The line for badgeholders weaved up Eighth Street and down Brazos Street by 7:30 p.m. Sunday night, two hours before the schedule 9:30 p.m. screening of “Spring Breakers” at the Paramount Theatre.
There were multiple forces at work. Writer-director Harmony Korine has a devoted and somewhat cult following for his off-beat and imaginative films, and his latest film stars thirtysomething heartthrob James Franco and former Disney stars turned sexy twentysomethings Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens.
Add to the mix that the film, which boasts a provocative poster resembling an American Apparel ad, deals with hypersexual content colored with drug use and the threat of violence, and you had a perfect recipe for unbridled excitement.
Teenage girls stuffed the areas surrounding the red carpet hoping to get a glimpse of Franco and Gomez (Hudgens fell ill and could not attend), as excited badgeholders streamed into the theater, scampering down the aisles and up the stairs, jostling for position in search of a good seat. The crowd buzzed with an anticipatory fervor unlike any SXSW screening I’ve attended in recent years.
The audience, which featured very few folks older than 40, included “Prince Avalanche” director David Gordon Green, composer David Wingo, Austin directors David and Nathan Zellner, sexy “Spring Breakers” star Ashley Benson’s “Pretty Little Liars” castmate Julian Morris (in town for his own SXSW film “Victor + Kelly”) and Argentinian actress Mia Maestro, who gives a standout performance in the SXSW film “Some Girl(s).”
San Antonio native Gomez, well aware of the controversy that might surround a movie in which she and her former Disney mate Hudgens get naked and use drugs, was very diplomatic and professional in her Q&A session. Gomez said that she had spent several years working with an organization, and that she was very thankful for that excellent opportunity, but wanted to push herself with “Spring Breakers,” and she totally trusted Korine, who along with Franco, made the actresses very comfortable with the bold work. Gomez never mentioned Disney by name.
A look at family behind new Afghanistan TV network
The new documentary “The Network,” which premiered Monday night at SXSW, has an unusual goal: to show the everyday lives of Afghans as they build the first independent television network.
It’s a fascinating tale, full of murkiness, danger, outrage and sadness. But it also offers qualified hope that free and open discussions via television might help make Afghanistan’s culture more accepting of diversity, and especially of women.
Director Eva Orner focuses on Saad Mohseni and his family, who fled to Australia in the 1970s and returned to Afghanistan after the overthrow of the Taliban to start TOLO TV.
The venture started small in 2004 but has since had a profound impact on Afghan society, long starved for entertainment after decades of civil war and violence.
The documentary’s most touching moments come in interviews with women who work at the network — and how they feel dedicated to helping other women shake off years of repression. There’s some true heroism in the women’s bravery to confront long-held biases.
“The Network” screens again at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and 6:45 p.m. Thursday.
— Charles Ealy
Brothers, trashed house make for great comedy
In Todd Sklar’s wonderfully hysterical “Awful Nice,” two estranged brothers have to return to Branson, Mo., to pick up their inheritance after the death of their father.
Jim (James Pumphrey) is a seemingly successful professor and author who has settled down and started a family. His brother Dave (Alex Rennie, who co-wrote the film) just can’t seem to get his life together. Jim picks him up for their father’s funeral in Kansas City where they find out they are being willed the family’s lake house in Branson.
It’s in an incredible state of disrepair and while he never comes clean, it appears as though Dave has been there to party in recent months. It’s also infested with wasps and there’s a skunk living in the bathroom. Dave decides that the two brothers should fix the house up themselves and that prospect pushes the film into its second act.
There is a frenetic energy to the slapstick comedy on display that is infectious — the theater roared with laughter frequently. Let’s face it, many films in a festival setting are so serious that you don’t often get the chance to see something that is actually funny. I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be a star-making performance for Rennie. The character hits all the right notes. One of only eight films in the narrative competition this year, the comedy in “Awful Nice” is a little front loaded, but it provides so many laughs that you won’t mind.
“Awful Nice” screens again at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Alamo Ritz.
— Matt Shiverdecker