A brief look at some of today’s documentaries at SXSW.
“The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson”: Legendary British guitarist Wilko Johnson was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given a few months to live. He went on tour, recorded an album with Roger Daltrey and was ready to go out like a champ. And then … he was suddenly given a cleanish bill of health. Now what? 3:15 p.m., Alamo South; 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Vimeo; 1:15 p.m. March 20, Alamo Lamar. — Joe Gross
“The Salt of the Earth”: The festival gets off to a very good start with this beautiful, horrifying, electrifying documentary based on the photography of Brazil’s Sebastião Salgado. For 40 years, Salgado has turned his lens on the wretched of the earth, from the droughts and famines in Africa to the wars in Bosnia and the Middle East. But it’s not all gloom. One of his projects pays tribute to the beauty of largely untouched natural landscapes. Wim Wenders and Salgado’s son Julian co-direct this remarkable, humanistic ode. Highly recommended. 6 p.m., Alamo South; 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, Violet Crown. — Charles Ealy
“808”: The story of the Roland 808, the most influential drum machine ever invented and the backbone of early hip-hop and electronic dance music. 3:45 p.m., Alamo South; 3:45 p.m. March 20, Alamo South; 3:45 p.m. March 21, Vimeo. — J.G.
“City of Gold”: Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold takes a look at the culture of Los Angeles. 6:30 p.m., Alamo Ritz; 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Alamo Slaughter; 7:30 p.m. March 19, Alamo South. — C.E.
“Brand: A Second Coming”: Ladies and gentlemen, Russell Brand: the man, the myth, the extremely strong accent. Director Ondi Timoner (“Dig!”, “We Live in Public”), “Brand” looks at the popular and increasingly well-respected comedian. Look for a story of sex, drugs, sex, Gandhi, addiction, recovery, Malcolm X and Morrissey; also maybe some stand-up comedy. 6:30 p.m., Paramount; 1:45 p.m. Sunday, Alamo Slaughter; 9 p.m. Tuesday, Vimeo. — J.G.
“The Last Man on the Moon”: Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan left the moon in 1972, and his life has had its share of troubles ever since. Briton Mark Craig directs. 7:45 p.m., Vimeo; 8 p.m. Saturday, Alamo Slaughter; 7 p.m. Wednesday, Vimeo. — C.E.
“The Look of Silence”: Director Joshua Oppenheimer shocked audiences with his documentary “The Act of Killing,” which looked at officials in Indonesia who participated in murder. In this follow-up, he films the relatives of those who were killed as they confront those responsible. 8:45 p.m., Alamo South; 5 p.m. Sunday, Alamo Slaughter; 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Rollins. — C.E.
“Disaster Playground”: French filmmaker Nelly Ben Hayoun examines scientists who play out the plot of “Deep Impact” or “Armageddon” in real life: They monitor hazardous near-Earth objects and set up the procedures in place in the event of an asteroid collision with Earth. 10:15 p.m., Vimeo; 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Alamo South; 1:15 p.m. March 19, Vimeo. — J.G.
“The Nightmare”: Rodney Ascher (“Room 237”) examines the strange phenomenon of sleep paralysis. Word has it you will be absolutely terrified. 11:59 p.m. Friday, Alamo South; 11 p.m. Sunday, Alamo South; 9 p.m. March 19, Topfer. — J.G.