SXSW Film Fest 2008: Day Four

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By: Tim Basham

I saw two films about illness today. One, a documentary, is inspiring on a global scale. The other, a narrative, inspires right out on the front stoop.

Flying On One Engine
One of the most engaging docs of SXSW had nothing to do with the Iraq War or politics. Flying On One Engine is simply a beautiful film about a very special doctor, Sharadkumar Dicksheet, who journeys to India from his Brooklyn apartment each year to perform up to 700 surgeries on children with cleft lips and other ills. That alone would make the man special but he does all this from a wheelchair, without a larynx, on social security while being diagnosed with a possibly terminal aortic aneurysm. Considered a god by the Indian public, Dicksheet has been nominated for the Nobel Prize eight times. His take on a couple of the award’s biggest recipients is humorous and poignant.

Explicit Ills
Perhaps taking a cue from Paul Haggis’ Crash, writer/director Mark Webber takes a handful of separate stories and eventually connects them. However, while Haggis interweaves the stories from the beginning Webber waits till the end to connect, and even then it seems a little forced. The stories are interesting, though--two teenagers humorously dancing about romance, two lovers dangerously dancing with drugs, a fatherless boy dancing through the perils of public school and a short, but great, performance from Rosario Dawson. Webber has a good eye for characters and a good sense of story. But the film is more of a compilation of vignettes rather than a complete narrative.

SXSW Parties
Last night indieWIRE threw a good party at the Austin City Limits studio. Lightspeed Champion and The Spinto Band put on two terrific sets with the Austin TV skyline as a backdrop. Tonight Paste hosted the SXSW Film Closing/Music Opening Party at Stubbs with performances from Moby who did his DJ thing, Kaki King who just gets better every time, and a downright electrifying show from Addictive TV.