Austin, TX – gentle city of UT, bands, artistic small businesses, and finding yourself. A blue spot on the map of Texas, Austin spikes with artsy folk (and lack of parking) in March when SXSW hits. Originally a music festival to celebrate all that is fresh, SXSW has expanded since its birth year in 1987 to include film and interactive media. Thus, Bill Nye in the time slot next to Parliament.
Fancy worked on three South-By films this year. Though we didn’t mean to pigeonhole ourselves, our SXSW theme seems to be “surprising and inspiring documentaries”. If you’re near Austin March 11-20, check them out! And look for screenings near you after they premiere at the festival.
Directed by Jason Cohen and produced by Ross Dinerstein and Glen Zipper, Silicon Cowboys tell the story of the rise and fall of Compaq. Instead of Silicon Valley, we journey into the humid heart of Houston, TX, where three IBM employees split off to make their own way in the burgeoning 1980s PC market. The trio formed Compaq, which would become the first company to legally reverse engineer the IBM personal computer. Their grasp of mass producing an affordable everyman’s PC led to Compaq’s domination of the market throughout the 90s. Gotta call out how cool it is that a story of Texas triumph premiered at an Austin indie film festival. And as a grand end (or new beginning) to this documentary’s tale, Silicon Cowboys was picked up for worldwide distribution by FilmRise during the festival. So look for the film coming soon to a theater near you — or, as FilmRise has determined, theatrical release in 2016. Exciting!
Accidental Courtesy covers the unusual activities of musician Daryl Davis. You would think the movie would be about his stellar music career, playing with high-profile artists from Chuck Berry to Little Richard. Nope! It’s about a hobby of his: befriending Ku Klux Klan members. Oh, okay, that’s normal – wait, WHAT?
Davis uses his charm, conversational ability, and musicianship to befriend unlikely people and open topics that make many people’s hair stand on end. Have you ever given a white supremacist your undivided attention? Davis does, and all he asks is that they listen to him in return. He believes that the power of an individual bond is enough to change another person’s prejudice – and over the years, his friendship and conversations have redirected the beliefs of high-ranking Klan members and otherwise vocal racists. The fact that he experienced the cross-pollination of integration and rock’n’roll helps out Davis quite a bit in this endeavor.
The film follows him as he meets with neo-Nazis, civil rights activists, academics, and former-Klan-members-turned-pals. It’s both a cross-country filmic expedition and a personal biography that showcases Davis’s simple, lifelong philosophy: “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?” …and the cartwheel of reactions that gleans.
Best and Most Beautiful Things
When you graduate from high school, “the real world” can be daunting. Yet many of us don’t possess really significant obstacles to building a life of our own. Michelle Smith does. Legally blind and diagnosed on the autism spectrum, Michelle comes of age living in the bedroom where she grew up in rural Maine. After graduation from Perkins Institute for the Blind, she throws herself into finding a life of her own. And she does so through a far more provocative avenue than expected.
If you peek behind Best and Most Beautiful Things, you find an awesome team searching for a beacon of light amid a sea of important but dark documentaries out there. Director Garrett Zevgetis led that search in 2009 after working in a dark cloud of subject matter for too long. He turned his energy to volunteering at Perkins, where he eventually met and was won over by Michelle. Later to sign on: executive producer of Friends’ fame Kevin Bright, producer Ariana Garfinkel, editor Jeff Consiglio, cinematographer Jordan Salvatoriello, and a bunch of other supportive people, grants, and organizations that kept Best and Most Beautiful Things chugging to its 6-year finish line.
Since the documentary centers on Michelle and her spirited personality, this recent news interview during SXSW seems like the most apt preview: