This year at the South By Southwest film festival they screened over 130 movies of all genres from all over the world. No one is able to watch all of them, but I saw a good portion. This year’s selection was very strong, and overall I liked more movies than last year. I previously reviewed my personal festival favorites, but of course there are plenty of others. See what’s worth watching, or what to stay away from.
Being Frank: The Chris Sievey Story (9/10)
Written & directed by Steve Sullyvan, with Chris Sievey, Jon Ronson, John Cooper, Paula Sievey, Johnny Vegas, Ross Noble.
The hilarious and bizarre story of Frank Sidebottom, the British cult-comedian in a paper mâché head, and the secret life of Chris Sievey, the artist trapped inside.
In a world where YouTubers are super stars, this amazing documentary offers a look into a world before the internet created personalities, where a starving artist invents a character to promote his band, just to realize he created something much bigger. The true story behind the movie “Frank” with Michael Fassbender as the titular character, this is an amazing assembly directly from Sievey’s massive archive full of music, bizarre TV-appearances and performances, as well as his artwork. This was my favorite documentary of the festival, because it finally puts the spotlight on an artist, who never got the recognition he deserved. What a creative, musical and comedic genius! I never knew he existed yet I miss him. Lovely documentary, watch it!
Legacy of the Whitetail Deer Hunter (6/10)
Directed by Jodi Hill, written by John Carcieri, Jodi Hill, with Josh Brolin, Danny McBride, Carrie Coon, Scoot McNairy, Montana Jordan
The great hunter and reality-TV-star Buck Ferguson and his trusted cameraman Don set out for an epic weekend adventure to reconnect with Buck’s young son after he divorced his mother. However, the junior is more interested in taking selfies and chatting with his girlfriend, but Buck already has a plan to evoke a hunter in the city kid.
A new comedy from the creators of “Eastbound & Down” and “Vice Principals?” Yes, please! But unfortunately the movie can’t cash in on the high expectations. It definitely has funny moments, but Brolin is too much rooted in drama. What is meant to be a caricature way too often hits too close to reality of America’s gun-wielding hunters. I’d rather recommend to rewatch the shows I mentioned above, because this movie is unfortunately just not funny for the most part.
Lean on Pete (9/10)
Written & directed by Andrew Haigh, with Charlie Plummer, Steve Buscemi, Cloë Sevigny, Steve Zahn, Travis Fimmel, Lewis Pullman, Allison Elliot
15-year-old Charly gets a summer job working for a horse trainer and befriends the fading racehorse, Lean on Pete. When its fade is sealed and Charly suffers a tragic loss, he runs away with the horse on an odyssey through America’s wastelands to find the last relative he has left.
This movie was one of the biggest surprises for me during SXSW. I’m not too big on horse movies, but “Lean on Pete” was deeply moving, highly emotional, tragic and often brutal. You can’t help but root for Charly and his doomed horse as they walk side by side (he never rides the horse) through the desert. Enabled by an amazing supporting cast, this is Charlie Plummer’s breakthrough role, after he got recognition for playing Paul Getty’s abducted grandson in “All the Money in the World.” Also notable is the great feeling the British director has for the American outback and its people. This is a wonderful drama and emotional roller coaster, brilliantly written, directed, and played. Don’t miss out when this amazing movie hits the theaters in April.
Weed the People (7/10)
Directed by Abby Epstein, with Bonnie Goldstein, MD, Mara Gordon, Alexander “AJ” Kephart, Raphael Mechoulam, PhD, Adrian “AJ” Peterson, Sophie Ryan, Chico Ryder
“Weed the People” captures the uplifting and heart-wrenching struggles of families who treat their cancer-stricken children with marijuana, some with astonishing results.
This is an important documentary, as many people still don’t accept the medical aspect of the drug, and even studies are prohibited by its harsh classification. On the other hand this film offers more personal stories, some with happy ends and some without, which makes it too sentimental to be neutral about the issue. As important this movie is, it follows too much its own agenda and is more lobbying than informative documentation. People who are interested in the subject won’t learn anything new, while the ones this movie is made for to inform and educate probably will never see it, just for its title. Hopefully cancer treatment will be soon less controversial than it is at the moment in the United States.