Documentaries are my favorite screenings at SXSW. I love the variety of topics and points of view, but also because these are typically movies that won’t receive distribution… you have to wait to see them on Netflix. I also love writing about documentaries you may not otherwise see – it’s my PSA for future instant queue acquisitions.
Indie Game: The Movie follows independent game developers Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes through the construction of their platform game Super Meat Boy. There’s also Phil Fish, the creator of the notoriously “not done yet” game Fez and Jonathan Blow, maker of Braid the highest rated game ever on Xbox Live Arcade.
Do you have to be into video games to like this movie? Absolutely not. Indie Game is a movie about underdogs; it’s about being passionate; it’s about following your dreams (cue Chariots of Fire theme); it’s about sticking it to “the man”, and it’s about oh so much more.
I did not expect it to be a romantic movie, but listening to geeks talk about the deep significance of rescuing a princess in game narratives was irresistibly tender. In Super Meat Boy the “princess” is named Bandage Girl—McMillen explains that the significance of this (beyond just being the girl to be rescued) is that Meat Boy (the hero with no skin) needs bandage girl because she protects and completes him. Cut to the real story of McMillen’s girlfriend, whom we see him propose to, and we know he isn’t merely explaining the dynamic of the game’s hero/princess narrative, but speaking from experience. I may have audibly blubbered. A little.
I’m not sure how or why the people in this doc seem to be more engaging than those in other docs (They’re geeks! They’re not supposed to be, right?), but that seems to be the case. Phil Fish (the eccentric game maker of the bunch) has many a ‘too close to the edge’ moments, going as far as to say on one occasion that he’ll kill himself if he can’t finish his game Fez, or if it fails. During the Q&A after the screening a woman addressed Fish (who was present) directly, telling him, “I just want you to know that it’ll all be alright. Once you finish the game… you will feel so relieved”. He retorted, “Really? Because it is finished and I don’t feel that way”. Everyone laughed, including Fish.
Indie Game is a great warm hug, I can do anything kind of documentary, which in my opinion is the very best kind.
Lena Dunham is already a seasoned SXSW filmmaker at the impressively young age of 25-years-old. Her film Tiny Furniture (which she wrote, directed and starred in) won the award for Best Narrative Feature at South By in 2010 as well as the Best First Screenplay award at the Independent Spirit Awards. This year she was here with her new HBO television show Girls (again as director/writer/star), which is being executive produced by a lil’ old somebody named Judd Apatow (Freaks and Geeks and Knocked Up to name a couple).
The inevitable comparison of Girls to Sex and the City is something you’ll be hearing a lot about post its television premiere on April 15th (Oh!—and right now). They both follow four female characters who live in Manhattan, struggle with work and love and other estrogen-related issues, and as is commonplace with HBO shows, there’s lots of gross sex. Girls opens with Dunham’s character Hannah having dinner with her parents who inform her that they are cutting her (their aspiring essayist daughter) off financially—in Sex and the City Carrie Bradshaw is a columnist who somehow can afford a huge ass NYC apartment and enough pairs of Jimmy Choo stilettos to choke a horse (I never for one second believed that, and it bugged the hell out of me).
Another difference? Girls is really, really funny, and it has a single coherent voice because Dunham, and just Dunham is the writer, at least so far. (Dunham says she has a hard time working with other writers, and at least for the first five episodes has flown solo.) Contrast that with the “40 different writers” style of Sex and the City. My favorite line from the first three episodes is from Hannah (having drunk a cup of opium) looking at her two friends and saying, “You guys are so beautiful, when I look at you a Coldplay song plays in my heart”.
Pleading with her parents not to cut her off, Hannah tells them she thinks she might be “the voice of my generation”, which I think is precisely what Dunham is trying to be—albeit that “generation” is upper middle class females who went to expensive liberal arts colleges. I welcome the unfeigned tone of Girls. I like the premise, style, and characters. The characters’ low self-esteem fueled choices drew me in and made me feel involved when things went wrong (which they did… a lot), and Dunham’s style is pretty darn irresistible, so I am onboard and excited to see where she takes this series.