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Austin, East of Hollywood – The 2001 SXSW Film Festival

Something of a quiet affair, this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival in Austin, Texas tossed a slew of indie productions at an eager audience, hoping to see if something would stick.

Among the 50 or so films showing, Blaine Thurier’s drama Low Self-Esteem Girl (rather obviously about a girl with low self-esteem) and Monteith McCollum’s Hybrid (about a man obsessed with corn), took home top narrative and documentary honors. Other winners included audience awards for The Zeros, a black road trip comedy set in a bleak future, The Journeyman, a low-budget western starring Willie Nelson, and Okie Noodling, a documentary about men who catch fish with their hands. In the midnight film category, three winners emerged: Jay Chandrasekhar’s Super Troopers, Maggie Carey and Elena Carr’s Ladyporn, and the rave-inspired Wave.

Other notable screenings included Bartleby, Crispin Glover’s long-awaited yet ultimately disappointing return to the film scene, Climax, a Mike Leigh-inspired character study of party-bound losers, and Manna from Heaven, a sappy ‘women’s film’ with Louise Fletcher and Cloris Leachman. In the short film program, Abuela’s Revolt presented a 12-minute curiosity about a Latina woman who goes off on a convenience store owner when her grandson is accused of theft. It’s fun, thanks to Teresa Yenque’s ballsy performance of Abuela.

Of course, most attendees come for the panels as much as the movies, and sessions with the creators and stars of American Movie found themselves well attended. Also popular was a chat with porn star Ron Jeremy (the subject of a new documentary, Pornstar).

Other highlights of the festival included a retrospective of Penelope Spheeris‘s rock and roll documentaries, plus special screenings of coming-soon Hollywood extravaganzas Blow and Memento.

Low Self-Esteem Girl gets down.

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