South By South West Festival Special Talking Movies


South By South West Festival Special

Talking Movies reports from Austin in Texas looking back at some of the highlights of this year's South by Southwest Film Festival.


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Transcript


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Record numbers are catching trains but punctuality is suffering

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as a result.

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The pressure is now on to compensate more customers

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if their service is running late.

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Hello and welcome to the South by Southwest film festival here

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in Austin, Texas.

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I'm Tom Brooke.

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In today's programme we hear from hometown hero and top American

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director Richard Linklater on his movie made in Texas.

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It is always a big comedy on opening night and I'm happy to

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make a film that qualifies.

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With more music films from Britain and Japan shown at South

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by Southwest.

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They might be the biggest band in the world.

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And two very different Festival documentaries,

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one looking at a team of female bicyclists trying to reclaim the

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streets and another reconstructing, by way of animation, a mass shooting

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almost 50 years ago here in Austin.

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There is a sniper on the university compound.

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All that and more in this special South by Southwest

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edition of Talking Movies.

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South by Southwest is three things.

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A music, interactive and film festival all rolled into one.

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It is an event that certainly energizes and in some instances,

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almost overwhelms the city of Austin every spring.

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Today we're going to be focusing on the film festival

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which came into being in 1994.

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It has grown to become a highly respected showcase

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for independent cinema and also there is a smattering of Hollywood.

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For the past 30 years, Austin, the state capital of Texas, has

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been home to South by Southwest.

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Last year it brought more than 80,000 people to the city.

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When it comes to film, this year some 140 features are being shown.

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I think it is becoming more and more formidable as the years go on.

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Ever since Bridesmaids premiered at South by Southwest,

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it has been a very splashy festival for big comedy movies.

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Trainwreck also was the big one last year and it went

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on to gross $130 million.

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This year, also one is called Sausage Party which is a very

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R-rated animated film by Seth Rogen.

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It has really become the landing spot

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for really good studio comedies.

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The festival has been the launching pad for several noteworthy films.

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With blockbusters like Furious Seven to the low-budget Tiny Furniture

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which helped put Lena Dunham, creator of Girls, on the map.

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It also showcases local Texas films and film makers,

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case in point the Oscar-nominated hometowns hero, Richard Linklater,

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pleased that for the first time, a film of his, Everybody Wants Some

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has been selected.

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It is a great tradition to have a comedy on opening night and so I

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am glad that I made a comedy that qualifies to be

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the opening night film.

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A big event on the first day of the film wasn't just the unveiling of

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that film but President Obama being in town to give a keynote address.

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That is just really cool.

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I don't know how to say it any better.

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It's just kind of cool.

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It is an honour to have him here at the same time.

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Hopefully he watches the movie.

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Given that South by Southwest incorporates a music festival, music

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films have always loomed large.

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It is also a haven for documentaries.

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Documentaries are very important in the lineup.

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Not as important as comedies in the lineup, but they are gaining

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importance at South by Southwest.

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There are many music documentaries, many strange documentaries also,

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countercultural.

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We have to keep Austin weird.

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Many documentaries are about eccentrics, which sort of falls

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in line with the spirit of Austin.

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So where, at the end of the day, does South by Southwest stand

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in the constellation of world film festivals, falling as it does

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between Sundance and Cannes?

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Some locals think nothing can beat it.

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It is a big and influential festival, but I think

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because it is Austin, it retains a bit of an outsider known industry

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vibe, which I really appreciate.

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It has got a really good feel and it is really about the movies.

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But there are detractors who think South by Southwest shows mediocre

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films and that the wider event is too commercial.

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But there are also avid fans who believe in South by Southwest

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and think that every March, Austin, Texas is just

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the coolest place to be.

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There was a British presence at South by Southwest this year

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and one British electronic music pioneer, Gary Numon, was the subject

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of a Festival documentary.

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Now we go to our correspondent.

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Gary Numon is sometimes called the godfather of electro- pop, probably

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Gary Numan is sometimes called the godfather of electro- pop, probably

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best known for his 1979 hit Cars.

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Late 70s, he was arguably one of the most famous men on the planet.

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At one point he had three albums in the charts at the same time.

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That is kind of Beatles level of success and fame.

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The film is a portrait of a man who was a trail blazer

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in British electronic music.

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He would say himself he was not the only one at the time.

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There are people like Bowie, of course and Kraftwerk,

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all of whom experimented with electronic music and synthesizers

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but Gary was the first one who became really successful for it.

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He kind of put it on the map.

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I would say he was the first to become, as he says in the film, kind

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of the first synth rock superstar.

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The documentary follows him at a moment of transition as he is

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moving his family from England to Los Angeles and trying to rekindle

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his career with the new album.

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The one I'm doing now has been six years.

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My career is as strong as it has ever been.

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We learn that the musician has Asperger Syndrome and is often

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plagued by doubts and anxiety.

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And at some point you lose your grip and then you find yours

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elf in the middle of nowhere, a bit beaten up and totally lost.

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His mannerisms, his personality, it comes

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across clearly that he is really, very nervous about the new album.

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He is nervous about moving to the states,

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is it going to work out for him?

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This documentary is generous to its subject.

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It is an affectionate, relatively uncritical portrait that will no

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doubt bring fans much satisfaction.

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We made a very honest film.

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It is hugely revealing.

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Gary Numon has suffered for his art and the same goes for another

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Gary Numan has suffered for his art and the same goes for another

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film shown at South by Southwest.

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It covers a Japanese rock group which has been plagued

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by troubles throughout their time together, all of of which has been

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overseen by Yoshiki, its leader.

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Yoshiki and his childhood friend and lead vocalist, Toshi,

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started X Japan in the 80s.

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They formed a music culture called visual kei

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that borrowed from the glam rock scene emerging in the West and mixed

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it up with Japanese elements.

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The film shows that when it comes to Yoshiki,

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who is also a classically trained as a pianist, personal tragedy was at

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the centre of his entrance to rock music and the birth of X Japan.

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When he was ten, his father committed suicide.

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I was so depressed, so angry but rock was perfect,

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the perfect music to just throw all my emotion and sadness into.

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But I didn't stop playing classical music either, so now I play both,

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classical and rock.

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What hardship has the band gone through over the years?

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The vocalist, Toshi got brainwashed and then our band broke up.

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Our guitar player Hidei passed away and our bass player Taiji

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also passed away.

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The film depicts death and pain as a villain in your life

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but do you think it has also fuelled your creativity?

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I am not sure, the new place where you are just

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sad, it can take you anywhere.

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So I started writing lyrics and composing melodies.

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I don't know if I would have survived otherwise.

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The band reunited in 2008 and has been touring since 2009.

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Critics have found this film rewarding, although there have been

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complaints that it is superficial.

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But the live footage is seen as particularly impressive.

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As you heard, Richard Linklater, who is perhaps the biggest name

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in Texas film had a new picture released at the festival.

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He made an impact recently with his ingeniously structured,

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Oscar-nominated coming-of-age drama, Boyhood.

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His latest picture is to some extent,

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a sequel to an earlier film of his.

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Do you guys know anything about a party here tonight?

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The director's picture Dazed and Confused focused on Texas teens

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on their last day of school.

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It was well-received with fans as a coming-of-age comedy

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and is often called one of the best high school comedies ever made.

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His new picture, Everybody Wants Some goes on to paint a portrait

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of college baseball players.

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Who the hell are you?

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You are really good at dialogue and social observation in your films.

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This comes across at times as a frat boy movie.

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Did you try to get social observation very consciously

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into it or were you operating on their level?

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I think I had so many years to think about this movie.

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I started wanting to make around 2002,

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so I couldn't help but see it as a social or anthropological critique

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of young men and their behaviour.

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It is fine, they are the party and I am embracing their behaviour,

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but at the same time, I am sort of critiquing it because I look

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back and it is amazing how entitled and swaggering these young men are.

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A couple of rules.

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No booze in this house.

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Number two, no girls upstairs in the bedrooms.

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Early reviews have been very positive, but one review said

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there was too much testosterone.

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Can you understand where that reviewer is coming from?

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I don't know if it is too much.

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There is definitely a lot, but, too much?

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What you have to do is deal with it.

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At least the guys have some wit and humour to them.

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I see some of that is a critique, but I don't know about too much.

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It is balanced out, it is very male.

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Hello ladies!

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Party tonight.

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It is very much a Texas film, set in Texas and I think shot

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entirely within the state.

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What is it in terms of its content that will make it

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appealing to audiences who don't live in Texas, or who aren't

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familiar with the culture?

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I think some things don't change, either over time or geography.

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There is a point in everyone's life where they leave home

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and head out to the next adventure in their life, and developmentally

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they are in a new stage.

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I think people can relate to that.

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And also the social situations you find yourself in.

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You are the new kid and in with others, whether it is

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your first day of a job, or...

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That is the human condition, I think everyone can relate to that.

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One day in Austin history will live in history.

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August 1, 1966, when a sniper climbed to the top

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of the University of Texas tower behind me and started firing

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at random at individuals below.

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16 people died and three dozen were wounded.

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It was the first mass college shooting of its kind in the US.

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Nowadays they have become routine.

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One South by Southwest documentary artfully recreates what happened

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on that day, partly through the use of animation.

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It is called Tower.

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There is a sniper on the university tower firing it will.

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For those old enough to remember the shootings in Austin on August

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1, 1966, it was horrifying.

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A 25-year-old engineering student at the top of the tower engaging

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in a killing spree.

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This event really sliced a giant wound into the psyche of this town.

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You have to remember that the shooting happened three years

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after the JFK assassination, so the entire world had focused

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its attention on Texas.

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To have this happen on the heels of that really change the way

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people around here saw themselves.

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Today, Austin is much bigger than it was then.

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16 people were killed, so the connection points went deep

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throughout the community.

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The film blends animation with live-action.

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Using animation to simulate a mass killing sounds rather odd.

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The words come from young people recounting

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the oral history of the survivors.

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One student who was shot said they really embraces what

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the director did using animation.

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It was so much better than acting or anything else would have been,

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because they had the ability to get the idea across

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much better with animation, it would have been wooden with actors

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and actresses saying our words.

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The sole purpose was to get oral history, and the animation

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made it possible to do that.

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You could have put it together using live actors in your docudrama.

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What do you think animation brought to the final result?

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When I pitched the animation to several producers I was rebuffed

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because they said, no, this is such a personal story, and animation will

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keep audiences at arm's length.

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I have worked with animation, and I know the opposite is true.

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There is a kind of intimacy you can get without the

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tremendous production costs that I knew I wouldn't be able to afford.

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This comes as a controversial law is debated, allowing students to

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carry firearms onto campuses.

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The fact that someone next to you in class could have a gun

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in a backpack, that is absurd.

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I do hope Texans see this movie and it makes them feel something and

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they want to speak out about it.

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Tower is not so much an overt political film as a look

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at how humans respond to a crisis.

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One of the most remarkable characters is

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Claire Wilson, who was 18 years old and pregnant at the time.

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Not only was she shot but she also lost her baby,

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and her boyfriend, who was right next to her, died in the mayhem.

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But she has forgiven Charles Whitman, the sniper

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responsible for the slaughter.

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I guess I just believe that people constantly are making choices, and

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he made some really horrible choices that hurt us, and I can't blame him.

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I think we all have the capacity for great evil in us,

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but we just keep making choices do not act out that evil.

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Tower is certainly engaged audiences at the festival

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and won the top documentary prize.

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Although it is a film showing gun slaughter it is

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unlikely to shift entrenched opinion on gun ownership in Texas.

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It does show without doubt the true heartbreak that firearms can bring.

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There is a fair amount of biking in Austin, and one of the films

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shown at the festival focused on a group of female cyclists whose

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mission is to reclaim the streets.

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They are also trying to dismantle a number of stereotypes.

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The Ovarian Psychos sprung up in East Los Angeles in 2011,

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a new force to be reckoned with.

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They were eager to reclaim streets that could sometimes

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be dangerous for women.

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They have a very powerful look, they wear their politics on

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the body, they wear bandannas over their faces, they have a hand sign.

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Everything about them was so clever, so political and feminist

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and unapologetic.

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The films to first feature directors spent two years making a documentary

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focusing on the Ovarian Psychos.

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They wanted to debunk a number of stereotypes.

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In the film we cover that they have been called a gang, that people have

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really focused on the fact that they are brown and from East LA,

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with this stereotypical language.

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I am not one of them but I can imagine that would be

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very frustrating, especially when the work they are

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doing is incredibly political.

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It was a dream to have a collective of women from our neighbourhood.

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They wear bandanna masks, fiercely emblazoned with an image

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of the uterus and fallopian tubes, partly to embrace their femininity,

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but also as an attention-getting move to make people aware of their

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commitment to community healing, reconciliation and antiviolence.

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It is like a Trojan horse or a tool to get people interested.

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A bit like Pussy Riot.

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But the Ovarian Psychos themselves say that it is much more personal

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and internal, and about healing and sisterhood and creating connections.

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All of us have some kind of trauma in our lives.

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For women, cycling can be a political act.

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In the US in the early 20th century a woman riding a bike

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could be labelled unladylike.

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They have faced much backlash, as women engaging in fields considered

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the domain of men always have.

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I think it has become second nature.

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Yes, it is a political act to get together as a group of women

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and ride and claim space.

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For the filmmakers, earning the trust of the

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Ovarian Psychos was a long journey.

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I am a white filmmaker, making a film about an organisation

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of women of colour, and it was not without complications.

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We had to have many conversations off camera in order

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to build trust and rapport.

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Texas is a state where 37% of the population is Hispanic.

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But films about the lives of Hispanics and Latinos don't

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feature that prominently in South by Southwest's film line-up.

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It is about the experience of Latinos living in another state.

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In the US media landscape that often exploits conflict among women,

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such as on the Real Housewives programmes, the Psychos

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and their filmmakers give what many find is a welcome portrait

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of female solidarity and support.

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That brings this edition to a close.

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We hope you enjoyed the show.

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You can always reach us online at our website,

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and you can find us on Facebook.

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From us, here in Austin in Texas, it is goodbye as we leave you with

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a clip from a Gary Numan documentary shown here at SXSW.

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Good morning.

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It has been a predominantly dry week, but each

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