Hail to the Turd Blossom

The rest of the country has learned what Texans have known for a long time: Karl Rove, the president's most trusted political strategist, is a scary, scary man. Rove's hidden hand in George W.'s unlikely ascendancy to the international stage will be the topic of Bush's Brain, a documentary making its world premiere at this month's South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin.

Directed by Michael Paradies Shoob and Joseph Mealey, Brain follows the political career of the "turd blossom" (a flower that emerges from a cow pie -- Bush's pet name for Rove) who would be kingmaker. Through interviews with pundits and others who dealt with Rove, the film explores his instrumental efforts in steering the rise of the Republican Party in Texas and making W. the world's problem instead of just ours.

Political films will be a major focus of the festival, which will also feature the premiere of Paul Stekler's election documentary Last Man Standing, about a race for state rep in Lyndon Johnson's old hometown. Other political documentaries include A Perfect Candidate (1996), Vote for Me: Politics in America (1996) and America Is Hard to See (1968).

"I think Texans more than most appreciate taking a look at the political culture of things," says film festival programmer Matt Dentler. "In Texas, we're so used to constant political debate and discourse because this is a state so rich with political history." And, of course, electoral college delegates.

"As a film festival," Dentler continues, "we're able to serve as the same platform as The Daily Show, as MTV. We're just another outlet for finding a really good sense of the political process that doesn't take itself too seriously, that is able to laugh at itself."

Friday, March 12, through Saturday, March 20. Bush's Brain screens at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 13; 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 16; and 10 p.m. Saturday, March 20. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress, 512-476-1320. For info, call 512-467-7979 or visit www.sxsw.com. $7 per film; $50 for all films; $250 for films, parties and panels.

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Lisa Simon