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America's Parking Lot: SXSW Review

America's Parking Lots SXSW Film Still - H 2012
"America's Parking Lots"

The Bottom Line

Engaging sports doc follows football fans who are displaced by the Dallas Cowboys' move to a fancier stadium

Director

Jonny Mars

Producers

Jonny Mars, Jason Wehling

Jonny Mars explores what goes on outside of a football game in this tale of tailgating.

AUSTIN - Reminding festgoers that George Lucas isn't the only mass-culture mogul with a startling disregard for those who made him rich, America's Parking Lot finds one or two Dallas Cowboys fans obsessed enough to make Star Wars junkies look lukewarm, then observes as the team's expansion plans threaten their devotion. Though it doesn't follow its themes through to an extent that would demand theatrical bookings, Jonny Mars's doc is more than a Heavy Metal Parking Lot-like piece of smirking anthropology; it should enjoy a warm reception at fests and would play well on TV.

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Even viewers who know about tailgating -- in which sports fans congregate hours before a game to stoke team spirit with beer and grub -- may marvel at the seriousness of the "Gate 6" crew at the Cowboys' Texas Stadium: For over 20 years, members turned a chunk of stadium-side real estate into a village for those who live and die with the team.

Mars finds two of these characters worthy of special attention: Cy, a barrel-shaped good ol' boy who spends up to $1,000 per game on meat for his trailer-sized grilling rig; and Tiger, whose house overflows with tchotchkes bearing the team's star-shaped logo, and who admits his first marriage ended when his wife made him choose between her and his team. Both are engaging screen personalities, but viewers will eventually want answers to questions -- namely: what do these men do for a living? -- the film never asks.

The Gate Six-ers are threatened when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones decides to demolish Texas Stadium and move the team to a $1.2 billion facility nearby. Suddenly, ticket costs that were already skyrocketing will go crazy: Fans who want season tickets must first buy a "PSL," which can cost as much as a house, giving them the right to then spend more on the tickets themselves. Many longtime seat-holders are forced to watch games at home instead; those who still come out have a much harder time finding suitable tailgating spots.

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Mars provides an indignation-stoking gloss on the class issues involved here, bringing in journalists to observe that billionaire team owners are getting hundreds of millions from the public for stadium construction, then tailoring those stadiums to the needs of the wealthy. But he doesn't have time to dig into the politics behind such deals in a way that would give Parking Lot broader appeal.

What Mars does do is visit Green Bay, Wisconsin, where a publicly-owned football team provides illuminating contrast with the Dallas crew misleadingly nicknamed "America's Team." There's no mistaking the envy in Tiger's voice as he speaks to citizens whose team loyalty is rewarded by the powers that be, and no missing the film's suggestion that current NFL owners are shortsighted to focus on corporate expense accounts over working-class traditions that sustain a team through the decades.

Venue: South By Southwest film festival, Documentary Spotlight
Production Company: Jonny Mars
Director: Jonny Mars
Producers: Jonny Mars, Jason Wehling
Executive producers: 3What?LLC, Alan Berg, Kenneth Martin
Editor: Robin Schwartz
Music: Curtis Heath
Sales: Jason Wehling, jason@americasparkinglot.com
No rating, 70 minutes