This year is the fest's 10th anniversary, and programmers have put together a nice retrospective of memorable films from SXSW's past. Some - Swimming With Sharks, Dancer, Texas, Pop. 81 - may have shown up in a theater near you, but others are rare treats. Most noteworthy is It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books, the little-known debut film by Slacker's Richard Linklater. Closely related to the trippy philosophical rambling of Slacker and Waking Life, the dreamlike narrative isn't the least alienating story ever told, and wouldn't win over many new fans, but it's an intriguing look at the origin of one of Texas' most interesting filmmakers.

Other special retrospective presentations include The Hired Hand, a 1971 Western directed by Peter Fonda (who will be interviewed before a live audience of conference registrants on Saturday) and a series of three films by one of Mexico's most prominent directors, Arturo Ripstein.

The main focus, of course, is on new films. Some (studio productions such as Phone Booth, for instance) will open within months, some are almost surely due for arthouse distribution (Christopher Guest's new folk mockumentary, A Mighty Wind, seems a sure thing), and some will never grace a silver screen again. It's sometimes hard to say which category a film falls into, so the wise cinephile will follow his nose.

Notable to indie scenesters will be new films from Nancy Savoca (director of Dogfight and True Love) and Michael Almereyda (Nadja, the smart revision of Hamlet starring Ethan Hawke). Others will be happy to find new films starring Guy Pearce (Memento), Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under), and The Pianist's Adrien Brody. Robert Duvall will be on hand with his new effort as a director, Assassination Tango, Woody Harrelson will star in a documentary sure to involve the legalization of some demonized weed, and Texas' least likely musical incubator - Lubbock - will get its due.

There's far more going on than we can list here, but www.sxsw.com has a complete list of films, even if it's not the easiest Web site in the world to navigate. Happy hunting, and whatever you do, don't trip over the studio execs - they have lawyers. •


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