SXSW Film '10 — All My Friends Are Funeral Singers

Tim Rutili is a master entertainer as far as I am concerned.

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, a film in which Rutili writes, directs, acts in and is a member of the band that provides the film’s score, comes close to being the film I had the most fun in during South by Southwest. This is largely in part due to the fact that Rutili’s band, Califone, provided the film’s musical score live — the full band situated on a stage in front of the theater.

The music, a twangy explosion of indy rock sensibilities, country banjo picking and European old world weariness, rocked the Alamo Drafthouse and provided the perfect backdrop for the film itself.

Don’t let my unabashed love for the film’s music take away from the actual movie, though. Rutili’s script, about a would-be fortuneteller named Zel who lives in a house with a collection of wistful ghosts, was trance-like and dreamy — like a washed-out jeans version of Beetlejuice.

The lovely Angela Bettis (May) plays Zel with absolute charm — casting customers (and the audience) a knowing smile that will melt your heart.

The ghosts contained within the film — all dressed in dapper white-tinged variations of whatever they may have been wearing when they died — offer a wide spectrum of introspection into life-after-death. From the man of the cloth and the suicidal bride that found love as ghostly apparitions haunting Zel’s house to the weary-eyed mute girl who offers precognitions to Zel and assists her in her fortune-telling business, the ensemble cast that makes up All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is an absolute blast.

As Zel’s housemates grow increasingly frustrated with being denied passage to the afterlife and being forced to reside in the cramped house — that includes almost a dozen wannabe Casper’s, including a full band of ghost musicians (played by Califone) — they begin to lash out against Zel, a woman who grew up with the ghosts as members of her family after being raised by her grandmother, the house’s original fortune teller.

The movie becomes a battle of wills between Zel and the house’s ghosts — each demanding that the other side hear their case and pay them heed.

I can’t recommend All My Friends Are Funeral Singers enough. Between the beautiful cinematography by Darryl Miller, the outstanding performances by the film’s cast and the haunting score provided by Califone, the film is an unqualified crowd-pleaser.

Although it treads similar grounds as other ghost related movies, the film embraces its musical origins (the film ‘s soundtrack is actually a stand-alone concept album) to become something unique and unparalleled in its genre.

Califone will be touring with the film — providing the live score to accompany the movie. If the band (and the film) comes to your town, take the chance to watch the duel presentation. You won’t be disappointed.

Category: Special Events

Director: Tim Rutili

All My Friends Are Funeral Singers trailer

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The South by Southwest film festival will be held in Austin from March 12 through the 20th. For more information about attending the festival and the films being shown, visit