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I managed to screen 14 movies in four days at the South By Southwest film festival this year. Two were fantastic. Most were great. Some were below average. And only one of the bunch was downright unwatchable.
Somehow, the worst film I screened managed to win the top Audience Award, which was announced Saturday afternoon in Austin. That would be Shawn Christensen’s Before I Disappear, an insufferable redemption drama written by, directed by and starring Christensen. A triple threat in every sense of the word, Christensen plays a suicidal loser roped into helping his alienated sister (Emmy Rossum) as she deals with her own legal problems. The feature length film is an expansion of Christensen’s Oscar-winning short, Curfew. I have no idea what people see in this concept. Richard Schiff, Fatima Ptacek and the usually great Ron Perlman – who also snoozed through the similarly disappointing 13 Sins at SXSW – co-star.
Christensen’s film is one of those precocious indies that’s littered with continuity issues, which we’re supposed to overlook because he filmed on a budget. He’s not a compelling leading man. And his cast falls back on a lazy, nagging gimmick of repeating lines in place of improv. It was the only film at South By this year I contemplated walking out of.
Audiences disagreed, handing Disappear the Narrative Feature Competition trophy on Satruday. Other winners at the fest this year include:
The best film I managed to see at SXSW remains Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, though there were numerous films that ended up trending at the fest this year. Who emerged from Austin with the most buzz? And which films need to be on your radar as the rest of the year unfolds? Come back Monday, when our weekly video series Monday Movie Memo will break down the 5 SXSW Films You Absolutely Need To Catch Up With. Talk to you then.