What happened
The South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, is becoming better known for its film component. Although it is still widely known as a respectable fallback for films not accepted by the Sundance festival, South by Southwest has also hosted the premier of some hit films, like last year’s Knocked Up. The modest “mumblecore” movement coalesced at South by Southwest, too. “Sundance is filled with people who see films from a business point of view,” said filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. “South by Southwest is filled with people who really want to see your film.” (Variety)

What the commentators said
South by Southwest isn’t an “acquisition marketplace for new films,” said Andrew O’Hehir in Salon. Nor is it a “celeb-spotting glamour zone à la Cannes or Venice.” Really, it doesn’t aspire to be anything but what it is: “a great place to catch movies, directors, and trends way out in the depths of the indie ocean.” Inevitably, “some Austinites and cave-dwelling indie crustaceans” will complain that it has already been “totally ruined” by its success. It hasn’t, but if if does go mainstream, “so what?” It will still be an unpretentious film festival, for film lovers, in “one of the coolest cities in America.”

Still, the “abundance of full houses” this year is a bad sign, said Joe O’Connell in the Austin Chronicle’s Picture in Picture blog. It’s getting to where people with passes can’t get in to some films. “And sure, Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay was a world premiere,” but that doesn’t mean “the suits” had to keep the movie’s “real audience outside” by reserving “a couple hundred prime seats front and center.”

The movies aren’t the “main draw” of the festival, anyway, said Megan McCarthy in Wired’s Underwire blog. Neither is the music. Rather, it’s “the parties.” But even here, the theme was “lines, lines, lines, everywhere you turned.” There was a two-hour wait to get into the “Google drinks-fest” over the weekend, and when you got in it was overcrowded “misery.”

The festival-goers probably didn’t mind too much, considering, said Chris Vognar in The Dallas Morning News. South by Southwest is “a smoky affair,” and the “onscreen puffing” in many of the marijuana-themed movies clearly spilled out into the audiences. Perhaps that’s not too surprising in a “city that prides itself on keeping weird.”