The Best Films of SXSW 2014

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The jury and special award winners of the 2014 SXSW Film Conference and Festival were announced Tuesday night in a special Paramount Theater ceremony hosted by stand-up comic Jerrod Carmichael. (You can also catch him in his first big-screen role in the Seth Rogen and Zac Efron flick Neighbors, which premiered at the festival last Saturday.)

Quirky Generation-X comedy Fort Tilden took the grand jury prize for a narrative feature. In the film, two twenty-somethings in the midst of quarter-life crises take a joyride to the beach, only to discover that arrested adolescence has a few more consequences than they thought. Reviewers have drawn comparisons to both Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and Lena Dunham’s HBO show Girls.

Animals, the unsettling story of two heroin addicted lovers’ attempts to survive in a broken down car, received special jury recognition for courage in storytelling. Meanwhile, Natalie Tena and David Verdaguer were recognized for best acting duo in 10,000 KM (Long Distance), a poignant ode to long distance relationships and the technology that sustains them.

The winner of the grand jury prize for a documentary was The Great Invisible, which offers a peek into the lives of people affected by the 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Interviews with survivors, oil executives, and local residents dig deeper than the typical media coverage, and remind watchers that the story is still far from over.

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Vessel, the tale of pro-choice activist Rebecca Gomperts, earned a special prize for political courage, and 3D printing documentary Print the Legend received recognition for editing and storytelling.

The Gamechanger Emergent Woman Director Award went to Jen McGowan for Kelly and Cal; Richard Linklater received the Louis Black “Lone Star” Award for Texas filmmaking for Boyhood; and Colin Nusbaum won the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship.

A total of 246 films (133 features and 113 shorts) were selected for SXSW from a pool of nearly 6,500 submissions, and 70 of the filmmakers were first-time directors. The Audience Awards will be announced on Saturday, March 15 and Sunday, March 16.

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