Monday, March 15, 2010

SxSW 2010 - Day 3


What's Open Video and Why Does It Matter?

The first talk of the day discussed efforts to promote Open Video. Members of the Mozilla Foundation and YouTube described recent efforts to move forward with HTML5 and newer codecs. The plans are encouraging, hopefully we will see something substantive by SxSW 2011.

Conversations with Michel Gondry

French born, director Michel Gondry drew the largest crowd for a Film or Music interview this year. The line began forming about one hour before the session started.

Michel discussed his career, his music videos, and of course his films. He had a film, Thorn in the Heart, at the conference this year, but I was unable to make a screening.

Towards the end of his interview he talked about a project he ran through his website. Fans could submit a photograph, and receive a sketch by Michel for $20. Michel later published a book with all of the sketches, and had a copy available on stage. Surprisingly, two people in the audience had purchased sketches, and he invited one of them on stage, for a side by side comparison.

This was a great interview of a great artist. My only lament is that it seemed clear that some things had changed, as Michel moved from Europe to Hollywood. Perhaps not all was for the better.

Michel Gondry

A view of the packed house in Room 18ABC.

Crowd for Michel Gondry

Fun with HTML5 Video

This was another talk about the Open Video. In addition to the support and promise of Safari on the iPhone, there is good news on the Mozilla front. I found most of the HTML5 demos pretty impressive, particularly those using Hot Spots. I'm sure these technologies will pick up a head of steam over the course of the next year.


Camp Victory, Afghanistan

This film was a documentary following a group of advisers from the New Jersey National Guard in Herat, Afghanistan. The US soldiers are responsible for training and preparing the Afghan National Army (ANA), for their role as a functioning peace keeping force. It emphasizes much of the commonality between the Americans and Afghans, while specifically focusing on the relationship between an American Commanding Officer, and his Afghan counterpart, the ANA General.

Throughout the movie, you discover that many of the Afghan soldiers are illiterate, poor, and have poorly maintained and out-dated equipment. It is apparent by the end of the film, that the ANA is still unprepared for the job ahead.

The film ends with the American advisers being replaced by Italians/NATO forces, and follows them back to their homes in NJ. During this segment, it details a rather depressing event where the American CO is informed that the ANA General has died in a helicopter accident. The Colonel is visibly shaken, and laments the fact that accidents like this are common, because the Afghans primarily use Soviet helicopters left behind, after the previous conflict.

It is my hope that this documentary gets wider distribution, since it tells an important story.


This was actually a set of 6 short films, prepared for PBS. Each short was approximately 15 minutes in length. Five of them presented future dystopias where Climate Change and/or our current Financial Crisis have progressed to catastrophic proportions.

I was somewhat disappointed with all 5 of these shorts, because none of the characters in these stories displayed any rebellion or disobedience to authority. In every film, the characters just went along with forced relocation, or whatever else the authorities mandated. Myself and another libertarian friend both decided that we were not enamored of this underlying message.

The last film was somewhat interesting. It was a first person narrative about a plastic grocery bag. After being initially picked up at a grocery store checkout, it is used to carry lunches and tennis balls, then used to curb the dog where it is subsequently thrown out. Ending up in a landfill, it is later picked up by the wind, and travels around the globe.

The narrative was entertaining because they gave the bag a voice, and a personality. I becomes attached to it's maker, the later goes through depression and separation anxiety, before learning to enjoy its freedom. I thought this short was very creative, and well done.

Electra Luxx

This was a pure Grindhouse Exploitation flick, where the main character is a retired, porn actress. Honestly, I felt the story was so-so, even though I enjoyed the hot chicks in spandex. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending upon how you look at it), the projector at the Paramount broke down about 1 hour into the film.

Trying to salvage the day, director Sebastian Gutierrez, and cast (including Carla Gugino of Watchmen fame) climbed on stage with their finger puppets, in an attempt to entertain the crowd. Unfortunately, the theater staff were unable to repair the projector, so we never saw the rest of the film. FAIL. Director and Cast of Electra Lux

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