what (not) to doc

SXSW 2016: Documentary Overview

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SXSW returns this Friday, March 11, with approximately 140 features screening as part of the event’s film program, running through Saturday, March 19. Among these are nearly 60 documentaries, a slight reduction from last year’s record 68, appearing throughout many of the festival’s sections, highlighted below:

The sole nonfiction offering in the high-profile Headliners strand is the world premiere of Joe Berlinger’s behind-the-scenes look at the well-known motivational speaker and self-help author, TONY ROBBINS: I AM NOT YOUR GURU.

Janet Pierson and her team have once again offered ten diverse titles in the Documentary Feature Competition. Among these are: Cassie Hay’s THE LIBERATORS, which investigates how missing medieval European church relics ended up in small town in Texas; Laura Dunn’s THE SEER, on author and agricultural champion Wendell Berry; Keith Maitland’s TOWER, which revisits the 1966 shooting on the campus of the University of Texas; William A Kirkley’s ORANGE SUNSHINE, about the small group of Southern Californians who brought LSD to the world; Garrett Zevgetis’ BEST AND MOST BEAUTIFUL THINGS, focused on a young autistic woman’s blossoming; and Matt Ornstein’s ACCIDENTAL COURTESY: DARYL DAVIS, RACE & AMERICA (pictured), which follows an African-American musician’s meetings with white supremacists.

An additional seventeen nonfiction features appear in the non-competitive Documentary Spotlight, including: Irene Taylor Brodsky’s BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN, an investigation of the horrific real-life consequences of an Internet horror meme; Otis Mass’ THE INCOMPARABLE ROSE HARTMAN, a profile of an acclaimed fashion and nightlife photographer; Jason Cohen’s SILICON COWBOYS, a look back at an upstart computer company’s challenge to the dominance of IBM in the 1980s; Morgan White’s THE SLIPPERS, a history of the famed memorabilia from THE WIZARD OF OZ; Jake Oelman’s LEARNING TO SEE, about a photographer’s decades-long quest to capture South America’s insects; Marina Zenovich’s FANTASTIC LIES, about the infamous 2006 Duke lacrosse rape case; Josh Bishop’s THE DWARVENAUT, about a man’s mission to unite the world through Dungeons & Dragons; Jesse Moss’ THE BANDIT, on the unlikely story behind ’70s hit SMOKEY & THE BANDIT; and Nicole Lucas Haimes’ CHICKEN PEOPLE (pictured), a look at the world of competitive poultry breeding.

Visions, the festival’s section for innovative work, includes five docs, including Patrick Shen’s exploration of sound and its absence, IN PURSUIT OF SILENCE; and Christopher LaMarca’s immersion into a small goat farm, BOONE (pictured).

Music is the primary focus of 24 Beats Per Second, which features sixteen docs, such as: Steve Read and Rob Alexander’s GARY NUMAN: ANDROID IN LA LA LAND (pictured), a portrait of the influential British musician; Keith Maitland’s A SONG FOR YOU: THE AUSTIN CITY LIMITS STORY, about the long-running PBS music series; Wendy Schneider’s THE SMART STUDIOS STORY, on alternative music’s debt to a small Madison WI recording studio; Scott Rosenbaum’s SIDEMEN: LONG ROAD TO GLORY, a spotlight on the longtime members of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf’s bands; Brett Berns and Bob Sarles’ BANG! THE BERT BERNS STORY, about the unheralded 1960s songwriter and producer; Daniel Cross’ I AM THE BLUES, an appreciation of Southern independent blues musicians; and Marshall Fine’s seemingly non-musically focused ROBERT KLEIN CAN’T STOP HIS LEG, about the comic stalwart.

Finally, the fest’s international showcase, SX Global, includes three docs: Simon Stadler’s look at the “modernization” of Namibia’s bushmen, GHOSTLAND (pictured); Mauro Herce’s look at life on a freighter, DEAD SLOW AHEAD; and Una Lorenzen, Thordur Jonsson, and Heather Millard’s exploration of the growing popularity of knitting-based art, YARN.

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