With SXSW looming over us, we’ve curated a list of films that are of interest to folks who live beneath the American Studies umbrella. If you have a moment during spring break and want to catch a flick, check these out! If you don’t have a badge or wristband, tickets will go on sale about 15 minutes prior to screening time if there is still seating available. The single admission ticket price is $10 for all screenings. Need more details? Check out SXSW’s official website.
The 78 Project Movie (documentary)
The 78 Project Movie is a road trip across America to make one-of-a-kind 78rpm records with musicians in their hometowns using a 1930s Presto direct-to-disc recorder. With one microphone. One blank disc. In one 3-minute take. Along the way, a kaleidoscope of technologists, historians and craftsmen from every facet of field recording – Grammy-winning producers, 78 collectors, curators from the Library of Congress and Smithsonian – provide insights and history. In Tennessee, Mississippi, California, Louisiana, the folk singers, punk rockers, Gospel and Cajun singers in the film share their lives through intimate performances, and find in that adventure a new connection to our cultural legacy.
Above All Else (documentary)
One man will risk it all to stop the tar sands of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from crossing his land. Shot in the forests, pastures, and living rooms of rural East Texas, “Above All Else” follows David Daniel as he rallies neighbors and environmental activists to join him in a final act of brinkmanship: a tree-top blockade of the controversial pipeline. What begins as a stand against corporate bullying becomes a rallying cry for climate protesters nationwide.
As in his previous film, “Mississippi Chicken”, director John Fiege puts a human face on a complex case of social injustice, capturing the South in all its drama and contradiction.
All American High (documentary)
In 1984—before cell phones, the web, and reality TV, a young director set out to document a year in the life of a typical California high school. The result was “All American High”, an unusually honest and humorous look at 80’s teen life. The Hollywood Reporter found it “fascinating and insightful” and The Village Voice called it “a laugh out loud documentary”. Told through the eyes of a visiting foreign exchange student, the film presents an uncensored view of senior year in the era of big hair, punks and parachute pants. Thirty years after they lived it, some of the film’s original subjects return in new interviews, revisiting one of the most memorable chapters in their lives.
Born to Fly (documentary)
Elizabeth Streb is not just a choreographer; she is an extreme action architect. “Born to Fly” traces the evolution of Streb’s movement philosophy – she pushes herself and her company from the ground, to the wall, to the sky. The film asks: Why is one person’s circus another person’s dance? One dancer’s gorgeous flight another dancer’s stunt work? Why call it art? Why choreograph it? Why have a role in performing it?
How might a film inspire a broad audience, hungry for a more tactile and fierce existence in the world?
Cesar Chavez (feature)
Directed by Diego Luna, “Cesar Chávez” chronicles the birth of a modern American movement led by famed civil rights leader and labor organizer, Cesar Chavez. Torn between his duties as a husband and father and his commitment to bringing dignity and justice to others, Chavez embraced non-violence as he battled greed and prejudice in his struggle for the rights of farm workers. His triumphant journey is a remarkable testament to the power of one individual’s ability to change the system.
Deep City: The Birth of the Miami Sound (documentary)
“Deep City” is an inspirational story that explores the early days of soul music in Florida, the era’s pioneers and their lasting contributions to the broader American musical landscape.
During the mid-1960s, producers Willie Clarke and Johnny Pearsall masterminded Deep City Records. Both from the streets of Miami, they honed the business and musical skills learned in college and went on to change the face of soul music in Miami and eventually the country by creating the first black-owned record label in Florida.
“Deep City” delves into the life and times of these groundbreaking producers, their label, the artists they spawned and the remarkable era in which they accomplished it.
For No Good Reason (documentary)
Johnny Depp pays a call on his friend and hero Ralph Steadman and we take off on a high-spirited, raging and kaleidoscopic journey discovering the life and works of one of the most distinctive radical artists of the last 50 years.
The Frontier (feature)
Sean, a retired literature professor and civic activist, writes a letter to his estranged son, Tennessee, a ranch hand. Tennessee is uncertain how to respond, but knowing he should see his aging father, he decides to go home. Tennessee arrives just as Nina, Sean’s personal trainer fresh off a bad breakup, accepts Sean’s offer to move in and help him write his memoirs. The tension between Sean and Tennessee is ever-present. As Sean and Nina work, Tennessee avoids his overbearing father with fix-up projects around the house. One evening after Nina has gone out, Sean and Tennessee find themselves alone in the house for the first time. No longer able to avoid each other, the two men must talk.
A gripping mix of friendship, violence and redemption erupts in the contemporary South in this adaptation of Larry Brown’s novel. Directed by David Gordon Green (“Prince Avalanche”, “Pineapple Express”) the film brings Academy Award® winner Nicolas Cage back to his indie roots in the title role as the hard-living, hot-tempered, ex-con Joe Ransom, as he meets a hard-luck kid, Tye Sheridan (“Mud”, “Tree of Life”) who awakens in him a fierce and tender-hearted protector. Joe and Gary forge an unlikely bond. When Gary finds himself facing a a great threat, he turns to Joe and sets off a chain of events that play out with the brutal inevitability of tragedy and the beauty of a last stab at salvation.
Ping Pong Summer (feature)
The year is 1985. Rad Miracle is a shy 13-year-old white kid who’s obsessed with two things: ping pong and hip hop. During his family’s annual summer vacation to Ocean City, Maryland, Rad makes a new best friend, experiences his first real crush, becomes the target of rich, racist local bullies, and finds an unexpected mentor in his outcast next-door neighbor. “Ping Pong Summer” is about that time in your life when you’re treated like an alien by everyone around you, even though you know deep down you’re as funky fresh as it gets.
Que Caramba es la Vida (documentary)
Mariachi is an essential part of Mexican culture. It’s more than just music; it’s a lifestyle that views the world from a macho perspective. The business is tough and women are seldom appreciated in this strictly male domain. Nevertheless, a handful of female musicians choose to be Mariachi. Against the backdrop of the folky ‘Día de los Muertes’ celebrations, director Doris Dörrie accompanies the musicians to their performances on the streets of Mexico and throughout their daily lives. When the Mariachi women sing about death, love and poverty, the heavy issues of everyday life in Mexico City appear slightly more bearable.
Road to Austin (documentary)
“Road To Austin” chronicles how Austin, Texas became the Live Music Capital of the World, dating from 1835 to present. The film highlights 1800s Austin, the psychedelic movement, Armadillo World Headquarters, and numerous iconic musical inflection points that shaped the American musical culture of today. Vintage photos, posters, and footage are presented to a soundtrack that truly inspires! The film story line weaves towards an all-star live performance featuring Kris Kristofferson, Bonnie Raitt, Delbert McClinton, Eric Johnson, Ian McLagan, Joe Ely, and 40 other Artists led by Musical Director, Stephen Bruton. Kris Kristofferson dedicates this film to Stephen Bruton.
Take Me to the River (documentary)
“Take Me to the River” is a feature film celebrating the inter-generational and inter-racial musical influence of Memphis in the face of pervasive discrimination and segregation. The film brings multiple generations of award-winning Memphis and Mississippi Delta musicians together, following them through the creative process of recording a historic new album, to re-imagine the utopia of racial, gender and generational collaboration of Memphis in its heyday. Featuring Terrence Howard, William Bell, Snoop Dog, Mavis Staples, Otis Clay, Lil P-Nut, Charlie Musselwhite, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Yo Gotti, Bobby Rush, Frayser Boy, The North Mississippi All-Stars and many more.