I love SXSW.

I was just talking about this festival the other day with a couple of other critics, talking about how long they were planning to stay, and a few of them were talking about how desperate they are to get out of Austin by the time the music part of SXSW begins.  I'll admit, there are radically different vibes to the city during the film and the music parts of the festival, but even so, I love the eclectic programming of South By.  It's definitely not Sundance, and it's definitely not Toronto.  It's looser, more of a movie party, and now that they've added Fantastic Fest programming to SXSW, this is one of the spring things I look forward to most.

Now they've announced a new wave of titles, and it's already looking like an amazing line-up.  I'm very curious about Jodie Foster's "The Beaver," starring Mel Gibson, and would have been even if the film didn't have a shadow hanging over it.  And "Paul" is a great fit for the fest.  It's going to be a blast seeing the new Simon Pegg/Nick Frost SF comedy with that crowd, just like they'll be the right people to see the new Ti West horror film "The Innkeepers" with them.  This is his first film since "House Of The Devil," and expectations are high for this one.

I'm excited to see what else they add to the line-up by the time the festival actually begins.  One thing is for sure… SXSW is as vital a stop on the calendar this year as any festival anywhere, and not just because of the 15th anniversary Ain't It Cool panel I'll be appearing on.  Here's the full press release we were sent:

Earlier today, the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Conference and Festival announced a handful of titles that will premiere at the 2011 event.  Films announced include Jodie Foster’s drama The Beaver, Greg Mottola’s comedy-adventure Paul and Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, a documentary by Rodman Flender that follows behind-the-scenes of O’Brien’s summer tour, among others. The Beaver will screen in this year’s Centerpiece slot on Wednesday, March 16. The complete festival lineup will be announced in early February 2011. The South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival runs March 11 – 19, 2011 in Austin, Texas.
 
“As we continue to solidify the lineup for 2011, it’s truly exciting to be able to announce this little taste of the program,” said Film Conference and Festival Producer Janet Pierson. “Each of these films really showcases an artist stretching their wings in some way, whether it be a late-night talk show host taking his act on the road, an actress/filmmaker carefully and beautifully tackling a heartbreaking subject in her finest work yet, or a successful photographer trying out a new medium in a new landscape.”

The 2011 SXSW Film Festival will feature:

The Beaver (World Premiere)
Director: Jodie Foster, Writer: Kyle Killen
Summit Entertainment and Participant Media Present in Association with Imagenation Abu Dhabi and Anonymous Content - Two-time Academy Award® winner Jodie Foster directs and co-stars with two-time Academy Award® winner Mel Gibson in an emotional story about a man on a journey to re-discover his family and re-start his life.  Plagued by his own demons, Walter Black was once a successful toy executive and family man who now suffers from depression.  No matter what he tries, Walter can’t seem to get himself back on track…until a beaver hand puppet enters his life. Cast: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin & Jennifer Lawrence

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (World Premiere)
Director: Rodman Flender
After a much-publicized separation with his former employers, did Conan O'Brien hit the road on a 32-City tour to connect with his fans or fill a void within himself? Filmmaker Rodman Flender followed O’Brien on his “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour” and returned with an intimate portrait of an artist trained in improvisation, captured at the most improvisational time of his career.

The Innkeepers (World Premiere)
Director and Writer: Ti West
Hotel clerks by day, amateur ghost hunters by night, the last two employees of the historic Yankee Pedlar Inn set out to prove that their place of business is as haunted as its reputation. Cast: Sara Paxton, Pat Healy, Kelly McGillis
It’s About You (World Premiere)
Directors: Kurt & Ian Markus
First-time filmmakers, photographer Kurt Markus and his son, Ian, document John Mellencamp's summer 2009 tour across America, and the recording of his new album, No Better Than This.  This is a raw and personal film, celebrating the visual beauty and power of Super8 film and the human voice.

Paul (North American Premiere)
Director: Greg Mottola, Writers: Simon Pegg & Nick Frost
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) reunite for Universal Pictures' comedy-adventure Paul as two sci-fi geeks whose pilgrimage takes them to America’s UFO heartland.  While there, they accidentally meet an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who brings them on an insane road trip that alters their universe forever. Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Blythe Danner, John Carroll Lynch, with Sigourney Weaver and Seth Rogen as Paul.
Square Grouper (World Premiere)
Director: Billy Corben
A colorful portrait of Miami’s pot smuggling scene of the 1970s, populated with redneck pirates, a ganja-smoking church, and the longest serving marijuana prisoner in American history.

These films join the previously announced 2011 Opening Night Film Source Code, directed by Duncan Jones and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga and Michelle Monaghan. The complete festival lineup will be announced in early February 2011.  In addition to nine full days of film screenings, SXSW Film will ultimately feature over 80 sessions of panels and workshops in the Conference.  For details on the confirmed sessions, selected from proposals submitted via the SXSW PanelPicker™ interface, visit www.sxsw.com/film/talks.  For more information on the SXSW PanelPicker™, visit   http://panelpicker.sxsw.com.  The complete list of panels will be announced closer to the event.  

Register now for unparalleled access to films, panels, the SXSW Trade Show and more, and gain access to the most conveniently located hotels.  Register by January 14 and save up to 20% off the walk-up rate.  Badges are available at   www.sxsw.com/attend.