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SXSW 2011: Harmony Korine rolls into Austin for Die Antwoord short film

March 16, 2011 |  5:08 pm


"Hello, South by Southwest. This is Harmony Korine comin' atcha."

It would a toss-up which is better: one of filmmaker Harmony Korine's notorious, rambling tall-tale live introductions or one of the outrageous videos he sometimes sends instead. For Tuesday night's world premiere in Austin, Texas, of his new 16-minute short film starring the South African rap group Die Antwoord, called "Umshini Wam," he sent along a video.

In a dimly lit room, Korine was seen with short hair and dark sunglasses, with fancy basketball sneakers over his hands. He noted first that the title translates to mean "Bring Me My Machine Gun." (A little Googling reveals that the phrase is based on an African rallying song.) Then things took a turn to what might be called the Harmonious.

"And so what happened was I got stuck in this other place filming something; that's really ridiculous," Korine said to explain his absence in a comicaly slurred and halting voice. "But I had to do it. Anyway, I hope you like this. We made this movie across 15 continents, it took a couple of years and a few million dollars, but in the end it was all worth it."

As one might expect, none of that description turned out to be particularly true from what followed onscreen.

The film certainly is a step up in production value from Korine's shot-on-VHS "Trash Humpers," as "Umshini Wam" has a rich and lustrous look, with deep, vivid colors and crystal-sharp definition. The images even have wide-screen compositions courtesy of cinematographer Alexis Zabe, who also shot "Silent Light" for Mexican filmmaker Carlos Reygadas. (Reygadas is thanked in the film's end credits.)

The film follows Ninja and Yo Landi, the male and female duo who make up Die Antwoord, as they roll in wheelchairs around a desolate subdivision and semi-rural alleyways that look similar to the Nashville locations for "Trash Humpers."

There are background beats credited to DJ Hi-Tek and a brief interlude of computer graphics that includes an alien head that shoots lasers from its eyes. The entire thing feels like some kind of backwoods internationalist gangsta rap fantasia. In its closing moments the film turns unexpectedly affecting and even kind of sweet as the two vagabonds ready themselves for sleep. (Which makes one wonder what would have happened if those rumors of Yo Landi being considered for the lead in David Fincher's version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" had come to fruition.)

After "Umshini Wam," Tuesday night's program also included a screening of "Night Fishing," the 33-minute short shot entirely on an iPhone 4, directed by the duo of Park Chan-wook and Park Chan-kyong under the credit PARKing CHANce. The film won a prize for best short film at this year's Berlin Film Festival, but the crowd Tuesday night appeared more cool to it, though it seemed most in attendance had turned up for the Harmony Korine short.

— Mark Olsen in Austin, Texas


Photo" A scene from "Umshini Wam." Photo credit: SXSW.


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