As many years as I've been going to Austin for film-releated events, it shocks me that last year was my first time visiting SXSW from end to end, and I loved it. Each film festival has its own energy, and the fact that SXSW is half music-fest, half film-fest gives it a very unique party vibe. This year's festival sounds like it's going to be amazing, and we'd already heard a few titles that would be screening, like the opening night film, "Kick-Ass."
The official line-up has now been announced at the festival's website, and let's take a look at each of the sections of the festival, pointing out some of the major highlights we can expect to see and cover this year. Since I've already reviewed many of the films, I'll include links where I can:
These are the big tickets, the red-carpet premieres and the films that will most likely get the most initial coverage, the ones that are essentially programmed to make sure the smaller films get a shot at coverage. Every festival does this, and I think it's interesting to see how this section is programmed, because it says a lot about a festival's overall taste and clout:
Directors and Screenwriters: Jay and Mark Duplass
With John’s social life at a standstill and his ex-wife about to get remarried, a down on his luck divorcee finally meets the woman of his dreams, only to discover she has another man in her life – her son. Written and directed by Jay & Mark Duplass, the iconoclastic filmmaking team behind The Puffy Chair, Cyrus takes an insightful, funny and sometimes heartbreaking look at love and family in contemporary Los Angeles. Cast: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh
Director: Aaron Schneider, Screenwriters: Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell
A film spun out of equal parts folk tale, fable and real-life legend about a mysterious, 1930s Tennessee hermit who plans his own rollicking funeral party... while still alive.
Cast: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray
Director: Matthew Vaughn. Screenwriters: Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn
A twisted, funny, high-octane adventure, based on the comic written by Mark Millar and John S. Romita, Jr. The film tells the story of average teenager Dave Lizewski, a comic-book fanboy who decides to take his obsession as inspiration to become a real-life superhero.
Cast: Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Chloë Grace Moretz and Nicolas Cage. (World Premiere)
Director: Jorma Taccone. Screenwriters: Will Forte & John Solomon & Jorma Taccone
Will Forte brings his clueless soldier of fortune to the big screen in the action-comedy MacGruber.
Cast: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Powers Boothe, Maya Rudolph and Val Kilmer (World Premiere)
'Micmacs / Micmacs à tire-larigot (France)'
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Screenwriters: Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant
Drawing on one of France's most popular screen stars, the incorrigible Dany Boon from the comedy megahit Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis, as well as a cast of some of the country's best-known actors, Jeunet turns on the afterburners in this searing piece of romantic filmmaking set against the storm clouds of warring arms dealers.
Cast: Dany Boon (U.S. Premiere)
'Mr. Nice (United Kingdom)'
Director and Screenwriter: Bernard Rose
The true story of Howard Marks. He was Britain's most wanted man. He spent seven years in America's toughest penitentiary. You'll like him.
Cast: Rhys Ifans, Chloë Sevigny, David Thewlis, Luis Tosar, Crispin Glover, Omad Djalili. (World Premiere)
Director and Screenwriter: Floria Sigismondi
The Runaways follows two friends, Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), as they rise from rebellious Southern California kids to rock stars of the now legendary group that paved the way for future generations of girl bands.
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Scout Taylor-Compton, Michael Shannon, Alia Shawkat, Tatum O'Neal."
I'm looking forward to "Mr. Nice" and "MacGruber," and I'll absolutely be seeing "Kick-Ass" again to see it finished. It's a strong section, and there's a lot of star power on display here.
These are films making their premieres, either regional or worldwide, both documentary and narrative:
"'Audrey the Trainwreck'
Director and Screenwriter: Frank V. Ross
Audrey the Trainwreck is a comedy about attempting to keep life simple, and the beauty of such an absurd pursuit. Most men live lives of quiet desperation – Ron’s desperation is about to get loud.
Cast: Anthony Baker, Alexi Wasser, Danny Rhodes, Rebecca Spence, Joe Swanberg, Jess Weixler & Nick Offerman (World Premiere)
Directors: Georgia Sugimura & Kristin Armfield (Co-Director). Screenwriter: Georgia Sugimura
Keeping the independent/punk spirit alive, barbershop quartet fan Robb Topolski takes on the nation’s largest cable company, only to find himself at the center of a federal investigation, inspiring a larger story of censorship, individual voice and access. Featuring interviews with Ian MacKaye, Damian Kulash of OK Go, Henry Rollins, Janeane Garofalo, John Perry Barlow among others. (World Premiere)
Director and Screenwriter: Chris D’Arienzo
Barry Munday wakes up after being attacked to realize that he's missing his family jewels. To make matters worse, he learns he's facing a paternity lawsuit filed by a woman he can't remember having sex with.
Cast: Patrick Wilson, Judy Greer, Chloë Sevigny, Jean Smart, Malcolm McDowell, Cybill Shepherd, Billy Dee Williams (World Premiere)
Director and Screenwriter: Aaron Katz
A former forensic science major and avid reader of detective fiction, who, after making a mess of his life in Chicago, returns to his hometown of Portland, Oregon. There, he, his sister Gail, and new friend Carlos become embroiled in something unexpected.
Cast: Cris Lankenau, Trieste Kelly Dunn (World Premiere)
Director and Screenwriter: Sebastian Gutierrez
A convoluted day in the life of recently retired porn superstar Elektra Luxx as she tries to make it in the straight world.
Cast: Carla Gugino, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Timothy Olyphant, Malin Akerman, Adrianne Palicki (World Premiere)
Director: Miranda Bailey
It ain't easy bein' green. (World Premiere)
'Hood to Coast'
Directors: Christoph Baaden and Marcie Hume (Co-Director)
Hood to Coast follows four unlikely teams on their epic journey to conquer the world's largest relay race. Winning isn't everything in a documentary that takes a celebratory look at personal motivation and attempting the extraordinary. (World Premiere)
'Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee'
Director and Screenwriter: Shane Meadows
In this unpredictable, irrepressible ode to spontaneous filmmaking, Paddy Considine stars as rock roadie and failed musician, Le Donk. Along the way he's lost a girlfriend but he has found a new sidekick in up-and-coming rap prodigy Scor-zay-zee. With Shane Meadows' fly-on-the-wall crew in tow, Donk sets out to make Scor-zay-zee a star...with a little help from the Arctic Monkeys.
Cast: Paddy Considine, Dean Palinczuk, Olivia Colman (North American Premiere)
'Leaves of Grass'
Director and Screenwriter: Tim Blake Nelson
Tim Blake Nelson’s Leaves of Grass is a comic thriller that weaves together the diametrically opposed lives of identical twin brothers, both played by two-time Academy Award® nominee Edward Norton.
Cast: Edward Norton, Keri Russell, Tim Blake Nelson, Melanie Lynskey, Richard Dreyfuss (U.S. Premiere)
Director and Screenwriter: Ben Hickernell
Philly ad man Will travels to Lebanon, Pa. to bury his father. He meets his teenage cousin CJ and they form an unexpected bond, as both try to find their place in a splintered American landscape.
Cast: Josh Hopkins, Samantha Mathis, Mary Beth Hurt, Rachel Kitson, Iain Merrill Peakes (World Premiere)
Director: Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski
This documentary delves into the personal and public lives of heavy metal icon and Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister. Nearly three years in the making, and featuring appearances by such friends/peers as Metallica, Dave Grohl, Billy Bob Thornton and pro wrestler Triple H, the film follows Kilmister from his Hollywood bedroom to the hockey arenas of Scandinavia and Russia. (World Premiere)
'Man On A Mission'
Director: Mike Woolf
Man On A Mission is a feature length documentary that follows gaming millionaire Richard Garriott as he becomes the first second-generation American astronaut. (World Premiere)
'No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson'
Director: Steve James
Steve James returns to his hometown of Hampton, Virginia to examine the 1993 bowling alley brawl that landed Allen Iverson, the nation’s top high-school basketball player, in jail and divided the community along racial lines. (World Premiere)
'One Night in Vegas'
Director: Reggie Rock Bythewood
On the evening of 9/7/96, Mike Tyson attempted to regain the WBA title in Vegas. Sitting ringside was his friend Tupac Shakur. This ESPN Films documentary tells not only the story of that infamous night but of their remarkable friendship. (World Premiere)
'The People vs. George Lucas'
Director: Alexandre O. Philippe
A no-holds-barred cultural examination of the conflicted dynamic between George Lucas and his fans over the past three decades. (World Premiere)
Director: Meredith Danluck
A journey into the heart of America through the rough and tumble, rock and roll world of bull riding Cowboys. (World Premiere)
Director: James Franco
With unprecedented access to the behind the scenes process of the writers, actors and producers, Franco and his crew document what it takes to create one full episode of Saturday Night Live. (World Premiere)
Director: Emmett Malloy
A visual and emotional feature length film documenting The White Stripes making their way through Canada and culminating with their 10th anniversary show in Nova Scotia. The film documents the band playing shows all over Canada; from local bowling alleys, to city buses, and onward to the legendary Savoy Theater for the 10th Anniversary show."
Right away, I can tell you I will climb over the broken bodies of other audience members to guarantee my seat at the Shane Meadows film. Especially if Paddy Considine is starring in it. The James Franco documentary about "SNL" sounds very interesting, and a new Steve James basketball-themed documentary is pretty much a slam dunk on paper. I really love that White Stripes film, and it plays to the twin themes of music and film, so it's a natural fit here. I'm not that interested in the George Lucas thing, but that may be because I've long since had my fill of fanboys whining about what they think Lucas owes them. I'll bet it gets more coverage than almost any other film that plays, though, so it's a smart call by SXSW.
NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION
According to the press release, there were 831 films in contention for these eight spots. All of them are making their exclusive premieres as part of this festival, and are in contention for the top narrative prize:
Director: Will Canon. Screenwriters: Will Canon and Doug Simon
When an initiation ritual spins dangerously out of control, one young man must stand up to save a friend's life.
Cast: Jon Foster, Trevor Morgan, Arlen Escarpeta, Lou Taylor Pucci (World Premiere)
'Dance With The One'
Director: Mike Dolan. Screenwriters: Smith Henderson and Jon Marc Smith
An emotionally explosive thriller set in the troubled heart of Texas. Tragic family history rises to the surface when a teenager races to protect his family from a lethal drug-runner.
Cast: Gabriel Luna, Xochitl Romero, Gary McCleery, Mike Davis, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (World Premiere)
Director and Screenwriter: Clay Liford
Tragedy aboard the international space station triggers a discovery that some lives have been a lie.
Cast: Rebecca Spence, Peter Greene, Amelia Turner, William Katt, Matt Socia (World Premiere)
'Helena from the Wedding'
Director and Screenwriter: Joseph Infantolino
Newlyweds Alex and Alice Javal host a New Year’s Eve party at a cabin in the mountains for their closest friends and an unexpected guest in this nuanced and often funny portrait of marriage and anxiety in the late blooming professional class.
Cast: Lee Tergesen, Melanie Lynskey, Gillian Jacobs, Dagmara Dominczyk, Paul Fitzgerald, Dominic Fumusa, Jessica Hecht, Corey Stoll (World Premiere)
'The Myth of the American Sleepover'
Director and Screenwriter: David Robert Mitchell
Four young people cross paths as they navigate the suburban wonderland of Metro-Detroit looking for love and adventure on the last night of summer.
Cast: Claire Sloma, Marlon Morton, Amanda Bauer, Brett Jacobsen (World Premiere)
'Phillip The Fossil'
Director and Screenwriter: Garth Donovan
Centering around an aging party animal chasing the endless summer, Phillip The Fossil is an uncompromising and raw, portrait of everyday people who struggle in all their blemished glory for a life of meaning.
Cast: Brian Hasenfus, Nick Dellarocca, Ann Palica, Angela Pagliarulo, J.R. Killigrew (World Premiere)
'Some Days are Better than Others'
Director and Screenwriter: Matt McCormick
Why do the good times go by so fast while the bad times always seem so sticky?
Cast: Carrie Brownstein, James Mercer, Renee Roman Nose, David Wodehouse (World Premiere)
Director and Screenwriter: Lena Dunham
22-year-old Aura returns home after college to her artist mother’s loft with the following: a useless film theory degree, 357 hits on her YouTube page, and no shoulders to cry on. Starring Dunham and her real-life family, Tiny Furniture is tragicomedy about what does and does not happen when you graduate with no skills, no love life, and a lot of free time.
Cast: Lena Dunham, Laurie Simmons, Grace Dunham, David Call, Alex Karpovsky (World Premiere)"
Interesting... I know absolutely nothing about these films or the filmmakers, which means there's plenty of room for discovery.
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION
For these eight slots, there were 741 films competing, and once again, every one of these makes its first appearance here at SXSW.
Director: Miao Wang
Through a humanistic lens, Beijing Taxi vividly portrays China undergoing a profound transformational arch in an era of Olympic transitions. The intimate lives of three cabbies connect a morphing cityscape and a lyrical journey through fragments of a society riding the bumpy roads to modernization. (World Premiere)
'Camp Victory, Afghanistan'
Director: Carol Dysinger
Using almost 300 hours of footage shot over the course of three years, Camp Victory, Afghanistan tells the story of the Afghan officers charged with building a new Afghan National Army and the U.S. National Guardsmen sent to mentor them. (World Premiere)
'The Canal Street Madam'
Director: Cameron Yates
An FBI raid on Jeanette Maier’s infamous family-run brothel in New Orleans destroyed her livelihood. Stigmatized by felony, fearing recrimination from powerful clients and determined to protect her children, Jeanette sets out to re-invent herself. (World Premiere)
Director: Etienne Sauret
Dirty Pictures is an intimate portrait of the life and work of Dr. Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, one of the world’s most renowned chemists who is considered by many to be the "Godfather of Psychedelics." (World Premiere)
'For Once In My Life'
Directors: Jim Bigham and Mark Moormann
The film takes an inspiring journey with a unique band of musicians with the common goal of making and performing music. Their story tells of the fine balancing act of taking on new challenges while living day-to-day with disabilities. This documentary shows what people can do when given a chance. (World Premiere)
Director: Jeff Malmberg
After a vicious attack leaves him brain damaged and broke, Mark Hogancamp seeks recovery in “Marwencol,” a 1/6th-scale World War II-era town he creates in his backyard. (World Premiere)
Directors: Luke Boughen, Rebekah Fergusson, Gwendolyn Oxenham and Ryan White
Away from the bright lights and manicured fields, there's another side of soccer. (World Premiere)
'War Don Don'
Director: Rebecca Richman Cohen
The war is over, a trial begins. (World Premiere)"
I love documentaries. And at festivals, I think they're the tonic to a disturbing sameness that can set in with indie narrative features. "Marwencol" sounds incredible, and I'm really curious to see how "Dirty Pictures" approaches its subject matter.
The rest of these sections are just eclectic mixes of titles, arranged around certain themes, and this is really the meat and potatoes of a festival. Premieres are bait for headlines, competitions are a very small percentage of what you see, and then these individual sections are where you often find the real gems.
This section is for " Innovation and creativity from new and emerging feature filmmakers, showcasing raw talent in documentary and narratives of varying premiere status."
Director: Jeff Deutchman
Weaving together footage recorded throughout the world on the day Obama was elected President, this vérité documentary explores how people choose to live through “history.” (World Premiere)
'A Different Path'
Director: Monteith McCollum
In an automobile dominated society, a cast of characters uses ingenuity and wit to forge a new way to commute. One by foot, one by bike, two by boat. (World Premiere)
'American: The Bill Hicks Story (United Kingdom)'
Directors: Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas
At last the true life story of the outlaw comic who tried to save the world. Three years in the making, using a stunning new animation technique, American: The Bill Hicks Story finally brings the amazing tale of one of modern culture's most iconic heroes to the big screen. (North American Premiere)
'Bear Nation (Canada)'
Director: Malcolm Ingram
What if your biggest perceived flaw became you greatest asset? Bear Nation is a thorough and stylistic examination of the sub culture sweeping gay culture, the sexualization of fat and hair. From the director of small town gay bar and Exec Produced by honorary bear Kevin Smith. (World Premiere)
Director and Screenwriter: Jeffrey Fine
A college freshman gets a different kind of education when he falls for an older woman who has returned to school and her teenage daughter develops a crush on him.
Cast: Kyle Gallner, Laura Allen, Britt Robertson (World Premiere)
'The Happy Poet'
Director and Screenwriter: Paul Gordon
Bill, an out of work poet, puts his heart, soul, and last few dollars into starting an all-organic mostly-vegetarian food stand. Complications with the business jeopardize his dreams for a hot dog-free future. Cast: Paul Gordon, Jonny Mars, Chris Doubek, Liz Fisher, Amy Meyers-Martin (World Premiere)
'Les Signes Vitaux / The Vital Signs (Canada)'
Director and Screenwriter: Sophie Deraspe
The Vital Signs: the amount of life beings have... or lack thereof.
Cast: Marie-Hélène Bellavance, Francis Ducharme, Marie Brassard, Danielle Ouimet, Suzanne St-Michel (U.S. Premiere)
Director and Screenwriter: Geoff Marslett
Set in 2014, Mars is an interplanetary animated feature about mankind's first mission searching for life, love, and adventure on the red planet. Told in the playful style of a graphic novel, MARS explores why we explore.
Cast: Mark Duplass, Zoe Simpson, Paul Gordon, Howe Gelb, Liza Weil, James Kochalka, Cynthia Watros, Michael Dolan, and Kinky Friedman (World Premiere)
'NY Export: Opus Jazz'
Director: Henry Joost and Jody Lee Lipes. Screenwriter: Jody Lee Lipes
This scripted adaptation of a 1958 jazz ballet by Jerome Robbins (West Side Story) takes the original choreography and returns it to the streets that inspired it in this tale of disaffected urban youth. Shot on 35mm on location all over New York City with dancers from the New York City Ballet.
Cast: Dancers with New York City Ballet, Jerome Robbins. (World Premiere)
''The Parking Lot Movie
Director: Meghan Eckman and Christopher Hlad (Assistant Director)
“It’s not just a parking lot, it’s a battle with humanity.” The Parking Lot Movie is a documentary about a singular parking lot in Charlottesville, Virginia. The film follows a select group of Parking Lot Attendants and their strange rite of passage. Something as simple as a parking lot becomes an emotional weigh station for the American Dream. (World Premiere)
Director and Screenwriter: Martha Stephens
Set among the Eastern Kentucky Coalfields, Passenger Pigeons quietly interweaves four separate story lines over the course of a weekend as the town copes with the death of a local miner.
Cast: Kentucker Audley, Brendan McFadden, Bryan Marshall, Caroline White, Martha Stephens (World Premiere)
Director and Screenwriter: Matthew Porterfield
A young man's untimely death unites a fractured family and their community through shared memory and loss.
Cast: Sky Ferreira, Zoe Vance, Dustin Ray, Cody Ray (North American Premiere)
'Red White & Blue (United Kingdom)'
Director and Screenwriter: Simon Rumley
In Austin Texas, the lives of three young people “Erica, Franki and Nate” intertwine in a fateful, tragic way and head down a rocky and violent road to heart-rending oblivion.
Cast: Noah Taylor, Amanda Fuller, Marc Senter (North American Premiere)
'Skeletons (United Kingdom)'
Director and Screenwriter: Nick Whitfield
Skeletons is a surrealist comedy about two traveling salesmen in the business of cleaning skeletons out of people's closets. Cast: Andrew Buckley, Ed Gaughan, Paprika Steen, Tuppence Middleton, Jason Isaacs
(North American Premiere)
'We don’t care about music anyway… (France)'
Directors: Cedric Dupire and Gaspard Kuentz
"We don't care about music anyway"...In other words, "we make it and that's all". Beyond the music and beyond its performance, the future and mode of existence of a city, and society as a whole, are in motion.
(North American Premiere)
'World Peace and other 4th-Grade Achievements'
Director: Chris Farina
World Peace and other 4th-Grade Achievements portrays John Hunter, a remarkable public-school teacher who has dedicated his life to teaching children the "work of peace." (World Premiere)
Directors: Amy C. Elliott and Elizabeth Donius
Desperate for tourism, hundreds of small towns across the U.S.A. claim the "world's largest" something - from 15-foot fiberglass strawberries to 40-foot concrete pheasants. World's Largest visits 58 such sites and profiles Soap Lake, Washington’s five-year struggle to build the World’s Largest Lava Lamp. By documenting these roadside attractions, World’s Largest captures the changing, perhaps even vanishing, culture of small-town America. (World Premiere)"
I'm amazed how much bigger Bill Hicks always was in the UK than here in the US, and how he continues to be a much bigger media figure there, even all these years after his death. I figure the documentary about him should be interesting, and "World's Largest" sounds like a big fat slice of freaky Americana. "Red White & Blue," which is playing the Rotterdam fest this month, marks the first time Alamo Drafthouse genius Tim League has taken a step into participating in filmmaking instead of exhibition, and he basically offered support to Simon Rumley, who he believes in, which makes me very curious to see what he's up to. "NY Export," "Mars," "Skeletons," and "The Parking Lot Movie" all sound conceptually fascinating, and I'm curious to see just how they play out.
LONE STAR STATES
Since SXSW is a Texas film festival, it makes sense that at least one of the spotlight sections would shine a light on films that have to do with Texas, doesn't it?
"'Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio'
Director: Sam Wainwright Douglas
In Alabama, Samuel Mockbee’s radical design/build program brought architecture to the rural poor and a new set of ethics to architecture. His legacy has inspired a generation of architects dedicated to design for social good. (World Premiere)
'For The Sake Of The Song: The Story of Anderson Fair'
Director: Bruce Bryant
A devoted community of artists, volunteers and patrons transforms a politically subversive little coffee house and restaurant into a unique American music institution... a small place where big things happen.
Featuring Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams, Nanci Griffith, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. (World Premiere)
Director: Mark Landsman
In the 1970's, Kashmere High School band director Conrad Johnson turned his band into an international funk sensation. Now thirty years later, his students return to pay tribute to the man who changed their lives.
Director and Screenwriter: Chad Feehan
Driving to a wedding in Los Angeles through the Mojave Desert, Paul and Adrienne pull off the highway and into Roy’s Motel and Café. This roadside artifact proves to be a strange and surreal place with an unsettling mix of travelers, who force our couple to discover the secret hidden between them and ultimately, the horrifying reality of their current situation.
Cast: Josh Stewart, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Chris Browning, Angela Featherstone, Afemo Omilami, Trevor Morgan (World Premiere)
'When I Rise'
Director: Mat Hames
When I Rise is the powerful story of Barbara Smith Conrad, a gifted University of Texas music student who becomes a lightning rod for civil rights and ultimately ascends to the heights of international opera.
I've been hearing very good things about "Thunder Soul" for a while now, and I guarantee it's one of the films I'm going to see, no matter what.
24 BEATS PER SECOND
Just as I would expect them to feature Texas films at SXSW, I'm also not surprised to see them showcase music-themed films as well:
"'Ain't In It For My Health: A Film About Levon Helm'
Director: Jacob Hatley
In Ain't In It For My Health Levon Helm finds himself thrust into the musical spotlight for the first time in a quarter century, but a Grammy nomination and ever-growing audiences force him to confront the dark times that have haunted him since The Band's demise: Throat cancer, bankruptcy, drug addiction and the tragic loss of bandmates Richard Manuel and Rick Danko. Win or lose, Levon is an artist who will not go quietly into the night.
'No One Knows About Persian Cats'
Director: Bahman Ghobadi. Screenwriter: Roxana Saberi
Two Persian teens jump through hoops doing what in many other countries is relatively simple: forming a rock band. Together they search the underworld of contemporary Tehran for other players, forbidden by the authorities to play in Iran.
Cast: Negar Shaghaghi, Ashkan Koshanejad, Hamed Behdad
'REJOICE AND SHOUT'
Director: Don McGlynn
A documentary that explores the power and long lasting influence of gospel music. (World Premiere)
'RIDE, RISE, ROAR'
Director: David Hillman Curtis
A David Byrne concert film that combines riveting onstage performances with documentary footage that explores the creative collaborations that make the music happen. (World Premiere)
'Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields'
Directors: Kerthy Fix and Gail O’Hara
Ten years in the making, Strange Powers is an intimate documentary portrait of songwriter Stephin Merritt and his band The Magnetic Fields. (World Premiere)
Director: Omar Majeed
Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam follows a group of Muslim Punks as they travel across the U.S. and Pakistan, challenging Muslims and Non-Muslims with their punchy and provocative anthems. (U.S. Premiere)
'The Weird World of Blowfly'
Director: Jonathan Furmanski
The Weird World of Blowfly tells the provocative and revealing story of musician Clarence Reid and his alter ego Blowfly, the original dirty rapper. The film follows Blowfly as he tours the world, explores his 50-year career, and celebrates his influential and incendiary work as a music legend. (World Premiere)"
Considering how much I love both "Say Amen, Somebody" and "Stop Making Sense," it's a safe bet I'll be making time for "REJOICE & SHOUT" and "RIDE, RISE, ROAR" this year.
This sounds like the biggest grab-bag of any of the sections, with an emphasis on non-fiction filmmaking, in all sorts of different forms.
"'The DeVilles (Denmark)'
Director: Nicole Nielsen Horanyi
The love between the American burlesque stripper Teri Lee Geary (aka Kitten DeVille) and her punk rock singer husband Shawn Geary is strong but rather complicated. They live in their own time bubble, hers from the 1950's and his from the 1980's. (U.S. Premiere)
'Erasing David (United Kingdom)'
Director: David Bond
Just how much of our personal information is floating around in government and corporate databases? Filmmaker David Bond decides to find out, by disappearing for a month and setting two of the world’s top private investigators the task of tracking him down, using only publicly available data. (North American Premiere)
'The Erectionman (Netherlands)'
Director: Michael Schaap
How one little pill changed the course of sexual evolution. (North American Premiere)
IDFA DocLab (Netherlands)
A curated program of new media and web documentary from the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam's DocLab, bridging the gap between filmmakers and interactive storytellers.
'Iron Crows (South Korea)'
Director: Bong-Nam Park
Against a harsh environment of constant danger and toxic gases, workers here at the world's largest ship breaking yard in Bangladesh, risk their lives to feed their family on barely 2USD per day. (North American Premiere)
'Like a Pascha / Som en Pascha (Sweden)'
Director: Svante Tidholm
Welcome to the biggest brothel in Europe, a clear blue eleven story high house in the middle of Cologne, Germany. Around 200 women from all over the world work here. If you ask them why, they will tell you it’s the way it’s always been. Svante Tidholm filmed at Pascha for more than three years, looking for an answer to the eternal question: why are men so obsessed with sex? (North American Premiere)
'The Living Room of the Nation (Finland)'
Director: Jukka Kärkkäinen
The Living Room of the Nation opens a portrait-like view into six Finnish living rooms. A collage of everyday events the film is a story of changes, loneliness, responsibilities and the unavoidable passing of time.
(North American Premiere)
'The Other Side of Life (Germany)'
Directors: Stefanie Brockhaus and Andy Wolff
Being arrested for murder, two brothers exist between modern township life, gangsterism and ancient African culture. (North American Premiere)
'Phantom of Liberty II (Czech Republic, Germany)'
Director: Karel Zalud
A documentary about time which explores its physical quantity as well as its crucial impact on our actions, behavior, perception, social rituals and our outlook on the world. (North American Premiere)
'Presunto Culpable / Presumed Guilty (Mexico)'
Director: Roberto Hernández and Geoffrey Smith
The heart-wrenching story of a man who happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Through his struggle to regain freedom, two lawyers document the system’s contradictions. (U.S. Premiere)
'Reel Injun (Canada)'
Director: Neil Diamond
Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond takes an entertaining and insightful look at the Hollywood Indian, exploring the portrayal of North American Natives through a century of cinema. (North American Premiere)"
"Erasing David" sounds provocative, and similar to a recent cover story in WIRED magazine. It should be a real eye-opener for people who don't realize quite how large a technological footprint we all leave these days, even when we're not trying.
This is great because it'll help me catch up on things I've missed at other festivals, and it'll also allow me to see some things for a second time that I really loved. These are all titles that have played in other fests.
"'And Everything Is Going Fine'
Director: Steven Soderbergh
And Everything Is Going Fine is an intimate portrait of master monologist Spalding Gray, as described by his most critical, irreverent and insightful biographer: Spalding Gray. The film pulls from some 90 hours of material to fashion a new narrative exploring, among other things, art-making, mental illness and the sometimes thin line between the two.
'Crying with Laughter (Scotland)'
Director and Screenwriter: Justin Molotnikov
Comedian Joey's act is drawing interest from people in high places until he tells one little gag about an old school pal, who just happens to be in the audience and things begin to unravel...
Cast: Stephen McCole, Malcolm Shields, Jo Hartley, Andrew Neil, Laura Keenan, Michaiah Dring (U.S. Premiere)
Director: Giorgos Lanthimos. Screenwriters: Efthymis Filippou and Giorgos Lanthimos
Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, Yorgos Lanthimos’ Dogtooth is a darkly surreal look at three teenagers confined to an isolated country estate and kept under strict rule and regimen by their parents — an alternately hilarious and nightmarish experiment of manipulation and oppression.
Cast: Christos Stergioglou, Michelle Valley, Aggeliki Papoulia, Mary Tsoni, Hristos Passalis
Director and Screenwriter: Katie Aselton
A young married couple decides to give each other one night with someone else.
Cast: Dax Shepard, Katie Aselton
'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Sweden)'
Director: Niels Arden Oplev. Screenwriters: Rasmus Heisterberg and Nikolaj Arcel
40 years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs a disgraced financial journalist and a tattooed, ruthless computer hacker to investigate. The film is based on the trilogy of books by Stieg Larsson.
Cast: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Lena Endre, Sven-Bertil Taube,
'The Good Heart'
Director and Screenwriter: Dagur Kári
A homeless boy (Lucas) meets a grouchy bar-owner (Jacques) whose unhealthy lifestyle has resulted in five heart attacks. Jacques takes Lucas under his wing with the intention of having him continuing his legacy. Everything is going according to plan until a drunken stewardess (April) enters the bar.
Cast: Brian Cox, Paul Dano, Isild Le Besco (U.S. Premiere)
'Google Baby (Israel)'
Director: Zippi Brand Frank
In India, the latest form of outsourcing is surrogate mothers who carry embryos for couples who can’t have a child. Director Zippi Brand Frank follows an entrepreneur who proposes a new service – baby production for western customers. (U.S. Premiere)
'Harry Brown (United Kingdom)'
Director: Daniel Barber. Screenwriter: Gary Young
Set in modern day Britain, Harry Brown follows one man’s journey through a chaotic world where teenage violence runs rampant. As a modest, law abiding citizen, Brown lives alone. His only companion is his best friend Leonard. When Leonard is killed, Brown reaches his breaking point. Harry Brown is a powerful, character driven thriller starring two-time Academy Award® winner Michael Caine in a tour-de-force performance.
Cast: Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer, Charlie Creed-Miles
'His & Hers (Ireland)'
Director: Ken Wardrop
Seventy Irish women offer moving insights into the relationships between women and men.
'How to Fold A Flag'
Directors: Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein
We were asked to believe that the war was over. We laughed, for we were the war.
'Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child '
Director: Tamra Davis
An intimate portrait of the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and the downtown New York scene, as told by his friend filmmaker Tamra Davis.
'Last Train Home (Canada)'
Director: Lixin Fan
Getting a train ticket in China proves a towering ordeal as a migrant worker family embarks on a journey, along with 200 million other peasants, to reunite with their distant family.
Director: Jason Spingarn-Koff
More than an examination of new technology, the film is foremost an intimate, character-based drama about people whose lives are dramatically transformed by the virtual world called Second Life.
'Lovers of Hate'
Director and Screenwriter: Bryan Poyser
The shaky reunion of estranged brothers takes a turn for the worse when the woman they both love chooses one over the other. Cast: Chris Doubek, Heather Kafka, Alex Karpovsky, Zach Green
Director: Laura Poitras
Filmed in Yemen, The Oath tells the story of Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard, and Salim Hamdan, a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay Prison who is the first man to face the controversial military tribunals at Guantanamo.
'The Red Chapel / Det Røde Kapel (Denmark)'
Director: Mads Brügger
A journalist with no scruples, a self-proclaimed spastic, and a comedian travel to North Korea under the guise of a cultural exchange visit to challenge one of the world’s most notorious regimes.
Director: Eyad Zahra. Screenwriters: Michael Muhammad Knight and Eyad Zahra
When a Pakistani-Muslim engineering student moves into a house with punk Muslims of all stripes in Buffalo, New York, his ideologies are challenged to the core. Cast: Bobby Naderi, Noureen DeWulf, Dominic Rains, Rasika Mathur, Tony Yalda, Anne Marie Leighton
'The Thorn in the Heart'
Director: Michel Gondry
Michel Gondry’s newest film, further propels his groundbreaking filmography into the realm of the unvisited with a personal look at the life of Gondry family matriarch, his aunt Suzette Gondry, and her relationship with her son, Jean-Yves. Michel examines Suzette’s years as a schoolteacher and her life in rural France. During the course of filming the documentary, new family stories are unearthed and Michel uses his camera to explore them in a subtle and sensitive way.
Director and Screenwriter: Harmony Korine
A film unearthed from the buried landscape of the American nightmare, Trash Humpers follows a small group of elderly “Peeping Toms” through the shadows and margins of an unfamiliar world.
Cast: Rachel Korine, Travis Nicholson, Brian Kotzur, Harmony Korine
Director: Debra Granik, Screenwriters: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini
A 17-year-old must track down her father after he puts their house up for his bail and then disappears. If she fails, she and her family will be turned out into the Ozark woods.
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Lauren Sweetser, Dale Dickey
A new Gondry, a new Soderbergh, a chance to see "Winter's Bone," which our own Dan Fienberg loved at Sundance, and I can finally see "Dogtooth," which has been getting nothing but raves from very smart people who I trust since Cannes last summer. Sounds good to me.
These next two sections are almost always among my favorite at any fest, and particularly at SXSW:
Directors: Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. Screenwriter: Bruno Forzani
Ana is confronted to Body and Desire at three key moments of her life.
Cast: Bianca Maria D’Amato, Cassandra Forêt, Charlotte Eugène-Guibbaud, Marie Bos, Harry Cleven (U.S. Premiere)
'Cannibal Girls (Canada)'
Director: Ivan Reitman. Screenwriter: Robert Sandler
They do EXACTLY what you think they do! Second City TV regulars Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin star in Ivan Reitman’s Canuxploitation classic as a couple on a romantic holiday who settle into a quaint little bed-and-breakfast run by a trio of flesh-eating ladies who fancy them for tomorrow's menu.
Cast: Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Ronald Ulrich, Randall Carpenter, Bonnie Neilson
Director: Daniel Stamm. Screenwriters: Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko
After a career spent helping the devout through prayer and trickery, Rev. Cotton Marcus invites a film crew to document his final fraudulent days as an exorcist. Soon his faith is truly tested when a desperate plea from the father of a possessed girl brings him face to face with the devil himself.
Cast: Patrick Fabian, Ashley Bell, Iris Bahr, Louis Herthum, Caleb Landry Jones (World Premiere)
Director and Screenwriter: Gaspar Noé
Oscar and his sister Linda are recent arrivals in Tokyo. Oscar is caught in a police bust and shot and as he lies dying, his spirit, faithful to the promise he made his sister that he would never abandon her refuses to abandon the world of the living. It wanders through the city, his visions growing evermore distorted, evermore nightmarish. Past, present and future merge in a hallucinatory maelstrom.
Cast: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, Emily Alyn Lind, Jesse Kuhn
'Jimmy Tupper VS. The Goatman of Bowie'
Director and Screenwriter: Andrew Bowser
Jimmy Tupper is no one, he's nothing, until one night he sees something in the woods that can't be real. It becomes his mission to prove its existence and find his purpose.
Cast: Andrew Bowser, Pedro Gonzalez, Chris Jones, Michael Eller, Tim Kuczka (World Premiere)
'The Loved Ones (Australia)'
Director and Screenwriter: Sean Byrne
Brent, a 17-year-old student grieving after the recent loss of his father, politely declines an invitation to the school formal from Lola, the quietest girl in school. Devastated by the rejection, Lola and her overly protective father kidnap Brent and force him to endure a macabre Formal of their own creation…
Cast: Xavier Samuel, Robin McLeavy, Victoria Thaine, Jessica McNamee, Richard Wilson
'Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (Canada)'
Director: Eli Craig. Screenwriters: Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgenson
Two West Virginian hillbillies go on vacation at their dilapidated mountain cabin, but their peaceful trip goes horribly awry.
Cast: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss
This section is programmed by the mad geniuses behind Fantastic Fest, and last year it was a blast, so I expect nothing less than insanity this year:
"'Higanjima (Japan/Korea) '
Director: Tae-Kyun Kim. Screenwriter: Tetsuya Ôishi
Two years after losing contact, Akira discovers that his long-lost brother may be found on Higanjima Island. He may also find on Higanjima an army of blood-sucking vampires.
Cast: Koji Yamamoto, Hideo Ishiguro, Dai Watanabe, Asami Mizukawa (North American Premiere)
Director and Screenwriter: Gareth Edwards
Six years after a NASA probe crashes, bringing alien life forms to Earth, a journalist agrees to escort a shaken tourist through an infected zone in Mexico to the safety of the US border.
Cast: Scoot McNairym, Whitney Able (World Premiere)
Director Colm McCarthy. Screenwriters: Colm McCarthy and Tom McCarthy
Mary and Fergal live their lives on the run, using an ancient form of magic to hide from a terrifying hunter.
Cast: James Nesbitt, Kate Dickie, Niall Bruton, Hannah Stanbridge (World Premiere)
'Serbian Film / Srpski Film (Serbia)'
Director: Srdjan Spasojevic. Screenwriters: Aleksandar Radivojevic and Srdjan Spasojevic
Facing financial difficulties, a retired porn star is lured back for one final film by a wealthy, eccentric producer. This experience, however, will be vastly more taxing than his previous shoots.
Cast: Sergei Trifunovic, Srdjan Todorovic, Katarina Zutic, Ana Sakic (World Premiere)
Super Secret TBA (World Premiere)"
First of all, any time Tim League and the rest of the Fantastic Fest team tell you they have a super secret TBA, you go. No questions asked. But the rest of that line-up for both midnight sections is great. I love the notion of seeing "Enter The Void" in the middle of the night, when it must be an out-of-body experience. It cracks me up that they're screening "Cannibal Girls," Ivan Reitman's first movie, with a bunch of SCTV cast members in their younger days. And any time you have the evil of Andrew Gurland and Huck Botko collaborating, I'm in.
This is the last section, and these don't really fit into any simple category. This sort of thing really makes SXSW stand apart from more staid festivals, and I hope to see as many of these as I can, time-wise:
"'All My Friends are Funeral Singers' with Live Soundtrack by Califone
Director and Screenwriter: Tim Rutili
Zel, a fortune-teller, is aided in her prognostication by a band of ghosts, but when a mysterious light appears, she may have to give up the only family she knows.
Cast: Angela Bettis, Emily Candini, Reid Coker, Kevin Ford, Joe Adamik, Jim Becker, Ben Massarella, Tim Rutili
Director: Toni Myers
Narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio and through the power of IMAX® 3D, Hubble 3D will enable movie-goers to journey through distant galaxies to explore the grandeur and mysteries of our celestial surroundings, and accompany space-walking astronauts as they attempt the most difficult and important tasks in NASA’s history. (First Public Showing)
'The Lost World' (1925) with Live Score by Golden Hornet Project
Director: Harry O. Hoyt. Screenwriters: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (novel) & Marion Fairfax (screenplay)
In Hoyt's sci-fi classic, claymation dinosaurs came to spectacular life 70 years before Michael Crichton's modern retelling. Wyatt Brand helps to present Austin's premier alt-classical Golden Hornet Project and their new chamber-rock score.
Cast: Bessie Love, Lewis Stone
'The Passion of Joan of Arc' (1928) with Live Score by In The Nursery (England)
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer. Screenwriter: Joseph Delteil
One of the finest achievements of the silent film era, Dreyer's portrayal of Joan of Arc uses extraordinary, expressive close-ups to create a moving, intense and flawless work. With a new score by In The Nursery, who utilize state of the art music technology with a unique symphonic style, to produce a hauntingly evocative soundtrack.
Cast: Maria Falconetti
'The Unknown' (1927) with Live Score by The Invincible Czars
Director: Tod Browning. Screenwriter: Mary Roberts Rinehart
Wyatt Brand helps bring a film/music convergence event to SXSW Film with The Invincible Czars screening and live, original score for the 1927 silent classic The Unknown starring Lon Chaney as an armless sharp-shooter.
Cast: Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford"
I've seen a couple of silent films with live music presented in Austin, and it's an unbelievable experience. Festivals aren't just about new films, after all, but about enjoying an avalanche of all sorts of films, and SXSW seems determined to remind people of just how great that can be.
Here's the final chunk of the press release, spotlighting some of the other particulars of what attendees can expect:
"The SXSW Film Festival will open on March 12, 2010 with the world premiere of 'Kick-Ass,' directed by Matthew Vaughn and starring Aaron Johnson, Cholë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Nicolas Cage. Vaughn, Johnson, Moretz, Mintz-Plasse and 'Kick-Ass' comic writers Mark Millar and John S. Romita will also participate in a Conversation panel at the SXSW Film Conference.
Previously announced participants for the 2010 SXSW Film Conference include Academy Award-winning Argentine composer, solo artist and producer Gustavo Santaolalla in Conversation with BMI’s Doreen Ringer Ross, and Cult comics legend Gilbert Shelton in Conversation with Harry Knowles. The complete list of panels and panelists, as well as the 2010 Shorts lineup will be announced next week.
Additionally, SXSW Film plans to shine an even brighter spotlight on the artistic touches that help set the tone for every film with the Film Design Awards. In addition to the “Excellence in Poster Design Award,” new for 2010 is the "Excellence in Title Design" competition – a special contest to discover the best in contemporary title sequence design. Selected Title Sequences will be showcased at a dedicated screening during the event and judged by an expert panel of jurors, and will also be eligible for an Audience Award, chosen by the public. Title Sequence jurors include Ian Albinson and Alexander Ulloa (The Art of the Title Sequence), Susan Bradley (Pixar), Karin Fong (Imaginary Forces), Ron Pippin (Shiny Object) and Femke Wolting (Submarine Channel & Forget the Film, Watch the Titles).'
I'll be there for the whole bloody thing this year, and I can't wait. Of course, saying that, I still have Sundance reviews to finish, and I'll have some of those for you this afternoon. I feel like I'm at a buffet, but my plate's still full and I'm already looking up at the new food they're setting out. Such is the festival schedule in general, and that's part of what makes the spring so exciting each year.
We'll have plenty of SXSW coverage for you here on HitFix, and not just from the film side of things, so make sure you keep your eyes on us in March. Should be amazing.
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