Two Emerson filmmakers will premiere new feature-length work at the SXSW Film Festival next month in Austin, Texas: Joel Potrykus, a student in the low-residency MFA Writing for Film and Television program, and Jim Cummings ’09.
In Potrykus’ Relaxer, Y2K is approaching, but Abbie needs to beat an impossible level on Pac-Man before he can leave his couch. The film is being screened in the Visions category, for filmmakers [who] “are audacious, risk-taking artists in the new cinema landscape who demonstrate raw innovation and creativity in documentary and narrative filmmaking.”
This will be the filmmaker’s third trip to SXSW; he was nominated for an Audience Award in 2014 for Buzzard, about a bored temp who turns to small-time scams; and he came back in 2016 with The Alchemist’s Cookbook, a kind of contemporary, satanic Walden.
SXSW top programmer Janet Pierson told IndieWire that Relaxer is “very recognizable as [Potrykus’] oeuvre, but it’s different, more involving.
“He’s such a visionary,” Pierson said in the festival preview.
Cummings adapted Thunder Road into a feature from a short film of the same title that he made (and Mark Vashro ’08 produced) in 2015 about a police officer eulogizing his mother at her funeral. It’s entered in the Narrative Feature Competition.
The short version of Thunder Road made it into the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Short Film Grand Jury Prize, the highest in the category. It also took top prizes that year at SXSW (for acting), and the Anchorage International, Atlanta, Champs-Élysées, Chicago International, HollyShorts, Los Angeles, Palm Springs International Short, Provincetown International, and Rainier Independent film festivals.
Cummings was a producer of 2013’s Euphonia, which was nominated for an Audience Award in Austin, and Krisha, winner of the 2015 SXSW Grand Jury Prize. Last year, his 10-minute-long short The Robbery was nominated for a Grand Jury Award at the festival.
SXSW runs March 9-18.