From a Silk Road documentary to a Lena Dunham tennis mockumentary – the Texas fest is set to stun
The SXSW film festival gets underway Friday, and although it's sandwiched in between Sundance and Cannes, its status as an industry outlier is what makes it unique. That status, however, is steadily expanding to incorporate more mainstream movies. More are premiering this year than ever before. Still, there’s plenty of stuff for the adventurous cinephile here, from the first ever documentary about bitcoin to Craig Roberts’ highly anticipated directorial debut.
HELLO MY NAME IS DORIS – MICHAEL SHOWALTER
Sally Field is back in this eagerly-awaited May-December romance from the team that gave us the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer (and it’s upcoming Netflix reboot). After the death of her mother, Field’s 60-something woman looks to fill the void with a hot young thang (New Girl’s Max Greenfield), and his crew of Brooklyn hipsters. Norma Rae inhaling pork belly tacos and washing them down with some cold pressed juice? Yes please.
GTFO – SHANNON SUN-HIGGINSTON
What better venue than the tech mecca that is SXSW to premiere filmmaker Shannon Sun-Higginson’s stark examination of the rampant sexism that’s become synonymous with video game culture over the last few years. The epidemic went mainstream after all the media attention surrounding #GamerGate, and this doc is the next chapter in a vital conversation that’s only just begun.
SHARE – PIPPA BIANCO
Rookie director Pippa Bianco’s technophobic short about a teenage girl (Taissa Farmiga) who must reassemble her life after a NSFW video from a blackout night goes viral, is a story ripped right from the headlines. That’s exactly what makes it so vital.
PETTING ZOO – MICAH MAGEE
After earning raves last month in Berlin, writer-director Micah Magee’s debut feature enters Austin with a ton of heat. Anchored by an impressive performance from actress Devon Keller, the stark drama about a Texas teen dealing with an unwanted pregnancy is a perfect example of something the film world needs a whole lot more of: A movie about women, by women, for women. Here’s hoping Petting Zoo finds life beyond the festival circuit.
JUST JIM – CRAIG ROBERTS
Welsh prodigy Craig Roberts – who first broke out as the precocious hero in Richard Ayoade’s beloved debut Submarine – pulls double duty here, as both star and director of Just Jim. In it, the 24-year-old polymath plays a nerd whose beige existence gets some much needed colour when a mysterious stranger (Emile Hirsch) moves in next door. The pride of Wales (sorry, Gareth Bale) is about to go worldwide.
T-REX – DREA COOPER
The story of Claressa “T-Rex” Shields, the 19-year-old who in 2012 became the youngest female boxer in Olympic history, mirrors the story of the documentary that tells her tale. Both are against-all-odds triumphs: Shields rose from the barren streets of Flint, Michigan to realize her dream, and directors Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari relied on crowdfunding to help realize their vision. Theirs is a world premiere three years in the making.
DEEP WEB – ALEX WINTER
Ever since he starred as one half of the time travelling stoner duo in the Bill & Ted franchise, Alex Winter has had one eye on the future. His first documentary Downloaded, debuted at SXSW in 2013 and explored the impact of online piracy. Now he’s back in Austin with another meditation on technology. Deep Web: The Untold Story of Bitcoin and Silk Road is a carefully researched exploration of the darkest corners of the Internet. Eat your heart out, Keanu.
UNCLE KENT 2 – TODD ROHAL
To the fans of Mumblecore auteur Joe Swanberg who plan on snaking around the block for a chance to see the sequel to the director’s 2011 cult classic Uncle Kent – not so fast. This misnomer was actually directed by the idiosyncratic filmmaker Todd Rohal (The Catacysm Cataclysm) who employs more of his trademark dream logic in this meta-doc about Kent Osborne’s real-life attempt to make a sequel to the fictional portrait of his life. Or something like that.
7 DAYS IN HELL – ANDY SAMBERG & MURRAY MILLER
When it was announced last year that Kit Harington was joining comedy cool kids and SNL alums Andy Samberg, Will Forte, Lena Dunham and Fred Armisen in a tennis mockumentary for HBO, the internet went into collective cardiac arrest. Could this be the This Is Spinal Tap for the Twitter generation? Might Andy Samberg rock some short shorts? Will we finally get to see what it looks like when Jon Snow smiles? Your serve, guys.
AVA’S POSSESSIONS – JORDAN GALLAND
The tagline to director Jordan Galland’s unorthodox horror reads: “Demons are a girl’s best friend,” and stars Louisa Clarke, along with NYC “It” girls Jemima Kirke, Annabelle Dexter-Jones and Stella Schnabel. To anyone attending the screening: Doc Martens are required.
SXSW Film runs from 13-21 March