What the Jurors Said
David Edelstein: (NY Mag/NPR)
As we watched the 10 films in this year’s documentary feature competition, we were struck by a somewhat pervasive theme. SXSW is known for exploring, among other things, the nexus between private technology and the public sphere. Given that we’re living in an increasingly private and solipsistic and often insane-making culture, it’s no surprise that documentary – and for that matter fictional – filmmakers have been moved to create stories about the search for community…for something larger than the self....
In recognition of these riches the jury has opted to give, in addition to its grand prize, two special awards, one of which I will tell you about.
In THE SEER, Director Laura Dunn uses the life and work of Wendell Berry as a springboard for exploring the collapse of the agrarian way of life, which means not just farms but the small-town economies they keep alive. The movie’s prologue, which explores the fragmentation brought on by so-called interactive technologies, could be viewed as the definitive anti-SXSW statement. But! But we forgive her because the movie uses the tools of cinema to transport you to another realm. We’d like to recognize THE SEER's Visual Design which includes archival footage, original [wood] etchings between the film’s chapters and cinematography that captures the spirituality of the material world without lapsing into the womb. It is a beautifully grounded piece of work, and so a special award for Visual Design goes to THE SEER.