The South by Southwest Festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary – and this year is going to be big. The Austin-based festival continues to build on its brand as the year’s must-attend convergence of music, film, and emerging technologies. This year, the event will host a considerable number of films that range from indie genre projects like the Nick Kroll comedy My Blind Brother and the thriller The Waiting, starring James Caan, to bigger budget studio projects like Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some and Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday – their presence justified by a loyal cult following of the filmmakers’ work. The festival will also see an expansion of its programming to episodic projects, including the upcoming AMC series Preacher from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Vice Principals with Danny McBride, and television’s first polyromantic comedy You Me Her. And this year, The Tracking Board is headed to Austin to bring you live coverage of all things SXSW.
This year’s SXSW boasts an impressive list of headlining films — some of which will be making their world premieres. Here is our guide to the big-banner films showing at this year’s festival.
Director/Screenwriter: Richard Linklater
Cast: Will Brittain, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Blake Jenner, J. Quinton Johnson, Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell
Synopsis: In Richard Linklater’s anticipated “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, a group of college friends navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of the wild final weekend of the summer of 1980.
Why do we want to see it? Who wouldn’t want a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused? Linklater is a SXSW favorite and he always manages to deliver when it comes to coming-of-age stories at any age level (see: Boyhood).
Director/Screenwriter: Ti West
Cast: Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga, James Ransone, Karen Gillan, John Travolta
Synopsis: From Blumhouse, the film tells the story of a drifter named Paul who arrives in a small town, seeking revenge on the thugs who murdered his friend. Sisters Mary Anne and Ellen, who run the town’s hotel, help Paul in his quest for vengeance.
Why do we want to see it? Ti West did some awesome things with The Innkeepers and The Sacrament, so we’re dying to see what he does with a revenge set in the Old West.
North American Premiere
Director/Screenwriter: Jeff Nichols
Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Jaeden Lieberher, Sam Shepard
Synopsis: A father goes on the run to protect his young son and uncover the truth behind the boy’s special powers in writer/director Jeff Nichols’ sci-fi thriller Midnight Special, a film as supernatural as it is intimately human.
Why do we want to see it? Nichols has a strong track record for serving up up visually compelling, mind-bending stories with films like Mud and Take Shelter. The progression from subtle magical realism to grounded science fiction only seems natural — and we’re 100 percent on board.
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee
Screenwriter: Bryan Sipe
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, Judah Lewis
Synopsis: Davis (Jake Gyllenhaal), a successful investment banker, struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash.
Why do we want to see it? Not since Nightcrawler have we see Gyllenhaal in something this substantial. Sure, there was last summer’s much-hyped Southpaw, which fell dramatically short of expectations. Vallee’s follow-up to Wild may be a well-deserved, shining moment for both the director and the cast.
Director: John Lee
Screenwriters: Paul Reubens, Paul Rust
Cast: Paul Reubens, Joe Manganiello, Jessica Pohly, Alia Shawkat, Stephanie Beatriz
Synopsis: In Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, a fateful meeting with a mysterious stranger inspires Pee-Wee Herman to take his first-ever holiday in this epic story of friendship and destiny.
Why do we want to see it? Because it’s Pee-Wee Herman.
Director/Screenwriter: Mike Birbiglia
Cast: Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Mike Birbiglia, Kate Micucci, Tami Sagher, Chris Gethard
Synopsis: An improv group loses the lease on their home theater at the same time that one of their cast members gets chosen for the biggest sketch comedy show on TV.
Why do we want to see it? With Birbiglia in charge and a stellar list of comedic actors, we’re already loving it.
Director/Screenwriter: Ilya Naishuller
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett, Andrey Dementyev, Dasha Charusha, Sveta Ustinova
Synopsis: An unflinchingly original, first-person action film where YOU are the main character, Henry. Resurrected from death with no memory by your wife, your mission is find her, solve the mystery of your existence, and discover the truth behind your identity.
Why do we want to see it? There’s an emerging trend of action films shot from the first person perspective, but if you’ve seen the trailer for Hardcore Henry you’ll probably see why it could possibly be the stand-out among all of them.
Dino-Ray Ramos | Staff Writer