Austin’s SXSW music, film and interactive festival is my absolute favorite time of year. You might wonder why I would say that after hearing my tales of many SXSW’s past that include very late nights and very early mornings, hours of waiting in lines and never ending up following my meticulously planned schedule. But, those things just contribute to the spur-of-the-moment spirit of the festival.
As SXSW has grown, many aspects of the festival have evolved. RSVPs have become the law of the land if you want to make it into the varying-degrees-of-fun parties, security has increased, the Interactive part of the festival has really grown into its own, and the scope and popularity of the music artists and films has exploded.
If you’re like me, the films are your favorite part of SXSW and all the other parts of the festival are just extra perks. And even if the films aren’t your main focus, I highly suggest trying to catch one or two when you can as there are hidden indie gems that you might never get a chance to see anywhere else. Wherever films fall on your SXSW priority list, below are five films that should be on your radar during the festival.
Synopsis: Young nun Colleen is avoiding all contact from her family, until an email from her mother announces, “Your brother is home.” On returning to her childhood home in Asheville, NC, she finds her old room exactly how she left it: painted black and covered in goth/metal posters. Her parents are happy enough to see her, but unease and awkwardness abounds. Her brother is living as a recluse in the guesthouse since returning home from the Iraq war. During Colleen’s visit, tensions rise and fall with a little help from Halloween, pot cupcakes, and GWAR. Little Sister is a sad comedy about family – a schmaltz-free, pathos-drenched, feel good movie for the little goth girl inside us all. (sxsw.com)
Director: Zach Clark
Principal Cast: Addison Timlin, Ally Sheedy, Keith Poulson, Peter Hedges, Kristin Slaysman, Molly Plunk, Barbara Crampton
SXSW will be the world premiere site for “Little Sister.” And who wouldn’t want to see a feel good sad comedy? I’ll see all of you fellow patrons with inner little goth girls there.
Synopsis: In the sci-fi thriller “Midnight Special,” writer/director Jeff Nichols proves again that he is one of the most compelling storytellers of our time, as a father (Michael Shannon) goes on the run to protect his young son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), and uncover the truth behind the boy’s special powers. What starts as a race from religious extremists and local law enforcement quickly escalates to a nationwide manhunt involving the highest levels of the Federal Government. Ultimately, his father risks everything to protect Alton and help fulfill a destiny that could change the world forever, in this genre-defying film as supernatural as it is intimately human. (sxsw.com)
Director: Jeff Nichols
Principal Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher, Sam Shepard
“Midnight Special” only has one showing during the festival (Saturday, March 12th) so make sure to catch the highly speculated thriller this weekend.
“Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny”
Synopsis: “Dream is Destiny” is a feature-length documentary film on the life and work of Richard Linklater. Produced/Directed by Louis Black and Karen Bernstein, “Dream is Destiny” is an unusual look at a fiercely independent film style that emerged from Austin, Texas in the 1990s, and the impact on a generation of do it yourself filmmakers who craved a career off the Hollywood/NYC grid. “Richard Linklater – Dream is Destiny” charts the course of his career on and off the studio grid, from his groundbreaking film, “Slacker” in 1991, to the award-winning “Boyhood” (2014) and includes behind the scenes footage from his soon-to-be-released college comedy, “Everybody Wants Some.” (sxsw.com)
Director: Louis Black, Karen Bernstein
Principal Cast: Richard Linklater, Matthew McConaughey, Jack Black, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Kevin Smith, Julie Delpy, Tricia Linklater, Clark Walker, Tommy Pallotta
After catching Linklater’s new college comedy, “Everybody Wants Some,” which is this year’s Opening Night Film, dive into Linklater’s complete body of work with “Dream is Destiny” featuring interviews with actors, fellow directors, and the man himself.
Synopsis: In the vein of “Hard Candy” and “Gone Girl,” “Pet” is a psychological thriller that deals with the themes of identity, loneliness, selflessness and what it means to truly belong to another. It’s told through the prism of two isolated people, Seth and Holly, seemingly different yet more similar than they even knew. “Pet” is at its heart a dark love story which examines how much one is willing to sacrifice in the name of love. (sxsw.com)
Director: Carles Torrens
Principal Cast: Dominic Monaghan, Ksenia Solo, Jennette McCurdy, Nathan Parsons, John Ross Bowie, Da’Vone McDonald, Janet Song
I wanted to include a scary movie for all of you SXSW Midnighters fans out there. Stay tuned during the festival for our review to see if the film lives up to its comparisons to “Hard Candy” and “Gone Girl.”
“Morris from America”
Synopsis: “Morris From America” centers around 13-year-old Morris, an African American boy who has just relocated with his single father in Heidelberg, Germany. Morris, who fancies himself the next Notorious B.I.G., is a complete fish-out-of-water in his new home, but then he meets the rebellious, hip Katrin, and instantly falls in love. As Morris navigates the typical roller coast ride of early adolescence—first love, acceptance among peers, complex relations with parents –in this completely unique setting, he faces unexpected challenges and inspiring triumphs, in this endearing, heartfelt coming-of-age story. (sxsw.com)
Director: Chad Hartigan
Principal Cast: Markees Christmas, Craig Robinson, Carla Juri
A favorite from Sundance Film Festival, make sure to add this “heartfelt coming-of-age story” to your must-see list.
Heading to SXSW? Watch for reviews and coverage of the festival on Shuffle Online and follow us on Twitter @shuffleonline and @corisawordsmith for updates.