Review: South by Southwest Film Wrap Up

Story by Era Sundar, Editor in Chief

‘Unhung Hero

Patrick Moote’s girlfriend rejected his marriage proposal on the Jumbo Tron at a UCLA basketball game. The humiliating scene went viral on YouTube. Ouch.

After learning that the size of his manhood played a role in the rejection, Moote sets out on a global and personal expedition to find out if size really matters.

The film embraces humor and tongue-in-cheek puns, but Moote and director Brian Spitz manage to avoid making a crass, frat-boy flick. Instead they produce an honest, soul-baring documentary.

Moote starts out in a good-natured, not-taking-himself-too-seriously manner as he interviews old girlfriends, consults doctors and visits adult themed shops and museums. He even gets himself and his film crew thrown out of a sauna/bath house in South Korea.

But as the film progresses, Moote succumbs to the stress of filming his intimate journey. In the process he reveals the support of a close-knit family and possibly uncovers a few truths about love. (The film contains some explicit material.)

‘Xmas Without China’

Xmas without China photo
‘XMAS WITHOUT CHINA’ — The Jones family accepts Tom Xia’s challenge to live without Chinese products over the holidays. Photo Courtesy of ‘Xmas without China.’

Feeling patriotic and tired of throwing out their children’s Chinese-made toys because of lead contamination, the Jones family accepts a challenge from their neighbor, Chinese-born Tom Xia.

The Joneses agree to spend the month of December – up until Christmas Day – without any Chinese goods.

The Joneses soon find themselves taking on more than they bargained for. Stripping their home of all Chinese-made products means banishing comforts such as electric lights, the toaster, coffee maker and Xbox. Decorating for Christmas and shopping for presents also take on new meaning.

The documentary soars in its exposure of raw emotion and internal conflict. Xia, who has lived in the United States since he was 8-years-old, considers what it would mean to become an American citizen, and the Joneses try to balance national pride with the ideals of tolerance and acceptance.

What begins as a political, socioeconomic commentary on American consumerism, turns into a portrait of two very different families candidly sharing their versions of the American dream.

‘12 O’Clock Boys’

12 O' Clock Boys
’12 0′ CLOCK BOYS’ — Pug becomes a member of the notorious and celebrated dirt-bike gang. Photo by Noah Rabinowitz

Pug, the 13-year-old son of a former exotic dancer, aspires to join the notorious and romanticized urban, dirt-bike gang known as the 12 O’Clock boys.

Director Lotfy Nathan provides up-close-and-personal access to the hopes, dreams, frustrations and daily realities of a family living in a Baltimore ghetto.

Pug’s mother reveals her struggles as a single parent trying to raise her children to resist the call of the streets. In an intimate scene where the rest of the world seems to fade away, she momentarily escapes her daily struggles as she dances to her favorite Sade song at a local bar.

Pug’s overwhelming desire to join the street-riding gang competes with his potential for success outside of his tough neighborhood. Membership in the dirt-bike gang promises fame and glory as its members perform dangerous stunts and engage the local police in a bitter struggle.

The film explores the viewpoints of both gang members and law enforcement.

‘Touba’

Touba
‘TOUBA’ — Pilgrims wait to enter a mosque in Touba, Senegal. Photo by Scott Duncan

“Touba” is a visually stunning account of the Grand Magaal pilgrimage to Touba, Senegal. The journey is made by a million Muslim pilgrims from around the world each year.

The pilgrimage commemorates the life and teachings of Cheikh Amadou Bamba, whose Pacifist struggle against French colonialism led to exile and eventual house arrest until his death in 1927.

The documentary displays the travels, religious rituals and social trials in vivid detail.

Fabrics dyed in bright shades of saffron, crimson and azure against rich skin tones provide vibrant contrast to the sandy earth and polished marble of the grand mosque.

English subtitles provide insight into the history and cultural workings of the religious organization behind the pilgrimage.

Voice-overs of Bamba’s poems add a sense of solemnity while extreme close-ups and varying camera angles emphasize the scale and magnitude of the event yet acknowlede the personal significance of the pilgrimage.

The film won the Special Jury Prize for Cinematography at SXSW.

‘Milo’

Ken Marino in "Milo"
‘MILO’ — Ken Marino plays Duncan, a mild mannered executive with gut wrenching problems. Photo by Alex Lombardi.

Duncan, played by Ken Marino, suffers from repressed rage. The rage manifests itself as a painful colon polyp — a real pain in the you know what.

The polyp takes the form of an extraterrestrial-like creature that exits Duncan’s colon (think Jeff Daniels’ bathroom scene in ‘Dumb and Dumber’) and kills anyone causing him stress. When the deed is done, it comes back home — the same way it left.

Duncan must bond with and tame the the creature, whom he names Milo, to prevent it from taking out its wrath on the wrong person.

The audience laughed heartily throughout the comedy/horror. Constant toilet humor and other cringe-worthy scenes bring to mind the raunchy pictures shown during the closing credits of “The Hangover.”

The film provides a lighter movie-going experience, but the script and performances lack originality.

This film tapped the star power of actors like Marino whose film and TV credits include “Wanderlust” and “Whitney,” Patrick Warburton  of “Seinfeld” and animated features like “The Emperors New Groove” and Gillian Jacobs of “Community.”

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