[FoRK] Rove focus in film at SXSW

jbone at place.org jbone at place.org
Fri Mar 12 11:18:30 PST 2004


Politics Is Focus at Texas Film Festival

Thu Mar 11, 5:57 PM ET
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By CHRISTY LEMIRE, AP Entertainment Writer

It'll be politics as (un)usual at the South by Southwest film festival,  
where the focus in President Bush (news - web sites)'s home state will  
be on the very forces that elevated him from the governor's mansion to  
the White House.

The festival, which begins Friday in Austin, Texas, and runs through  
March 20, features several political discussions and documentaries,  
most notably "Bush's Brain," about presidential adviser Karl Rove.

Festival producer Matt Dentler said it was only natural to make  
politics the main theme in such an intense election year.

"Every festival we do is sort of a signal of the times. Right now, the  
times are full of a lot of political debate, political discussion,  
political entertainment," Dentler said.

"Austin and Texas — it's such a weird political state, with all the  
redistricting going on and all that stuff, and the fact that George  
Bush was the governor of the state for years before becoming  

Hence the presence of "Bush's Brain," making its world premiere  
Saturday night. The documentary is based on the 2003 book of the same  
name by veteran Texas journalists Wayne Slater and Jim Moore, which  
depicts Rove as the most powerful political consultant in American  
history and, in essence, a co-president.

"I knew the moment I met (Rove) back in the late '70s that he was  
different," said Moore, a former television correspondent who has  
covered Bush since his unsuccessful run for Congress in 1978. "He was  
unbelievably intelligent but he seemed to be different in a way. ...  
Every time I've been asked to describe Karl, I say there's a darkness  
in him that other people don't have."

Rove was interviewed for the book but declined repeated requests to  
take part in the film. He also declined to return calls for comment on  
the film from The Associated Press.

Even though many people in Austin have been on the winning and losing  
ends of Rove's strategies, Moore expects the film will be received  
"extremely well" there.

"I wouldn't be surprised if Karl has some people in the audience to  
jeer or cause a disruption," he said.

And Elizabeth Reeder, the film's co-producer, predicted: "We're ready  
for some challenges at the screening."

"I think we have blown our invitation to Rick Perry's house for  
dinner," Reeder joked, referring to the positive reception the Texas  
governor gave the political documentary "Journeys With George" when it  
screened at South by Southwest two years ago.

Despite the slogan "Texas: It's Like a Whole Other Country," Texas  
really isn't so different politically from the rest of the United  
States, said Austin-based documentarian Paul Stekler, a former  
political consultant.

"When you look at Texas politics, it's unique in terms of the  
iconography and the mythology of Texas," said Stekler, whose films  
include the award-winning "George Wallace: Settin' the Woods on Fire."

"But a lot of the stuff going on here is going on all over the  
country," he said.

Stekler's latest film, "Last Man Standing," also is making its world  
premiere at South by Southwest. It's a behind-the-scenes look at how a  
small-town election is indicative of the kind of Texas politics that  
spawned Bush's career.

"This is probably the most closely divided the country has been in a  
century and we're sort of at the vortex of it," Stekler said. "We're  
divided over George Bush. ... You say 'Texas' and it provokes all these  
visceral reactions."

Also on the political front, former Howard Dean (news - web sites)  
campaign manager Joe Trippi will be the keynote speaker at the  
concurrent South by Southwest interactive festival.

On the film side, discussions are planned with Gary Ross, the  
writer-director of "Seabiscuit" and "Pleasantville"; "Animal House"  
director John Landis, whose documentary "Slasher" will premiere at the  
festival; and Jonathan Demme, director of "The Silence of the Lambs,"  
who's showing his documentary "The Agronomist."

And, of course, there are the films themselves, some of which come with  
the buzz of acclaim from earlier festivals. Among them:

_ "Code 46," the opening night film, starring Tim Robbins (news), a  
recent Oscar winner for "Mystic River."

_ "Dogville," Danish director Lars Von Trier's three-hour indictment of  
America, starring Nicole Kidman (news).

_ "Jersey Girl," starring Ben Affleck (news) and even less of Jennifer  
Lopez (news) than there was before their very public breakup. (Director  
Kevin Smith (news) recently cut the scene in which the two marry.)

_ "Super Size Me," about the evils of fast food consumption, which  
earned Morgan Spurlock — who eats nothing but McDonald's for a month in  
the film — the documentary directing prize at Sundance.

Dentler, the festival producer, said "Super Size Me" is "more relevant  
now than ever" in light of the McDonald's decision to phase out  
super-sized versions of its meals.

"We fell in love with it even before it played at Sundance," he said.  
"Everyone in America has had fast food at some point in their lives."


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