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March 16, 1998 2:00 AM
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Austin's Cinema Godfather (Linklater) Debuts "Newton Boys" at SXSW; Festival's Alternative

Austin's Cinema Godfather (Linklater) Debuts "Newton Boys"
at SXSW; Festival's Alternative Faces First Year Setbacks

by Mike Jones




With all the local pomp and fanfare befitting a filmmaker who put Austin
firmly in on the industry map, the South by Southwest film festival
premiered Richard Linklater's gangster western mix "The Newton Boys".
Screening to a capacity audience at the historic Paramount Theater, the
event benefited the Austin Film Society -- an organization Linklater formed
in the late '80s, specifically their Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund.
Louis Black, SXSW director, Austin Chronicle editor, and the man-to-know
among Austin film industry heavy hitters, called the single screening an
enormous success. Tickets ranged from $10 to $250, the higher figure
included an invite to the most talked about and exclusive after-party, at
the landmark live music venue Antone's, also the subject of a local doc at
the fest -- Robb Niles and Chip Ferroku's "Antone and Blues: A Story of
Obsession
".


Before the film, Linklater spoke to a standing-room-only crowd at the
conference, riffing on "Newton Boys" production stories with the
co-screenwriter Clark Walker, producer Anne Walker-McBay, and longtime
friend and counsel John Sloss. Like a boy with his first new car,
Linklater gleefully jumped in his seat when talking about the film's
explosion scene -- his first pyrotechnic -- and later answered questions
from the audience: "I don't know why almost every film of mine is
considered a departure," he said, "I don't."


For those film registrants who couldn't get a ticket, Julien Nitzberg
unspooled his competition film, "Bury Me in Kern County," on the campus of
the University of Texas. It was thought that the Newton Boys might take
away the film's audience for the night, but the union theater was packed,
and response to Nitzberg's "white trash black comedy" was extremely
enthusiastic as the crowd thunderously applauded through its
credits. Though at times suffering from poor lensing made worse by 16mm
claustrophobia, Mary Lynn Rajskub's performance stole the show as the
co-dependent sibling of her drug dealing sister (whose arrest is broadcast
to her gossip-mongering community via a "Cops"-like TV show). Combined
with other members of a winning cast, Rajskub lifted the film above its
technical flaws, many of which might be fixed with color timing and a new
soundtrack. The filmmakers are currently looking for finishing funds.


SXSW's Slamdance equivalent, The 30th Parallel Film Festival, had a rough
time living up to its promise. Bad weather and projection problems forced the
cancellation of the opening night films -- an outdoor screening of "God, Sex,
and Apple Pie
" and "Labor Pains" -- fest director Carbon Reynolds told
indieWIRE
that the films have been rescheduled for tonight -- 7 p.m. @ Hang 'Um High
Saloon)
Some filmmakers with films at the newly-named "Parallel" Festival
have expressed frustration with changing venues and screening times at
numerous bars and dance halls around Austin, but indie marketing for these
films by their filmmakers is just as heavy as those from the SXSW program.
Director David Zellner of "Plastic Utopia", whose film at press time was set
for a Sunday 7 p.m. slot, did a lot of pre-planning for his Austin screening,
including a last minute printing of more publicity postcards -- the original
printer took issue with the card's use of the word "fondle" and refused the
job.


Other films that are the topic of discussion are Mary Cybulski's insular
road-trip "Chicago Cab", Andy Anderson's "Breakfast Club"-gone-to-hell,
"Detention", and Todd Phillips and Andrew Gurland's Sundance winner "Frat
House
" -- one of the more anticipated films in a city whose own University
of Texas Greek history is as just as dark and explosive. SXSW Film events
stretch through Saturday while the Interactive and Music conferences continue
through the following week. Austin expects 10,000 people to attend the
various events.

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