SXSW has come to Austin once more, and despite days of 30 degree weather, its sunny and bright and pleasant, so that also means a legion of people here who are going to consider moving here. Let’s hope the films excite them enough that they don’t get out and enjoy our town.

With that in mind, here is my preview. I tried to limit myself to one film per section so its not all midnighters (because honestly, those are the only films that make me want to brave the crowds anymore). Still, I found lots to pull me downtown. Oh, and I skipped the HEADLINERS because those films don’t need any more publicity.

24 Beats Per Second: The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story

Director: Aaron Kunkel

This doc about the mastermind behind NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys includes interviews with prominent boy band members as well and investors in the Ponzi scheme Pearlman lead once his bands were out of the public eye. Lance Bass even serves as a producer (he’s an Nsync’er for those of you either too old or too young to know that).

Documentary Feature Competition: Tread

Director: Paul Solet

Okay, I feel stupid that I don’t remember this but apparently a fortified bulldozer rampaged Granby, Colorado in 2004 for two hours and the police were unable to stop it. The driver, Marvin Heeman was miraculously the only fatality and this documentary aims to look at the man behind the tank, his motives and what got him to this crazy act of public destruction.

Documentary Spotlight: Human Nature

Director: Adam Bolt

I always feel like SXSW succeeds best with their films truly speak to their position at the convergence of several disciplines – whether it’s a biopic about a musician or in this case, a tech documentary. CRISPR is the biological science fiction that is actually truth, the ability to cure disease, reshape biology or blueprint our children (Gattaca anyone?).

Episodic Premieres: What We Do in the Shadows

Directors: Taika Waititi, Jemaine Clement

Clearly we should have seen this one coming. The horror comedy mockumentary feature of the same name was the rare festival film that succeeded at both the wider box office as well as achieved cult status rather quickly in the years following. The series lifts the New Zealand vampires to Staten Island but with the team intact, we should expect the same hilarity.

Festival Favorites: Greener Grass

Directors: Jocelyn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe

Note: This is actually a NOT RECOMMENDED because I saw this at Sundance and I couldn’t believe 1) how dull and repetitive the 3rd grade attempts at humor were and 2) how the film basically ends with a truly offensive stereotypical transphobic trope that I had really hoped we were past by this point. I’m pretty disappointed in Sundance and SXSW for programming this.

Global: Aleksi

Director: Barbara Vekaric

Given that SXSW is basically ground zero for mumblecore, possibly the worst thing to ever happen to indie film, it is interesting to see this Serbian and Croatian film, with the same themes (oh, I’m young and I don’t know what to do with my life) land at the festival. It truly shows the influence of ‘oh I have no money but I have a camera and a bunch of friends who want to be in a movie.’ It will at least be better shot than the American version (having seen the trailer).

Midnighter: Darlin’

Director: Pollyanna McIntosh

Look, I’m excited about just about all the midnighters, but give me a female writer/director, and a still that combines religious symbolism, sex appeal, and blood and I’m all in. Apparently, this is a sequel of sorts to Lucky McKee’s THE WOMAN, which I never saw, but given the themes described, it can only be a step forward to have a woman behind the camera.

Narrative Feature Competition: Extra Ordinary

Directors: Mike Ahern, Enda Loughman

Horror Comedy is potentially the most difficult genre, and Horror Romantic Comedy? Well, I can’t really think of one that pulled it off. Maybe Little Shop of Horrors? Set in Ireland, this film promises demonic possession, washed up rock stars and haunted rubbish bins. Also Will Forte is in the cast, and he only picks good projects right? (MacGruber, Staten Island Summer, Beerfest)

Narrative Spotlight: Run This Town

Director: Ricky Tollman

Its few films that are still able to find a truly original premise in these days of recycled storylines and retreads, but this one nails it. A perfect logline for current generation entering the workforce, the one that isn’t staying home mumblecoring about in their parents’ houses. A would be investigative journalist toils away on Top 10 lists until he stumbles upon a potentially career-defining intrigue involving the local mayor, if he only knew how to be a real journalist.

Visions: Sakawa

Director: Ben Asamoah

Another perfect film for SXSW, this doc looks at internet fraud… from the other side. The Ghanaian director takes us inside an internet scam ‘factory’ where three young men do their best to exploit the modern resources of society to improve their own lives.


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