Previewing the 2016 South by Southwest Film Festival
South by Southwest is big even by Texas standards. The festival has more to see, hear, and experience than Austin has breakfast tacos — well, maybe not quite. Here at Flickchart, we’re focused on ranking the films at SXSW, but we’ll report on other cool things we stumble across, too — like a new virtual reality system demo exclusively for members of the press.
The first films of this year’s festival screen on Friday, March 11. A big draw will be the world premiere of Everybody Wants Some by Austin-based filmmaker Richard Linklater. A teen sex comedy set in the ’80s, it is being called the “spiritual sequel” to Linklater’s iconic Dazed and Confused. There is also a new documentary about the filmmaker, Richard Linklater – dream is destiny, on the schedule for Friday.
The highly-contemporary 9 Rides, about an Uber driver, was shot entirely on an iPhone 6S. A British dark comedy called An Arms Length will play with Jewish stereotypes within the coming-of-age framework. An even darker short film called Battlefield Casualties will criticize the British Army’s recruitment of teenagers by parodying GI Joe commercials — do you have room on your toy shelf for “PTSD Action Man”?
Young people remain at the center of Friday’s slate with UIO: Take Me For a Ride, a high school story from Ecuador that seems to involve LGBTQ themes.
Free in Deed asks what happens when an incurable child meets a faith healer who refuses to give up on a miracle. It is an American-New Zealand co-production and performed well at the Venice International Film Festival. Speaking of New Zealand, Lord of the Rings’ Dominic Monaghan plays an abductor in the world premiere of the psychological thriller Pet.
The topic of The Greasy Strangler is self-explanatory, but in case you thought it might be a metaphor, here’s the official plot description: “An oily, slimy inhuman maniac. . . stalks the streets at night and strangles the innocent.”
One of the films premiering on Friday doesn’t have a title yet, but sounds like a must-see for horror-loving attendees. A “Ghost House Thriller,” its description sounds like the setup for a classic slasher or supernatural bloodbath: “A group of teens break into a blind man’s home thinking they’ll get away with the perfect crime. They’re wrong.”
Also in the creepy vein, but grounded in real events, a feature-length documentary Beware the Slenderman shows how children find inspiration for violence in internet-based urban legends.
Another documentary feature, and another look at youth culture, comes in the form of Fantastic Lies, a look into the Duke University lacrosse team rape scandal of a decade ago. The documentary The Liberators complicates a familiar story by suggesting that some art stolen by the Nazis was actually re-stolen by the American troops who found it. Are hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen treasure waiting to be uncovered in a small Texas town?
In music-mad Austin, though, one of the most well-attended documentaries of the festival may be Sidemen – Long Road to Glory, about some of the 20th century’s great backing musicians who traveled the country with rock and country’s biggest acts. Meanwhile, We Are X will draw in musical otaku with its retrospective of one of Japan’s most influential ‘80s rock bands. For film fanatics, the documentary The Slippers takes a close look at the ruby reds from The Wizard of Oz.
The film slate intensifies on Saturday. Some big names will be on the screen, from Jake Gyllenhaal in the drama Demolition to Sam Neill in the Hunt for the Wilderpeople, an adventure set in “the wild New Zealand bush.”
The North American premier of Midnight Special will treat festival-goers to the latest film from Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, and Adam Driver. For crime lovers, Michael Peña and Alexander Skarsgård appear in War on Everyone, a “jet-black action comedy” set in Breaking Bad country.
Karaoke Crazies from South Korea sounds like a mashup of genres: a quirky gamer girl becomes a karaoke sensation and then has to fend off a serial killer. Could this be the debut of a new cult classic? Kill Me Please from Brazil sounds equally unusual, focusing on a girl who encountered death and now “will do anything to make sure she’s alive.”
A busy festival for horror fans continues with the low-budget horror film Hush, which sounds like a twist on the Audrey Hepburn classic Wait Until Dark. This time, it’s a deaf woman instead of a blind woman who has to elude a killer in her home. Also debuting on Saturday is an exorcism tale called Another Evil, which pits a family against an EFD: an “Evil Fully Determined” spirit. Why don’t horror films ever feature Lawful Good ghosts?
On the subject of Dungeons & Dragons, the documentary feature Dwarvenaut will show the human dimension of fantasy game art design. Another documentary highlight on Saturday is The Bandit, about the making of Burt Reynolds and Hal Needham’s redneck romp Smokey and the Bandit.
That’s just some of what’s available during the first two days of this nine-day film festival. We’ll watch as many as we can and post a new ranking every couple of days, so check back often while the festival lasts.