SXSW Awards Special Jury Prize to THE SEER

What the Jurors Said

David Edelstein: (NY Mag/NPR)

As we watched the 10 films in this year’s documentary feature competition, we were struck by a somewhat pervasive theme. SXSW is known for exploring, among other things, the nexus between private technology and the public sphere. Given that we’re living in an increasingly private and solipsistic and often insane-making culture, it’s no surprise that documentary – and for that matter fictional – filmmakers have been moved to create stories about the search for community…for something larger than the self....
In recognition of these riches the jury has opted to give, in addition to its grand prize, two special awards, one of which I will tell you about. 
In THE SEER, Director Laura Dunn uses the life and work of Wendell Berry as a springboard for exploring the collapse of the agrarian way of life, which means not just farms but the small-town economies they keep alive. The movie’s prologue, which explores the fragmentation brought on by so-called interactive technologies, could be viewed as the definitive anti-SXSW statement.  But!  But we forgive her because the movie uses the tools of cinema to transport you to another realm.  We’d like to recognize THE SEER's Visual Design which includes archival footage, original [wood] etchings between the film’s chapters and cinematography that captures the spirituality of the material world without lapsing into the womb. It is a beautifully grounded piece of work, and so a special award for Visual Design goes to THE SEER.

What We Said

Laura Dunn (Director, Producer, Editor)

Thank you so much to Janet [Pierson] and to SXSW. I’ve lived in Austin for about 18 years so it’s really special to make a film about trying to find a home in the world… and start it at home. I just wanted to thank SXSW for that opportunity. For Visual Design, I will let my husband say something because he designed the graphics and the prologue... but I DID want to give a shout out to Lee Daniel, our cinematographer. Many of you know him. Lee can’t be here tonight, but he’ll be very excited to hear about this. For his beautiful and poignant work to be recognized means a great deal to me. Thank you.

Jef Sewell (Producer/Co-Director/Graphics)

[to Jurors] Thank y’all so much. Really appreciate it. I just wanted to cite someone who may not get the recognition very often. It’s the …engraver that was mentioned. We have a series of images in the film that were hand-engraved out of pieces of wood by an artist named Wesley Bates. He does a lot of imagery for Wendell Berry’s poetry. But he did a very striking image as our title image and poster for the film so I want to say a special shout out to this guy. It’s unbelievably meticulous work. Talk about painstaking and handmade. It’s a privilege to be able to use his art. It does a lot of work FOR us, thank him and everybody else involved in the film, everybody who came with us [gestures towards crew in audience – Justin Hennard and Lynsey Jones].

Thanks to SXSW and to the Documentary Jury for this special honor. We’re truly grateful.