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“Faders Up: The John Aielli Experience” premieres at SXSW 2024

AUSTIN, Texas – Feb. 12, 2024 – “Faders Up: The John Aielli Experience,” which takes a cinematic deep-dive into the extraordinary life and career of iconic KUTX radio host John Aielli, will premiere at SXSW 2024 at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, March 10, at the Paramount Theatre.
With a legacy spanning more than fifty years on KUT 90.5 and KUTX 98.9, Aielli was enigmatic and controversial, and had a profound influence on Austin’s musical diversity and cultural landscape. Best known for his free form style of sprawling interviews, technical snafus, and stream-of-consciousness musings on art and life, but who was John Aielli off the air? How did a gifted, young opera protege from small-town Killeen evolve into the legendary voice of Austin? The name of Aielli’s show, “Eklektikos,” meant “chosen from the best.” The best of what? Only he knew for sure.

Produced by Blue Suitcase Productions and directed by Sam Wainwright Douglas and David Hartstein, and produced in association with Dox, the documentary film features exclusive archival footage, stylized recreations and heartfelt accolades to the beautifully eccentric and often surreal radio legend. The film shares the life of the “Eklektikos” host both in and out of the studio, using a collage format that reflects Aielli’s eclectic style.

The official premiere will take place on March 10 at 2:30 p.m. at the Paramount Theatre with red carpet details to be announced. Additional SXSW screenings will take place on March 13 from 11 a.m. - 12:20 p.m. and again from 11:30 a.m. - 12:50 p.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema South Lamar. For media who wish to RSVP to attend the premiere, or another screening time, please contact here. For more information on festival passes and more, please see the official SXSW website.

“Faders Up: The John Aielli Experience” serves as a touching tribute to a true radio legend, honoring his lasting mark on both Austin at-large and the medium of radio. Some listeners loved Aielli’s show, some hated it, but all were captivated by his programming. Spending up to six hours a day on air, Aielli would keep audiences on their toes with interviews, music he was interested in that day, live performances, offbeat observations and sometimes dead air. His soothing, calm voice was almost melodic at times, and was one of his most recognizable traits.

“We loved his unique stream-of-conscious approach to radio, and John was such a window into the local culture,” said co-director Sam Wainwright Douglas. “Not being Austin natives, John was very much an entry point to life here. The people here are curious, and that makes the culture vibrant and fosters creativity and collaboration. With a combination like that, I hope we’re always weird here in Austin.”

“We've been in love and obsessed with John since first hearing his unique voice almost 25 years ago. By that point he'd already played such an important role in the artistic landscape of this city,” said co-director David Hartstein. “To be able to bring that to light in the movie and demonstrate John's contribution to the open, tolerant Austin of today feels like a fitting tribute.”

The film has received unwavering support from KUT 90.5 and KUTX 98.9. It’s also a pointed reminder of the consistency of Austin’s creative community and ever-growing landscape.

“John Aielli was such a part of the fabric of Austin that we felt like his story needed to be told,” said KUT/KUTX Programming Director Matt Reilly. “Over his 50-year career, John did his part to shape Austin’s personality without intentionally doing so. It’s such an amazing story. I’ve known Sam and David for several years and always been a big fan of their work. Not only are they great storytellers but have a great visual sensibility. It seemed natural that they should tell John’s story. I think we’re all in for a treat.”

“During his tenure with KUT and KUTX — more than half a century — the classically trained baritone and his ‘Eklektikos’ show eased the city into a new day, with everything from classical to classic rock,” said the “Austin American-Statesman” about Aielli. “A beloved Austin character, he was a top fundraiser for the public radio station, as well as a connective force between listeners and community arts organizations.”

Aielli died in July 2022.
About Blue Suitcase Productions
Blue Suitcase Productions has been a full-service production company in Austin since its founding in 2008. The team includes Principals Sam Wainwright Douglas, and David Hartstein. The two filmmakers met when Hartstein hired Douglas back in 2007 to edit his 2009 documentary “Along Cmake Kinky: Texas Jew boy For Governor.” In the following fifteen years, they have produced and directed many films together. Hartstein won an Emmy and an Independent Spirit Award for producing Heather Courtney’s “Where Soldiers Come From,” and produced the narrative feature “Sister Aimee,” which premiered at Sundance in 2019. With Hartstein producing, Douglas directed “Through The Repellent Fence” (2017), premiering it at The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) Doc Fortnight. Sam won an audience award at SXSW with co-director Brenda Greene Mitchell for the 2016 documentary “Honky Tonk Heaven.”

Rounding out the team is Producer Shelby Hadden, who is also a writer, and documentary filmmaker in her own right, with films that have been screened at festivals around the world. A guest lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) and Texas State University, Hadden has presented a TEDx talk about sex-positivity and has been featured in publications such as Variety, Cosmopolitan, and IndieWire. Hadden also produced the award-winning animated short film, “Tightly Wound,” which was acquired by Condé Nast and now has over 4 million views on YouTube. For more information on Blue Suitcase Productions, see here.

Additional credits for “Faders Up: The John Aielli Experience” include Andrew Miller as Co-producer and Director of Photography, Field Humphrey as Editor of the film, Graham Reynolds for the Music, Sarah McCaskill for Design, and Executive Producers Lynne Dobson and Greg Wooldridge. This project was made with support from Tejemos Foundation and is fiscally sponsored by Spaceflight Records.


Media contacts: Erin Geisler for KUT and KUTX (512) 475-8071