Some were shot here. Some come from filmmakers who live here. And one is set in the Austin music scene (though our critic begs to differ). These are some of the movies with ties to Texas that screened at South by Southwest.
“Song to Song”: SXSW’s opening night movie, from Austin director Terrence Malick, is “a modern love story set against the Austin, Texas, music scene.” But according to our critic Joe Gross, it “is a movie about Austin the way “Star Wars” is about Tunisia — it was shot there, but in terms of the flavor of the place, it might as well have been a matte painting.”
“Disgraced”: This Showtime documentary is about the 2003 murder of college basketball player Patrick Dennehy by teammate Carlton Dotson and the accusations that followed against Baylor University and head coach Dave Bliss.
“The Honor Farm”: This is Austin director Karen Skloss’ first narrative feature, “a story that subverts every aspect of the horror genre, not in a satirical way but in a sweet and very mushroom-trippy way.”
“Walking Out”: This feature from brothers Alex and Andrew Smith (one a current Austinite, the other a former) tells “an intense story of survival against the odds, an unexpectedly emotional journey” and stars Matt Bomer and Josh Wiggins.
“La Barracuda”: This thriller from Austin-based directors Julia Halperin and Jason Cortlund is about half-sisters who meet for the first time, and how that affects the extended family; it features lots of Texas music and some tracks live at the Saxon Pub.
The Austin Film Society (AFS) will honor Shirley MacLaine, Sarah Green and the Texas film “Terms of Endearment” at the 2017 Texas Film Hall of Fame awards dinner, scheduled for March 9 at Austin Studios.
MacLaine will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award and accept the Star of Texas Award for the Texas classic “Terms of Endearment” for which she won a best actress Academy Award in 1983. The film was directed by James L. Brooks and adapted from the novel by Texas writer Larry McMurtry.
Producer Green has worked on several of fellow 2017 honoree Jeff Nichols’s films as well as Terrence Malick’s “Song to Song” and “The Tree of Life,” will be inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame. MacLaine and Green will join the previously announced 2017 honorees Nichols and Hector Galán, and Rising Star honoree Tye Sheridan.
New films from Judd Apatow, Edgar Wright, Ben Wheatley join such previously announced flicks from Terrence Malick and Jennifer Reeder and the “American Gods” TV show as part of South by Southwest Film’s features line-up, which was announced today.
The 24th edition of the Film Festival runs March 10 to 19.
During the nine days of SXSW 125 features will be shown, with additional titles yet to be announced.
The full lineup will include 51 films from first-time filmmakers, 85 world premieres, 11 North American premieres and five U.S. premieres.
The films were selected from 2,432 feature-length film submissions, with a total of 7,651 films submitted this year.
New for 2017, the Interactive, Film, and Music badges will now include expanded access to more of the SXSW Conference and Festivals experience. Attendees will still receive primary entry to programming associated with their badge type, but badges from other areas will now be able to stand in line with wristband holders.
Feature films in the SXSW lineup screen in 12 sections: Narrative Feature Competition, Documentary Feature Competition, Headliners, Narrative Spotlight, Documentary Spotlight, Visions, Midnighters, Episodic, 24 Beats Per Second, Global, Festival Favorites, and Special Events.
Midnighters (aka genre films), the Short Film and Virtual Reality Program will be announced Feb. 7.
All feature categories, with the exception of Special Events, will be eligible for category specific Audience Awards.
The 2017 SXSW Film Festival will include:
NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION
Ten world premieres selected from 1,407 narrative feature submissions in 2017.
“A Bad Idea Gone Wrong”
Director/Screenwriter: Jason Headley
Two would-be thieves forge a surprising relationship with with an unexpected housesitter when they accidentally trap themselves in a house they just broke into. Cast: Matt Jones, Eleanore Pienta, Will Rogers, Jonny Mars, Sam Eidson, Jennymarie Jemison (World Premiere)
“A Critically Endangered Species” (Poland, United States)
An internationally respected poet announces she is going to kill herself and needs an heir and executor. Young writers drive up the mountain to compete for the position and are challenged intellectually, emotionally, and erotically. Cast: Lena Olin, Rosanna Arquette, Jordan Gavaris, Alexander Koch, Nathan Keyes, Chris Voss (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Anthony Onah
A young Nigerian-American financier struggles with love, family, and a prescription drug dependency as his ambitions steer him down a criminal path. Cast: Aml Ameen, Lucy Griffiths, Michael Hyatt, Peter Vack, Hope Olaidé Wilson, Souléymane Sy Savané, Craig muMs Grant, Bill Sage (World Premiere)
“Fits and Starts”
Director/Screenwriter: Laura Terruso
A struggling writer can’t seem to escape his wife’s literary success. When a road trip to a publisher’s salon takes an unexpected turn, he has to face his own creative shortcomings and find a way to regain control of his life and work. Cast: Wyatt Cenac, Greta Lee, Maria Dizzia, Alex Karpovsky, Ben Sinclair, Onur Turkel, John Rothman, Louis Cancelmi, Larry Murphy, Sam Seder (World Premiere)
Directors: Julia Halperin, Jason Cortlund, Screenwriter: Jason Cortlund
A strange woman comes to Texas to meet her half-sister and stake a claim to the family music legacy—one way or another. Cast: Allison Tolman, Sophie Reid, JoBeth Williams, Luis Bordonada, Larry Jack Dotson, Butch Hancock, Bob Livingston, The Mastersons (World Premiere)
“The Light of the Moon”
Director/Screenwriter: Jessica M. Thompson
After her world is irrevocably changed, a successful New York City architect struggles to regain intimacy and control in her life. Cast: Stephanie Beatriz, Michael Stahl-David, Conrad Ricamora, Catherine Curtin, Olga Merediz, Cindy Cheung, Susan Hayward, Craig Walker, Cara Loften, Michael Cuomo (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Rob Mockler
A reckless loner, desperate for human connection, sets out on a crime spree that she broadcasts on social media. Her reality quickly splinters into a surreal nightmare as her exploits spiral out of control. Cast: Addison Timlin, Ian Nelson, Larry Fessenden, Jeremy Gardner, Stuart Rudin, Nicolette Pierini (World Premiere)
The accidental death of her rapist sets an art student on a course for justice, fueling the inspiration for her thesis exhibition. Cast: Francesca Eastwood, Clifton Collins Jr, Peter Vack, Leah Mckendrick, Marlon Young, David Sullivan, Michael Welch (World Premiere)
“Most Beautiful Island” (Spain, United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Ana Asensio
An undocumented young woman struggling to begin a new life in New York City is offered an opportunity she can’t pass up. But as day turns to night she discovers she’s been lured to the center of a dangerous game. Cast: Ana Asensio, Natasha Romanova, David Little, Nicholas Tucci, Larry Fessenden, Caprice Benedetti (World Premiere)
“The Strange Ones”
Directors: Lauren Wolkstein, Christopher Radcliff, Screenwriter: Christopher Radcliff Mysterious events surround the travels of two brothers as they make their way across a remote American landscape. On the surface all seems normal, but what appears to be a simple vacation soon gives way to dark and complex truths. Cast: Alex Pettyfer, James Freedson-Jackson, Emily Althaus, Gene Jones (World Premiere)
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION
Ten world premieres selected from 973 feature documentary submissions in 2017.
“Bill Frisell, A Portrait” (Australia)
Director/Screenwriter: Emma Franz
An intimate, behind-the-music portrait of one of the most unassuming yet influential creative artists of our time, guitarist Bill Frisell. Frisell said of the film, “It’s like the inside of my brain!” (World Premiere)
“The Blood is at the Doorstep”
Director: Erik Ljung After Dontre Hamilton, a black, unarmed man diagnosed with schizophrenia, was shot 14 times and killed by police in Milwaukee, his family embarks on a quest for answers, justice and reform as the investigation unfolds. (World Premiere)
Director: Luke Korem, Screenwriters: Bradley Jackson, Luke Korem
Sixty-two year old Richard Turner is renowned as one of the world’s greatest card magicians, yet he is completely blind. This is an in-depth look at a complex character who is one of magic’s greatest hidden treasures. (World Premiere)
“I Am Another You”
Director/Screenwriter: Nanfu Wang
Through the eyes of a young drifter who rejects society’s rules and intentionally chooses to live on the streets, Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang explores the meaning of personal freedom – and its limits. (World Premiere)
“Let There Be Light” (Canada)
Director/Screenwriter: Mila Aung-Thwin
Let There Be Light follows the story of dedicated scientists working to build a small sun on Earth, which would unleash perpetual, cheap, clean energy for mankind. After decades of failed attempts, a massive push is now underway to crack the holy grail of energy. (World Premiere)
“Maineland” (China, United States)
Director: Miao Wang
Chinese teenagers from the wealthy elite, with big American dreams, settle into a boarding school in small-town Maine. As their fuzzy visions of the American dream slowly gain more clarity, their relationship to home takes on a poignant new aspect. (World Premiere)
“Mommy Dead and Dearest”
Director: Erin Lee Carr
Child abuse, mental illness, and forbidden love converge in this mystery involving a mother and daughter who were thought to be living a fairy tale life that turned out to be a living nightmare. (World Premiere)
“Served Like A Girl”
Director: Lysa Heslov
Five women veterans who have endured unimaginable trauma in service create a shared sisterhood to help the rising number of stranded homeless women veterans by entering a competition that unexpectedly catalyzes moving events in their own lives. (World Premiere)
“The Secret Life of Lance Letscher”
Director: Sandra Adair
Witness the collision of memory, color, and chaos in this unprecedented journey through the visionary mind of collage artist Lance Letscher. (World Premiere)
Directors: Jairus McLeary, Gethin Aldous
Set entirely inside Folsom Prison, The Work follows three men during four days of intensive group therapy with convicts, revealing an intimate and powerful portrait of authentic human transformation that transcends what we think of as rehabilitation. (World Premiere)
aka stuff by and often containing famous folks
Director/Screenwriter: Edgar Wright
A talented, young getaway driver relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. But after being coerced into working for a crime boss, he must face the music when a doomed heist threatens his life, love and freedom. Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx (World Premiere)
“Free Fire” (UK)
Director: Ben Wheatley, Screenwriters: Ben Wheatley, Amy Jump
Bold, breathless and wickedly fun, Free Fire is an electrifying action comedy about an arms deal that goes spectacularly and explosively wrong. Directed by Ben Wheatley. Starring Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, Jack Reynor. Cast: Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Babou Ceesay, Enzo Cilenti, Sam Riley, Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor (U.S. Premiere)
“On The Road” (UK)
Director/Screenwriter: Michael Winterbottom
Michael Winterbottom follows acclaimed British rock band and Grammy nominees Wolf Alice on their tour, recording their gigs as well as the romance and routine of their daily life backstage. (North American Premiere)
“Song to Song”
Director: Terrence Malick
In this modern love story set against the Austin, Texas music scene, two entangled couples — struggling songwriters Faye and BV, and music mogul Cook and the waitress whom he ensnares — chase success through a rock ‘n’ roll landscape of seduction and betrayal. Cast: Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett (World Premiere)
High profile narrative features receiving their World, North American or U.S. premieres at SXSW.
Archer champion Lauren Pierce escapes a corrupt juvenile correctional facility with Rebecca, a fierce but alluring inmate and together they must survive a desperate warden who is bow-hunting his prey to make sure his secret stays buried. Cast: Bailey Noble, Bill Sage, Jeanine Mason, Michael Grant Terry, Kurt Fuller, Dendrie Taylor, Grace Victoria Cox, Andrew Caldwell (World Premiere)
“The Ballad of Lefty Brown”
Director/Screenwriter: Jared Moshé
Aging sidekick Lefty Brown (Bill Pullman) has ridden with Eddie Johnson (Peter Fonda) his entire life. But when a rustler kills Eddie, Lefty is forced from his partner’s shadow and must confront the ugly realities of frontier justice. Cast: Bill Pullman, Kathy Baker, Jim Caviezel, Tommy Flanagan, Peter Fonda, Joe Anderson, Diego Josef, Michael Speers, Lewis Pullman, Joseph Anderson (World Premiere)
Director: Peter Mackie Burns, Screenwriter: Nico Mensinga
Daphne is London. Daphne is the crowd of faceless strangers we brush past everyday. Daphne is being young and always searching for more. Daphne is life, an unpredictable mixture of comedy and tragedy. Cast: Emily Beecham, Geraldine James, Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Nathaniel Martello-White (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Adam Keleman
Sherry Graham, a self-destructive makeup saleswoman, hopes a new man and business venture will provide her a fresh start. After her plans are foiled, she takes control of her life in a dramatic turn of events. Cast: Caroline Dhavernas, McCaleb Burnett, Elizabeth Marvel, Charlie Hofheimer, Jen Richards, Daniel Eric Gold, C.J. Wilson, Taylor Richardson, Mary Catherine Garrison (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Aaron Katz
A heinous crime tests the complex relationship between a tenacious personal assistant and her Hollywood starlet boss. As the assistant unravels the mystery, she must confront her own understanding of friendship, truth, and celebrity. Cast: Lola Kirke, Zoë Kravitz, John Cho, Greta Lee, Michelle Forbes, Nelson Franklin, Reeve Carney, Ricki Lake, Jessica Parker Kennedy, James Ransone (World Premiere)
“Going to Brazil” (France)
Director: Patrick Mille, Screenwriters: Julien Lambroschini, Sabrina Amara, Patrick Mille Four childhood friends are reunited at a wedding in Rio. But when they accidentally kill a young man during a party that gets out of hand, they are forced to flee the city in a crazy adventure. Cast: Alison Wheeler, Vanessa Guide, Margot Bancilhon, Philippine Stindel, Patrick Mille (International Premiere)
“Hot Summer Nights”
Director: Elijah Bynum
Hot Summer Nights is a dark coming-of-age story set in Cape Cod, Massachusetts during the sweltering heat of summer 1991. Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Maika Monroe, Alex Roe, Maia Mitchell, William Fichtner, Thomas Jane, Emory Cohen (World Premiere)
“Hounds of Love” (Australia)
Director/Screenwriter: Ben Young
In the mid 1980’s seventeen-year-old Vicki Maloney is randomly abducted from a suburban street by a disturbed couple. As she observes the dynamic between her captors she quickly realizes she must drive a wedge between them if she is to survive. Cast: Ashleigh Cummings, Emma Booth, Stephen Curry, Susie Porter, Damian de Montemas, Harrison Gilbertson, Fletcher Humphrys (North American Premiere)
At 13 years old and the eldest of three kids, Lane struggles to keep her family together as her iconoclast mother moves without warning through the communes and dusty back woods of Northern California. Cast: Sophia Mitri Schloss, Katherine Moennig, Sara Coats, Linas Phillips, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sarah-Eve Gazitt, Annette Toutonghi, Harry Curtis, Ronin West, Shayla Timbermoon (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Aaron Burns
A pregnant woman, who is taking care of her son with development problems, is at her breaking point when a caregiver from the Philippines steps into her life. Diana suspects that she’s using voodoo against her after the quick improvements of her son. Cast: Daniela Ramirez, Cristobal Tapia Montt, Aida Jabolin, Matias Bassi, Ignacia Allamand, Nicolás Durán (North American Premiere)
“Most Hated Woman In America”
Director: Tommy O’Haver, Screenwriters: Tommy O’Haver, Irene Turner
Darkly funny, true story of the rise and untimely demise of Madeline Murray O’Hair—crank, swindler, iconoclast, and America’s most outspoken atheist. Cast: Melissa Leo, Adam Scott, Juno Temple, Vincent Kartheiser, Josh Lucas, Peter Fonda (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Noël Wells
After a death in her family, struggling LA-based comedian Emily Martin returns to Austin. There she finds herself in the awkward position of staying with her ex and his new girlfriend until the funeral, while trying to close old doors from her past. Cast: Noël Wells, Nick Thune, Britt Lower, Daniella Pineda, Andre Hyland, Doug Benson, Armen Weitzman, Sergio Cilli (World Premiere)
Small Crimes is a delightfully suspenseful, blackly comic tale that follows a disgraced former cop, fresh off a six-year prison sentence for attempted murder, who returns home looking for redemption but winds up trapped in the mess he left behind. Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jacki Weaver, Robert Forster, Gary Cole, Molly Parker, Macon Blair, Pat Healy (World Premiere)
“Small Town Crime”
Directors/Screenwriters: Ian Nelms, Eshom Nelms
Ex-cop, Mike Kendall, finds the body of a young woman and, in an act of self-redemption, becomes hellbent on finding the killer. While his uncouth, quirky detective style helps break the case, his dogged determination puts his family in danger. Cast: John Hawkes, Anthony Anderson, Octavia Spencer, Robert Forster, Clifton Collins, Jr., Michael Vartan, James Lafferty, Daniel Sunjata, Caity Lotz, Jeremy Ratchford (World Premiere)
This Is Your Death is an unsettling look at reality T.V. where a disturbing hit game show has its contestants ending their lives for the public’s enjoyment. It captures the sad truths about the world’s desire to be famous. Cast: Josh Duhamel, Famke Janssen, Giancarlo Esposito, Sarah Wayne Callies, Caitlin Fitzgerald, James Franco (World Premiere)
“Us and Them” (UK)
Director/Screenwriter: Joe Martin
Working class Danny aims to kick start a revolution by turning the tables on the establishment with a deadly game of chance. Cast: Jack Roth, Tim Bentinck, Andrew Tiernan, Daniel Kendrick, Sophie Colquhoun, Paul Westwood, Carolyn Backhouse, Louis Dempsey (World Premiere)
“Win It All”
Director: Joe Swanberg, Screenwriters: Joe Swanberg, Jake Johnson
Small time Chicago gambler, Eddie Garrett, agrees to watch a duffel bag for an acquaintance who is heading to prison. When he discovers cash in the bag, he hatches a plan to win big, against the advice of his gambling sponsor and his brother. Cast: Jake Johnson, Aislinn Derbez, Joe Lo Truglio, Keegan-Michael Key (World Premiere)
Director: Matthew Salleh
Barbecue is about more than grilling a piece of meat. It’s a ritual performed religiously across the world. For some it’s a path to salvation. It is the pride of nations. And the stories told around the fires become a way to bring the world together. (World Premiere)
“Bill Nye: Science Guy”
Directors/Screenwriters: David Alvarado, Jason Sussberg
A famous television personality struggles to restore science to its rightful place in a world hostile to evidence and reason. (World Premiere)
Director: Pat Kondelis
The untold story of the summer of 2003 at Baylor University that exposes the attempted cover-up, and the corruption that became the most bizarre scandal in college sports history. (World Premiere)
“Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web” (New Zealand)
Director: Annie Goldson
Discover the story of the most wanted man online. (North American Premiere)
“Meth Storm: Arkansas USA”
Directors: Craig Renaud, Brent Renaud
With unparalleled access on both sides of the law, METH STORM: Arkansas USA is a thrilling non-fiction cops and robbers drama told from inside the American drug war.
“Muppet Guys Talking – Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched”
Director: Frank Oz
Five of the original Muppet performers come together for the first time ever to share behind-the-scenes secrets of the Muppets. Includes rare performance footage, surprising stories and insights into how Jim led his team to produce legendary work. (World Premiere)
Never before have we watched as much porn as today yet the traditional porn industry is dying. The arrival of web sites showing amateur clips has transformed the way porn is made and consumed. Behind this transformation lies one opaque multinational. (World Premiere)
Directors: Jeff Malmberg, Chris Shellen, Screenwriter: Chris Shellen
Once upon a time there was a tiny hill town in Tuscany that found a remarkable way to confront their issues – they turned their lives into a play. (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Jason Pollock
What happened on August 9th, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri? On that hot summer day, Officer Darren Wilson killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. Stranger Fruit is the unraveling of what took place that day, told through the eyes of Mike Brown’s family. (World Premiere)
“Todrick Hall Documentary”
Director: Katherine Fairfax Wright
After building an empire on YouTube, Todrick Hall leaps beyond his comfort zone and deep within his own backstory to create his most dazzling and vital work yet, but with only a few weeks and a few coins, will he crush it or will it crush him? (World Premiere)
“The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin”
Director: Jennifer M. Kroot
The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin celebrates one of the world’s most beloved storytellers, following his evolution from a conservative son of the Old South into a gay rights pioneer whose novels inspired millions to reclaim their lives. (World Premiere)
“Walk With Me” (UK)
Directors: Max Pugh, Marc J. Francis
Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, Walk With Me is a cinematic journey into the world of a monastic community who practice the art of mindfulness with Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh. (World Premiere)
aka stuff by folks who are less well known or that maybe defy easy category and are not in competition
Director/Screenwriter: Peter Vack
Adah and Aaron are recovering addicts who are struggling to stay sober. After meeting in their psychoanalyst’s waiting room, they fall in love, relapse on poppers, and become the biggest assholes in New York City. Cast: Betsey Brown, Jack Dunphy, Peter Vack, Patrick LaBella, Jane Brown, Ron Brown, Eileen Dietz (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Josh Greenbaum
The stranger-than-fiction true story of George Lazenby, a poor Australian car mechanic who, through an unbelievable set of circumstances, landed the role of James Bond despite having never acted a day in his life. (World Premiere)
Director: Mike Ott
A look at how the American Dream and Hollywood affect those they touch. Cast: Cory Zacharia, Patrick Llaguno, Neil Harley, Kevin Gilger aka K-Nine Dog the Impersonator, Carolan J. Pinto, Mark Borchardt (North American Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Kristoffer Borgli
The inside story of how Amir (29) scammed his way to viral fame, fooled an advertising agency, and almost became the international face of a well-known energy drink – before everything went wrong. Cast: Amir Asgharnejad, Brett Gelman, Adam Pearson, Annie Hamilton, Alexandra Marzella, Hugo Armstrong, Joe Hartzler, Andrew Lauer (World Premiere)
“Flesh and Blood”
Director/Screenwriter: Mark Webber
Mark Webber boldly explores family dynamics using his real family as the cast and real-life situations for the story. Combining reality with fiction he exposes a disturbing truth: his family tree is full of broken branches that may never be repaired. Cast: Mark Webber, Cheri Honkala, Guillermo Santos, Madeline Brewer (World Premiere)
Director: Bob Byington, Screenwriter: Onur Tukel
A comedy about babies that don’t age. Cast: Kieran Culkin, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Nick Offerman, Martin Starr, Kevin Corrigan, Megan Mullaly, Noel Wells, Stephen Root (World Premiere)
Directors/Screenwriters: Laura E. Davis, Jessica Kaye
A woman learns her estranged father has died and returns with her brother and new lover to her childhood home of Belize, where she must face her past while fighting for intimacy in the present. Cast: Jessica Kaye, Daniel Ahearn, Mark Webber, Shamira Gill-Card, Myrna Manzanares, Louis Oberlander (World Premiere)
Director: John Carroll Lynch, Screenwriters: Logan Sparks, Drago Sumonja
Lucky follows the spiritual journey of a 90 year old atheist (Harry Dean Stanton), having outlived and out smoked his contemporaries, as he comes to terms with his own mortality, and searches for ever elusive enlightenment. Cast: Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr., Tom Skerritt, Beth Grant, James Darren (World Premiere)
“Paa Joe & The Lion” (Ghana, United Kingdom)
Director: Benjamin Wigley
A true story about the art of love and death. A thought provoking and cinematic documentary film rooted in the universal themes of love, death and legacy set against one of the most beautiful art-forms in the world – Ghana’s very own fantasy coffin. (North American Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Theo Anthony
Across walls, fences, and alleys, rats not only expose our boundaries of separation but make homes in them. “Rat Film” is a feature-length documentary that uses the rat—as well as the humans that love them, live with them, and kill them. (U.S. Premiere)
After bonding over their mutual disinterest in relationships, self-proclaimed loners, Beck and Liam, decide to go away together on a ‘friend’ trip where things get weird. Really, really weird. Cast: Renée Felice Smith, Matt Bush, Eric Christian Olsen, Linda Hunt, Nelson Franklin, Brandon Kyle Goodman, Sally Struthers, Georgia Mischak, Owain Rhys Davies (World Premiere)
Director: Jennifer Reeder, Screenwriters: Fawzia Mirza, Lisa Donato
A secret new romance with Alma forces Zaynab to confront her complicated relationship with her recently widowed mother. In this coming-of-age Muslim melodrama, Zaynab copes by taking up Lucha-style wrestling. Cast: Fawzia Mirza, Shabana Azmi, Sari Sanchez, Audrey Francis, Charin Alvarez, Mark Hood, Molly Brennan (World Premiere)
Directors: Albert Birney, Kentucker Audley, Screenwriters: Albert Birney, Kentucker Audley, Meghan Doherty
A small town gorilla joins a local TV program and a series of on-air mishaps threaten to shatter his identity, sending him on an adventure of self-discovery where reality and fantasy start to blend. Cast: Albert Birney, Kentucker Audley, Tallie Medel, Meghan Doherty (World Premiere)
aka TV stuff
Director: David Slade, Screenwriters: Bryan Fuller, Michael Green
Adapted from Neil Gaiman’s award-winning novel, American Gods follows Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) and Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) in a hidden world where a battle is brewing between Old Gods and New. Cast: Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, Pablo Schreiber, Bruce Langley, Yetide Badaki, Jonathan Tucker, Mousa Kraish, Betty Gilpin, Gillian Anderson (World Premiere)
“Dear White People”
Director/Screenwriter: Justin Simien
Based on the critically-acclaimed 2014 film by the same name, Dear White People is a send-up of the now post “post-racial” America that weaves together a universal story of finding one’s own identity, as told from a biting millennial point of view. Cast: Logan Browning, Brandon P. Bell, Antoinette Robertson, DeRon Horton, John Patrick Amedori
“I LOVE BEKKA & LUCY”
Director/Screenwriter: Rachael Holder
Two inseparable and idiosyncratic best friends face the evolution of their friendship when one of them gets engaged. Cast: Jessica Parker Kennedy, Tanisha Long, Alexis Denisof, Christopher Nicholas Smith (World Premiere)
“I’m Dying up here”
Director: Jonathan Levine, Screenwriter: Dave Flebotte
Set in L.A.’s celebrated, infamous stand-up comedy scene of the 1970s, this new series delves into the inspired and damaged psyches that inhabit the hilarious, but complex business of making an audience laugh. Executive produced by Jim Carrey. Cast: Melissa Leo, Ari Graynor, Clark Duke, Michael Angarano, Andrew Santino, Stephen Guarino, Erik Griffin, RJ Cyler, Al Madrigal, Dylan Baker (World Premiere)
Showrunner, Director: Michael McDonald, Pilot Director: Ben Falcone, Screenwriters: Hugh Davidson, Larry Dorf, Rachel Ramras
The series is inspired by the real lives of Hugh Davidson, Larry Dorf and Rachel Ramras, who watched as their friends from The Groundlings went on to star in blockbuster comedies and win Oscars, while they were waiting for their one big break. Cast: Hugh Davidson, Larry Dorf, Rachel Ramras (World Premiere)
Director: Tom Harper
Based on the New York Times best-selling and Pulitzer Prize finalist novel, The Son is a sweeping family saga that spans 150 years and three generations of the McCullough family. Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Jacob Lofland, Henry Garrett, Paola Nunez, Carlos Bardem, Zahn McClarnon, Jess Weixler, David Wilson Barnes, Sydney Lucas (World Premiere)
24 BEATS PER SECOND
Showcasing the sounds, culture and influence of music & musicians, with an emphasis on documentary.
“As I Walk Through The Valley”
Directors: Ronnie Garza, Charlie Vela
As I Walk Through The Valley is a journey into the underground music scene of Texas’ southernmost border-region. Follow four generations of Valley musicians as they struggle to find a voice of their own in the land of charro beans and Tejano legends. (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Karam Gill
G-Funk is the untold story of three childhood friends from East Long Beach who helped commercialize hip hop by developing a sophisticated and melodic new approach – merging Gangsta Rap with elements of Motown, Funk, and R&B. (World Premiere)
“Give Me Future (aka Incoming Transmission)” (United States, Cuba)
Director: Austin Peters Cuba as you have never seen it before.
A Life in Waves explores the life and innovations of composer and electronic music pioneer, Suzanne Ciani. (World Premiere)
“Long Strange Trip”
Director: Amir Bar-Lev
Emerging from the Bay Area’s vibrant 1960s counterculture, the Grateful Dead were a motley crew whose unique sound sprang from an eclectic blend of influences: bluegrass, folk ballads, R&B, free-form jazz, classical, and jug band.
“May It Last: A Portrait of the Avett Brothers”
Directors: Judd Apatow, Michael Bonfiglio
An intimate portrait of the acclaimed North Carolina band the Avett Brothers, as they create their hit album “True Sadness.” (World Premiere)
Director: Geremy Jasper
Straight out of Jersey comes Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, an aspiring rapper fighting through a world of strip malls and strip clubs on an unlikely quest for glory. Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty
After taking a DNA test, Latin America’s most decorated artist – Rene Perez (AKA Residente), embarks on a global adventure, to trace the footsteps of his ancestors and record his latest album. (World Premiere)
“Thank You, Friends: Big Star’s Third Live… and More”
Director: Benno Nelson
A celebration of the musical legacy of Memphis’ best-known secret – Big Star – performed by a collective featuring members of Big Star, the dB’s, Let’s Active, the Posies, R.E.M., Semisonic, Wilco and Yo La Tengo with the Kronos Quartet and more. (World Premiere)
A diverse selection of international filmmaking talent, featuring innovative narratives, artful documentaries, premieres, festival favorites and more.
“Bad Lucky Goat” (Colombia)
Director/Screenwriter: Samir Oliveros
After accidentally killing a bearded goat with their father’s pick-up truck, two incompatible siblings in their teenage years, embark on a journey of reconciliation. Cast: Honlenny Huffington, Kiara Howard, Elkin Robinson, Michel Robinson, Ambrosio Huffington, Jean Bush (World Premiere)
“The Challenge” (France, Italy)
Director/Screenwriter: Yuri Ancarani
In The Challenge, the director crosses the Persian Gulf to accompany a falconer to an important competition. Among SUVs, Lamborghini, private jets and Mad Max-like dune bashing contests, the film tells the story of an intense weekend in the desert. (North American Premiere)
“The Cloud Forest” (Mexico)
Director/Screenwriter: Mónica Álvarez Franco
A small community in Veracruz is the guardian of one of the ecosystems facing the most risk: the cloud forest. By redesigning their needs, education and relationship with other people and with nature, they search for a simpler and sustainable life. (World Premiere)
“Divine Divas” (Brazil)
Director: Leandra Leal, Screenwriters: Carol Benjamin, Leandra Leal, Lucas Paraizo, Natara Ney
Eight iconic performers of the first generation of Brazilian transvestite artists go on stage to celebrate their 50th career jubilee. The film depicts the human, personal dimension behind these icons, deconstructing gender stereotypes. (North American Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Ceylan Ozgun Ozcelik
Her nightmare is reality, and the reality is a nightmare. Cast: Algi Eke, Ozgur Cevik, Kadir Cermik, Asiye Dincsoy, Selen Ucer, Ipek Turktan Kaynak (North American Premiere)
“Satan Said Dance” (Poland)
Director/Screenwriter: Kasia Roslaniec
Satan Said Dance is an Instagram film in times of the selfie. A kaleidoscope of moments from life of Karolina – a scandalous writer obsessed with parties, drugs, sexuality and complex relationships, on her way to self-destruction. Cast: Magdalena Berus, Lukasz Simlat, Tygo Gernandt, Hanna Koczewska, Marta Nieradkiewicz, Danuta Stenka (North American Premiere)
Director: Rubén Imaz, Screenwriters: Fernando del Razo, Rubén Imaz
Romero Kantún is a retired fisherman, who lives mired in nostalgia, but feels that it is time to reclaim what he lost decades ago, when he discovered the great oilfield that ended fishing on his island and won him the fishermen’s rejection. Cast: José Carlos Ruiz, Gabino Rodríguez, Mónica Jiménez, Waldo Facco (U.S. Premiere)
“Win By Fall” (Germany)
Director: Anna Koch, Screenwriters: Anna Koch, Julia Lemke
At the age of 12, Janny, Lisa, Debby and Michelle leave their home for a sports school in the East German province to become wrestlers. A documentary about coming-of-age between boarding school corridors, wrestling gyms and boy band posters. (North American Premiere)
aka stuff what has played at other festivals.
Director/Screenwriter: Alexandre O. Philippe
A feature-length documentary about the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, 78/52 takes an unprecedented look at the ‘man behind the curtain’ and the screen murder that profoundly changed the course of world cinema.
“The Big Sick”
Director: Michael Showalter, Screenwriters: Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani
A couple deals with their cultural differences as their relationship grows. Cast: Kumail Nanjani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupani Euler, Zienobia Sfiroff, Adeel Akfitar, Bo Burnhani, Mary Aidy Bryant, Kurt Braunohler
Director: Jeff Orlowski, Screenwriters: Davis Coombe, Vickie Curtis, Jeff Orlowski
Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.
Director/Screenwriter: Nacho Vigalondo
An unapologetic party girl (Anne Hathaway) dreams of a fresh start only to discover a mysterious and fantastical connection between herself and a city-wrecking monster on the other side of the globe. Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson
Some good news lead to chaos. Cast: Franjo Dijak, Nataša Janjić, Janko Popović Volarić, Goran Bogdan, Milan Štrljić (U.S. Premiere)
Director: Brett Haley, Screenwriters: Brett Haley, Marc Basch
The Hero tells the story of movie star Lee Hayden whose career high as Western film icon is now several decades in the past. Cast: Sam Elliott, Laura Prepon, Krysten Ritter, Nick Offerman, Katharine Ross
A man watches his life unravel after he is left by his blind girlfriend. Cast: Brett Gelman, Judy Greer, Michael Cera, Nia Long, Shiri Appleby, Rhea Perlman, Fred Melamed, Gillian Jacobs, Martin Starr, David Paymer
“Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press”
Director/Screenwriter: Brian Knappenberger
The trial between wrestler Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media pitted privacy rights against freedom of the press, but ended up as a case study in how big money can silence media through legal means. An examination of the free press in an age of inequality.
Director/Screenwriter: Alice Lowe
Alice Lowe (Sightseers) is a triple threat as the writer, director and star of this pitch-black comedy about a pregnant woman whose unborn child spurs her on to murder. Cast: Alice Lowe, Dan Renton Skinner, Jo Hartley, Tom Davis, Leila Hoffman, Kate Dickie, Kayvan Novak, Mike Wozniak, Tom Meeten, Gemma Whelan
Director/Screenwriter: Michael O’Shea
This atmospheric New York tale about love, loss, and vampires follows Milo, a 14-year-old boy with a dark secret. The surprise of the Cannes Film Festival 2016. Cast: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine, Aaron Moten, Carter Redwood, Danny Flaherty, Larry Fessenden, Lloyd Kaufman (North American Premiere)
Director: Jennifer Brea
When Harvard PhD student Jennifer is struck down at 28 by a fever that leaves her bedridden, doctors tell her it’s “all in her head.” Determined to live, she turns her camera on herself and a hidden world of millions confined to their homes.
Directors/Screenwriters: Andrew Smith, Alex Smith
Based on the masterpiece, American short story, Walking Out, follows David (Josh Wiggins), a typical teenage urbanite as he travels to rural Montana to go hunting with his estranged, ‘off the grid’ father, Cal (Matt Bomer). Cast: Matt Bomer, Josh Wiggins, Bill Pullman, Alex Neustaedter, Lily Gladstone, Ken White, Scott McMillion
One-offs and the like
Director: Ridley Scott, Screenwriter: Dan O’Bannon
In space, no one can hear you scream. Cast: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto
Cartoon Network Screening
Join Cartoon Network for fun, games and NEW, NEW, NEW, NEW episodes of “The Amazing World of Gumball,” “We Bare Bears,” “Ben 10” and “Teen Titans Go!” But don’t go anywhere before the big surprise!! (U.S. Premiere)
“Earth” (with live score by DakhaBrakha) (Ukraine)
Director: Alexander Dovzhenko
Earth. This 1930’s silent film tells the story of farmers resisting Stalin’s plan to collectivize their farms. This performance features DakhaBrakha playing their own live score for this classic of Soviet cinema.
“Ghost in the Shell”
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Ghost in the Shell questions human existence in the fast-paced world of the information age, this award-winning, cyber-tech thriller has established itself as one of the leading Japanese animation films of all time. Cast: Atsuku Tanaka, Akio Otuska, Koichi Yamadera, Yukaka Nakano, Tamio Oki, Tessho Genda, Namaki Masakazu, Iemasa Kayumi
“Hype!: 20th Anniversary Screening”
Director: Doug Pray
Hype! rocks the definitive story of the birth and explosion of the Pacific NW music scene known globally as “grunge.” With humor and intense live performances, “Hype!” immerses you in the vibrant subculture and media madness of early ‘90s Seattle.
Director: Phil Keoghan, Screenwriters: Phil Keoghan and Louise Keoghan
Television personality Phil Keoghan retraces the 1928 Tour de France riding an original vintage bicycle, with no gears, as he tells the forgotten ‘underdog’ story about the first English speaking team to take on the toughest sporting event on earth.
Here’s an uplifting tale for aspiring filmmakers out there. And it also illustrates why festivals like South by Southwest, Fantastic Fest and the Austin Film Festival are so important.
Austin resident Greg Kwedar got his debut feature, “Transpecos,” into the narrative feature competition this March at South by Southwest. It was unheralded, and few people in the Austin film crowd even knew who Kwedar was.
But securing a spot in the competition – and providing an early screener to critics – helped build buzz,, and the thriller about the Border Patrol went on to win the audience award – which means festival attendees thought it to be the best of the bunch.
Kwedar and his team had no distributor for the film, however. And without a distributor, most movies just end up screening here and there, at places like the Austin Film Society and various festivals, without reaching a wide audience.
But that’s what festivals are for – raising the profile of small, independent films. And this week, Kwedar got the best news possible. Samuel Goldwyn Films is buying the rights to “Transpecos” and plans a theatrical release in the fall.
And in May, Screen Media Ventures will be attending the Cannes Film Festival, trying to sell distribution rights to international territories.
The deal was first reported by Deadline.com. And Peter Goldwyn of Samuel Goldwyn Films said, “Greg is a raw talent in independent cinema. ‘Transpecos’ is an accomplished first feature that we’re eager to deliver to audiences in theaters and in homes across the country.”
Details of the deal were not disclosed.
The thriller stars Johnny Simmons, Gabriel Luna and Clifton Collins Jr. Kwedar co-wrote the script with Clint Bentley.
SXSW announced the Audience Award winners Saturday for the Narrative Feature Competition, Documentary Feature Competition, Headliners, Narrative Spotlight, Documentary Spotlight, Visions, Midnighters, Episodic, 24 Beats Per Second, SXGlobal, Festival Favorites and Design Award categories.
2016 SXSW Film Festival Audience Award Winners:
NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION
Audience Award Winner: Transpecos
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION
Audience Award Winner: TOWER
Director: Keith Maitland
Audience Award Winner:Demolition
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Audience Award Winner:From Nowhere
Director: Matthew Newton
Audience Award Winner:Mr. Gaga
Audience Award Winner: Jules and Dolores
Director: Caito Ortiz
Audience Award Winner:I Am a Hero
Director: Shinsuke Sato
Audience Award Winner:Vice Principals
Directors: Jody Hill, David Gordon Green, Danny McBride
24 BEATS PER SECOND
Audience Award Winner: Honky Tonk Heaven: Legend of the Broken Spoke
Directors: Brenda Greene Mitchell, Sam Wainwright Douglas
Audience Award Winner:Ghostland
Director: Simon Stadler
Audience Award Winner: Gleason
SXSW Film Design Awards
EXCELLENCE IN TITLE DESIGN
Audience Award Winner:We Are X
Designer: Allison Brownmoore of Blue Spill
Here are today’s sceening times for the award winners:
It’s been over 30 years since Tim Burton took us all on “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.” There has subsequently been some form of development on a new Pee-Wee Herman film happening for the last decade and a new film has finally surfaced thanks to the deep pockets over at Netflix. While it certainly took a long time, fans will not be disappointed in the end result. Director John Lee manages to capture the playful essence of the Pee-Wee Herman character that has found Paul Reubens delighting audiences for so long.
This story does seem to exist in its own universe, as Pee-Wee lives in the small town of Fairville, where it appears as though everyone is straight out of the 1950s. It’s a place with stores like Nana’s Yarn Barn and Dan’s Diner, where Pee-Wee works as a short order cook. His home is still filled with imaginative inventions and life hacks and he drives around in a comically miniature car. It’s established that (even though “Big Adventure” took him to the Alamo in San Antonio) Pee-Wee has never crossed the railroad tracks to leave Fairville, spending his entire existence within the city limits.
One day Pee-Wee is left to tend to the diner by himself when a mysterious customer arrives on a motorcycle. It turns out to be actor Joe Manganiello (“True Blood,” “Magic Mike”), clearly having a lot of fun as a hysterically alternate universe version of himself where he and Pee-Wee become instant friends. They start to finish each other’s sentences shortly after meeting and have the exact same passions for bizarrely unique things like model town building and root beer barrels. Manganiello tells Pee-Wee that he has to dedicate himself to “breaking rules and breaking hearts,” encouraging him to leave the confines of Fairville to come to his birthday party in New York a mere five days later.
And so Pee-Wee’s new adventure begins, running into everything from a bank robbing trio of young women, an Amish community, a bus full of hairdressers on the way to a competition, and even a flying car along the way. The movie mostly plays out as a serious of unrelated skits (which makes sense given Lee’s history co-creating the gleefully offensive “Wonder Showzen” on MTV2 back in 2005). Produced by Judd Apatow with a screenplay by Reubens and Paul Rust (co-creator and star of the new Netflix series “Love”), the plot is admittedly thin, but it’s all harmless and terribly silly fun.
Reubens, who is now 63, has managed (with the help of an extra round of makeup) to freeze time with this character, looking almost identical to how he did over three decades ago. The laughs are goofy and quick, harmless enough for kids of all ages but absurd enough to please older fans. There are moments when the gags seemingly go on for too long, but after the wait we’ve had for more Pee-Wee, they’re easy enough to forgive. Let’s hope we won’t have to wait nearly as long for Pee-Wee’s next journey.
Like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, apparently there is something indestructible about Pee-wee Herman. Pee-wee writer, producer and actor Paul Reubens can drop the character for 20 years, doing bit parts here and there (he’s been terrific in everything from “Blow” to “The Blacklist” to “Gotham”) and apparently pick it up in 2016 to absolutely rapturous applause from the (admittedly famously generous) SXSW audience Thursday night at the Paramount Theatre, wherein debuted “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.”
Now, all of this applause was generated by adult humans, many of whom remember either the TV show or the movies as if they were yesterday. How “Big Holiday,” which hits Netflix Friday, will fare with kids…who knows? But parents who enjoyed the franchise will get a kick out of this silly film, directed by newcomer John Lee, written by Reubens and Paul Rust and produced by Judd Apatow.
After a Rube Goldberg opening in the grand tradition of the gewgaw-laden set pieces from the TV show and “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” we see Pee-wee at his job as a fry cook at Dan’s Diner in the idyllic town of Fairville, where Pee-wee never wants to leave.
That is until a stranger (extremely funny, good sport Joe Manganiello, playing himself) rolls into town and into Dan’s. Pee-wee is, um, intrigued. They chat about candy and scale-models (look for Pee-wee’s brilliant “Magic Mike” one-liner) when Manganiello invites Pee-wee to his birthday party in the Big Apple.
It is time for Pee-wee to leave the nest, at least for a little while, so our man-boy (who sure doesn’t look 63 years old — there may be some digital trickery involved) moves from sketch-premise to sketch-premise, which is totally fine.
He meets up with some bank robbers (Jessica Pohly, Stephanie Beatriz, Alia Shawkat) who carjack Pee-wee, he meets a farmer with a whole mess of sisters who want to bed him, he meets a woman with a flying car. That sort of thing. You know…Pee-wee stuff.
Lee whips through the material, and while there are fewer prop-based antics than the other films, the gags and punchlines are spot-on. The bowtie is back.
Pee-Wee’s next big adventure brought him to Austin’s Paramount Theatre for the world premiere of “Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday.” It has been nearly 30 years since Paul Reubens donned his grey suit and red bowtie for the big screen, but audiences haven’t forgotten his beloved character: A crowd engulfed Congress Avenue Thursday night — chanting “Pee-Wee” and donning bowties — all for a chance to see the actor in the flesh. On Friday, the movie will debut on Netflix in addition to a limited number of theaters nationwide.
In “Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday,” the funnyman, 63, looks as good as he did in his ’80s heyday, thanks in part to a bit of Hollywood magic. In the film, Reubens’ character finds an unlikely friend in hunky bad-boy Joe Manganiello (“True Blood,” “Magic Mike”), who encourages him to take his first holiday and meet him in the Big Apple. Along the way, he’s taken hostage by a trio of bank robbers (Jessica Pohly, Stephanie Beatriz, and Alia Shawkat). A host of Pee-Wee-esque shenanigans ensue.
Shawkat, who also premiered “Search Party” at this year’s festival, admitted she was nursing a slight hangover on the red carpet — the “Arrested Development” star has shown up at events all over town this week. Manganiello’s wife, “Modern Family”’s Sofia Vergara, was spotted at the premiere (donning a skin-tight red dress, what else?) but skipped the red carpet to avoid stealing the limelight.
Super producer Judd Apatow, who premiered “Trainwreck” to rave reviews during last year’s SXSW film festival, signed on to the project after catching one of Reubens’ Los Angeles performances in 2010. He brought comedian Paul Rust onboard to co-write the script with Reubens.
Apatow says the film should appeal to the show’s original fans in addition to a new generation of younger viewers. “I’ve been a huge fan of Pee Wee Herman forever,” Apatow said on the red carpet. “It’s like what we’ve been waiting for for a long time.”
“To have Judd Apatow say ‘I want to make your movie’ is such an exciting thing to happen,” Reubens said. “He added the exact right blend of being there all the time and pulling back and letting us do our thing.”
“Soundbreaking” aims to tell the relatively brief history of sound recording — just over a century — through the collective voices of the music industry’s greatest artists and producers. There is a reason why a project of this scope has never been attempted before. One: it’s an amazing feat to secure this many in-depth interviews (more than 200) with unreachable industry geniuses like Elton John; Roger Waters; and the producer of the Beatles, the late Sir George Martin. And two: it’s damn near impossible to organize so many interviews into a cohesive, succinct series when all is said and done.
The impossible was achieved, for the most part, with award-winning film and television producers Maro Chermayeff and Jeff Dupre. The documentarians devoted years to the project, which premiered at SXSW this week; it should perform well with PBS’s 100 million television viewers when it airs as an 8-part series this November. However, audiences may find the series’ format difficult to digest. Extensive interviews with and about Martin in the first episode could easily make a fascinating documentary all on their own — particularly following his death March 8. Instead, his story is blended among (equally fascinating) stories of producers like Phil Spector and Rick Rubin. The result is overwhelmingly disjointed; at times, it feels like an indecisive teenager flipping between radio stations.
During a Q&A with the audience after the series’ SXSW premiere, the filmmakers explained their editing decisions. “We chose to focus on the human relationships at the heart of all these recordings,” Chermayeff said. “The contrast between them was illuminating.” Dupre continued that finding a way to organize the series was “the hardest part.”
Instead of a timeline, the series is organized thematically: while the first episode focuses on the people, the second tells the story of the recording devices themselves, and how they have evolved over the course of a century. Later topics in the series: how music and video have collided in the age of MTV, and a look at how music went from acoustic to electric. In addition to hundreds of interviews (Adele, Beck, Tom Petty, Paul McCartney — there is certainly no shortage of star power), each episode includes rare archival footage painstakingly hand-picked from more than 80 years worth of material.
While “Soundbreaking” has its faults, the documentary is unique in that it tells a story not about music, but the art of producing it. In an era where music is more ubiquitous than it has ever been, the series gives an inside look at the magic behind the scenes — in a way that the outside world can begin to understand what goes into making it.
“Soundbreaking – Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music” will preview once more during SXSW on March 17, 5:15 p.m., at the Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter Lane. The series will premiere on PBS November 14.
When you watch a documentary about a subject who committed suicide, the film usually has an energy that propels the story to its unfortunate conclusion. But “Insatiable: The Homaro Cantu Story” doesn’t move with that same thrust. It ambles, moving back and forth in time to piece together the parts between the beginning and end of the great Chicago chef’s life. And while the impending doom doesn’t send many portentous alarms throughout the movie, a darkness lingers over the story of a man who rose from punishing lows to brilliant heights.
The film, which made its world premiere at South by Southwest, opens with tight shots of molecular gastronomy wizardry from the chef and talking heads placing Cantu not just in the context of the culinary world, but the world at large. People talk about how he wanted to improve people’s lives, revolutionize the food system and change the world. Heady ideas for a man born into poverty and abuse.
The film shows the former Moto (and Ing) chef at the precipice of his greatest success in 2004 before jumping back in time to give some understanding of where the chef came from and his motivations for improving the world. Through archival photos and some minor recreations, director Brett Schwartz tells the story of a troubled young man abused and abandoned by his mother, only to land in the home of a mercurial alcoholic father. The neglect at home pushed Cantu to find his own path, and, though he was an indifferent student, he discovered an aptitude for shop and woodwork classes and his teenage jobs in the food world.
Those twin passions would wed to inform his innovative style of cooking. The chef, who earned a Michelin star for his flagship restaurant, always used his impoverished and traumatic upbringing at motivation. Having come from nothing, he always felt he had nothing to lose, and he proved an indefatigable and hungry student in the culinary world.
The movie has a very handmade quality, using shaky archival video and a few too many shots of messages on computer screens to tell its story, and some sloppy editing takes some of the tension out of the narrative, as we bounce from his past to the almost present. But the amateurism lends an intimacy to the film and makes it feel like a patchwork put together after the chef’s death to make sense of what went wrong.
The specifics of those details can be vague at times, but what is clear is that Cantu, who spent four years learning at the foot of Chicago legend Charlie Trotter, was a man of singular vision and one who wanted to bring a change to the food world. We see him discuss his desire to make organic food accessible to poor communities, while he also attempts to revolutionize fast food by cutting calories through the use of miracle berries,but the details of his vision aren’t always that clear.
It makes sense that a film about a man who took on myriad projects and seemed to prioritize dreams over details would feel weighted with disparate information and lack some narrative cohesion. By the time his death arrives suddenly at the end of the film, the audience may not quite understand the depth of the troubles that led Cantu to such a decision, but the weight of his loss is obvious.