The acclaimed film and tv festival SXSW prepares to take Austin, TX, by storm once again with a lineup that will make you swoon.
You may have seen my hometown of Austin, Texas, in the news recently, as we’ve been battling a rare ice storm that crippled this typically extremely warm-blooded city. I’ve been without power for a few days, so I’m tardy bringing you some thrilling news. However, with the freak cold snap behind us, it’s time to focus on much better things — like the HOTTEST ticket in town: the prestigious SXSW Film and TV Festival.
Over the years, SXSW has become one of the most important destinations for filmmakers, musicians, innovators, and artists.
Founded in 1987, SXSW debuted as a music festival featuring 177 artists on 15 stages. By 1990, over 400 musical artists were featured at the festival. 1994 marked the inaugural Film + Interactive Festival (plus keynote speaker Johnny Cash as part of the Music Festival). By 1998, total film submissions had grown from 638 to 1015.
In 2008, the National Post wrote:
“In Its 22 Years, SXSW Has Grown From A Tiny Music Festival In The Texas Capital Into A Massive, Unavoidable Media Beast That Reflects, Discusses And Showcases Trends In Culture And Media But Also Often Creates Them.”
Following the City of Austin’s cancellation of the 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SXSW Film Festival partnered with Amazon Prime Video to present the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection with 39 projects from the 2020 lineup available to audiences online.
Now the massive festival, which includes Film and TV, Interactive, and Music, is once again live in Austin — and promises to be bigger and better than ever.
While I love the entire festival, my heart will always belong to the festival’s film and television line-up. This is a must-attend event for all attendees passionate about the future of media and the emergent voices helping to reshape and redefine entertainment.
Television premieres include Donald Glover’s Swarm on Opening Night and Lee Sung Jin’s Beef on Closing Night.
In the world of film, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves will be opening the fest. Directed and co-written by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, the film stars Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Chloe Coleman, Daisy Head, and Hugh Grant. It centers around a charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers who undertake an epic heist to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people.
Other highlights include:
Evil Dead Rise from writer/director Lee Cronin
Evil Dead Rise tells a twisted tale of two estranged sisters, played by Sutherland and Sullivan, whose reunion is cut short by the rise of flesh-possessing demons, thrusting them into a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable. Executive Producers include Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. It stars Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, and Nell Fisher.
Problemista from director/writer Julio Torres
Alejandro (Julio Torres) is an aspiring toy designer from El Salvador, struggling to bring his unusual ideas to life in New York City. As time on his work visa runs out, a job assisting an erratic art-world outcast (Tilda Swinton) becomes his only hope to stay in the country and realize his dream. It’s a surreal adventure through the equally treacherous worlds of New York City and the U.S. Immigration system.
Flamin’ Hot from director Eva Longoria and screenwriters Linda Yvette Chávez and Lewis Colick
Flamin’ Hot is the story of Richard Montañez, the Frito Lay janitor who channeled his Mexican American heritage and upbringing to turn Flamin’ Hot Cheetos into a snack that disrupted the food industry and became a global phenomenon.
Bottoms from director Emma Seligman and writers Seligman and Rachel Sennott
Bottoms follows two unpopular girls in their senior year who start a fight club to try to impress and hook up with cheerleaders.
Tetris from director Jon S. Baird and writer Noah Pink
Based on the true story of American video game salesman Henk Rogers and his discovery of Tetris in 1988. When he sets out to bring the game to the world, he enters a dangerous web of lies and corruption behind the Iron Curtain.
Of course, what you and I care most about is the festival’s killer genre lineup, and there’s so much to be excited about this year.
That’s where SXSW’s famed Midnighters program comes in… and comes in hot!
“Midnighters don’t need to be exclusively horror films; they just need to perk you up and get your blood pumping,” said Peter Hall, Film & TV Festival Programmer. “That’s why this year’s SXSW Midnighters class is a mix of horror, bone-crunching action, and mind-melting genre hybrids. Some of them introduce new, terrifying lore to the canon of suburban horror movies, some will worm around in your brain like thoughts you can’t shake, but all of them will make you sit up and wonder what the hell you’ve just gotten yourself into.”
So, what’s on the menu for connoisseurs of deliciously dark and twisted content? Here are some of the tastiest treats:
Aberrance directed by Baatar Batsukh
When city dwellers Erkhmee and Selenge arrive at an old cabin deep in the Mongolian wilds, a foreboding settles over the couple. Erkhmee’s seemingly keen desire to provide a safe and nurturing space for his artistic wife is at odds with the violent actions and mannerisms their quizzical neighbor observes. As the neighbor digs deeper for the reason behind this aberrant behavior, only more questions and trouble arise.
Brooklyn ’45 directed by Ted Geoghegan
Friday, December 27, 1945. Five military veterans gather in the ornate parlour of a Brooklyn brownstone. Best friends since childhood, they’ve reunited to support their troubled host – but when his invitation for cocktails turns into an impromptu séance, the metaphoric ghosts of their past become all-too-literal. Trapped in their host’s lounge, the Greatest Generation now finds themselves put to one final test… with their only route to freedom being more bloodshed.
Furies directed by Veronica Ngo (Ngo Thanh Van)
Bi is a Vietnamese country girl who survives a brutal childhood and escapes to the city of Saigon. Bi is recruited by the mysterious Mrs. Lin, and followed Lin to an apartment where she lives with two new friends: the fierce Thanh and the playful Hong. Lin trains them to take down a Saigon crime lord, Hai, who traffics drugs and young women. Lin coaches Bi in the arts of killing and sensuality. She then willingly applies the skills she has learned to pursue Lin’s dangerous mission…
It Lives Inside directed by Bishal Dutta
Sam, an Indian-American teen, lives in an idyllic suburb with her conservative mother and her assimilated father. Sam’s cultural insecurities grow due to her estranged friend, Tamira, who mysteriously carries around an empty mason jar all the time. In a moment of anger, Sam breaks Tamira’s jar and unleashes an ancient Indian demonic force that kidnaps Tamira. Sam searches for Tamira, following the trail of a young man who performed a deadly ritual, until the demonic entity starts targeting her, murdering her boyfriend and shattering her reality with terrifying visions. Sam must band together with her parents and a sympathetic teacher to save Tamira and put an end to the terror of the demon.
Late Night With the Devil directed by Colin Cairnes and Cameron Cairnes
October 31, 1977. Jack Delroy’s syndicated talk show ‘Night Owls’ has long been a trusted companion to insomniacs around the country, but a year on from the tragic death of Jack’s wife, ratings have plummeted. Desperate to turn his fortunes around, Jack plans a Halloween special like no other, unaware he is about to unleash evil into the living rooms of America. “Late Night With The Devil” is the recently rediscovered recording of what went to air that fateful night.
Monolith directed by Matt Vesely
A bold science fiction thriller featuring one woman, one location, and a mystery uncovered through audio – in which a young journalist discovers a strange artifact and begins to convince herself it is evidence of an alien conspiracy. Recently disgraced and desperate for a story, The Interviewer holes herself up in her parents’ luxurious home and gets to work on the only job she can get – hosting a clickbait investigative podcast. When she receives an anonymous email leading her to a retired housekeeper who claims her life has been destroyed by a strange black brick, The Interviewer embarks on a mystery that leads her down a rabbit hole of truth and lies at the heart of her own story.
Talk To Me directed by Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou
When a group of friends discover how to conjure spirits using an embalmed hand, they become hooked on the new thrill, until one of them goes too far and unleashes terrifying supernatural forces.
The Wrath of Becky directed by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote
The world premiere sequel to the gory home invasion horror hit Becky (2020). After living off the grid for two years, Becky finds herself going toe-to-toe against Darryl, the leader of a fascist organization, on the eve of an organized attack.
SXSW takes place this year from March 10-19 in Austin, TX. Be sure to check out the full SXSW Film & TV Festival lineup to start building your must-watch schedule. And good luck fitting it all in, as the deck is certainly stacked this year.