March is one of my favorite times of year because of March Madness but it also means heading down to Austin for the 2019 SXSW Film Festival.
Last year was my first SXSW Film Festival and it was a whole lot of fun. The festival launched the likes of Blockers, TransMilitary, Summer ’03, Most Likely to Murder and Fast Color (opening in theaters this month!) to name a few. Films followed from Sundance to SXSW including Half the Picture and Hearts Beat Loud. I’ll never forget the look on my face when I saw the Hearts Beat Loud poster at the Paramount Theatre. They used a different poster for the SXSW screening and my jaw dropped upon seeing “A musical masterpiece.”
This year, I’m putting together a jam-packed schedule. Some interviews have been confirmed while others are waiting on confirmation.
Both major and mid-major studios are launching some of their newest films in at SXSW. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be among the first to see The Beach Bum, Booksmart, Good Boys, Long Shot, and the work-in-progress Stuber. I’m heavily anticipating all of these titles. Booksmart has been on my radar ever since it was first announced. One, Olivia Wilde is directing it. Two, the film has a star-studded cast!
There’s Long Shot starring Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron. If you know me, then you know that 2007’s Knocked Up paved the way for my writing a full-length feature screenplay that summer. Plus, Rogen was in Freaks and Geeks, a series that holds a very special place in my heart (I met Judd Apatow at the Blockers premiere but that’s a story for another day). For all the fans of The Post out there, Liz Hannah is one of the film’s co-writers. Anyway, this film appears to be a political comedy for a new generation as presidential candidate Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) hires Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) to be her speechwriter.
Narrative Feature Competition
There are ten films making their world premieres. Among these ten, I’ll definitely be watching Alice, Extra Ordinary, Go Back to China, and Pig Hag. I’m going to do my best to catch the Chicago-set Saint Frances when it premieres on Monday afternoon at Stateside.
Go Back to China is a film that will surely bring a new perspective to items labeled “Made in China.” Written and directed by Emily Ting (a different Emily Ting than the one who directs The Do It Up Date), this dramedy follows Sasha Li (Anna Akana) as she gets forced back to China to work for the family toy business.
Documentary Feature Competition
Ten more films are set to make their world premieres. I’ll be sure to catch Ernie & Joe, Stuffed, and Well Groomed. It’s doubtful that I’ll be able to fit it in but on the transgender and gender non-confirming front, there’s Why Can’t I Be Me? Around You.
The films in this section that I plan to see include The Art of Self-Defense, Come as You Are, The Day Shall Come, Frances Ferguson, Olympic Dreams, The Peanut Butter Falcon, Pink Wall, Run This Town, Sword of Trust, and Villains. I’m still figuring out if I can fit in Come as You Are given the Chicago ties. Run This Town is another film that I’m still trying to figure if I can fit it into my schedule. The premiere conflicts with Long Shot and I don’t know if I can see the second screening on Monday. We’ll see.
My biggest priority film is Lynn Shelton’s Sword of Trust. This film features a star-studded comedy cast including Brittany Runs A Marathon stars Jillian Bell and Michaela Watkins. Plus, it’s co-written by AP Bio creator Mike O’Brien so I have super high expectations on this one.
There are so many fascinating titles. Pink Wall is another priority film for me and not just because of the Solzy Award-winning Souls of Totality connection. I’d have seen it anyway because I loved Tatiana Maslany’s work in Orphan Black. Olympic Dreams sounds like one of those films where you still can’t believe they actually shot this. Jeremy Teicher was essentially a one-person crew when he directed the film during the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
Frances Ferguson deals with a young woman (Kaley Wheless) who acts up in small town Nebraska. Oh, it’s also narrated by Nick Offerman and also features the likes of David Krumholtz and Martin Starr in the cast.
I’m going to do my best to see Breakthrough, Human Nature, I Am Richard Pryor, It Started As A Joke, Jump Shot, The River and the Wall, Running with Beto, and State of Pride. If I don’t catch Running with Beto, I’ll definitely catch it when it airs this spring on HBO. I come from comedy so naturally I gravitate towards the likes of I am Richard Pryor and It Started As A Joke. State of Pride comes from a pair of Oscar-winning filmmakers, Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein, who are fresh off of another Oscar nomination. Unless I missed a film, Human Nature marks one of two films scored by Keegan DeWitt at this year’s fest.
The River and the Wall is certainly a very timely documentary given the current political environment. Ben Masters and a few friends travel 1200 miles of the Rio Grande from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico. There are also appearances by Republican Congressman Will Hurd and former Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke. When we talk about timely films, I would not be surprised if the documentary takes home an audience award. After all, TransMilitary took home an Audience Award last year!
I’m planning to see The Garden Left Behind, Romantic Comedy, Leave the Bus Through the Broken Window, One Man Dies a Million Times, and Tito. The big question mark with my schedule at the moment is Leave the Bus Through the Broken Window.
The Garden Left Behind features Carlie Guevara in a leading role. More importantly, there are a lot of transgender talent both in front and behind the camera in the Flavio Alves-directed film. Personally, I wish more films would cast trans talent. This is one of my must-see films of the fest for this reason.
Romantic Comedy already premiered in January. What director Elizabeth Sankey does with the film is break down every beat of the rom-com genre. I’ll have more to say very soon. Let’s just say that with Selma Blair being in the news this past week, seeing a clip from The Sweetest Thing again was such a delight!
I’m seeing horror comedy Snatchers while doing my best to fit in Daniel Isn’t Real. It’s not looking all that great at the moment. Snatchers is based on the short-form series that previously screened at Sundance.
Hulu brings Shrill to SXSW for its world premiere. One year after HBO launched Barry with Bill Hader, SNL‘s Aidy Bryant is at the fest for Shrill.
24 Beats Per Second
I’m planning to see Bluebird, The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story, The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash, Mr. Jimmy, and Who Let The Dogs Out. I already saw Teen Spirit and Wild Rose during TIFF. While I would love to see the Johnny Cash documentary, I’m not sure that make the first screening and everything else is after flying back to Chicago. I’m going to do my best to see Brent Hodge’s new film. Unfortunately, it appears that the David Crosby documentary has been pulled from the SXSW schedule.
Nothing in this category piqued my interest.
I’ve already seen Apollo 11, Aquarela, Greener Grass, Her Smell, Little Monsters, Maiden, Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins, and Them That Follow. I missed out on Knock Down the House, The Infiltrators, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, The Mountain, Pahokee, Sister Aimee during Sundance and The Weekend at TIFF. I’m seeing Pahokee and The Weekend for sure. The only others are question marks. I have Knock Down the House slotted but it’s quite possible that my schedule gets moved around again.
Shorts on my list to cover include Bodega, Lockdown, Milton, and Stepdaddy. Stepdaddy comes from Sundowners director Lisa Steen and screenwriter Anna Greenfield. The short stars Lauren Blumenfeld, Max Jenkins, and Peter Gallagher.
Shorts on my list to cover include Lowland Kids and Trans in America: Texas Strong. Lowland Kids deals with the effects of climate change while Trans in America: Texas Strong is pretty self-explanatory. The latter short is already available on YouTube.
Shorts on my list to cover include The Do It Up Date and How To Be Alone. Emily Ting and Andrew Barchilon co-direct The Do It Up Date from a script written by Josh Fadem. Fadem stars alongside Bridey Elliott, George Griffith, Kate Comer, and Chris Nichols. Fadem previously had a cameo appearance in Elliott’s feature directorial debut, Clara’s Ghost. This is the second consecutive SXSW in which Bridey Elliott makes an appearance in a short film following Men Don’t Whisper last year.
Kate Trefry co-wrote Souls of Totality, which starred Tom Cullen and Tatiana Maslany. The latter two are involved with Pink Wall, also screening at SXSW. Anyway, what I’m taking a long time to say here is that How To Be Alone is Kate’s directorial debut.
Shorts on my list to cover include Mack Wrestles. The ESPN documentary from directors Erin Sanger and Taylor Hess focuses on wrestler Mack Beggs and what’s up next for the athlete. If you’re not familar, Mack is the Texas wrestler who was forced to compete with the girls because of the stupid discriminatory rules for student athletes.