SXSW reveals full 2012 doc line-up

Director Emmett Malloy's music doc Big Easy Express (pictured) will close the eight-day film festival in Austin, Texas.
February 1, 2012

Organizers of the 2012 SXSW Film Festival have unveiled this year’s full film line-up, including the eight documentaries screening in competition as well as the world premiere of director Emmett Malloy’s Big Easy Express – a music doc about a modern-day railroad revival with bands Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show – which will close out the festival.

The eight-day event runs from March 9 to 17 in Austin, Texas and will feature 130 features in total, including 65 world premieres, 27 North American premieres and 10 U.S. premieres.

Among the documentaries in competition are films about serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, Brazil’s notorious water slums, Central Park’s bird population and Cream drummer Ginger Baker.

As with last year’s line-up, this year’s selection of docs largely concentrates on the worlds of music, art, technology and subculture. Among the docs having their world premieres at the festival are celebrity photographer Kevin Mazur’s star-studded $ELLEBRITY; Nelson George’s doc about HIV-positive basketball player Magic Johnson, The Announcement; Hans Fjellestad’s history of the famed mile-and-a-half strip of Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard Sunset Strip; Gotham Chopra’s Decoding Deepak; and Bad Brains: Band in DC, about seminal Washington DC punk band Bad Brains.

Familiar films from the festival circuit include the fashion doc Girl Model; Joe Berlinger’s Paul Simon doc Under African Skies; Jessica Yu’s Last Call at the Oasis; Bart Layton’s The Imposter; Canadian directors Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky’s Indie Game: The Movie; Carol Morley’s Dream of a Life; and Brian Knappenberger’s film about radical hacktivist group Anonymous, WE ARE LEGION: The Story of the Hacktivists.

As previously reported, Marley – director Kevin Macdonald’s documentary about reggae legend Bob Marley – will have its North American premiere at the festival.

Here is the listing of the documentaries screening at this year’s festival, with descriptions provided by SXSW:

Documentary Feature Competition:

Bay of All Saints (World Premiere)

Director: Annie Eastman

As the last of the notorious water slums is demolished in Bahia, Brazil, will three single mothers face homelessness or rally for a better life?

Beware of Mr. Baker (World Premiere)

Director: Jay Bulger

Ginger Baker is the original rock ‘n roll madman who everyone thought was dead but somehow survived 50+ years of heroin abuse, disastrous experiments and 4 marriages on 3 continents.

The Central Park Effect (World Premiere)

Director: Jeffrey Kimball

The film reveals the extraordinary array of wild birds who grace Manhattan’s celebrated patch of green, and the equally colorful, full-of-attitude New Yorkers who schedule their lives around the rhythms of migration.

Jeff (World Premiere)

Director: Chris James Thompson

A documentary about the people around Jeffrey Dahmer during the 1991 summer of his arrest for the murder of 17 people in Milwaukee.

Seeking Asian Female (World Premiere)

Director: Debbie Lum

When an American man with “yellow fever” meets a Chinese woman half his age online, documenting their attempt to build a marriage from scratch reveals hilarious and troubling complications for the couple and the filmmaker.

The Sheikh and I (World Premiere)

Director: Caveh Zahedi

Commissioned by a Middle Eastern Biennial to make a film on the theme of “art as a subversive act,” independent filmmaker Caveh Zahedi (I am a Sex Addict) is threatened with a fatwa.

The Source (World Premiere)

Directors: Jodi Wille & Maria Demopoulos

The Source Family was a radical experiment in ’70s utopian living. Their popular restaurant, rock band, and beautiful women made them the darlings of Hollywood; but their outsider ideals led to their dramatic undoing.

Welcome To The Machine (World Premiere)

Director: Avi Zev Weider

Upon fathering triplets, filmmaker Avi Zev Weider explores the nature of technology, seeking answers about what it means to be human.


Big Easy Express (World Premiere)

Director: Emmett Malloy

Emmett Malloy’s latest film invites us aboard a train ride unlike any other with Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine Show.

Decoding Deepak (World Premiere)

Director: Gotham Chopra

Filmmaker Gotham Chopra spends a year on the road decoding his father and spiritual icon Deepak Chopra.

MARLEY (North American Premiere)

Director: Kevin Macdonald

The definitive life story of Bob Marley – musician, revolutionary, legend – from his early days to his rise to international superstardom. Made with the support of the Marley family, the film features rare footage, incredible performances and revelatory interviews with the people that knew him best.

Documentary Spotlight:

$ELLEBRITY (World Premiere)

Director: Kevin Mazur

Renowned celebrity photographer, Kevin Mazur, gives us an all access pass to the life behind the velvet rope and in front of the camera. Candid, revealing and bold interviews with Jennifer Aniston, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Lopez, Elton John and more, take us inside the blurred lines of privacy, pliable journalism, celebrity, fame and what it feels like to be consumed.

America’s Parking Lot (World Premiere)

Director: Jonny Mars

Pull up a front row seat as two die-hard fans of ‘America’s Team’ spend their last season with the Dallas Cowboys at historic Texas Stadium, and scramble to preserve their place in America’s Parking Lot.

The Announcement (World Premiere)

Director: Nelson George

On Thursday, November 7, 1991, Earvin “Magic” Johnson made the stunning announcement that he was HIV-positive and would be retiring from basketball immediately. The Announcement gets to the core of Magic’s incredible personal journey.

Beauty Is Embarrassing (World Premiere)

Director: Neil Berkeley

A funny, irreverent and inspirational look into the life and times of one of America’s most important artists, Wayne White.

Brooklyn Castle (World Premiere)

Director: Katie Dellamaggiore

Amidst financial crises and unprecedented public school budget cuts, Brooklyn Castle takes an intimate look at the challenges and triumphs facing members of a junior high school’s champion chess team.

Code of the West (World Premiere)

Director: Rebecca Richman Cohen

Frames a high stakes showdown in the halls of the Montana State Legislature. The future of medical marijuana is at stake.

Degenerate Art: The Art and Culture of Glass Pipes (World Premiere)

Director: M. Slinger

A true document of the art and culture of glass pipe-making. It is the first film to ever bring to light this invisible sub-culture in a comprehensive and well-informed format.

Girl Model (U.S. Premiere)

Directors: A. Sabin, David Redmon

Young Russian girls join a modeling agency to seek work in Japan, but get caught up in an unregulated system that reveals an unseemly side of the fashion industry.

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters (World Premiere)

Director: Ben Shapiro

Acclaimed photographer Gregory Crewdson’s 10-year quest to create a series of haunting, surreal, and stunningly elaborate portraits of small-town American life — filmed with unprecedented access as he makes perfect renderings of a disturbing, imperfect world.

Just Like Being There (World Premiere)

Director: Scout Shannon

Through the eyes of Daniel Danger, Jay Ryan, and the gig poster community, Just Like Being There focuses on poster artists, the music they commemorate, MONDO film posters, fans, bloggers, galleries, collectors and everything in between.

Scarlet Road (North American Premiere)

Director: Catherine Scott

The film follows the extraordinary work of Australian sex worker, Rachel Wotton. Impassioned about freedom of sexual expression and the rights of sex workers, she specializes in a long over-looked clientele – people with disability.

Trash Dance (World Premiere)

Director: Andrew Garrison

A choreographer finds beauty and grace in garbage trucks, and against the odds, rallies reluctant city trash collectors to perform an extraordinary dance spectacle. On an abandoned airport runway, two dozen sanitation workers – and their trucks – inspire an audience of thousands.

Waiting For Lightning (World Premiere)

Director: Jacob Rosenberg

From the producers of Step into Liquid, comes the story of visionary skateboarder Danny Way, who jumped China’s Great Wall and created a new movement in sport.

Wikileaks: Secrets & Lies (North American Premiere)

Director: Patrick Forbes

The in-depth story of Wikileaks told by all the key players. Sulphurous, personal and moving, it documents history in the making at the lawless frontier of new technology and mainstream media.

WONDER WOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines (World Premiere)

Director: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan

This documentary examines the fascinating evolution and legacy of Wonder Woman and introduces audiences to a dynamic group of real life superheroes who continue to fight the good fight both on and off the screen.


Emerging Visions:

Eating Alabama (World Premiere)

Director: Andrew Beck Grace

A quest to eat locally becomes a meditation on community, the South and sustainability. Eating Alabama is a story about why food matters.

La Camioneta – The Journey of One American School Bus (World Premiere)

Director: Mark Kendall

On a 3,000-mile adventure across the borders between the Americas, La Camioneta follows the journey of one out-of-service American school bus as it is repaired, repainted and resurrected into a Guatemalan camioneta.

Tchoupitoulas (World Premiere)

Directors: Bill Ross, Turner Ross

Three young brothers’ immersive journey into the sensory wonders of the New Orleans night.


Director: Wu Tsang

A magical-realist portrait of the Silver Platter, a historic bar in Los Angeles that provides a safe space for Latin/LGBT immigrant and queer art communities to come together in love and conflict.


24 Beats Per Second:

Bad Brains: Band in DC (World Premiere)

Directors: Mandy Stein, Benjamen Logan

How four young men from DC changed music forever.

Charles Bradley: Soul of America (World Premiere)

Director: Poull Brien

The incredible late-in-life rise of 62-year-old aspiring soul singer Charles Bradley, whose debut album rocketed him from a hard life in the projects to Rolling Stone magazine’s top 50 albums of 2011.

Grandma Lo-fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigrídur Níelsdóttir

Director: Kristín Björk Kristjánsdóttir

At the tender age of 70 she started making music – and then she couldn’t stop! A tribute to the Danish/Icelandic artist and late bloomer Sigrídur Níelsdóttir.

Paul Williams Still Alive (US Premiere)

Director: Stephen Kessler

A documentary filmmaker tracks down actor/singer/songwriter Paul Williams in an attempt to find out what happened to his idol.

Rock ‘N’ Roll Exposed: The Photography of Bob Gruen (North American Premiere)

Director: Don Letts

Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry, Yoko Ono, Alice Cooper, Billie Joe Armstrong and others discuss the incredible life and work of the world’s foremost rock ‘n’ roll photographer, Bob Gruen.

Sunset Strip (World Premiere)

Director: Hans Fjellestad

The 100-year history of the loudest street on the planet, The Sunset Strip.

Under African Skies

Director: Joe Berlinger

Paul Simon returns to South Africa to explore the incredible journey of his historic Graceland album, including the political backlash he received for allegedly breaking the UN cultural boycott of South Africa designed to end the Apartheid regime.

Uprising: Hip Hop & The LA Riots (World Premiere)

Director: Mark Ford

Twenty years after riots ripped through Los Angeles, Uprising documents how hip hop forecasted – and some say ignited – the worst civil unrest of the 20th century.


Festival Favorites:

Dreams of a Life (North American Premiere)

Director: Carol Morley

An imaginative quest to go beyond the newspaper reports and solve the mystery of who thirty-eight year old Joyce Vincent was and why she lay undiscovered for three years after her death in one of the busiest parts of London.

The Imposter

Director: Bart Layton

In 1994 a 13-year-old disappears without trace in Texas. Three years later he resurfaces in Spain with accounts of a horrifying kidnap. His family is overjoyed – but all is not as it seems.

Indie Game: The Movie

Directors: Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky

With the 21st century comes a new breed of artist: the indie game designer. These innovators design and program their distinctly personal games in the hope that they may find connection and success.

Last call at the Oasis

Director: Jessica Yu

A powerful argument for why the global water crisis will be the central issue facing our world this century.

WE ARE LEGION: The Story of the Hacktivists

Director: Brian Knappenberger

We Are Legion takes us inside the world of Anonymous, the radical “hacktivist” collective that has redefined civil disobedience for the digital age.


SX Global:

Crulic – The Path to Beyond

Director: Anca Damian

The animated documentary feature-length “Crulic – The Path to Beyond” tells the story of the life of Crulic, the 33-year-old Romanian who died in a Polish prison while on hunger strike.

Cubaton – El Medico Story (North American Premiere)

Director: Daniel Fridell

El Medico – a Cuban house doctor who wants to become a cubaton star – is facing a serious choice between serving the state and becoming a popstar.

Her Master’s Voice (World Premiere)

Director: Nina Conti

Watching someone talk to themselves has never been so interesting.

Italy Love It or Leave It (North American Premiere)

Directors: Gustav Hofer, Luca Ragazzi

Gustav and Luca, two Italians, have to decide: Should they stay in Italy, or leave it?

Mustafa’s Sweet Dreams (North American Premiere)

Director: Angelos Abazoglou

Mustafa, a 16-year-old pastry shop apprentice dreams of becoming a famous baklava chef in Istanbul.

¡Vivan las Antipodas!

Director: Victor Kossakovsky

Haven’t we all wondered at some point what was happening just at this moment beneath our very feet at the other side of the planet?


Special Events:

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (Work in Progress)

Director: Drew Denicola

A feature-length documentary about the massive critical acclaim, dismal commercial failure, and enduring legacy of pop music’s greatest cult phenomenon, Big Star.

Girl Walk // All Day

Director/Screenwriter: Jacob Krupnick

A feature-length dance music film that combines freestyle dance with the daily chaos of New York City, set to Girl Talk’s recent mashup album, All Day. 


Director: Amir Bar Lev

5 DJ’s Turn the Table on The History of Music.

Renga (North American Premiere)

Directors: Adam Russell, John Sear

A ground breaking feature-length show controlled entirely by the audience using laser pointers. It is the first viable example of a standalone interactive experience capable of running in commercial movie theatres.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.