PARTIES & SHENANIGANS
Any festival in which I don’t lose my phone, coat, hoop earring etc. is a success. I have to say I was relatively well behaved this SXSW edition. Spreading out my drinking and cavorting throughout the day in between screenings at the Intercontinental Hotel’s Stephen F’s Happy Hour rather than staying downtown late nights. I missed out on the Converse party which was the most debauchery I partook in last year . My biggest party night was probably the Closing Film party. I blame it on the mezcal I had earlier that day. I made my way over to the RVIP Lounge, a tricked out RV with karaoke and free booze, always the illest and loudest after after spot when it makes the rounds at SXSW, Sundance and LA Film Festival. I was having a blast until I thought I lost my laptop bag and freaked out. Somehow my ass got into a taxi and made it home safe and sound. Again, thanks to the Party Gods er in this case Kestrin and the rest of the RVIP folks.
The Branson doc party at Malverde was a great Modern Mexican restaurant and bar which I discovered made delicious Palomas, my drink of choice. From there a girlfriend and I took the preferred and popular SXSW mode of transportation to the next party, hopping into a pedicab, in this case motored by a real hunk (her word not mine). I fell in love with the Ranchero music he had on blast as we headed to the East side to Cheer Up Charlie’s which was hosting a bunch of parties including Short Term 12 and the launch of Elevision, an online visionary short film distribution platform, which founder Malcolm Pullinger reminded me was still in Beta beta beta. The Sundance reception on Sunday at Clive’s Bar, a good ol whisky joint was happening and far better than last year’s rendezvous. I mostly hung out with Loves Her Gun posse including rising Mexican actor, Francisco Barreiro who Indiewire highlighted as hot talent to watch. I also caught up with Charlie Reff, the newest Programmer at Sundance, who is keeping the slate hip and fresh. We talked about the recent Sundance announcement of the Next Weekend film festival program in LA this summer. This is an invite only selection of films, something the press release did not clarify which caused a flood of people to get excited about submitting for a Summer Sundance. The scoop is the program will consist of four of the Next films which screened in this year’s 2013 Festival, a couple from other festivals (like maybe SXSW) and two other world premieres for a total of 8 features. Along with the annual Shorts Lab, the weekend (Aug 8-11) will be a significant and exciting extension of the annual Park City festival. Save the date!
LATINOS DON’T GO TO SXSW FILM
Flipping on the amorphous Latino lens; First, I’d be lying if I said I’m not disappointed about the handful of exciting new Latino writer/director films I thought were suitably edgy and commercial for SXSW that were passed on. Why such resistance? Once a festival has established itself a can’t miss cache and brand trust, the programming has even more freedom to build on their tastemaker rep and bigger responsibility to films that need the exposure. It’s a lot of pressure for LA Film Festival as the next one on the calendar year to offer a high profile festival platform for these films (look out for my WTF Tribeca piece) – especially since Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival has left a gaping hole. I believe the films would have been embraced here because I feel the Latino impact and culture all around. I get the sense it is deeply underlined in the way of life, rather than traditional heritage, as evident by the food, drink and style of Austin.
That’s why I want to use the term Latino as a starting place on this blog. It’s expansive. I won’t mind the re-appropriation of Latino culture as long as there is parity with writers, directors, producers, and execs who actually walk that bicultural narrative to get their shot at putting out the story. I certainly appreciate the influence of Latinos onscreen as much as behind the camera – in that sense SXSW totally represented. I whole heartedly understand the mainstream popularity Latinos have when they aren’t sidelined for the Latino label, like the young Selena Gomez who stars as the cross necklace wearing, bikini clad, good girl gone bad, Faith in Spring Breakers. She embodies one of the more memorable roles of Harmony Korine’s film, and one that reflects Latino Catholics’ tempestuous relationship with God, sin and guilt. Its important to recognize and respect the mass scale impact she has on young Latinos. She is an American star who looks like us and has the same last name. I highlighted her in my WTF is Latino at SXSW – (btw I missed Gimme the Power, an awesome tribute doc to the Mexican punk band Molotov, for all you frijolero lovers out there).
Over at Interactive, there were panels like the eerie wolf hunting sounding Latinos y Silver Mobile Bullet, and blatant corporate brand chasing Why Hispanics Love Toyota. These panels were by and for marketing and media entrepreneurs looking to get that stack of paper from Latinos’ trillion dollar purchasing power market. Boring old pies, graphs, stockpiles of data research were shared, all to figure out consumer habits, manipulate cultural customs and find ways to exploit and capitalize in reaching the elusive Latino market – reminded me of a laboratory with white coats searching for the formula. Corporations are practically salivating at this young-skewing, smart phone mobile going, disposable income population (disposable if only because the income is not going towards accessible medical/insurance etc). My immediate reaction is to question the sample data and how they are identifying Latino? The census reports 53 million and Pew data further breaks down foreign and native born’s online presence. What about the rising population of Latinos who are checking other on that outdated race and ethnicity form? It’s all convoluted to say the least. The data might get all sophisticated and from a million different entry points, but the biggest flaw in the foundation is the label. That said some of the more savvy marketing media are slowly coming around to acknowledging “Hispanics” are not a monolithic block.
Toyota did exactly that with their mega successful 2010 ad campaign, Somos Muchos Latinos, Somos Muchos Toyotas, a now much lauded case study in which they took advantage of our loud and proud ties to our ancestors’ roots i.e, “We are Many Mexicans, We are Many Toyotas”. They made the template and attracted Latino consumers to go online and order personalized decals according to their family’s origin. Going back to film – I think the missing ingredient in all of this research into figuring out who we are is supporting independent Latino films because they represent the authentic American mestizo culture.
I dropped by “The” Latino event at SXSW, The Social Revolución party, a Latino social media awards party. The best part of it was the complimentary anejo mezcal. The food was a joke and I wouldnt even mention it if the expectations had not been set high from the invites. Nopalitos (cactus) tostadas, chips and stuffed mushrooms – come on. I found out the real comida was in the VIP room. Yes, there was a VIP room – against everything that SXSW stands for. I’m not trying to commit brown on brown hate, and really I don’t care that I wasn’t voted best Latina blogger 😉 But I have noticed in going to more of these strictly Latino affairs the tendency to over-celebrate everything and anything, takes precedent over a strategic how to discussion of ways to develop our voices and agenda. I expected this kind of exchange here given its tagline.
I’m happy to have talked shop with some of my most esteemed professional amigas like Cristina Garza, the head of acquisitions of Canana and newly launched international sales company, Mundial. Partnering up with IM Global, they will pick up 8-10 Latin American commercial movies. Key word= commercial. All anybody thinks of when it comes to Latin American films are the gorgeously shot art house slow burn dramas – and there is an extraordinary canon of them, but there is a wave of emerging filmmakers who are making artful, resonant and more accessible films. Mundial will represent Paraiso, the next film by Mariana Chenillo who became the first female to win Best Director at the Ariel Awards for her opera prima Five Days Without Nora. I also caught up with Tonantzin Esparza who headed up acquisitions at her father’s company Maya Entertaiment for years before she moved to New York. She is currently finishing up her Masters at NYU and planning to get back into the game, in the film packaging agenting world so recruiters take note and holler at my girl.
Going in I was going to write up a daily Festival dispatch but this kind of an immersive marathon makes it extremely difficult to stay sane, sober and fresh. The advantage of looking back over the week, catching up with emails and looking at the biz cards I collected is making thematic connections. Film is not an isolated medium, so much is a fluid, biochemical reaction and reflection of the world around us.
The only criticism I would give the fine folks of SXSW Film was a reverberating observation I made at the screenings. I know as moderators we are suppose to stay within the time allotted for Q&As. I do my best to defer to the theater managers so their team has time to turn over and make sure the next movie starts in time. But I also know that I’ll risk their wrath if the audience is so enthralled with hearing the filmmaker confess his creative process, we are going to run a few minutes late for the next show. I liked the programmers keeping the intros short and sweet to get the movie started right away. If they said anything at all it was to remind us of the high volume of submissions they received so therefore this film was special for its inclusion. I found the emphasizing on this unnecessary. For comparison this year SXSW received 2,096 features – of that 1,482 US, and Sundance counted 4,044 features, of that 2,070 US. When it wasn’t a core programmer introducing and moderating, the festival invited alumni filmmakers to do the honors which didn’t always work. There is nothing better than someone on the programming team who has a connection to the film and filmmaker. Obviously it is impossible for the small group of programmers to do all the presentations. What about the screeners? Chances are they would die for the chance to feel like a bigger part of the festivals.
That said, in the grand scheme of things this is minor stuff but I wouldn’t be real if I had nothing but good things to say about a festival which is a living and breathing organism that can always be optimized.
Thanks for the memories South by Southwest. To cap it all off, I’d like to quote from the hedonistic, blazing, neon flash, glorified American wet dream by Harmony Korine who brought another kind of D2F (not Direct 2 Fan) to SXSW with the US premiere of Spring Breakers.
“We came down here to find ourselves….. Spring Break for eva bitches!”
Spring break 4-EVA.