SXSWORLD March Film + Interactive 2013


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Personal Stories Enhance Documentary Spotlight Program by Mike Sampson A COURTESY OF THE WILLIAMSON COUNTY SUN ANDREW CURTIS n anarchist screenwriter. A Sobchak from The Big Lebowski) than devoted secretary. A larger-thanhis work. MILIUS aims to change that. life female impersonator. An Despite an IMDb page that boasts obsessed swimmer. This year, their classics like Dirty Harry and Jaws as stories—wildly different, yet strikwell as longtime friends like Steven ingly similar personal tales—will be Spielberg and George Lucas, Milius told during SXSW Film as part of the describes himself as a Hollywood outDocumentary Spotlight section. sider. Unlike many of his colleagues, There is John Milius (MILIUS), best Milius is an unabashed right-winger and known for his work writing Apocalypse self-described anarchist, who refused to Now and directing Conan the Barbarian, change for anyone even if it cost him who alienated Hollywood and risked his his career. "He doesn't write for pussies career with his non-conformist beliefs; I Am Divine and he doesn't write for women," says Harris Glenn Milstead (I Am Divine), Sam Elliott in the film in that signature otherwise known as the drag queen Sam Elliott drawl. "He writes for men. Divine, the "filthiest person alive;" Because he's a man." Michael Morton (An Unreal Dream), a Buck Angel is a man. But he wasn't husband and father who spent 25 years born that way. in prison for a crime he didn't commit; As a young female model, Angel was Freda Kelly (Good Ol' Freda), hired in successful but still knew something was 1962 to work as the official secretary to wrong. He was crippled by depression The Beatles; Buck Angel (Mr. Angel), a and turned to drugs and alcohol before female-to-male transgender working as eventually attempting suicide. Angel a fetish filmmaker and outspoken advowould eventually get a double masteccate for LGBT rights; and Diana Nyad tomy and begin a new life as a man. (The Other Shore), a 63-year-old woman He stars in, produces and directs his dedicated to breaking the open water An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story own line of adult films and has become long distance record by swimming from an icon in the LBGT community. But Cuba to Florida. Angel has one last challenge: telling his parents about his unlikely fame. These people and their incredible journeys are among the highlights On the 1963 Beatles Christmas Record, John, Paul, George and of this year's documentaries, through which a recurring theme of hope, Ringo shouted together "Good ol' Freda!" forever giving a different kind of unlikely fame to Freda Kelly, a teenager who had been hired to perseverance, originality and personal struggle flows. run the just-launched fan club. Her story is the centerpiece of Good Ol' I Am Divine follows the story of Divine, the man often called "The Freda, one of the very few documentaries that comes with the support Most Beautiful Woman in the World." It is a film that director Jeffrey and blessing of the living Beatles. Schwartz calls the "ultimate 'it gets better' story" of a young fat, gay kid When she was hired, The Beatles were still just a group of mercilessly bullied in middle-class Baltimore, who eventually became a Liverpudlians trying to make it big, but Freda had faith and stuck with cult superstar. them throughout their 10-year existence. Even after the band broke up, "He had to find his own way in the world," says Schwartz. "All the Kelly stuck around for another two years and personally answered every bullying and ridicule, he channeled that teen angst into creativity." bit of mail in the fan club's office. Schwartz adds, "He was at peace with his life. He gave us hope that It is that similar kind of dedication that helped finally free Michael anything's possible." Morton, a man wrongfully convicted of killing his wife. After 25 years, For some people, like Diana Nyad, the hope that anything is posMorton was released from jail but not until after a draining journey of sible can even mean a grueling 103-mile swim from Havana, Cuba to despair, abandonment and eventually exoneration, all captured in the Key West, Florida. This grueling athletic feat and Nyad's dedicationchilling documentary An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story. bordering-on-obsession to accomplishing it are the subject of The Producer Marcy Garriott says that it was Morton's positivity in the Other Shore. face of this terrible ordeal that drew her to his story. "He experiences a After multiple attempts, Nyad has been repeatedly stymied by curgreater freedom than most of us can even imagine, and he is shaping his rents, jellyfish and stingrays. However, she is already planning her next life around what is truly important." attempt, determined to make herself a legend in her field and simply These six documentaries all will premiere at SXSW, a place Garriott will not rest until she has completed the swim. says "is the perfect blend of industry, community and art. What hap"He wanted to make himself into a legend," says director Randal pens here has an impact around the world." ■ Kleiser (Grease) of his University of Southern California classmate, John Milius, a man most people know more for the iconic character To learn more about the films in Documentary Spotlight and other sections, he inspired (including John Goodman's delightfully unstable Walter visit 40 SXSWORLD / MARCH FILM-IA 2013

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