AUSTIN, Texas — Celebrating its fourth year, South by Southwest Film Festival and Conference is rapidly becoming one of the most important film forums in the country.
On Sunday night, Jury awards were given to Arthur Borman’s “Shooting Lily,” a humorous dissection of the failed marriage of a camera-obsessed man, as best narrative feature. Don Howard’s darkly comic chronicle of his home town, “Letter from Waco,” won top prize in the documentary category. Neither film has a distributor yet. Malinda Maynor’s “Real Indian,” Annie Tellier’s “The Lion and the Lamb,” and Britta Sjogren’s “A Small Domain” were recognized in the shorts competition.
Many of the participants this year felt that the intimacy of the event and the opportunity of aspiring filmmakers to interact with established pros in the business recall the first years of Sundance, before it grew out of proportion to become a big international event. Combining thematic panels and new indies, SXSW benefits from a great loca-tion, still fondly described as “Richard Linklater-land.”
Under the direction of Nancy Schafer, almost every screening and panel during the first weekend was packed to capacity.
Last year saw the world premiere of John Sayles’ Texas-based drama, “Lone Star,” and this year showcases several high-profile movies, including comedy-adventure “Traveller,” the directorial debut of Jack Green, Clint Eastwood’s longtime cinematographer, which October will release in platform beginning next month.
Four of the hottest indie filmmakers participated actively in the proceedings. Steven Soderbergh showed his last two efforts, “Schizopolis” and “Gray’s Anatomy” (both to be released by Northern Arts in the summer), and Kevin Smith introduced his sex comedy “Chasing Amy,” which Miramax debuted in January at Sundance.
As usual, Quentin Tarantino attracted a lot of attention — the hottest social event was a reception for him by Louis Black, editor of the Austin Chronicle and founder of SXSW. Tarantino was in town to present Sarah Kelly’s docu-mentary “Full Tilt Boogie,” which he executive produced. “Boogie” is about the making of Robert Rodriguez’ hor-ror/vampire movie, “From Dusk Till Dawn,” which Tarantino scripted and co-starred in.
The film festival, which runs through Saturday, overlaps with two other events: South by Southwest Multime-dia/Interactive Festival (March 8-11) and the South by Southwest Music Festival and Conference (March 12-16).