SXSW Film Preview: The Dungeon Masters

Movies are meant to take the audience on a journey, a thrill ride into a new world. We meet the characters that inhabit that world, learn how they think, come to understand and root for them. Their struggle is ours. Rocky introduced us to a struggling boxer and Six Pack made us fall in love with a hard luck stock car racer (we still love you, Kenny!). Good movies don't just have leads. They have heroes.


The film starts typically enough—a lot of fanatical D&D gamers at a convention full of dwarves, elves, wizards, and the occasional stormtrooper (btw, wtf?)—but soon Dungeon Masters takes us into an alternate dimension. Not the one with enchanted forests and nefarious mages, but these surprisingly open people's actual lives. By meeting their significant others, seeing them with their kids, hearing about their own childhoods, and watching their day-to-day struggles, it’s hard not to think that the obstacles they have had to overcome are the same ones that drive some people to become an alcoholic or a gang banger. They just handled it a bit…differently.

Director Keven McAlester has an excellent sense of timing and pacing, keeping several narrative balls in the air as we bounce across the country repeatedly. And local lensman Lee Daniel’s images can sometimes be shockingly beautiful, speaking volumes even in transitional moments.

You probably won’t come out of this film thinking “I would look good dressed up as a centaur!” and you’ll probably still avoid LARPing for the rest of your life (they throw spells! Literally!). But looking at the world through the eyes of these intensely real people in their most vulnerable moments—they search for family, acceptance, and a real sense of accomplishment in a world that seems to offer them precious little—you start to see that these people aren’t weirdos or losers at all. They’re heroes too…just, in a pretty nerdy way.

Clear your schedule and make sure to catch this one Monday, March 16th at 11:30 AM. Check the SxSW film schedule to see other screening times.

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Comments [rss]

  • dpapas665

    The composition of the movie was excellent, but there's no way these subjects were treated with enough care. The director has chosen to include background elements from their lives, likely in order to humanize them a bit, but really just ends up making them all look like losers or sociopaths. I seriously doubt these people are this feckless in real life.

  • Benj

    I think there's been a mistake -- isn't that a still from Bamboozled?

  • mateoraneo

    I admit -- I didn't see last year's version of this movie, so I can't say much about that, but DAMN, this movie was good,

  • oh steph

    I also think that this looks very similar to last year's sxsw hit Second Skin, which was excellent. Can't wait to see it!

  • nickc

    Re: stormtrooper (btw, wtf?)

    Star Wars has had a role playing game for a long time.

    Also, this looks very similar to former UT lecturer and KVRX broadcast advisor Steve Metze's 2004 Über Goober. Will be looking forward to it.

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