SXSW Film Festival 2018: Everything you need to know
We’re onto day five into this year’s annual South by Southwest Film Festival – or SXSW as it’s better known – and already there’s been a plethora of talent in film and interactive media (how about that Westworld immersive experience!?) Over the years, the event has continued to cement its place as one of the leading festivals, with last year alone featuring the premieres of Baby Driver, Atomic Blonde, and The Disaster Artist.
This time round there’s been relative buzz, particularly over Spielberg‘s new flick Ready Player One, as well as a new movie hailed the next Get Out. However, before we move onto the big screen, let’s start with the Westworld experience, because quite frankly it’s bananas. Described as “one of the best publicity stunts of the 21st century,” festivalgoers have been losing their shit over the opportunity to explore the dusty streets of Sweetwater.
HBO created an entire theme park set in the American frontier, with real actors playing hosts, living out the elaborate storylines and throwing several hints out about season two (including the mysterious Samurai park, otherwise known as Shogun World). Exciting stuff!
On the movie side of things, fanboys went nuts at the premiere of Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited adaptation of beloved sci-fi mashup Ready Player One. Filled to the brim with pop culture references, audiences were in sensory overload heaven.
Viewer Scott Menzel declared, “Ready Player One is a pop culture extravaganza. A truly one of a kind film that combines video games, TV, movies, music, & action figures into one huge crowd pleasing film.” Meanwhile, Erik Davis announced, “It’s got the references, the ferocious effects, and the great 80s soundtrack, sure, but also the charm, the heart, the humor, and a fantastic Alan Silvestri score.”
Shana Feste’s Boundaries also hit the big screen at SXSW to warm reviews, with Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World) starring as a pot-dealing carefree father who is picked up by his daughter (Vera Farmiga) after being kicked out of a nursing home. Variety described Plummer’s character as “a crusty old man with the smoothest of sly-boots charisma in a touching and tasteful father-daughter road movie.”
The new slow-burn horror from Michael Tully – Don’t Leave Home – got chins wagging, with the narrative following an American artist whose obsession with a disturbing urban legend leads her to an investigation in Ireland. IndieWire gave it a B+, describing the movie as “Get Out with added Catholic guilt”. Horror fans take note – this is definitely one to watch in 2018.
As for the smaller movies, SXSW inadvertently made female talent one of its central focuses of the festival, as a staggering eight out of the ten films up for contention in the Narrative Feature competition are from female directors. The head of SXSW Film, Janet Pierson, said, “It is unprecedented. We are excited about it. People ask me if it’s intentional. It wasn’t; we were trying to go for parity. It’s definitely a strong presence in a way we haven’t had before.”
Some of the female-directed flicks to look out for include Julia Hart’s sci-fi drama Fast Color, Kay Cannon’s comedy Blockers, and Madeleine Olnek’s stunning new feature Wild Nights with Emily. The latter has received excellent reviews for its story where Molly Shannon (Other People) stars as poet Emily Dickinson in the “best lesbian comedy in years”.
Over to the small screen, and IndieWire pointed out flashes of Stranger Things as kids, mysteries, and monsters featured heavily in the festival’s first ever Indie TV section. For example, creator Ben Strang’s Beast follows a young boy who sets off at sea to find the “monster in the water” in an area where many sailors – including his dad – had disappeared. A Danish pilot called Polar also dealt with the ocean, in a town where a mysterious sound from the water starts to affect select kids in the neighboring areas.
But it’s not all monsters & mysteries with SXSW’s TV offerings. One of the most talked about shows is comedy series The Last O.G. from creators John Carcieri (Eastbound & Down) & Jordan Peele (Keanu). Starring Tracy Morgan (Cop Out) & Tiffany Haddish (Girls Trip), the show follows an ex-felon who is shocked to see how world has changed when he is released from prison after a 15-year stint. Although the reviews are mixed, the outlook is promising, with Variety musing over episode four, “As long as The Last O.G. can produce moments like this, it will be a show well worth watching.”
Well, that’s about all for now, folks. But with over four days left until the end of SXSW, you can be sure we’ll check in with another juicy update. Until then, happy festing!