Where to start, where to start? Hundreds of movies are playing the South by Southwest Film Festival this year. Over the years, the fest has become a launchpad for big box office flicks, taste-making art film and even TV shows. We went through all of this year's crop and came up with 40 movies that looked potentially fun and informative, thrilling and smart, entertaining and thoughtful. We have not yet seen these films, but we are looking forward to checking them out.
• RELATED: Check out the 2019 SXSW party guide
"Adopt a Highway"
Ethan Hawke reaffirmed his position as one of his generation’s most underrated actors with his performance in last year’s “First Reformed.” He will undoubtedly captivate in a story about an ex-con learning to adjust to freedom while caring for a baby he finds in a dumpster, a gothic Americana log line worthy of a musical score by Jason Isbell. World premiere. Screenings: 8:30 p.m. March 10 at Stateside; 6 p.m. March 11 at AFS Cinema; 5:30 p.m. March 13 at Rollins Theatre at Long Center. — M.O.
Never-before-seen footage of the Apollo 11 mission led by commander Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin drew raves out of the Sundance Film Festival, with Variety declaring that “by virtue of both access and proper preservation,” the movie is “utterly breathtaking.” Screenings: 6 p.m. March 10 at Atom Theater at Austin Convention Center; 2 p.m. March 14 at Zach Theatre. — M.O.
No matter how one feels about Malcolm Gladwell (and man alive, his work does tend to generate opinions) the complexities — technological, ethical and so forth — regarding self-driving cars aren’t going away any time soon. This 80-minute documentary, directed by Alex Horowitz, explores them. Screenings: 11 a.m. March 9 at Atom Theater at Austin Convention Center; 7 p.m. March 11 at Alamo Ritz 2; 11 a.m. March 13 at Alamo South Lamar E. — J.G.
"The Beach Bum"
If David Wooderson (“Dazed and Confused”) and Alien (“Spring Breakers”) were combined into one character, I imagine he’d end up a little something like Matthew McConaughey’s titular character in another gonzo romp from director Harmony Korine. World premiere. Screening: 6 p.m. March 9 at Paramount Theatre. — M.O.
In 1982, 27-year-old culinary school graduate Amy Kurland opened a café in a strip mall in a nice Nashville suburb. Over the next 30-plus years, the Bluebird became one of the most important listening rooms in American music, a showcase for generations of singer-songwriters both legendary and obscure. Look for performances from Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks, Maren Morris, Vince Gill, Jason Isbell and more. Screenings: 6:30 p.m. March 14 at Paramount Theatre; 11 pm. March 15 at Alamo South Lamar C. — J.G.
Former “House” star Olivia Wilde jumps behind the camera for her directorial debut with a coming-of-age story featuring burgeoning stars Kaitlyn Dever (“Justified”) and Beanie Feldstein (“Lady Bird”), along with some familiar faces from “Saturday Night Live.” World premiere. Screenings: 9:30 p.m. March 10 at Paramount Theatre; 5:45 p.m. March 11 at Atom Theater at Austin Convention Center. — M.O.
"The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story"
This doc on boy-band svengali Lou Pearlman will apparently focus on his defrauding of the bands he worked with (Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync, O-Town) and his imprisonment for a Ponzi scheme, though perhaps the allegations of sexual molestation that long-swirled around him will be discussed, as well. Screenings: 3 p.m. March 13 at Paramount Theatre; 1:45 p.m. March 14 at Alamo South Lamar E; 4:45 p.m. March 16 at Stateside Theatre. — J.G.
"Boy Howdy! The Story of Creem Magazine"
Scott Crawford, who also directed “Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, D.C.,” takes a look at the legendary rock mag Creem (and its even more legendary alum, Lester Bangs), which positioned itself as the anti-Rolling Stone (sort of) at a time when rock culture seemed like the cutting edge of everything. Screenings: 8 p.m. March 10 at Alamo South Lamar E; 11:30 a.m. March 14 at Alamo Ritz 1; 2 p.m. March 15 at Alamo South Lamar A. — J.G.
"Boyz in the Wood"
Scottish humor can be dry, dark and outright absurd, and I imagine some of those elements are at play in this raucous youth comedy that touches on "generational politics, hip-hop-loving farmers and hallucinogenic rabbit droppings." Eddie Izzard’s involvement as both actor and producer, as well as the midnight premiere time, speak well for this movie’s chances as a crowd-pleaser. World premiere. Screenings: 11:55 p.m. March 8 at Stateside Theatre; 11:55 p.m. March 9 at Alamo South Lamar B; and 5 p.m. March 15 at Zach Theatre. — M.O.
Nobel Prize winner Dr. Jim Allison’s name should be up there with those of the most important Texans of the last 50 years, thanks to his quest to find a cure for the disease that took his mother: cancer. The documentary is narrated by fellow Texas Hall of Famer Woody Harrelson. World premiere. Screenings: 1:45 p.m. March 9 at Atom Theater at Austin Convention Center; 7:45 p.m. March 12 at Alamo South Lamar D; 8:45 p.m. March 14 at Zach Theatre. — M.O.
"Building the American Dream"
Director Chelsea Hernandez’s documentary examines the toll taken on families of hard-working immigrants as they literally help construct an American Dream, which they often are forced to view from the periphery. World premiere. Screenings: 11:30 a.m. March 10 at Zach Theatre; 5:30 p.m. March 12 at Rollins Theatre at Long Center; 6 p.m. March 14 at AFS Cinema. — M.O.
"Carmine Street Guitars"
A sadly fading piece of historic Manhattan. A slew of axe-toting musicians. Custom guitar maker and Greenwich Village mainstay Rick Kelly. This documentary caters to lovers of nostalgia, creativity, community, music and NYC. So, like, almost anyone at SXSW. Screenings: 5 p.m. March 12 at Alamo Ritz 1; 2 p.m. March 14 Alamo South Lamar A; 11:30 a.m. March 16 at Alamo Ritz 2. — M.O.
"Community First: A Home for the Homeless"
Austin director Layton Blaylock ("Art From the Streets") takes a look at Community First Village, a development of small houses for chronically homeless people in a fairly rural part of town. It’s an incredibly inspiring model of care, assistance and love. Screenings: 10:45 a.m. March 9 at the Rollins Theatre; 9 p.m. March 11 at AFS Cinema; 12:30 p.m. March 16 at Zach Theatre. — J.G.
Pollyannna McIntosh (Jadis on “The Walking Dead”) directs this horror picture, the third in the “Offspring”/“The Woman” series, about a feral teenager named Darlin’ whom nuns attempt to tame after she is found at a Catholic hospital. Look for McIntosh to reprise her role as “the Woman.” Screenings: 11:35 p.m. March 9 at the Alamo South Lamar D; 11 p.m. March 12 at Alamo Ritz 1; 11 a.m. March 16 at Alamo South Lamar A. — J.G.
"Ernie & Joe"
Mental illness deserves more understanding and a more visible platform, which makes documentaries like this portrait of two members of the San Antonio Police Department’s 10-person Mental Health Unit enriching and vital. World premiere. Screenings: 11:30 a.m. March 9 at Alamo Ritz 1; 3 p.m. March 10 at Alamo South Lamar A; 6 p.m. March 15 at AFS Cinema. — M.O.
The success and death (at 21, by overdose) of rapper Lil Peep was one of the music biz’s more depressing stories. Former Austinite Sebastian Jones co-directed this documentary examination of what went right and what went very, very wrong for this kid. Screenings: 8:45 p.m. March 10 at Alamo South Lamar A; 8:15 p.m. March 12 at Stateside Theatre; 8:15 p.m. March 14 at Alamo Ritz 2. — J.G.
Bob Byington worked with Keith Poulson and Nick Offerman on the film “Somebody Up There Likes Me.” Look for both of them in this somewhat mysterious film about a young lady who screws up, does time and is gifted with a complicated new identity. Screenings: 9 p.m. March 10 at Atom Theatre at Austiin Convention Center; 11:30 a.m. March 12 at Alamo Ritz 1; 1:45 p.m. March 15 at Stateside Theater. — J.G.
"The Garden Left Behind"
A young transgender woman named Tina must navigate a complicated relationship with her grandmother in this feature from Brazilian-American filmmaker Flavio Alves. World premier.Screenings: 9 p.m. March 9 at Alamo South Lamar B; 7:15 p.m. March 10 at the Rollins Theatre; noon March 13 at Alamo South Lamar C. — J.G.
"The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash"
Director Thom Zimny helmed two of the best-regarded music documentaries of the decade: “Elvis Presley: The Searcher” and “Springsteen on Broadway.” Here, Zimmy takes a swing at the Man in Black in all his mythic power. Screenings: 5:15 p.m. March 9 at Alamo South Lamar D; 2:30 p.m. March 14 at Paramount Theatre; 10:45 a.m. March 16 at Alamo Ritz 1. — J.G.
"Go Back to China"
Check out Emily Ting’s semi-autobiographical film, which follows a spoiled rich girl who spends her trust fund and is forced by her family to go back to China and work for the family toy business. Lessons are likely to be learned. World premiere. Screenings: 2 p.m. March 9 at Stateside Theatre; 11:15 a.m. March 10 at Alamo South Lamar B; 2:15 p.m. March 15 at Alamo South Lamar B. — J.G.
The writers of “Superbad” and veterans of “The Office” team up for an “R-rated comedy about three friends on an epic one-day odyssey of bad decisions.” World premiere. Screening: 9:30 p.m. March 11 at Paramount Theatre. — M.O.
I’d watch Woody Harrelson in anything. Paired up as a Texas Ranger with Kevin Costner in a period piece directed by fellow Texan and “The Blind Side” director John Lee Hancock? Sure, why not? Let’s give those SXSW visitors a nice dose of Texas myth-making with some good, old-fashioned, American filmmaking that would make Clint Eastwood proud. World premiere. Screening: 6 p.m. March at Paramount Theatre. — M.O.
"I Love You, Now Die: The Commonwealth Vs. Michelle Carter"
Filmmaker Erin Lee Carr has proven herself adept at delivering gripping stories about deeply disturbing behaviors. The director of "Mommy Dead and Dearest" and "Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop" turns her lens on mental health, technology and bullying. World premiere. Screenings: 8 p.m. March 9 at Alamo South Lamar A; 2 p.m. March 11 at Atom Theater at Austin Convention Center; 8:15 p.m. March 13 at Stateside Theatre. — M.O.
Numa Perrier’s feature-length directorial debut makes its world premiere at SXSW. As her mother is dying, 19-year-old Tiffany lands with five family members in a tiny Las Vegas apartment. Her older sister, a phone sex operator, introduces Tiffany to the strange, complicated world of internet fetish cam girls and the fandoms they can generate. World premiere. Screenings: Noon March 9 at Alamo South Lamar C; 1:30 p.m. March 11 at the Alamo Ritz 2; 7:15 p.m. March 15 at Alamo Ritz 2. — J.G.
I follow professional basketball pretty closely and am a fan of the game’s history, and I still hadn’t heard of Kenny Sailors. This documentary profiles the man credited with introducing the jump shot to the game and the lasting impact of his revolutionary act. World premiere. Screenings: 11:15 a.m. March 11 at Atom Theater at Austin Convention Center; 2:15 p.m. March 12 at Alamo South Lamar A; 8:30 p.m. March 13 at Alamo South Lamar D. — M.O.
"Knock Down the House"
The face of the U.S. Congress changed with the 2018 mid-term elections, as a historic number of women and racial minorities won seats in Washington, D.C. That election season receives the documentary treatment in this film that highlights, among others, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York (also a featured speaker at SXSW this year). Screenings: 11:30 a.m. March 10 at Paramount Theatre; 2 p.m. March 12 at Stateside Theatre; 11:30 a.m. March 13 at Atom Theatre at Austin Convention Center. — M.O.
"Mickey and the Bear"
In this first feature from writer/director Annabelle Attanasio (daughter of TV/movie creator Paul Attanasio), Mickey Peck (Camila Morrone) tries to help her veteran father (James Badge Dale) deal with life in the middle of nowhere in Montana as he struggles with depression, opioids and the loss of his wife. Mickey wants to head to college, and when things with her father come to a head, Mickey must make some tough choices. Screenings: 11 a.m. March 9 at Stateside Theatre; 10:30 p.m. March 10 at Alamo South Lamar D; 5 p.m. March 14 at Alamo South Lamar E. — J.G.
Of all of the movies at SXSW, this might be the most wild, and it’s a doc. The title refers to one Akio Sakurai who, for 35 years, recreated vintage Led Zeppelin concerts note for note in small Tokyo clubs. His devotion to doing what is the ultimate Jimmy Page impression is astonishing. (Mr. Jimmy himself will perform March 13 at Dirty Dog.) Screenings: 8 p.m. March 8 at Alamo South Lamar B; 8 p.m March 11 at Alamo South Lamar B; 5:30 p.m. March 14 at Alamo Ritz 1. — J.G.
"Nothing Fancy: Diana Kennedy"
Nonagenarian culinary anthropologist Diana Kennedy has spent decades championing the glorious cuisine of Mexico. The debut documentary from native Austinite Elizabeth Carroll reveals the charismatic culinary legend and her legacy. World premiere. Screenings: 5:45 p.m. March 9 at Alamo Ritz 1; noon March 10 at Alamo South Lamar A; 9 p.m. March 13 at AFS Cinema. — J.G.
"Nothing Stays the Same: The Story of the Saxon Pub"
The title is a tale with which Austinites are all too familiar. Director Jeff Sandmann’s documentary goes inside one of the city’s great listening rooms for a portrait of Austin’s past, present and future. World premiere. Screenings: Noon March 13 at Paramount Theatre; 1:45 p.m. March 16 at Alamo South Lamar B. — M.O.
“Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins”
If the Texas left could be said to have a patron saint, it would be Molly Ivins. Or maybe Ann Richards, but no matter. This doc by Janice Engle is about Ivins and, well, her life and times. The first woman to co-edit the Texas Observer, Ivins became an often downright visionary columnist. Much of what she railed against (anti-intellectualism, oligarchy-via-big-business) has come to pass. Screenings: 11:30 a.m. March 11 at Paramount Theatre; 6 p.m. March 12 at AFS; 10:45 a.m. March 14 at Alamo South Lamar E. — J.G.
"Running With Beto"
Austin filmmaker David Modigliani and his spartan crew dashed across and bounced around the state of Texas with Beto O’Rourke, as the El Paso congressman attempted to connect with voters thirsty for a departure from politics as usual. Knowing how this movie ends does nothing to spoil its vitality or heart. (We’ve already seen this one.) World premiere. Screenings: 11:30 a.m. March 9 at Paramount Theatre; 2:30 p.m. March 11 at Zach Theatre; 3 p.m. March 16 at Zach Theatre. — M.O.
"Run This Town"
Writer/director Ricky Tollman (of Canada via South Africa) world-premieres this debut feature about Bram, who gets a dream job at a local newspaper, only to find himself writing top 10 lists and living in fear of layoffs. Can he break a big story and save his passion? World premiere. Screenings: 8:30 p.m. March 9 at Stateside Theatre; 11 a.m. March 11 at Alamo South Lamar A; 11:15 a.m. March 15 at Alamo Ritz 1. — J.G.
A new doc on superproducer Rick Rubin’s Malibu studio. It's a work in progress, which means it is not quite finished, but director Morgan Neville will have a conversation about it with Jeff “Marwencol” Malmberg. Screening: 2:45 p.m. March 11 at Paramount Theatre. — J.G.
Based (loosely? somewhat? note-for-note?) on the life and times of writer Lindy West (who executive produces and writes on the show), the Hulu series “Shrill” stars Aidy Bryant as Annie, "a fat young woman who wants to change her life — but not her body," as the description puts it. Annie juggles her career, bad boyfriends, a sick parent and a perfectionist boss. The screening will be followed by an extended Q&A with select cast and crew. Screening: 8:30 p.m. March 11 at Stateside Theatre. — J.G.
"Sword of Trust"
Filmmaker Lynn Shelton knows how to blend awkwardness, angst and humor. The festival’s capsule preview for her latest ensemble mentions "a wild journey into the depths of conspiracy theory and and Southern disillusionment.” We’re in. World premiere. Screenings: 9:15 p.m. March 8 at Zach Theatre; 9 p.m. March 11 at Atom Theater at Austin Convention Center; 2:30 p.m. March 13 at Alamo South Lamar D. — M.O.
What a coup for the festival. “Get Out” was one of the best movies of 2017, and filmmaker Jordan Peele’s follow-up looks at least as scary and intense as his previous effort. I just hope there's a couple of laughs to ease the tension. The Paramount will be vibrating for this one. World premiere. Screening: 6:30 p.m. March 8 at Paramount Theatre.— M.O.
"We are the Radical Monarchs"
Looking to feel better about the future and maybe grab some inspiration for leading a more conscientious life? This group of young women of color who participate in a scout troop centered around the causes of social justice and equality will stir you. World premiere. Screenings: 2:45 p.m. March 10 at Alamo Ritz 1; noon March 11 at Alamo South Lamar D; 7:45 p.m. March 13 at Alamo South Lamar A. — M.O.
"Why Can’t I Be Me? Around You"
Art car artist and documentarian Harrod Blank joins first-time documentary filmmaker Sjoerd Dijk for a story about the time that Blank’s van broke down near Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the only mechanic capable of fixing it was local drag racer and "machining savant" Russell “Rusty” Tidenberg. Tindenberg had recently begun a gender transition process, to the rejection of family and community. Struck by the story, Harrod filmed Tindenberg for eight years. This looks fascinating. Screenings: 2:30 p.m. March 11 at Alamo Ritz 1; 3 p.m. March 12 at Alamo South Lamar C; 9 p.m. March 14 at Alamo South Lamar C. — M.O.
"Who Let the Dogs Out"
Because occasionally the universe loves us and wants us to have nice things, behold this documentary about Ben Sisto, who has spent eight years dedicated to unpacking the roots, creation and exploitation of "Who Let the Dogs Out?" Yes, one of the catchiest songs in modern culture. (Dude travels around lecturing on the song and owns a museum of more than 250 pieces of ephemera relating to the song and its origins. WILL WE FIND OUT WHO LET THE — ah, probably not. Screenings: 2 p.m. March 9 at Alamo South Lamar D; 11:30 a.m. March 12 at Zach Theatre; 10:15 p.m. March 13 at Alamo Ritz 1. — J.G.