‘Free’ reigns over SXSW film festival

'AMERICANese' wins fest's audience pick

Helming duo Andy Robin and Gregg Kavet’s “Live Free or Die” won the top jury prize at the Southwest Film Conference & Festival at Tuesday night’s kudos ceremony.

Fest, which runs through Saturday at the Austin Convention Center, hands out prizes at its midway point.

Offbeat comedy “Live Free” stars Aaron Stanford, Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Michael Rapaport and Judah Friedlander in the story of a would-be criminal struggling to escape the dreariness of a northern New Hampshire town.

Helmer Eric Byler’s “AMERICANese” was the SXSW audience’s pick for best film, and also grabbed a special jury prize for ensemble cast. Pic follows the breakup of an Asian-American couple with different backgrounds.

In the nonfiction category, “Jam,” by Mark Woollen took the top docu honor. Pic follows the history of the American Roller Derby League. “Maxed Out” by James Scurlock, an exploration of America’s credit card debt woes, grabbed a special jury award.

Both “Maxed” and “Jam” are being repped here by the Submarine sales banner, which specializes in docs.

“Darkon,” Andrew Neel and Luke Meyer’s look at a world of role-playing gamers who take a realistic, intricate battle game to extremes, was named SXSW’s aud award winner in the docu category.

Helmer Matthew Swanson’s “Hiro” won the jury prize for short.

Alt rockers Sleater-Kinney played the awards night after-party at an Austin warehouse on the eve of SXSW’s music confab kickoff.

In acquisitions news at SXSW, Cinetic Media sold the docu “Patriot Act” to Showtime and Hart Sharp Video. Pic, by Friars Club roastmaster Jeffrey Ross, follows the funnyman as he travels to Iraq on a USO tour, using Bob Hope as an inspiration. Drew Carey, Blake Clarke and Kathy Kinney all make appearances.

Showtime said it will air the pic on Memorial Day. Hart Sharp takes DVD rights in the deal.

Buyers were circling docus including “Jam,” “Darkon,” “Maxed Out” and Annabelle Gurwitch’s “Fired!”