Clay Liford is a genius. Clay Liford is also the friendliest guy in Texas (perhaps a bit too friendly when he drinks). He's one of the five best directors in the state, he's a perennial festival favorite, and he's about to save filmmaking and maybe also the universe. I knew all of these things about Clay Liford before I even got to the screening of his latest feature, 'Wuss,' because everyone on the SXSW shuttle to the Rollins Theater piped up to tell me how much they love that guy. From the moment I told the lady sitting next to me what movie I was on my way to see, that bus erupted into a fit of hyper excitement as if 'Wuss' were Pee-Wee Herman's secret word.
Thanks to the Lone Star State sidebar here at SXSW, one of the fastest-growing film festivals in the world is able to host the world premiere of a movie like 'Source Code,' stick a fork in the zeitgeist with stuff like 'Sound of My Voice,' and yet still retain a local flavor (think brisket). Mixed about (but not lost) in this cataclysmic mess of movies, music, and brisket are nine films intended to represent the state which provides SXSW its home, and it's refreshing to see that the festival doesn't ghettoize these smaller films because of their comparatively humble origins.
Instead, the Lone Star State selections are tossed right in with the Sundance hits and genre riots, enjoying prime time screenings at some of the festival's largest venues, including the enormous (and enormously uncomfortable) Paramount Theater. It's a rare and rewarding opportunity for both filmmakers and adventurous festival-goers alike, and the four selections I caught seem to suggest that the brightest stars in Texas are only just starting to shine.