Women On Film – SXSW 2009 – Women Directors – Jennifer Merin reports

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SXSW’s 2009 roster of films includes femme helmed projects in all catetories. Here are some of the highlights:

Narrative Feature Competition

  • It was great, but I was ready to come home – Director: Kris Swanberg – An intimate look at female friendship, the film follows best friends Cam and Annie as they travel through the mountains and coastal towns of Costa Rica, looking for old comforts and new experiences.
  • Made in China – Director: Judi Krant – Slinkys, Pet Rocks, Ant Farms, behind each of those great novelties is the story of a great Novelty Inventor. ‘Made In China’ is the story of one such inventor. Johnson, a self-styled novelty inventor from a small town in East Texas, is determined to deliver his idea for a new and humorous domestic hygiene product to the public. Johnson heads for China, the world’s novelities hub, where anything is possible and everything has its price. Lost in the backstreets of Shanghai, Johnson discovers that it takes more than a million dollar idea to make it to the big time. It takes guts, determination, and a fist full of sneezing powder.

Documentary Feature Competition

  • Garbage Dreams – Director: Mai Iskander – Filmed over four years, the film follows three teenage boys born into the trash trade and growing up in the world’s largest garbage village. Each boy chooses a different path when their community is suddenly faced with the globalization of their trade.
  • Mine – Director: Geralyn Pezanoski – After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of pets were rescued and adopted by families around the country, leading to many custody battles. Through these stories, the film examines issues of race, class and animal welfare in the U.S.
  • Say My Name – Director: Nirit Peled – About women entrepreneurs–mothers and artists–who struggle to be themselves in a society that offers few opportunities for women. This film will be distributed by Women Make Movies.
  • Sons of a Gun – Directors: Rivkah Beth Medow & Greg O’Toole – A family of three schizophrenic men and their alcoholic caregiver/Dad get evicted, move into one motel room, argue, joke around, and find a new home.

Emerging Visions

  • Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo – Director: Jessica Oreck – A documentary that untangles the web of cultural and historical ties underlying Japan’s deep fascination with insects… and what it says about the rest of us.
  • Creative Nonfiction – Director/Writer: Lena Dunham – Reality and fiction are indistinguishable as a college student tries and fails to differentiate her creative writing screenplay from her increasingly awkward social life.
  • Died Young, Stayed Pretty – Director: Eileen Yaghoobian – A doc about the renaissance of underground indie-rock posters spurred by the unexpected launch of groupie Clayton Hayes’ web portal Gigposters.com.
  • Luckey – Director: Laura Longsworth – After sculptor Tom Luckey’s devastating fall through a window, his family must cross delicate lines drawn long ago by divorce and remarriage while Tom, fully paralyzed and wacky personality intact, pursues building his biggest, most complicated sculpture ever.
  • Motherland – Director: Jennifer Steinman – Six grieving mothers journey to Africa in order to test the theory that “giving is healing.”
  • Sissyboy – Director: Katie Turinski – A juncture in the lives of performance art revolutionaries, the film explores a Portland-based gender-bending drag troupe that has served up their audacity, ambivalence and social commentary throughout the Rose City for over 3 years before hundreds of devoted fans.
  • Sorry, Thanks – Director: Dia Sokol, Writer: Dia Sokol and Lauren Veloski – Disaster looms when Kira (reeling from a brutal break-up) sleeps with Max (who already has a girlfriend) and Max takes up two new pursuits: an obsessive-tending interest in Kira, and the mystery of whether he may in fact be an ass.
  • The Time of Their Lives – Director: Jocelyn Cammack – With a combined age of almost 300, Hetty, Rose and Alison are still powerfully engaged in their individual forms of activism – from journalism, to public speaking to anti-war demonstrations – while quietly negotiating the final moments of their lives.
  • Wake Up – Directors: Jonas Elrod and Chloe Crespi – One day four years ago Jonas Elrod woke up with the inexplicable ability to see and hear angels, demons, auras and ghosts. The documentary Wake Up follows his journey across the country and oversees for the next three years to find out why.

Special Screenings

  • My Generation – Director: Barbara Kopple -A documentary about the Woodstock legacy and the search for community and ritual by boomers and Gen X’ers at three Woodstock Festivals.
  • Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie – Director: Michelle Erick – The story of Wavy Gravy – who proves you can change the world and have fun doing it. (World Premiere)
  • We Live in Public – Director: Ondi Timoner – The story of the Internet’s impact on human interaction as told through the eyes of Internet pioneer and visionary, Josh Harris.

For complete program listings, see the SXSW 2009 Website.

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).