Festival lineup to include dozens of world premieres
The South by Southwest Film Festival and Conference announced Thursday 109 feature films that will screen during the event that runs March 8-16. The roster includes 68 entries from first-time filmmakers, along with 69 world premieres.
The festival will welcome such major names as Oscar-nominee John Sayles, whose “Go For Sisters,” a story of childhood friends reunited after decades apart, makes its North American premiere. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” creator and “Avengers” director Joss Whedon brings a contemporary spin on Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” which will bow for the first time in the U.S.
Three of Austin’s greatest filmmaking talents will take part in this year’s festival, as well. Screening locally for the first time since successful runs at Sundance in January will be Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight,” a stirring portrait of the joys and difficulties of love; Jeff Nichols’ classic American tale, “Mud;” and David Gordon Green’s spare buddy comedy, “Prince Avalanche.”
Other names sure to excite fest-goers include Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose directorial debut, the steamy “Don John’s Addiction,” has been selected. Funny lady Anna Faris is joined by Rose Byrne (“Damages”) in “I Give It a Year,” British writer-director Dan Mazer’s comedy, which makes its North American premiere. And, in what should make for an interesting pairing, longtime TV director Daisy von Scherler Mayer and the darkly comic scribe Neil Labute (“In the Company of Men”) team for the comedy “Some Girl(s),” starring Adam Brody, Kristen Bell and Zoe Kazan.
SXSW’s two main competition categories — narrative and documentary features — consist of 16 films all making their world premieres.
Narrative feature competition highlights include director Destin Daniel Cretton’s “Short Term 12,” a touching story of troubled youth starring Brie Larson (“United States of Tara”) and John Gallagher Jr. (“The Newsroom”), and Austin filmmaker Chris Eska’s “The Retrieval,” a Civil War-era story of a boy sent to hunt down a wanted man. Eska won the John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards in 2008 for his feature debut, “August Evening.”
Subjects in the documentary feature competition span the globe, from the Midwest to West Africa. Director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s “Touba,” shot on 16mm, chronicles the Grand Magal, Sufi Muslims’ annual pilgrimage to Touba, Senegal. Closer to home, AJ Schnack and David Wilson’s “We Always Lie to Strangers” paints a portrait of music and family life in the Ozark Mountain town of Branson, Mo.
Other highlights include explorations of important cultural and political figures and topical subjects. Making their world premieres are Stephen Finnigan’s “Hawking,” a look at the life of the renowned physicist; Texas director Al Reinert’s “An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story;” and “Getting Back to Abnormal,” a doc examining post-Katrina New Orleans directed by University of Texas Radio, Television and Film chair Paul Stekler.
There will be a host of local filmmakers screening at SXSW. Director Bryan Poyser’s highly anticipated locally shot comedy “The Bounceback,” starring Marshall Allman and Ashley Bell, makes its world premiere, as does filmmaking prodigy Emily Hagins’ “Grow Up, Tony Phillips,” a comedy about a high school senior with Peter Pan syndrome and a Halloween obsession. Writer-director Sean H.A. Gallagher’s second feature, “Good Night,” which stars a host of Austin actors and regularly visiting talent, makes its world premiere.
Tim McCanlies’ “When Angels Sing,” a family-friendly film starring Harry Connick Jr., Connie Britton, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, will make its world premiere. Geoff Marslett, who last impressed audiences with his imaginative 2010 film “Mars,” will see his film “Loves Her Gun,” co-written by Lauren Modery, make its world premiere, as well.
Accomplished cinematographer PJ Raval’s “Before You Know It,” a documentary about gay seniors entering their golden years, and the locally shot “Zero Charisma,” a comedy about role-playing enthusiasts, will also make their world premieres.
In addition to the local titles, SXSW will welcome a handful of films made in Austin that played at Sundance, including Hannah Fidell’s tale of forbidden romance, “A Teacher;” Andrew Bujalski’s inventive and retro “Computer Chess,” a (mostly) black-and-white look at computer programmers trying to outwit the human mind; and Yen Tan’s “Pit Stop,” a tender portrayal of the lives of gay men in small-town Texas.
The 24 Beats Per Second category, featuring music-related documentaries, returns this year, highlighted by Nelson George’s “Funk;” punk profile “A Band Called Death;” “All the Labor,” the story of Austin band the Gourds; and “20 Feet from Stardom,” a celebration of backup singers. Dave Grohl’s “Sound City,” a love-letter to analogue recording, will play in the special events section.
The films announced this week join previously announced films such as the opening night film, the comedy “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” as well as Harmony Korine’s wild “Spring Breakers” and Fede Alvarez’s horror remake “Evil Dead.” SXSW will announce the films in their Midnighters and Shorts sections Wednesday.
SXSW also will feature more than 150 conversations, panels, workshops and mentor sessions, including “A Conversation with Matthew McConaughey” and the always popular acting workshop led by Jeffrey Tambor. The final conference lineup will be announced Feb. 13. For more information on the festival, visit www.sxsw.com/film.