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The first full wave of programming for the 2014 edition of the South By Southwest Film Festival was announced this morning, following a few early titles that were announced recently, and my first reaction, as it is every year, is that there is no way I'm going to get to see everything I want to see at the fest.
They announced 115 films today, and that's just the first wave. There's a Midnighters section they'll announce next week, and then we'll get the full schedule the week after that. One thing that immediately jumps out is that SXSW is starting to build in room for special television-oriented events, screening individual episodes of shows and bringing in the talent behind the series to speak. Shows including HBO's "Silicon Valley," Showtime's "Penny Dreadful," AMC's "Halt" and "Catch Fire," the reboot of "COSMOS" from Fox, and even Robert Rodriguez's "From Dusk Till Dawn" will be represented.
They're also adding a SXSports category this year that both Film and Interactive registrants will be able to attend. It blows my mind that they're actually adding things to SXSW. It is already one of the biggest events I attend, an assault on Austin that just happens to coincide with the spring break of UT, making it one of the rowdiest film events anywhere.
The film conference runs from March 7th to March 11th, and in addition to screenings, there are tons of conversations and keynote addresses. Lena Dunham, Jason Blum, and Alejandro Jodorowsky will all be there this year in person, and on February 12th, we'll have the full list of events that will be part of the various film conversations.
Let's take a look at each section they announced today. The Narrative Feature Competition this year includes:
Director: Carlos Marques Marcet
Screenwriters: Carlos Marques-Marcet, Clara Roquet Autonell
A year of a long distance relationship, two computers and two cities – Los Angeles and Barcelona, can love survive 6,000 miles?
Cast: Natalia Tena, David Verdaguer
Director: Collin Schiffli
Screenwriter: David Dastmalchian
Jude and Bobbie are a young, homeless couple who masterfully con and steal in an attempt to stay one step ahead of their addiction. They are ultimately forced to face the reality of their situation when one of them is hospitalized.
Cast: David Dastmalchian, Kim Shaw, John Heard
Before I Disappear
Director/Screenwriter: Shawn Christensen
Based on the 2013 Academy Award® winning short film Curfew. At the lowest point of his life, Richie gets a call from his estranged sister, asking him to look after his eleven-year-old niece, Sophia, for a few hours.
Cast: Shawn Christensen, Fatima Ptacek, Emmy Rossum, Paul Wesley, Ron Perlman, Richard Schiff
Directors/Screenwriters: Sarah-Violet Bliss, Charles Rogers
It shouldn't be this hard for Allie and Harper to get to the beach.
Cast: Bridey Elliott, Clare McNulty, Griffin Newman, Jeffrey Scaperrotta, Neil Casey
The Heart Machine
Director/Screenwriter: Zachary Wigon
A man begins to suspect that his long-distance girlfriend, whom he met online but has never met in person, has been living in the same city the whole time and sets out to find her.
Cast: John Gallagher Jr., Kate Lyn Sheil, David Call, Louisa Krauss
I Believe in Unicorns
Director/Screenwriter: Leah Meyerhoff
I Believe in Unicorns follows the lyrical journey of an imaginative teenage girl who runs away from home with an older punk rock drifter, but not even unicorns can save her now.
Cast: Natalia Dyer, Peter Vack, Julia Garner, Amy Seimetz, Toni Meyerhoff
Director/Screenwriter: John Magary
A dark comedy about rage, doubt, lust, madness and other brotherly hand-me-downs.
Cast: Josh Lucas, Stephen Plunkett, Lucy Owen, Mickey Sumner, Austin Pendleton
Director/Screenwriter: Lawrence Michael Levine
When their elderly neighbor suddenly drops dead, a young Brooklyn couple investigates signs of foul play.
Cast: Sophia Takal, Lawrence Michael Levine, Alia Shawkat, Annie Parisse, Jason Ritter
One of the major differences between SXSW and Sundance is that SXSW seems way more open to entries from genuinely new voices in film. I don't recognize anyone in the narrative competition, and that's fine. It all becomes about the logline, and it leaves a lot of room for discovery.
The Documentary Feature Competition is also fair dense this year.
Beginning With The End
Director: David Marshall
Beginning With the End takes viewers on a profound, and profoundly moving, journey with a group of high school seniors working as trained hospice volunteers -- a story of beginnings and endings in a year of self-discovery and awakening.
Born To Fly
Director: Catherine Gund
Born To Fly pushes the boundaries between action and art, daring us to join choreographer Elizabeth Streb and her dancers in pursuit of human flight.
The Great Invisible
Director: Margaret Brown
Penetrating the oil industry's secretive world, The Great Invisible examines the Deepwater Horizon disaster through the eyes of oil executives, explosion survivors and Gulf Coast residents who were left to pick up the pieces when the world moved on.
Directors: Jason Sussberg, David Alvarado
Two eccentric scientists struggle to create eternal youth in a world they call “blind to the tragedy of old age.” As they battle their own aging and suffer the losses of loved ones, their scientific journeys ultimately become personal.
Director: Jeremy Ambers
Impossible Light reveals the drama and the daring of artist Leo Villareal and a small team of visionaries who battle seemingly impossible challenges to turn a dream of creating the world’s largest LED light sculpture into a glimmering reality.
Director: Aaron I. Naar
Mateo follows America's most notorious white mariachi singer on his misadventures in Cuba.
Print the Legend
Directors: Luis Lopez, Clay Tweel
The 3D Printing revolution has begun. Who will make it?
"Print The Legend" sounds like a perfect SXSW film. It plays right to the DIY spirit of many of the people who have migrated to the city, while also embracing the cutting edge of technology. Likewise, "The Immortalists" looks like it puts a human face on an idea that is as brand-new as they get, and it speaks to one of the things that fascinates me most right now, the push towards the post-human world.
Director: Diana Whitten
A fearless sea captain, Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, sails a ship through loopholes in international law, providing abortions on the high seas, and leaving in her wake a network of emboldened activists who trust women to handle abortion on their own terms.
SXSW is programming plenty of big names this year. They announced already that Jon Favreau will bring "Chef" to premiere it, and Favs loves Austin just as much as Austin loves Favs. I have no doubt that's going to be a party, a huge event. The film sounds like a personal reboot for Favreau after several years working in the belly of the studio system, and that's exciting.
Director/Screenwriter: Jon Favreau
Chef is a rich and vibrant comedy - the story of Carl Casper (Favreau), who loses his chef job and cooks up a food truck business in hopes of reestablishing his artistic promise. At the same time, he tries to reconnect with his estranged family.
Cast: Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Robert Downey, Jr., Emjay Anthony
I'm excited to lay eyes on the next David Gordon Green film, especially because I keep hearing great things about the Nicolas Cage performance that drives it.
Director: David Gordon Green, Screenwriters: Larry Brown, Gary Hawkins
A gripping mix of friendship, violence and redemption erupts in the contemporary South in this adaptation of Larry Brown’s novel.
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan
We're in the middle of running a series of set visit reports about this next film, and I'm not remotely surprised to see that it's going to be at SXSW. Universal loves the festival, and they've had great luck there with films like "Bridesmaids" in the past.
Director: Nicholas Stoller
Screenwriters: Andrew J. Cohen, Brendan O'Brien
Seth Rogen, Zac Efron and Rose Byrne lead the cast of Neighbors, a comedy about a young couple suffering from arrested development who are forced to live next to a fraternity house after the birth of their newborn baby. Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz, Lisa Kudrow
(Worldwide Debut – work-in-progress)
I didn't even know the Spierig Brothers were working on a new movie. Their earlier films "Undead" and "Daybreakers" are both loopy chunks of pure genre love, and it sounds like this time out, they're playing with time travel.
Directors/Screenwriters: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
A riveting adventure through time centered on a secret government time traveling agency designed to prevent future killers and terrorists from committing their crimes.
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor
They'd already announced this next one, and it's happening about a week before the film will be available to everyone, but I'm still very excited to see it there.
Director/Screenwriter: Rob Thomas
Screenwriter: Diane Ruggiero
Years after walking away from her past as a teenage private eye, Veronica Mars gets pulled back to her hometown, an ex-boyfriend with baggage, and an unraveling murder mystery.
Cast: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Krysten Ritter, Ryan Hansen, Enrico Colantoni
Let's push through the rest of these, and I'll highlight the ones that jump out immediately from the truly overwhelming crush of titles.
Director: Jay Karas
Screenwriters: Gene Hong, Jeremy Sisto
Two estranged brothers reunite to make an improbable run at a grand slam tennis tournament. The mismatched pair, with some unlikely help from a precocious 11-year-old boy, re-discover their game and their brotherhood.
Cast: Jeremy Sisto, David Walton, Joshua Rush, J.K. Simmons, Amy Smart
This is one of the SXSports screenings, and I'm intrigued by the J.K. Simmons casting here. After "Whiplash," I'm curious to see what happens to him this year. He could easily end up in the Best Supporting Actor race, and especially if there are a number of other strong performances by him to keep people reminded all year long about just how good he is.
Director: Diego Luna
Screenwriters: Keir Pearson, Timothy J. Sexton
Chávez chronicles the birth of a modern American movement led by famed civil rights leader and labor organizer, Cesar Chavez.
Cast: Rosario Dawson, John Malkovich, Michael Pena, America Ferrera, Gabriel Mann
(North American Premiere)
Lots of people have tried to get a Chavez film off the ground in the last ten to fifteen years, but Diego Luna appears to be the first guy who actually get it done. Is it going to turn out to be worth it? We'll see.
Director/Screenwriter: Riley Stearns
An expert on cults is hired by a mother and father to kidnap and deprogram their brainwashed daughter. He soon begins to suspect the parents may be more destructive than the cult he’s being hired to save her from.
Cast: Leland Orser, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Chris Ellis, Lance Reddick, Jon Gries
Both Orser and Reddick were great in "The Guest," one of the strongest films we saw at Sundance this year, and Stearns is coming off of a very strong short film, "The Cub." I'm excited to see what he does with a feature, and this is very high on my list of titles for the fest.
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