, Michael Nesmith. Many of the film festival’s out of town guests attended the event, with talk about the fest’s upcoming premieres.
Nostalgia and innocent feelings of euphoria and hope are captured in Deutchman’s “11/4/08,” which was one of the weekend world premieres. Just weeks before the last presidential election in the United States, Deutchman asked friends around the country and in cities in Europe and Asia to record their experiences of the day that catapulted Barack Obama into the presidency. “I have a secret wish that everything in history will be available [on film],” Deutchman said following the screening at Austin’s convention center. “I figured this would be a great day to capture.” Other filmmakers, including Joe Swanberg (“Alexander the Last”) and Margaret Brown (“The Order of Myths”) were among the cadre of Deutchman’s friends adding footage, relaying the events as they went down in Chicago and Brooklyn respectively.
“It felt great to be in Chicago that night, it was a great communal experience,” said Swanberg, who attended the big rally in the windy city’s McCarren park where Obama gave his victory speech. “The film makes me think of the emotions of that day, and some of it seems quite loaded now,” added Brown.
While the film is definitely from a pro-Obama point of view, Deutchman hopes to add to the footage by way of an ever-increasing library on the film’s website. He also would like to compile material from the Republican side. “I’m an Obama supporter, I make no secret of my sympathies,” said Deutchman. “I have very minimal footage from the Republican point of view, but I’d like to get more. There’s the film that exists [now] and there is possibly a film that it can be in the future.”
Fellow doc “Marwencol” is a delightful story of one man, Mark Hogancamp. The Upstate New York man suffered life-changing injuries in a bar brawl, leaving him permanently unable to use his hands and other physical skills. After his long convalescence, Hogancamp channeled his creativity in building a 1/6th scale town called Marwencol with dolls – each representing his friends and family. Photographs of his various constructs capture the town’s various relationships and dramas, and taking photos has proven therapeutic for his hands. The photos have not gone unnoticed either. A New York City gallery discovered his images and produced a show in downtown Manhattan, which tempts Hogancamp to abandon his normal reclusiveness and Marwencol fantasy life for the real world.
“He’s an artist in the true sense of the word,” said director Jeff Malmberg. “I never set up lights when filming. It was just a conversation. I wanted to keep the filming as organic a process as possible.” Malmberg, who is an editor, said he originally wanted to film a short, but after he happened to meet Hogancamp, he realized the story would require a feature. “I saw his photographs and it was all great timing. I wanted to do the short, but when I heard he was going to do the art show, I realized it was going to be a much bigger film.”