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Powerful Stories Propel SXSW Film's Grand Jury Prize Winners by Mike Sampson " J O R D A N N AY L O R / G E T T Y I M A G E S RICK KERN / GETTY IMAGES I think I cried about four times." This is how director Destin Daniel Cretton remembers the 2013 SXSW Award Ceremony in which his debut film Short Term 12 took home both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for Narrative Features. But it could also be the SXSW audiences themselves who discovered the joy of Cretton's brutally honest and emotional story of a young woman struggling to deal with her job as a supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers. Just three months prior to his film's world premiere at SXSW, Cretton was sitting in a cold, dark editing room staring at the computer screen. In that room he began to put his film together, making decisions he hoped would Short Term 12 Grand Jury and Audience Award winners for Narrative Features. connect with an audience. Actors Rami Malek, Keith Stanfield, John Gallagher Jr., writer/director Destin "It's an experience you can't really quite put into words," Cretton and actresses Brie Larson and Kaitlyn Dever (l-r). says Cretton when describing his feelings sitting with the audience at SXSW. "How relieving and miraculous to watch and feel people connect to all these different decisions you made." In addition to making a great film, Cretton made a great showcase for his actors, including the film's star, Brie Larson. No stranger to SXSW, Larson also appeared in 2012's 21 Jump Street and had roles this year in Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Don Jon, The Spectacular Now and her own short film, Weighting. Larson got the role for Short Term 12 not with a traditional audition but through one Skype call with Cretton who, afterward, knew he had his star. "She's just so raw and spontaneous, even in comedy scenes," says Cretton. WILLIAM AND THE WINDMILL Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Feature winner It's that "raw" performance that was difficult for Larson Tom Rielly, Andrea Barthello, William Kamkwamba, director Ben Nabors and who says, "It took me awhile, but I realized that just because editor Carlos Pavan (l-r). your character's going through hell, it doesn't mean you have village. It is a story that has been told before in books, articles and to put yourself through hell, too. You do the work, then you various media appearances, but how Nabors chose to frame his docucome home, cook dinner and watch The Simpsons and remember who mentary was what won his film the Grand Jury Prize. you actually are." The film was shot across three countries—Kamkwamba's home About Larson's performance, Cretton explains, "She always feels country of Malawi, South Africa and the United States—and instead like she's shooting from her instincts, as opposed to some kind of preof retelling the story we already know, Nabors uses each country as planned, rehearsed performance." context for one act of the boy's story and a chapter in his life. What Adds Philip Lord, who directed Larson in 21 Jump Street, "She is happens to Kamkwamba after being dubbed a "boy genius" and such a talented actor that she doesn't need to be an actor. She could achieving celebrity status in his home country? Can he deliver on his be a director or an author or an artist. Not needing it so badly is her promise? superpower. Her work is just a lucky byproduct of her existence. She's Nabors, like Cretton, was emotional about his SXSW win and espean artist who happens to act." cially what it meant for his subject: "This is a very personal story for "It's always exciting to win an award ,"says Cretton of his night at both myself and the subject." the SXSW award ceremony. "More so than that, it's amazing to be in a In addition, any money Kamkwamba gets from the movie or related room full of filmmakers who you just know spent years in the trenches speaking engagements is sent directly back to Malawi to support making movies the same way you did. It was wonderful to celebrate his five sisters who are attending private school. This is just because with everybody." William thinks it is the right thing to do. One of the filmmakers Cretton was proud to stand alongside and Both Short Term 12 and WILLIAM AND THE WINDMILL celebrate with was Ben Nabors, director of the Grand Jury Prize for touched audiences with their powerful, personal stories. And as the Documentary Features winner WILLIAM AND THE WINDMILL. audiences connected with the films, the filmmakers themselves were The film tells the story of William Kamkwamba, who at age 14 touched in their own way as well. ■ constructed a working windmill that delivered power to his Malawi 44 S X S W O R L D / M AY 2 0 1 3

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