SXSW: Sylvio

Sylvio works for a collection agency call centre and makes films with puppets and miniature props in his spare time. He’s a pretty lonely guy, at least partially because he’s a gorilla who doesn’t speak human. He hides his pain behind cool sunglasses.

But then Sylvio finds his niche: he’s always been unintentionally great at breaking things, and now he’s found a platform that appreciates this special talent of his – local television.

This film may be about an ape but there’s a lot of humanity to it. Sylvio is the most literal of outsiders, and he just wants to belong, to be himself, to be accepted, to do what he’s best at. It’s tinged with sadness because Sylvio soon finds that success and commercialization aren’t the same as acceptance.

According to IMDB, Sylvio is played by Sylvio himself. Apparently Sylvio’s had a very popular act on Vine for years, and this film is due to people’s demand for more. Written by Kentucker Audley, Albert Birney, and Meghan Doherty (and directed by the former two), Sylvio is surprisingly soulful for an ape who doesn’t speak. I know it sounds a little wonky and I wasn’t sure myself if this was worth the time, but Audley and Birney have found a way to take 6-second meditations and actually make something of them. Sylvio turns out to be a thoughtful, well-realized film. It feels strange even saying that because Sylvio’s silence makes him pretty inscrutable. Am I projecting? Anthropomorphizing? Or is Sylvio truly a critique of the internet culture, the same one that gave birth to its origins?

The one thing it isn’t is pointless. This is what independent cinema is for, and SXSW is the perfect venue for it. It’s playing today, March 15th, at Alamo Lamar.

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17 thoughts on “SXSW: Sylvio

    1. Jay Post author

      To be honest, I had my doubts going in. And if I’d have known it was based on some web content, that probably would have increased them. But this was bizarrely sweet and I enjoyed it.

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  1. Susan Leighton

    I can already tell it will speak to me because I worked in collection call centers for several years in my former life. Like Sylvio, I felt like an outsider. Something tells me this film is going to be a 5 tissue deal.

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    1. Jay Post author

      There are some funny call centre moments. But there’s also this part where I think we’re supposed to remember that the people calling with bad news, they’re people too – the irony being that of course Sylvio is not. But you know what I mean. That it’s not that these people are heartless, they’re doing their job, and it’s a hard one.

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  2. Christopher

    I know this isn’t going to be a blockbuster or even get wide attention, which I think says more about us–the society we’re part of–than Sylvio, and yet he’s the one who’s labeled the “outsider”.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Well, he has a voice translator – he can type things into a computer and it’s read aloud. Mostly you find he doesn’t need to talk. His gaze can be quite unsettling.

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