This week in Film — SXSW Film Festival

It was just over a year ago, on March 6, 2020, when South By Southwest (SXSW) pulled the plug on its film, music and comedy festival. It was the first time in 34 years that the Austin, Texas, show wouldn’t go on, and it was on account of the coronavirus pandemic. Ten days later, the rest of the world followed suit.

So we come to 2021, and in-person festivals are still a hope for the future. For the first cinematic casualty of COVID, virtual is the way it’s going to be.

Which gives those of us who don’t live in Austin a chance to partake in the festivities. Four days (March 16-20), 75 features, 57 world premieres, and a whole lot of music docs. Including Tamara Saviano and Paul Whitfield’s portrait of outlaw country singer/songwriter Guy Clark, Without Getting Killed or Caught.

Cribbing a line from one of Clark’s songs, Without Getting Killed or Caught employs no fancy tricks, just three chords and the truth, to tell the trials and tribulations of Clark’s career. But you can’t really tell Clark’s story without telling the story of his wife, painter and songwriter Susanna Clark. Then again, it’s hard to tell Susanna’s story without talking about musician Townes Van Zandt — Susanna’s soul mate and Clark’s best friend.

The movie makes room for Susanna and Van Zandt, and Rodney Crowell, Vince Gill, Steve Earle — if you want to get to know someone, you have to start with their friends. Saviano and Whitfield relish in these alcohol-soaked stories with the golden hue of a sunset. Nostalgia permeates every aspect of the film, but Clark and Susanna’s relationship comes across the strongest. You get the feeling they fit each other nicely, even when they didn’t. If they didn’t already write country music, someone would have suggested they ought to.

Boulder Weekly Vol. 28, No. 30, “Play these movies loud.”

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