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Unforeseen, The
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by Jason Whyte

"If you haven't been to Austin, start packing..."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: One of the great things about the annual South By Southwest festival is how well it supports the local film scene and productions, and what’s even better is how actually GOOD of all of them are. I have seen so many local productions that have failed to live up to their potential, and what’s great about Laura Dunn’s great new documentary “The Unforeseen” is that is in parts a love letter to the city of Austin, Texas as well as a careful examination of how the city has changed and developed over the years.

It’s a love letter in the way that Dunn really has a knack for what makes this city live and breathe on a daily basis. I have only been to this city once and only for a week during the city’s festival season, but based on my experiences, she shares what I have loved about it; great community, great people and a real cherished love for the state’s capitol.

It’s true; for the entire week that I was visiting, I could see less local complaining about what is wrong and focusing more on what is exactly right and good about the city. It’s an optimistic town, based on the locals that I spoke with. And through the documentary, Dunn shares the enthusiasm of her township. Through careful interview footage, archival material and stunning cinematography of the city, the film brings us into the township and makes the viewer a participant.

Robert Redford even shows up at one point and is interviewed directly infront of the town’s cherished lake, and it is a special moment in the film, to see someone as respected and noted in this industry, both film-wise and politically, to share his insights into what makes the city unique.

On a more filmmaking-geek mode, I have to point out that Terrence Malick was one of the executive producers and I was so in love with the fact Dunn used cues from The Album Leaf and Sigur Ros for her soundtrack selections. These are music groups that specialize in creating mood with their spatial and creative soundscapes, and for me, when I hear these songs start up, I drop everything I do and listen. There are also welcome nods to Arvo Part and the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, and cinematographer Lee Daniel (best known for lensing some of Richard Linklater's films) deserves major credit to the great visual look of the film. To take these elements and make them cinematic in a documentary is a rare and important step, and one that should be taken more often.

Will the documentary work outside of its home town? It’s hard to say; if you’re living in Portland, Maine and this documentary hits their annual film festival, would the audience complain that there’s not a similar-themed doco on their town? Had I not visited Austin for SxSW, would the film have nearly as much impact on me? Again, hard to say, but if Dunn and her co-filmmakers were smart, they could even listen to this potential complaint and take their crew on tour and cover some other cities. Whatever the case, “The Unforseen” will make you want to visit here.

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originally posted: 04/17/07 17:28:30
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2007 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Independent Film Festival of Boston For more in the 2007 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.

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  29-Feb-2008 (NR)
  DVD: 30-Sep-2008



Directed by
  Laura Dunn

Written by

  Robert Redford

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