Screen by screenwest

This year’s South By Southwest film festival features winning movies in ‘Chef’, with Jon Favreau, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Downey jnr, ‘Frank’, with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson; Mike Myers’s ‘Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon’; and ‘The Legend of Shorty’, about the cartel boss Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman

Sat, Mar 22, 2014, 01:00


Ping Pong Summer
Michael Tully’s likeable coming-of-age flick Ping Pong Summer takes us back to 1985 as Radford Miracle arrives in Ocean City, Maryland, with his family for summer holidays. At the Fun Hub games arcade, Rad befriends a fellow hip-hop fan, Teddy Fryy, falls for Stacy Summers and clashes with a rich kid and bully, Lyle Ace, and his sidekick, Dale Lyons.

Table tennis becomes the way to settle the dispute between Rad and Lyle, and it all leads to a tense climax as they duke it out with bats, topspin and, in Rad’s case, some body-popping dance moves.

There are strong performances here from Marcello Conte, Susan Sarandon, Amy Sedaris and Lea Thompson.

As always, SXSW Film is showing many fascinating documentaries. The most entertaining – and enthralling – is Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon , Mike Myers’s rollicking study of the lovable-rogue entertainment-business manager.

Since bumping into Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix at the Landmark in Los Angeles in the 1960s, Gordon has lived the “been there, done that, got the T-shirt” lifestyle. He has managed Alice Cooper for more than 40 years, lasted just nine days as Pink Floyd’s rep, worked with Anne Murray, invented the celebrity chef, accumulated a vast contacts list of the rich and famous and, by all accounts, had a whale of a time.

It’s told through a superbly edited series of re-enactments and interviews with Michael Douglas, Willie Nelson, Tom Arnold, Myers and many more. The fondness of Myers and the others for the man is evident, but Gordon, who has a permanent twinkle in his eye, is rightly the real star of this big-hearted, zinger-filled, hugely entertaining profile.

The Legend o f Shorty sees the British film-maker Angus MacQueen and the reporter Guillermo Galdos go in search of the Mexican drug-cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. They get incredible access to the people around Guzman, including lawyers, harvesters and even the pilot who flew the cartel’s planes into the US. But Guzman himself proves more elusive, and the Mexican police get to him before the film-makers do.

Other documentaries of note at SXSW include Harmontown , in which the Community star Dan Harmon takes his Harmontown podcast on tour; No No , the story of the maverick Pittsburgh Pirates baseball player Dock Lewis, set to a thumping soul soundtrack scored by the Beastie Boy Adam “Ad-Roc” Horovitz; and The Possibilities Are Endless , James Hall and Edward Lovelace’s portrait of the Scottish musician Edwyn Collins as he relearns to walk, talk and play music after having a stroke, in 2005.

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