SXSW Film Festival Day 4: 'Indie Game' + 'Girls'

Faith Korpi

Do you have to be into video games to like Indie Games? Absolutely not.

Indie Game: The Movie

Director: Lisanne Pajot, James Swirsky


Director: Lena Dunham
Cast: Lena Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, Adam Driver

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.





The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.