SXSW Chooses ‘Natural Selection’

Robbie Pickering film picks up seven awards; skateboard movie “Dragonslayer” named best doc

"Natural Selection" was named Best Narrative Feature and "Dragonslayer" Best Documentary by special juries at the South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival, which handed out its annual awards on Tuesday night at the Vimeo Theater in the Austin Convention Center.

In audience awards voted by festival attendees, "Natural Selection" and the documentary "Kumare" were among the top choices.

Natural SelectionOverall, writer/director Robbie Pickering's "Natural Selection" dominated the awards ceremony, picking up six different jury awards and one audience award. Not only was it named Best Narrative Feature by both jurors and audience members, but it was honored for its editing, screenplay and musical score, and for performances by Rachael Harris as a sheltered Christian housewife who discovers her husband fathered a child via sperm donation, and Matt O'Leary as the ex-con son she tracks down.

The film had largely flown under the radar at SXSW, with Pickering saying in an interview with Jason Whyte that he would be bringing his "crippling anxiety" to the screenings. Its profile should be significantly higher in the wake of its near-sweep, though SXSW plaudits are no guarantee of commercial or critical success outside of Austin.

Over the past three years, SXSW winners have include the narrative features "Tiny Furniture," "Made in China" and "Wellness" and the documentaries "Marwencol." "45365" and "They Killed Sister Dorothy."

"Dragonslayer," which shares a title with the 1981 Disney fantasy that had a suprise screening at Monday night's SXSW celebration of Ain't It Cool News' 15th anniversary, is a skateboard documentary set in Southern California.

The two winning jury films were each competing in a category with seven other films. Audience awards were given out in four of the festival's seven sections; awards in the 24 Beats per Second, Lone Star States and Midnighters sections will be announced on Saturday, March 19.

Other winners included the narrative feature "A Year in Mooring" (Best Cinematography), actor Evan Ross from "96 Minutes" (one of three Breakthrough Performance awards) and the doc "Where Soldiers Come From" (Best Editing).

This year's SXSW juries included critic Roger Ebert (narrative feature competition), director Jay Duplass (documentary shorts) and animator Bill Plympton (animated shorts).

Awards were handed out in 21 juried categories and seven audience-award categories.

The 2011 SXSW kicked off last Friday with Duncan Jones' "Source Code" and continues through this weekend. Wednesday's program includes the world premiere of Jodie Foster's "The Beaver," Mel Gibson's return to the big screen after his stormy tenure in the courts and the tabloids.

The awards (with SXSW Interactive winners listed after the film winners):

JURY AWARDS

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Best Documentary Feature: "Dragonslayer"
   Director: Tristan Patterson
Best Editing: "Where Soldiers Come From"
   Editors: Kyle Henry & Heather Courtney
Best Cinematography: "Dragonslayer"
   Director of Photography: Eric Koretz"
Best Score/Music: "The City Dark"
   Music: The Fishermen Three, Ben Fries

NARRATIVE FEATURE
Best Narrative Feature: "Natural Selection"
   Director: Robbie Pickering
Best Editing: "Natural Selection"
   Editor: Michelle Tesoro
Best Cinematography: "A Year in Mooring"
   Director of Photography: Elliot Davis
Best Score/Music: "Natural Selection"
    Music: iZLER, Curt Schneider
Best Screenplay: "Natural Selection"
   Writer: Robbie Pickering
Breakthrough Performances:
   Evan Ross, "96 Minutes"
   Rachael Harris, "Natural Selection"
   Matt O'Leary, "Natural Selection"

FEATURE FILM AUDIENCE AWARDS
Documentary Feature: "Kumare"
    Director: Vikram Gandhi
Narrative Feature: "Natural Selection"
    Director: Robbie Pickering
Spotlight Premieres: "Becoming Santa"
    Director: Jeff Myers
Emerging Visions: "Weekend"
    Director: Andrew Haigh

SHORT FILM JURY AWARDS
Narrative Shorts: "Pioneer"
    Director: David Lowery
Documentary Shorts: "Mothersbane"
    Director: Jason Jakaitis
Animated Shorts: "THE WONDER HOSPITAL"
    Director: Beomsik Shimbe Shim
Music Videos: Hollerado, "Americanarama"
    Director: Greg Jardin
Texas Shorts: "8"
   Directors: Julie Gould & Daniel Laabs
Young Filmmaker Scholarship for Texas High School Short: "( __ )"
   Director: Chad Werner

SPECIAL JURY AWARDS
SXSW Wholphin Award: "The Eagleman Stag"
    Director: Mikey Please
SXSW Chicken & Egg Emergent Narrative Woman Director Award: Sophia Takai for "Green"
Louis Black/Lone Star Award: "INCENDIARY: The Willingham Case"
    Directors: Steve Mims & Joe Bailey, Jr.
Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship: Erin Casper

SXSW FILM DESIGN AWARDS
Excellence in Poster Design: "Silver Bullets"
    Designer: Yann Legendre
Audience Award Winner: "Green"
    Designer: Adrian Kolarczyk
Excellence in Title Design: "Blue Valentine"
    Designer: Jim Helton
Audience Award Winner: "Blue Valentine"
    Designer: Jim Helton

Before the film awards ceremony, SXSW also presented its interactive awards as part of the SXSW Interactive Festival. With the exception of the Onion, which won in the Classic category, the awards went to sites that had been launched or completely redesigned in 2010.

Winners included The Johnny Cash Project, Rosetta Stone's Version 4 TOTALe, and Conan O'Brien's Team Coco site. The People's Choice award went to the discount coupon site Groupon, while the Best of Show award for the judges' favorite finalist was given to the Arcade Fire's site The Wilderness Downtown, which uses Google Earth to incorporate each viewer's childhood home into a film set to the band's song "We Used to Wait."

SXSW INTERACTIVE AWARDS
Activism: The Tiziano Project/360o Kudistan
Amusement: Most Awesomest Thing Ever
Art: The Johnny Cash Project
Business: Get Satisfaction
Classic: The Onion
Community: iFixit
Educational Resource: Rosetta Stone Version 4 TOTALe
Experimental: Isle of Tune
Film/TV: Collapsus: The Energy Risk Conspiracy
Kiosk/Installation: Unilever – Smile Activated Vending Machine
Mobile: Airbnb
Motion Graphics: Record Tripping
Music: The Wilderness Downtown
Personal: JKVC Interactive & Print Design
Social Media: Conan O'Brien Presents: Team Coco
Student: FeedSpeaker
Technical Achievement: AP Timeline Reader

People's Choice: Groupon
Breakout Digital Trend: GroupMe
Speaker of the Event: Jane McGonigal
Digital Campaign of the Year: Old Spice: Smell Like a Man, Man
Best of Show: The Wilderness Downtown