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by Sachyn Mital

25 Apr 2011


Just about thirteen months ago, the company Massey Energy made its name world famous when an unfortunate tragedy occurred at one of their coal mines in West Virginia. Twenty-nine people lost their lives in an explosion. Massey, with its repeat violations, and other companies, through the practice of mountaintop removal, have been problematic for the universal image of the laborious miner. Pollution of the water table in West Virginia has pitted families against members over one of the communities’ few viable occupations. But without our miners’ tireless and dangerous work, our country, as well as other ones, would never have achieved the modern industrial state, let alone reached the industrial revolution.

The Miners’ Hymns by Bill Morrison combines archival footage from various British sources to stir up some melancholy for the heyday of mining. This film takes primarily black and white footage placed (sensationally if not accurately) chronologically to show the routine of the miner by day and the overall trend of mechanization in mining itself. Even without having previous knowledge of the film, a viewer of Morrison’s careful selection will come away understanding the strong and cohesive narrative. Miners move from home to workplace with apparent uniformity to their actions. But there is a moment a worker is free from the Taylorism as he kisses a lantern for good luck. Scenes of undulating coal and giant cogs turning transform into trucks involved in large scale mining.

by Faith Korpi

23 Mar 2011


The latter half of SXSW is the most intense as thousands upon thousands of music fans descend upon Austin. The film portion of the festival is the only one that runs all nine days, which means we get to see/tolerate interactive geeks the first five days, followed by the grungy music hipsters the last 4 days. We film goers do stare and judge from the long screening lines.

The awards were announced midweek, and the winners left many scratching their heads. Most had neither seen nor heard much about these films (particularly Natural Selection which swept the awards with seven wins).

Roger Ebert was on the jury for Narrative Features, and Lisa Schwarzbaum was on the jury for documentary features. Both are people who know their stuff. So of course, I had to check these movies out. As it seems, the thousands of other South By film attendees did.

by Faith Korpi

22 Mar 2011


Any of my line-shyness is now gone. At the beginning of the week you have to work for an opening to talk to the person standing next to you in line. Now, with the end of the festival in sight, there’s a level of urgency. What movies haven’t you seen yet? What movies have you seen that were good that I haven’t seen? It’s protocol to now get in line and immediately ask, “So, what’s good?”. No superficial “How are you?” or “Where are you from?”, people just get right to it.

The first film announced in this year’s SXSW film line-up was The Beaver, “that Mel Gibson movie with the puppet” is the popular synopsis. There clearly was a high level of shared trepidation going into this screening on the part of the audience, the press, and even the director/star Jodie Foster.

This was the film’s world premiere and also highly unusual as it was the first time it was screened in front of an audience. Almost every film has test screenings. Foster said she felt like she needed to “keep it safe” until people were ready to see it, and even now she realizes not everyone is ready, or even willing to see it.

by Faith Korpi

21 Mar 2011


It’s Day 5 and I have “line friends” now! Starting to see the same people every day in almost every screening line I get in, which I’m probably getting a bigger kick out of than is justifiable. But hey, I love shooting the breeze about movies.

Life in a Day is a collaborative documentary about life around the world on July 24th 2010. Promoted by YouTube and helmed by Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald (Oscar winning director of One Day in September). People were asked to submit footage from their day that best represented their life. Contributors were given a series of questions to answer to help shape the content like, What do you love? What do you fear? What’s in your pocket? The result was 80,000 clip submissions totaling 4,500 hours of footage shot in 192 countries. Wow.

Quality-wise, everything from the dinkiest of camera phones to the Canon 5D and Red were used. The discrepancies in quality do not take away from the experience at all, in fact I’d say it adds to it.

by Faith Korpi

18 Mar 2011


Harry Knowles, founder/writer of Ain’t It Cool News is a celebrity in Austin. He is a “movie person” to the n-th degree, and might as well be the mascot for film geeks everywhere. The programming director of SXSW introduced Knowles at the 15th Anniversary of the Ain’t It Cool surprise screening by saying, “this is Harry’s town” the rest of us, including Robert Rodriguez, just live here.

There was an incredible amount of speculation over what the surprise screening would be. (As I’ve said before, speculating seems to be at least half the fun of these things). Most assumed Knowles would use his industry pull to secure a summer blockbuster like Captain America or Thor. On Sunday, both The Hollywood Reporter and Variety “confirmed” that the screening would be Thor. Knowles took to the web to respond: “…you should know that all these folks that claim to know something, know nothing.  There’s only one person at SXSW that knows the title. One. There’s only one person on the staff of AICN that knows the title”.

He went on to say that he would be screening a vintage film that we rarely “get to see big”. The question then was, what vintage film could be awesome enough that people wouldn’t get pissed when the film turned out not to be Thor?

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