Austin-based directors Nathan and David Zellner's dark fable, "Kid-Thing," screens at South By Southwest after playing the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. In the film, young Annie (Sydney Aguirre) roams the countryside of East Texas aimlessly, casually shoplifting, throwing objects at passing cars, and enjoying her freedom, while her father lays about on the couch.
“There’s multiple levels of alienation she’s experiencing,” says David Zellner. “She’s kind of trying to sort [the world] out with kid logic, which is very different than an adult with years of experience.” David says it was important the film be shown from Annie’s point of view, rather than an adult. Working with a child actor led the brothers to present the film to young Aguirre as a “game, or like an extracurricular activity, like sports.”
Sports it ain’t. Annie navigates the world tentatively, untrusting of the other adults and kids she comes across, until one day she stumbles upon on old well in the woods. Amazingly, there seems to be a woman, Esther, trapped inside. Annie offers only cursory attempts at help to the woman. The voice is performed by Susan Tyrrell.
The Zellners had become friends with the past Oscar nominee, and cast her for her unique vocal qualities. “Within one sentence, it can go from terrifying to tragic… a full range of emotions.” “Esther” remains unseen throughout the movie, which begs the question, is she real, or a figment of Annie’s imagination? “Since the movie is from Annie’s perspective, she definitely feels Esther is real,” Nathan Zellner says. “But we as filmmakers leave it up to the audience to decide.”