SXSW reveals doc competition titles

A white mariachi singer, a sea captain who performs abortions and two scientists determined to find eternal youth are among the characters appearing in the documentary feature competition at the upcoming SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. (Pictured: Born to Fly)
February 3, 2014

A white mariachi singer, a sea captain who performs abortions and scientists determined to find eternal youth are among the characters appearing in the documentary feature competition at the upcoming SXSW Film Festival, which runs from March 7-15 in Austin, Texas.

The eight documentary world premieres vying for a grand jury prize include David Marshall’s Beginning with the End, which follows a group of high school seniors working as hospice volunteers; Catherine Gund’s Born to Fly, about the pursuit of human flight by choreographer Elizabeth Streb; Margaret Brown’s The Great Invisible, which revisits the Deepwater Horizon disaster; and Jason Sussberg and David Alvarado’s The Immortalists, on two scientists disillusioned by ageing and determined to create eternal youth.

Also included in the line-up is Jeremy Ambers’ Impossible Light, which follows artist Leo Villareal as he tries to turn the world’s largest LED light sculpture into a reality; Aaron I. Naar’s Mateo, about a notorioius white mariachi singer’s time in Cuba; Luis Lopez and Clay Tweel’s Print the Legend, on the future of 3-D printing; and Diana Whitten’s Vessel, in which sea captain Dr. Rebecca Gomperts performs abortions on high seas.

Meanwhile, the festival’s non-competition entries kick off with the Documentary Spotlight, which highlights 12 new documentary features receiving their world, North American or U.S. premieres.

The roster includes John Fiege’s Above All Else, where an East Texas highwire artist leads a blockade of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline; Cary Bell’s Butterfly Girl, on a girl with a life-threatening disease growing up in honky tonks; Travis Rummel and Ben Knight’s DamNation, about America’s growing disenchantment with big dams; Alexandre O. Philippe’s Doc of the Dead, which traces the evolution of zombie culture and its influence on pop culture; Neil Berkeley’s Harmontown, about TV writer Dan Harmon’s national podcast tour; and Sandrine Orabona and Mark Herzog’s Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story, on a former U.S. Navy Seal living as a transgender woman.

Also slated in the section is Angus MacQueen and Guillermo Galdos’ The Legend Of Shorty, simply described as the story of a man and a myth; Ryan Moore and Leon Gast’s Manny, which details the life of history’s only boxing Congressman Manny Pacquiao; Sandy McLeod’s Seeds of Time, on agriculture pioneer Cary Fowler’s journey to save the foundation of the U.S. food supply; Mike Myers’ Supermensch, a profile of legendary manager Shep Gordon; Elijah Drenner’s That Guy Dick Miller, the story of an accidental character-actor; and Amy C. Elliott’s Wicker Kittens, which documents the largest jigsaw puzzle contest in the U.S.

The Visions section, which covers work from “risk-taking artists in the new cinema landscape,” features documentaries such as Charlie Lynes’ Beyond Clueless, an exploration into the world of the teen movie; Iva Radivojevic’s Evaporating Borders, a portrait of five migrants living in Cyprus and their search for identity; and Darius Clark Monroe’s Evolution of a Criminal, in which the filmmaker – who robbed a local bank at 16 – revisits his hometown, as well as a host of others.

Meanwhile, the 24 Beats Per Second programme – a special focus on the culture and influence surrounding music and musicians – includes Alex Steyermark’s vintage recorder doc, The 78 Project Movie; Adam Kahan’s profile of musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, The Case of the Three Sided Dream; Belle and Sebastian member Stuart Murdoch’s indie musical God Help the Girl, and others.

The two documentaries in the SXGlobal section are Carlo Zoratti’s self-exploration doc The Special Need and Kitty Green’s feature on Ukraine’s topless feminist group Femen, Ukraine Is Not a Brothel. 

Rounding out the festival’s documentary slate are Special Events entries Gabe Klinger’s Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater – a portrait of the filmmakers’ friendship – and Keva Rosenfeld’s All American High: Revisited, on teen life in the 1980′s.

The full list of films can be seen here.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.