The Best and Worst Movies of the 2018 SXSW Film Festival

Some thoughts on what we saw in Austin this year.

ARTSY DOCS
Nothing like a good non-fiction film that sends you scurrying for a photo book or some new records after.

Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable

Winogrand, a growling straight-talker with a Bronx accent and an eye for visual poetry, was a street photographer – one of the great ones. This documentary portrait from American Masters and director Sasha Waters Freyer utilizes a loose biographical structure to explore his recurring motifs, and to close-read some of his best pictures’ compositions, themes, and influences. It’s not a total shine-job – Fryer doesn’t shy away from the shortcomings of the work, or the controversies surrounding it – but it admires him regardless, and cleverly figures out ways to see, through him, a modern history of the form.

A Tuba to Cuba

This documentary from directors T.G. Herrington and Danny Cinch is something of a reverse Buena Vista Social Club, in which members of New Orleans’ beloved Preservation Hall Jazz Band travel to Havana and Santiago to unearth musical and cultural traditions, and make connections from Cuban to jazz music that transcend language. Affection for these cities resonates in every frame, as well as for these old pros and their musical battle scars, and since it’s told from inside the group, there’s a welcome musicality to the filmmaking. It comes off a touch disorganized, and by traditional documentary standards, it may be. This is more like a musical performance, exploring themes, pausing for solos, and finding unexpected harmonies.