SXSW 2011 – Day 6

A look at the films of SXSW, including 'The Beaver', 'Becoming Santa ' and 'Cold Sweat'.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

I’ll be bringing you daily updates of my South by Southwest Festival experiences. The update covers day six.



Big Air Studios 

This morning I met with Big Air Studios CEO Michael Arrieta for a briefing on his new company’s plans. As part of the Interactive portion of SXSW, Big Air announced their partnership with Cisco for distributing content on mobile devices and on demand. Arrieta is looking for films at SXSW and he says he’s close to deals for two. He was also involved with Kevin Smith developing his plan for Red State and has the deal for Red State’s home video release.


Becoming Santa 

This documentary won the Audience Award at SXSW and I must be having fatigue by this point, because I just thought it was okay. Jack has lost his Christmas spirit since his mom passed away and he moved to L.A., so he tries being a Santa one holiday season to get his Christmas spirit back. He gets deep into the world of real Santa schools and people who live the role year round. The industry of Santas and the emphasis on magic are interesting, but it doesn’t really seem like Jack gets it. He seems condescending towards the whole process, even when he’s getting the natural high from doing good. So, it’s no Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, but it’s definitely an in-depth look at a world we take for granted.


The Beaver 

Mel Gibson did not come to Austin for the premiere of his new movie. Director and star Jodie Foster did though. The film is actually quite good. Gibson plays Walter Black, a man suffering severe depression who takes on a new personality when he puts on a Beaver puppet. The film knows what an outrageous coping mechanism this is, so there is no shortage of awkward Beaver moments. The performances are sincere though. Walter is truly beyond reason, and his son Porter has a sweet relationship with a high school classmate (Jennifer Lawrence) who is also dealing with repressed sadness. The film handles it with sensitivity and keeps the drama entertaining.


Cold Sweat (Sudor Frio) 

This SXFantastic film is everything I want from a Fantastic Fest movie. It’s got a crazy premise and it goes all out, on a small scale so you can’t believe how well it holds together. Roman and Ali go looking for Roman’s missing girlfriend Jacqui, and find her in a house where two former Argentine militia have kept stolen explosives. They rig their house with horrific nitroglycerine traps, so everyone has to move very slowly to keep the nitro from dripping. Pure awesome tension, even with subtitles.