SXSW Update #3 – Close of SXSW 2013; Film Festival Impact

Neighboring Stateside and Paramount Theaters on Congress Avenue during SXSW 2013.  Photo by Eric Allen Hatch.

Neighboring Stateside and Paramount Theaters on Congress Avenue during SXSW 2013. Photo by Eric Allen Hatch.

The 2013 SXSW Film Festival came to a close this weekend, having screened, as head honcho Janet Pierson noted at the closing night awards ceremony, 133 features and 10 shorts programs. Considering that SXSW sets limits on how many titles they repeat from other festivals like Sundance, making the majority of SXSW’s features U.S. or even world premieres, this is a staggering figure. We’re still comparing notes and favorites, but I’ve now seen at least 40 of these features, and with MFF’s programming administrator J. Scott Braid and screening committee member Eric Cotten also in attendance, we’ve been able to cover the overwhelming majority of SXSW’s offerings for MFF 2013 programming consideration.

To attend SXSW is also to see the incomparable impact a major film festival has on its hometown’s year-round film scene. I’d estimate that somewhere between a dozen and twenty of SXSW’s features were Texas-shot. That includes some of the best narrative films in the lineup, such as Andrew Bujalski’s sly and utterly unique Computer Chess (which I discussed at greater length on the blog last week), Yen Tan’s poignant small-town romantic drama Pit Stop, and Hannah Fidell’s riveting and tense psychological portrait A Teacher.

In a city that boasts not only major film festivals such as SXSW, the genre-honoring Fantastic Fest, and the screenwriter-oriented Austin Film Festival, but also active year-round programming courtesy of the Austin Film Society, the historic Paramount Theater, and the legendary Alamo Drafthouses, it’s no surprise that Austin’s film scene is flourishing. Over the past several decades, it’s emerged as one of the only U.S. cities that can be said to rival L.A. and NYC for diverse film production, smart and lively criticism, and enthusiastic, highly film-literate audiences.

It’s this magnitude of impact Maryland Film Festival would like to have in Baltimore—building not just audiences, but also helping cultivate a local filmmaking community as active and vibrant as that of a city like Austin, not to mention one that keeps pace with the explosions in music and visual art our city has seen in recent years. Watch this space for MFF 2013 announcements; we think you’ll agree that a Baltimore filmmaking explosion is already underway.

Eric Allen Hatch, MFF Director of Programming


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