SXSW 2011: Women To Watch

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The number of films slated for SXSW this year is overwhelming, and it’s hard to decide what to be most excited about (see the midnight line-up for some inspiration however). Here are two films from the Narrative Feature Competition, both directed by women, that I’m looking forward to:

96 Minutes

96 Minutes is Aimée Lagos’ feature-length directorial debut. The film, like all of the films in the Narrative Feature Competition will have its world premiere at SXSW. I’m a sucker for suspense and enjoy plots that work around a single, pivotal moment (think Amores Perros). 96 Minutes is described as “the harrowing story of a carjacking and four kids caught in the terrifying maelstrom of one night. Intercutting between the car and the beginning of that day, we follow the separate stories of each kid – where they come from, who they are, and how they all ended up in one car on this fateful night.”

After watching Lagos’ short film Underground (co-directed with Kristen Dehnert), I’m thinking she can pull 96 Minutes off. Underground follows a paranoid woman through a city subway system. For most of the 11-minute film, the directors have us exactly where they want us, judging the main character for her prejudices until the end, when all of a sudden we find ourselves evaluating our own preconceptions. Watch Underground here.  And stay tuned for a Sound on Sight review of 96 Minutes from SXSW next month.

Small, Beautifully Moving Parts

A film by two female directors, Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson, I love the double meaning behind the title Small, Beautifully Moving Parts applying to both babies and gadgets. Below is the synopsis for the film about a pregnant tech geek:

Sarah Sparks is pregnant and feeling wholly ambivalent, despite her boyfriend’s pure enthusiasm. A committed tech-geek, she fears she is more interested in ultrasound technology than in what’s being ultra-sounded. When her sister lures her to L.A. for what ends up being a terrorizing baby shower, Sarah keeps her rental van and hits the road in search of the source of her anxiety: her estranged mother, now living off the grid. SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS takes a comic and poignant look at one woman’s coming-of-parenthood in the age of technology.

The film, from the Narrative Feature Competition was inspired by the directors’ web series on the Sundance Chanel, Sparks. Watch episodes from the web series here. I found myself fond of the literal, naïve main character whose services include both counseling you on any anger stemming from your technical problems and attempting to fix those problems.  I can’t wait to see how she maneuvers her world with a growing organism in her belly.

– Alice Gray