This is my tenth year attending SXSW Film. I have always loved it. Some years I only had time to see a few films, other times I saw upwards of 30. I have always loved the Documentaries most, the stories being told and the beauty with which they were being told. I accept that I am not a film buff, I cannot speak to aspect ratios, cinematographic effects, and the like. I freely admit that I don’t know squat about how films are made, and I flat out do not have the attention span to sit through a bad movie as do the people who screen films for festivals.
That being said……
I stood in the line to see the ‘Super Secret Screening’ at the Alamo Ritz this year. There was a lot of energetic discussion on what the film could be: Was it ‘Entourage’? Was it a rough cut of ‘Star Wars Episode VII‘? Was it even “something zombie related?” We were all very excited, recalling other Secret Screenings, including ‘A Scanner Darkly’ and ’Hunger Games’.
Three hours later, we were admitted. Jarod Neece of SXSW Film took the stage and announced the film was ‘Roar’, a re-release of a 1981 film that took 10 years to make and during which 70 crew members were injured working with untrained lions. I actually thought he was joking.
Then he brought up Tim League, who continued the joke.
Then the film started.
What were they thinking? I actual flagged the server, paid my bill with a healthy tip, and bailed as soon as I could. I cannot believe that SXSW would deem such poor filmmaking to be worthy of addition to the Festival, let alone the Secret Screening, Its inclusion really is a slap in the face of all the filmmakers whose work was not admitted to the festival. I’ve heard the saying “It’s so bad, it’s good”… Er, no.
Now, so as to not seem too one-sided in my venom for this decision here are a few random quotes from Twitter on the ordeal: (Twitter Handles removed to protect the innocent, feel free to take ownership of these in the comments)
“@drafthouse uses elite secret showcase to promote their distro deal of 1981′s Roar. A campy film for afternoon viewing. Not #SXSW caliber.”
“Mystery Movie was “Roar”.One of the worst films ever made.#SXSW #SXSWFilm”
“Thanks #sxsw for wasting 5 hours of my life #roar #roarmovie #garbagemovie #imadeatwitterforthis”
“Cool of #SXSW to let people wait hours in line for a Drafthouse commercial. ROAR has freakshow appeal but little else.”
“Glad I wasted four hours to watch the most niche bullshit movie. Worst. Commercial. Ever. #SXSW #Roar @drafthouse“
And in the interest of fairness here are some positive quotes about the film: (Twitter handles NOT removed)
“Roar was amazing. Thanks @timalamo and @drafthouse for putting it on! #drafthouseflims #sxsw #drafthouse” – @_brian_s
“ROAR was fantastic and one of the highlights at #sxsw. What a crazy movie! Thanks @timalamo, @drafthousefilms, and @sxsw for showing it!” – @tomzimmermann
“I am thrilled that Roar
is a surprise #sxsw
screening. Mainly because it’s amazing but also because I’ve already seen it. #selfish
” – @scottEweinberg
In my ten years attending SXSW there has always been a ‘best friends’ relationship between SXSW Film and the Alamo, indeed the Alamo locations are my favorite places to see screenings at the Festival. Now it seems as if that relationship has been abused, does SXSW feel it can’t say no to Tim League? Did they drink the Kool-Aid too? I can find no reason why this film was screened other than momentary lapse of reason on someone’s part.
There are other move venues and festivals to promote this. Not at SXSW. Not at my SXSW.