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Monica Castillo at SXSW; #2: unknown pleasures

It’s the home stretch of the South by Southwest Film Festival. The music portion is gearing up, pushing film shuttle buses off schedule, the premiere parties are drying up, and the film folks are slowly making their way home. So I’m catching up on the movies I missed or didn’t even know existed (it happens). Here are some of the best.

 

Dollhouse:” A group of Irish teens + drugs and drink+ an empty home = maybe no “Project X,” but plenty of blarney, blown secrets, and hurtful words. It’s Kristen  Sheridan’s spin on “The Breakfast Club,” with each of the different characters confessing their sins and sharing their demons. But of course, one secret tops them all and could even ruin their friendships. One of my favorites so far, it dabbles into darkness, experimental film, and the subject of abuse without ever derailing into over-the-top camp or  dreary depressiveness. 

 

Sleepwalk With Me:”  This is an adorable film based on the story of a comedian struggling to break through in the business while bartending in a comedy club. I say adorable because done any differently, this would be more of a tragedy, but comedian, writer, director and Swampscott native Mike Birbiglia is just so damn earnest and upbeat (naively so) we can’t help but root for him through his girlfriend problems, misguided career ambitions, and money woes. He breaks the fourth wall, telling his story to the audience while riding in his car as if he was confiding to a friend. He cracks jokes about his past, and the set up never gets annoying. Oh, and the sleepwalking? Yet another obstacle for the budding comedian to deal with while sharing hotel rooms across New England with his girlfriend (Lauren Ambrose). 

 

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivist:”  I thought this was one of the sleekest and most thorough of the docs I’ve seen so far. Starting at MIT with that school’s proud tradition of "hacks" or clever pranks, hacktivism has grown to the global stage after warring with Scientologists, Paypal, and Piracy Laws. This offers interviews with current and former members of Anonymous, explains the role of 4chan in all of this, and shows what happens when individuals DDoS a website (hint: they can go to jail for up to 15 years, longer than the maximum sentence for a pedophile). Director Brian Knappenberger lifts the veil on a very active secret society, revealing its role in the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement. Watch it and learn. 

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