Now that things have started to settle on the Sundance front, there’s another film festival to turn your eyes towards. Deep in the heart of Texas, in early March, SXSW. You may not know it, but film festivals are almost more important now, than they used to be. While the market for purchasing films may have shifted, there’s still a lot to pay attention to. Big studios test upcoming comedies and action films. Favorites from other feats get a second chance to build word of mouth. A bunch of up and coming filmmakers get to attempt to put their stamp on the world.
A few weeks ago we brought you the initial line-up announced for SXSW 2020. Now comes the exciting wave, that includes both a couple films from Sundance, along with a great bevy of offerings in the form of Midnighters. So, get your pencils, pens or fingers (for copying) ready, as there is a giant amount of films here.
MIDNIGHTERS Scary, funny, sexy, controversial – ten provocative after-dark features for night owls and the terminally curious.
Dembanger Director: John Berardo, Screenwriters: John Berardo, Lindsay LaVanchy, Brian Frager Ellery Scott’s world unravels when her star athlete brother is murdered on campus amidst a brewing scandal, kicking off a spree of social-media-linked slayings that leave her racing alongside the police to uncover the university’s hidden secrets. Cast: Jon Huertas, Isabella Gomez, Lindsay LaVanchy, Froy Gutierrez, Gattlin Griffith, Patrick Walker, Bart Johnson, Shireen Lai, with Yancy Butler, and Lochlyn Munro (World Premiere)
Lucky Director: Natasha Kermani, Screenwriter: Brea Grant Lucky follows May, a self-help book author with all the answers, who suddenly finds herself stalked by a threatening but elusive masked man, and caught in a struggle to get help from the people around her and maintain control over her own life. Cast: Brea Grant, Hunter C Smith, Kristina Klebe, Leith M. Burke, Dhruv Uday Singh, Yasmine Al-Bustami (World Premiere)
PG (Psycho Goreman) (Canada) Director/Screenwriter: Steven Kostanski Siblings Mimi and Luke unwittingly resurrect an ancient alien overlord. Using a magical amulet, they force the monster to obey their childish whims, and accidentally attract a rogues’ gallery of intergalactic assassins to small-town suburbia. Cast: Nita-Josée Hanna, Owen Myre, Adam Brooks, Alexis Hancey, Matthew Ninaber, Steven Vlahos, Kristen MacCulloch, Anna Tierney, Kenneth Welsh (World Premiere)
Relic (Australia) Director: Natalie Erika James, Screenwriters: Natalie Erika James, Christian White When Edna, the elderly and widowed matriarch of the family, goes missing, her daughter Kay and granddaughter Sam travel to their remote family home to find her. Soon after her return, they start to discover a sinister presence haunting the house and taking control of Edna. Cast: Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin, Bella Heathcote
Run Sweetheart Run Director/Screenwriter: Shana Feste In Run Sweetheart Run, a blind date turns violent and the woman has to get home on foot through Los Angeles as she’s pursued by her date. Cast: Ella Balinska, Pilou Asbaek, Clark Gregg, Aml Ameen, Dayo Okeniyi, Betsy Brandt, Shohreh Aghdashloo
The Silencing Director: Robin Pront, Screenwriter: Micah Ranum A reformed hunter living in isolation on a wildlife sanctuary becomes involved in a deadly game of cat and mouse when he and the local Sheriff set out to track a vicious killer who may have kidnapped his daughter years ago. Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Annabelle Wallis, Hero FIennes Tiffin, Melanie Scrofano, Shaun Smyth, Zahn McClarnon (World Premiere)
The Toll Director/Screenwriter: Michael Nader When a young woman and her rideshare driver break down on a dark forest road, each sees the other as a threat. But as strange phenomena begin occurring around them, they gradually realize they’ve become trapped in the world of a terrifying supernatural being: The Toll Man. Cast: Jordan Hayes, Max Topplin, James McGowan, Rosemary Dunsmore (World Premiere)
The Vigil Director/Screenwriter: Keith Thomas A man providing overnight watch to a deceased member of his former Orthodox Jewish community finds himself opposite a malevolent entity, in writer-director Keith Thomas’ electrifying feature debut. Cast: Dave Davis, Menashe Lustig, Malky Goldman, Lynn Cohen, Fred Melamed (U.S. Premiere)
Witch Hunt Director: Elle Callahan A woman in the United States helps two young witches seek asylum in Mexico to avoid persecution by American authorities. Cast: Gideon Adlon, Elizabeth Mitchell, Abigail Cowen, The Crovetti Twins, Christian Camargo (World Premiere)
Yummy (Belgium) Director: Lars Damoiseaux, Screenwriters: Eveline Hagenbeek, Lars Damoiseaux Yummy is an orgy of blood, violence and fun in which a young couple travels to a shabby Eastern European hospital for cheap plastic surgery, but they get stuck in the middle of a zombie outbreak. Cast: Maaike Neuville, Bart Hollanders, Clara Cleymans, Benjamin Ramon, Tom Audenaert (North American Premiere)
FESTIVAL FAVORITES Acclaimed standouts and selected premieres from festivals around the world.
Be Water Director: Bao Nguyen Be Water is a layered and intimate portrait of an underdog who was able to transcend racism, colonialism, and xenophobia to become one of the most influential cultural figures of our time. Cast: Linda Lee Cadwell, Shannon Lee, Robert Lee, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dan Inosanto, Andre Morgan
Beast Beast Director/Screenwriter: Danny Madden Set in a southern town, three youth deal with new and old issues of growing up, swirling with trauma, petty crimes, new love and gun violence. Cast: Shirley Chen, Will Madden, Jose Angeles, Courtney Dietz, Daniel Rashid, Kron Moore
Boys State Directors: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss A political coming-of-age story, Boys State examines the health of American democracy through an unusual experiment in which a thousand 17-year-old boys from across Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up. Cast: Steven Garza, Rene Otero, Ben Feinstein, Robert Macdougall
Bull Director: Annie Silverstein, Screenwriters: Annie Silverstein, Johnny McAllister On the outskirts of Houston, a teen reeling from her mom’s incarceration and an aging bullfighter struggling to keep a foothold in the rodeo circuit, form an unlikely bond and attempt to right their own paths. Cast: Rob Morgan, Amber Havard, Yolonda Ross, Keeli Wheeler, Keira Bennett, Sara Allbright, Troy Hogan, Steven Boyd, Reece McClure, Tadarius Billy Miles
Charm City Kings Director: Angel Manuel Soto, Screenwriters: Sherman Payne, Chris Boyd, Kirk Sullivan, and Barry Jenkins A young boy joins a dirt bike gang in Baltimore. Feature film adaptation of the documentary 12 O’Clock Boys. Cast: Jahi Di’Allo Winston, Meek Mill, Will Catlett, Donielle Tremaine Hansley, Kezii Curtis, Chino, Lakeyria “Wheelie Queen” Doughty, Chandler DuPont, Tyquan Ford, Teyonah Parris
The Climb Director: Michael Angelo Covino, Screenwriter: Michael Angelo Covino, Kyle Marvin Kyle and Mike are best friends who share a close bond — until Mike sleeps with Kyle’s fiancée. The Climb is about a tumultuous but enduring relationship between two men across many years of laughter, heartbreak and rage. Cast: Kyle Marvin, Michael Angelo Covino, Gayle Rankin, Talia Balsam, George Wendt, Judith Godrèche
Coded Bias Director: Shalini Kantayya Coded Bias explores the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s startling discovery that facial recognition does not see dark-skinned faces accurately, and her journey to push for the first-ever legislation to govern against bias in the algorithms that impact us all. Cast: Joy Buolamwini, Cathy O’Neil, Zeynep Tufecki, Meredith Broussard, Safiya Umoja Noble, Silkie Carlo, Ravi Naik, Virginia Eubanks
Feels Good Man Director: Arthur Jones When indie comic character Pepe the Frog becomes an unwitting icon of hate, his creator fights to bring Pepe back from the darkness.
I’m Gonna Make You Love Me Director: Karen Bernstein Fellini meets Motown in I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, one man’s search for self-acceptance, a journey that included tabloid celebrity, Tupperware parties, and two coming outs – first as a straight woman, then as the gay man he was meant to be.
Miss Juneteenth Director/Screenwriter: Channing Godfrey Peoples A former beauty queen turned hardworking single mom prepares her rebellious teenage daughter for the Miss Juneteenth pageant, hoping to keep her from repeating the same mistakes in life that she made. Cast: Nicole Beharie, Kendrick Sampson, Alexis Chikaeze, Akron Watson, Lori Hayes, Marcus M. Mauldin
Mucho Mucho Amor Directors: Cristina Costantini, Kareem Tabsch Mucho Mucho Amor follows the iconic, gender non-conforming astrologer Walter Mercado, who mesmerized Latino viewers with his extravagance and positivity for decades. Then, one day, he vanished from the public eye.
Nine Days Director/Screenwriter: Edson Oda In a house distant from the reality we know, a reclusive man interviews prospective candidates — personifications of human souls — for the privilege that he once had: to be born. Cast: Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Bill Skarsgard, Benedict Wong, Tony Hale, David Rysdahl, Arianna Ortiz
The Reason I Jump (United Kingdom) Director: Jerry Rothwell Based on the book by Naoki Higashida this immersive film explores the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people around the world.
Save Yourselves! Directors/Screenwriters: Alex Fischer, Eleanor Wilson A young Brooklyn couple head upstate to disconnect from their phones and reconnect with themselves. Cut off from their devices, they miss the news that the planet is under attack. Cast: John Reynolds, Sunita Mani, Ben Sinclair, John Early, Johanna Day, Gary Clark, Jo Firestone, Zenobia Shroff, Amy Sedaris
A Thousand Cuts Director: Ramona S. Diaz A film about the role of journalism and disinformation’s accelerating effect in the erosion of democracy under the authoritarian regime of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as told through the story of embattled journalist Maria Ressa.
Us Kids Director: Kim A. Snyder Determined to turn unfathomable tragedy into action, the teenage survivors of Parkland, Florida catalyze a powerful, unprecedented youth movement that spreads with lightning speed across the country, as a generation of youth take back democracy.
Live soundtracks, cult re-issues and much more. Our Special Events section offers unusual, unexpected and unique one-off film events.
Bait (United Kingdom) Director: Mark Jenkin Bait (2019) is a brilliantly original and visually daring feature film, written, directed and hand-crafted by Cornish filmmaker Mark Jenkin. For this special presentation, Gwenno Saunders’ new score, performed live with Georgia Ellery (who also plays Kate in the film), blends synth loops, long forgotten Cornish folk records, violin drone and live vocals. Expect the unexpected with this new take on the atmospheric world of Bait! Cast: Edward Rowe, Simon Shepherd, Mary Woodvine, Giles King, Chloe Endean, Georgia Ellery, Isaac Woodvine, Jowan Jacobs (North American Premiere)
Doug Benson and Master Pancake vs Leprechaun Returns Director: Steven Kostanski Doug Benson (Super High Me, Doug Loves Movies) and Master Pancake (Film-Talkers at Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse) continue their St. Patrick’s Day tradition of interrupting every film in the Leprechaun franchise. This year they tackle Leprechaun Returns.
Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics Director/Screenwriter: Donick Cary Have A Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics tells the epic story of psychedelics through the surprising and often hilarious drug trips of celebrity storytellers. (World Premiere)
Out of the Blue (1980) 4K Restoration (2019) (Canada, U.S.) Director: Dennis Hopper, Screenwriters: Leonard Yakir, Brenda Nielson New 4K digital restoration of Dennis Hopper’s 1980 critically acclaimed (but seldom seen) return to the director’s chair after his disastrously received The Last Movie (1971), his follow-up to the world-shaking success of Easy Rider (1969). Cast: Linda Manz, Dennis Hopper, Sharon Farrell, Don Gordon, Raymond Burr
RAD! (1986) 4K Restoration (2019) Director: Hal Needham, Screenwriters: Sam Bernard, Geoffrey Edwards A bicycle-motocrosser tries to enter a corrupt promoter’s nationally televised cash-prize race. Cast: Bill Allen, Lori Loughlin, Talia Shire, Ray Walston
Additional Features added to the lineup in previously announced sections:
NARRATIVE SPOTLIGHT High profile narrative features receiving their World, North American or U.S. premieres at SXSW.
Freak Power Director/Screenwriter: Robert F. Kennedy III The true story of outlaw journalist/counter-culture icon Hunter S. Thompson’s unlikely campaign for Sheriff of Aspen, CO, in 1970. Cast: Jay Bulger, Cheryl Hines, Amaryllis Fox, Laird Mackintosh, Maxwell Loeb (World Premiere)
One of These Days (Germany) Director/Screenwriter: Bastian Günther In a small U.S. southern town, the annual ‘Hands On’ endurance contest offers the chance of a lifetime to win a brand new pickup truck. Each contestant has their own reasons for entering, but the true cost of the competition is higher than it appears. Cast: Carrie Preston, Joe Cole, Callie Hernandez, Bill Callahan (World Premiere)
DOCUMENTARY SPOTLIGHT Shining a light on new documentary features receiving their World, North American or U.S. premieres at SXSW.
After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News Director: Andrew Rossi After Truth captures the human toll of false news and conspiracies with unprecedented access to figures in the Pizzagate, Seth Rich, Jade Helm and Alabama special election cases. (World Premiere))
Good ol Girl Director: Sarah Brennan Kolb Good ol Girl is a documentary western following three modern day cowgirls as they hustle for land, cattle, and respect across Texas. Cast: Sara Lemoine Knox, Mandy Dauses, Martha Santos, Joyce Gibson Roach (World Premiere)
A Most Beautiful Thing Director/Screenwriter: Mary Mazzio A Most Beautiful Thing chronicles the first African American high school rowing team in this country, made up of young men in rival gangs from the West Side of Chicago, all literally coming together to row in the same boat. (World Premiere)
The Pushback Director: Kevin Ford Two women of color run for public office and fight against decades of institutional racism, redefining what it means to be a Texan. (World Premiere)
The Scheme Director: Pat Kondelis The true story of basketball insider Christian Dawkins, who hustled the FBI in a scandal that threatened to take down the NCAA. (World Premiere)
VISIONS Visions filmmakers are audacious, risk-taking artists in the new cinema landscape who demonstrate raw innovation and creativity in documentary and narrative filmmaking.
Aviva Director/Screenwriter: Boaz Yakin Aviva is a unique exploration of gender within the self, told through the lens of a modern romantic relationship. Cast: Zina Zinchenko, Bobbi Jene Smith, Tyler Phillips, Or Schraiber (World Premiere)
The Carnivores Director/Screenwriter: Caleb Michael Johnson Alice has been blacking out and craving things she dare not name. When her girlfriends’ dog goes missing, Alice wonders if it could be inside her. Cast: Lindsay Burdge, Tallie Medel, Frank Mosley (World Premiere)
The Surrogate Director/Screenwriter: Jeremy Hersh Jess is thrilled to be the surrogate for her best friend and his husband, but when a prenatal test comes back, it creates a moral dilemma that threatens their friendship. Cast: Jasmine Batchelor, Chris Perfetti, Sullivan Jones, Brooke Bloom, Tonya Pinkins, Eboni Booth, Brandon Micheal Hall, Leon Lewis, Tiffany Villarin (World Premiere)
There you have it! A lot of things to choose from. Which makes sense when you consider this year’s SXSW Film Festival had 135 features, 99 of which are world premieres. Be sure to keep Boom Howdy bookmarked as well be bringing you updates from activations, screenings, panels and more at the fest. SXSW 2020 runs from March 13-22, in Austin, Texas.