Saying Adios to SXSW 2012 and Howdy to the Dallas International

By  · Published on March 20th, 2012

I know you are all wondering which local film was my favorite at SXSW 2012, and though I know that you know that by asking that question you are placing me in a very awkward position because I do not like to play favorites I will oblige your request nonetheless. Kid-Thing. There, I said it. Are you satisfied now? I suspect I will find a severed horse’s head in my bed courtesy of Jonny Mars (America’s Parking Lot) and/or Bob Byington (Somebody Up There Likes Me) as early as tomorrow morning.

Thanks a lot! Well, can I backtrack and say that they were all great?

To my defense, I would like to state that Sundance, Berlin and SXSW did not feature Kid-Thing in their programs just for the hell of it. Kid-Thing is the most mature and accomplished film that David and Nathan Zellner have made to date. Shot from the perspective of a young girl named Annie (Sydney Aguirre), Kid-Thing seamlessly blends fairy tale-like surrealism with gritty realism. Annie’s mother is long gone and her father (Nathan Zellner) is unfit to be raising goats let alone a prepubescent girl.

More often than not, Annie’s father appears to be drunk (or maybe that is just his natural state?), so she must rely upon shoplifting for nourishment. It is this incredibly banal existence that prompts Annie to go out and experience the world around her. Annie is like an untamed animal that has never been properly socialized with others. (She claims that her school is closed due to a “gas leak.”) She runs wild with reckless abandon; smashing stuff with an aluminum baseball bat, shooting paint pellets at dead animals and throwing large balls of dough at moving cars.

Annie perceives the world with heightened curiosity (since we observe Kid-Thing from her perspective, we can only assume that a lot of what we see on screen is either grossly exaggerated or non-existent), which is what eventually leads her to discover a woman (Susan Tyrrell) who is purportedly stuck at the bottom of a well. With no reliable parental guidance available to her, Annie must figure out how to deal with this situation on her own.

Will Kid-Thing be the Zellner Brothers’ big break? I really hate to say it – but I seriously doubt it. If Kid-Thing does get a distribution, I would be very curious to find out how its release would be handled. There must be other people other than me who would love this film, it is just a matter of getting the film to those people, whether it be theatrically, VOD or DVD. In the meantime, I suspect Kid-Thing will enjoy a decent lifespan on the film festival circuit.

Speaking of which, the Dallas International Film Festival (April 12–22, 2012) announced their complete schedule a few days ago. And guess what? That’s right! Kid-Thing will be there! And so will Robert Byington’s Somebody Up There Likes Me, Jonny Mars’ America’s Parking Lot, Brandon Dickerson’s Sironia, and Will Moore’s Satellite of Love. Oh, and John Merriman stars in Cinema Six, the most Austin-centric film ever directed by filmmakers from Oklahoma (namely, Mark Potts and Cole Selix). Cinema Six’s Austin crew includes producer Kelly Williams, cinematographer Clay Liford and editor Don Swaynos; the locally grown supporting cast features Chris Doubek, Shannon McCormick, Kerri Lendo and Byron Brown. Check out the complete DIFF 2012 schedule here.

While on the subject of film festivals… On March 25th, the Austin Film Festival will be presenting A Conversation with Ted Tally at the Harry Ransom Center (starting at 4:00pm). Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ted Tally will be discussing the art of crafting suspense and effectively adapting novels to the screen; Machete screenwriter Álvaro Rodríguez will moderate the conversation. Tally will then head over to the Texas Spirit Theater (Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum) to present a retrospective 35mm screening of The Silence of the Lambs (starting at 7:30pm) with a post-screening Q&A.

Tally won an Academy Award, the WGA Award, and the Saturn Award for Best Screenplay in 1992 for The Silence of the Lambs (which was adapted from the novel by Thomas Harris); his other screenplays include Red Dragon, All the Pretty Horses, The Juror, and White Palace.

Tickets to both the conversation and screening are $12 for general admission or $10 for members of AFF, TBF, the Harry Ransom Center, and the Writers’ League of Texas. Tickets to just the screening are $5 general admission. For more information, visit the event page on Facebook.

Cinematic Things To Do in Austin This Week:

3/20 – Alamo South Lamar — AFS’ Essential Cinema Series – Children of Abraham/Ibrahim 6 – continues with Oday Rasheed’s Qarantina. (More info)

3/21 – Arthouse at the Jones Center — The Pruitt Igoe Myth screens as part of the Arthouse Rooftop Architecture Film Series (More info)

3/25 – Alamo Ritz — Funny Ha Ha celebrates its 10th anniversary by screening at the Alamo Ritz with writer/director/star Andrew Bujalski in attendance. (More info)

Continue Reading Austin Cinematic Limits