Posted by Valentina Valentini on November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am
I feel like I’ve been in Austin for three months. The days and nights started to mesh together right around day two and screenings melted into parties melted into panels melted into hotel rooms and so on. I’m not complaining, but it’s a state of mind that you really just can’t prepare for.
In three days I saw five films (which is actually low for my usual fest count), one of which was boring, one I walked out of and one was plain disgusting (if you’ve read my Spring Breakers review, you’ll understand what I’m talking about). Two good movies out of five? Not really a good stat for a fest at the caliber that Southby is at. But then again, maybe I just got the bad apples of the bunch all in one grab.
One of two films that I did like was Coldwater, written by Mark Penney and Vincent Grashaw (producer from indie sensation Bellflower), and marking Grashaw’s directorial debut. His talent reveals itself in the characters’ depth and ease at the audience’s ability to connect with them, even if they’re unlikable.
Coldwater starts off fairly unassuming, but the slow build is needed for the heart-wrenching reveal at the midway point. More importantly, I think the sunny shots and minimal music helps to juxtapose the horrendous environment at Coldwater – a young men’s correctional facility. Parts of it are eerily similar to “Lord of the Flies,” with young boys in hyper-masculine mode in a secluded environment. Grashaw says any similarities weren’t on purpose, “but I don’t mind that comparison at all.”
First-time film actor PJ Boudousqué (‘Boo-doo-skay’), whose physique commands a presence on the screen and whose eyes make you remember what good acting looks like – plays the lead. The troubled teen we find out is actually a sensitive, sad boy who seems to want to be good but can’t process the emotional terrors he’s been through. Boudousqué brings a real vulnerability to the screen and will no doubt be scooped up by any directors that catch this film at SXSW.
In person, Boudousqué is sweet, sensitive, even bashful – anything but troubled. He has done some theater, but basically spent that last two years in Los Angeles going through the rejection ropes like so many other actors.
“I wasn’t getting a lot of traction in LA and I wanted to go to New York City to study theatre and do some more plays to gain experience,” says Boudousque, a self-ascribed Cinephile who would watch films every Sunday with his dad and considers Clint Eastwood his hero. “I still think I’m bad at auditioning. But of course a lot of it is trial and error. I guess it’s a confidence thing as well. I didn’t feel like I had a right to be there a lot of the time, and I felt that the training would help me pursue [acting] and do it justice.”
Grashaw cast Boudousque on his very first audition and said that he pretty much knew as soon as he heard him read that he was right for the role. Actually, most of the casting was done that way. And as yet another testament to Grashaw’s natural directing abilities (and to the casting director Leslie Wolff as well) the ensemble – including newcomers like Nicholas Bateman and Gabriel Nunez and veteran actor James C. Burns – really brought the film together.
“I’d been living with these characters for so long that as soon as the right person walked in and read it, I’d know,” Grashaw said at the film’s final screening in Austin.
It was a sobering film to leave Austin with, but perhaps a good comedown to five straight days of schmoozing, boozing, cinemania and non-mainstream celebrity run-ins (i.e. Ron Livingston, Anna Camp, Oliver Platt and Brie Larson). Of course, how could I forget the final schmooze-booze fest of them all – the post-awards ceremony Film Intermission bash at The Stage on 6th. After winning the Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Feature, the Short Term 12 crew could be caught in front of the camera at the flip book station making montages in fake moustaches and boas. Of course, after all the happy tears they shed it was time for some silly fun.
Other winners included William and the Windmill for Best Documentary, Ellen is Leaving for Best Short Narrative, SLOMO for Best Doc Short, and the SXSW Chicken & Egg Emergent Narrative Woman Director Award went to Hannah Fidell for A Teacher.
For a complete list of winners, please visit: www.sxsw.com