SXSW: lucky Wednesday

More movies I would particularly recommend:

I heard that The Education of Shelby Knox will air on the PBS documentary series P.O.V. in June (details on the PBS site). I am hoping that Troop 1500 airs on PBS or at least plays in Austin again under the Texas Documentary Tour.
Wednesday did not begin well. It was rainy and chilly outside and I did not relish the idea of parking on the street to see a movie at ACC (Austin Convention Center, not Austin Community College). I didn’t relish the idea of doing much of anything besides curling up in bed with a mug of cocoa.

However, I soon got organized. Let me tell you, I was prepared for the afternoon of SXSW film festival movies. I had my good jacket to battle the elements outside. I put my little notebook in my purse so I wouldn’t leave it anyway. I brought a copy of Emma to read while in lines. I bought some peanut-butter cups out of the vending machine at work and stowed them in the car along with a water bottle so I would have a snack between movies.
It felt quite appropriate that I was going to see a movie about Girl Scouts, Troop 1500, because let me tell you, Be Prepared was my motto for Wednesday.
I was perhaps a little too prepared, though. I got to Alamo South much earlier than necessary. I realized after a few minutes that I thought the movie started at 1:15 but no, it started at 1:45. I could have used the extra half-hour in the office, but I took advantage of the time to run to the drugstore and pick up some Sudafed (before it’s banned by the state of Texas) and even stopped in Half-Price Books for a minute. By the time I got back to Alamo South, the passholders had already been let in the theater and I didn’t have to wait in line. However, I was in the nick of time … the theater sold out, and if I’d arrived any later I would have had trouble finding a decent seat.
While it is great to see that a locally produced documentary is so popular that it sold out quickly, I was sorry to see that there were no reserved seats for the filmmakers. The director and producer, along with some of the girls from the movie, ended up leaving the theater until the movie was over. Fortunately, they came back again for a Q&A after the film.
Troop 1500 is the story of a Girl Scout troop in Central Texas in which many of the girls have moms in prison. They are part of a program where the troop leader drives the girls to the prison every month to visit with their moms and hold a troop meeting. The moms are serving prison sentences of varying lengths: we see one woman released on parole during the time of the documentary, but another has 25 years of her sentence left.
As part of a program that the Girl Scout troop did, the girls themselves interviewed their moms, writing the questions and using the camera to record the interviews.
The documentary also includes old newsreel and Girl Scout promotional films (one had Eleanor Roosevelt … my niece would have been thrilled), juxtaposing the middle-class white-bread Girl Scouts in the films with the girls in the troop and their situation.
The filmmakers interview the girls, their moms, the prison warden, the troop leader, and other people associated with the program and with the families.
I liked this film a lot, particularly some of the techniques the filmmakers used, like the old Girl Scout films. I also liked a series of interviews with the moms in which we saw close-ups of the girls and their moms onscreen. The director, Ellen Spiro, is one of the UT instructors involved in the UT master class I am auditing, and I hope that sometime this semester perhaps she’ll lead a seminar to discuss her own films.
Okay, I will confess that I may have teared up once or twice. I probably would have downright cried if I’d seen the movie privately at home instead of being surrounded by strangers in a crowded theater. I was a Girl Scout through my first year of high school, and worked as a Girl Scout camp counselor one summer in college. One of the things that got me was the way the girls still do all the normal Girl Scout things, like singing the standard songs, in a situation that is quite unusual.
I now have the urge to volunteer for the Girl Scouts. A noble urge if I had the time.
After the movie ended, I headed down to ACC to see The Education of Shelby Knox. I was happy that I’d brought a little snack, which I enjoyed on the drive. Let me tell you, that made all the difference in seeing afternoon movies without a long break between.
This was my first time going to ACC for a SXSW movie. I was worried about parking, but got very lucky and found a metered space on Third near Red River. I must have scrounged every silver-colored coin out of my purse to feed the meter. I found the right entrance very quickly (my boyfriend had told me it was on the north side of the building) and the theater line was right there inside the entrance.
The film pass line for The Education of Shelby Knox was the longest line I stood in for SXSW. The woman behind me assured me that she’d been in longer lines at ACC and got into the films with no trouble.
The atmosphere at ACC was quite different from the other theaters. I felt for the first time like I was actually at a film festival. The music conference people were all over ACC, and I am sure that it looked different than it did during the film and interactive conferences, but that’s not what made it unusual. People were using laptops in the theaters, which they hadn’t done at other venues. (Alamo has free wireless … well, the downtown theater does. I have been unable to learn whether Alamo South has wireless right now.) The people near me in line and in the theater were much more chatty and willing to talk to strangers. I wish I’d gone there earlier.
The theater itself was nothing special. The seats were cramped and not very comfortable. The sections of seats on the sides did not look like they had a great view of the screen. Howeve, the seating was stadium-style, so when I sat in the middle section I had no trouble seeing. That puts it ahead of Dobie right there.
The Education of Shelby Knox is a documentary about a high-school girl in Lubbock who starts out thinking what her parents and church want her to think (she even takes the True Love Waits vow) but gradually develops her own beliefs and stands up for causes that she thinks are important, such as sex education in public schools and gay rights.
The Education of Shelby Knox had the liveliest audience I have seen at SXSW movies. I mean that in a very positive way. They practically hissed when Shelby’s minister said proudly, “Christianity is the most intolerant religion in the world” and then berated her for because he feels she is being tolerant. They also protested when someone said “Liberal and Christianity is like oil and water.” (I am not mentioning the minister’s name here because of Google.)
I was a little jealous of Shelby, who figured out her beliefs and separated them from the ones people were pushing at her, earlier in life than I did. I was also envious that she could have political discussions with her Republican parents, who supported as many of her endeavors as they could.
For me, one of the saddest parts of the movie was a meeting of the Lubbock Youth Commission in which we find out that all these high-school kids who are eagerly promoting sex education in the public schools are disapproving of the kids who want to be able to hold meetings for a gay-straight student alliance on the school grounds.
Another part that particularly hit home with me was someone telling the “liberal” kids, “If you don’t like it, go to another school.” I heard that statement dozens of times in high school. If you don’t like the rules we have set, or the rule that we are arbitrarily inflicting upon you today, you can leave. Shelby replied, “I don’t want to leave. I want to change things.”
Shelby Knox appeared with the filmmakers after the screening, and received a standing ovation. She is a student at UT now. She speculated on how old someone has to be to run for governor of Texas.
One thing I wondered both about The Education of Shelby Knox and Troop 1500: both documentaries contain many scenes where the parents and kids are communicating frankly on camera. I wondered if the making of these movies influenced the families to discuss issues that they would not normally discuss together. (I still don’t discuss issues like that with my parents.)
After seeing two excellent documentaries, I figured I had better not push my luck with more films. I drove to Central Market at Westgate to have dinner with the Austin bloggers. I managed to find Central Market with only one wrong turn and a minimum of cussing about how much I hate that mess of intersections in that area. My boyfriend was there too, and we had a very nice dinner together. We were speculating on whether the cafe food at the Westgate location is generally better than the cafe food at the N. Lamar location. We are not quite sure.
I got home to find some disappointing news awaiting me, so the rest of the evening was pretty low-key. I guess I used up all my good luck on the movies I picked for that day (and on the parking near ACC).

3 thoughts on “SXSW: lucky Wednesday”

  1. Gee…I thought you’d mention bumping into me and getting the frog mural bag as part of the luck! But you made me wonder what the disappointing part was, too. Hope it wasn’t too bad. I enjoyed both those movies. It’s funny that someone ask Shelby at my screening if she was going to run for governor. She must have had a plant as she seems to be plotting to displace Kinky after his terms!

  2. LB, that is because I was waiting to take a photo of me with the cute bag and then post it along with thanks to you. You are thwarting my master plan! (As if I really am all that organized about this, heh.)

  3. stagedoor should have won something, and i really hope that those kids get noticed from that film. Do you think that they will find agents if they dont already have them? i loved the girl with the headshots, she was funny at the q & a. i hope they will all go far

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