Despite left of center programming typical at major festivals, 2014’s South by Southwest (SXSW) featured programming that appealed to all viewers regardless of political affiliations. A few films even respectfully addressed religion, civil liberties and moral character in ways audiences will want to explore when they reach theaters and Video on Demand services.
The Internet’s Own Boy: An enthralling and tightly edited indictment of government stifling a creative genius. Family, friends, and colleagues of ReddIt co-founder Aaron Swartz reflect on his life, confront his tragic suicide and warn of America’s impending and cumbersome police state. Participant Media recently announced that Internet’s Own Boy will receive a “day-and-date theatrical and VOD release is tentatively scheduled for June 2014.” This documentary should be required viewing for those concerned with our eroding civil liberties.
A Night in Old Mexico: An older Republican isn’t typically a big draw at SXSW but Robert Duvall still garners industry respect for his hard work and talented demeanor. In his latest, Duvall plays a rancher who loses his land and deals with a surprise visit by a grandson he never met. The old fashioned journey to unfamiliar lands turns into an accidental adventure while visiting Mexico. The movie has exciting moments and important life lessons. Hollywood rarely makes sincere narratives like this anymore, especially featuring a protagonist with a strong moral compass. Audiences will have a chance to see it in theaters and On Demand beginning May 16.
That Guy Dick Miller: You know the actor Dick Miller. You’ve seen him around in smaller roles in big movies. (You will immediately recognize him with a Google image search.) That Guy Dick Miller showcases humorous reflections with countless big laughs and vintage clips from one of cinema’s modern aging character actors. This fun whirlwind of old clips and heartfelt remembrances to an iconic actor still working today amused SXSW’s movie-loving crowd.
Before I Disappear: Shawn Christensen writes, directs, and stars in the feature-length adaptation to his Oscar winning short Curfew (which is worth checking out). This emotionally engaging film shifts tones from character drama to lighthearted comedy to even scenes out of a crime thriller almost flawlessly. At the core of Before I Disappear is the loving devotion of family no matter the grim realities.
Sequoia: I saved the best surprise for last. A terminal ill girl plans her suicide in the National Park but meets a devout Christian boy (his strong faith isn’t mentioned in the synopsis). They discuss the meaning of life, the depths of love, and each other’s values. Her concerned yet VERY dysfunctional family is in pursuit hoping to prevent the suicide. The beautiful, redemptive movie doesn’t mock the boy’s faith nor judge the girl’s circumstances.