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‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ At SXSW: These Are The 5 Titles We Are Most Excited About

The South by Southwest film and television festival launches Friday with a renewed sense of purpose. There’s the new name, of course, adding “and TV,” along with new leadership. Equally important, the film “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” set to win big at the Academy Awards on Sunday, had its world premiere at last year’s festival.

Based in Austin, Texas, SXSW has long been a stop for offbeat commercial movies like “A Quiet Place,” “Us” and “Baby Driver.” Lena Dunham, Barry Jenkins, Daniel Destin Cretton and Greta Gerwig premiered key early works here, while “Everything Everywhere” filmmakers Daniels, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert previously screened their music videos and short films at the festival.

With the box office and awards season triumph of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the festival launched a different kind of hit for the first time. (“To Leslie,” the modest film featuring the unlikely Oscar-nominated lead in Andrea Riseborough, also premiered at last year’s festival.)

“The reason I do my job is to support filmmakers who are super creative, imaginative, and have a very specific vision of what they want to do. And I think Daniels is a perfect example of that,” said Claudette Godfrey, who replaces Janet Pierson, its leader since 2008, at the helm of the event. “Who doesn’t want to release a movie that gets raves all year long? round? But that’s not the point of how we program.”

This year’s festival opens with the world premiere of the film “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” written and directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley of “Game Night” and starring Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Regé-Jean Page and Hugh Grant. . On the TV side, the opening night pick is “Swarm,” a series created by Donald Glover and Janine Nabers.

Other anticipated releases include “Problemista,” the first feature as writer-director and star of Julio Torres of “Los Espookys,” co-starring Tilda Swinton. Perhaps the hottest title at this year’s festival is “Bottoms,” a new film from director/co-writer Emma Seligman and co-writer/star Rachel Sennott, the couple who released “Shiva Baby” at the 2020 festival after it premiered. the short film was based there in 2018. Adding to the excitement for “Bottoms” is Ayo Edebiri from “The Bear” as a co-star. Sennott also stars in another film at the festival, Ally Pankiw’s “I Used to Be Funny.”

Brice González, Annie González, Jesse García and Hunter Jones in “Flamin’ Hot”.

(Emily Aragonés / Reflector)

A trio of films explores the personalities behind well-known companies and products. Eva Longoria makes her feature directorial debut with “Flamin’ Hot,” the story of how Richard Montañez invented (or didn’t) the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. “Tetris,” directed by Jon S. Baird, stars Taron Egerton in the story of the popular video game’s Russian origins and how it came to the West. “BlackBerry,” directed, co-written and co-starring Matt Johnson, examines the rise and fall of the handheld device company.

Other notable titles include Hannah Pearl Utt’s “Cora Bora” starring Megan Stalter, Billy Luther’s “Frybread Face and Me,” Jake Johnson’s “Self Reliance,” Julio Quintana’s “The Long Game,” Veronica’s “Furies.” Ngo, “National Anthem,” Tayarisha Poe’s “The Young Wife,” Penny Lane’s “Confessions of a Good Samaritan,” and Alexandre O. Philippe’s “You Can Call Me Bill.”

Other notable premieres on the TV side of things include Boots Riley’s “I’m a Virgo,” Lee Sung Jin’s “Beef,” David E. Kelley’s “Love & Death,” and Zoe Lister-Jones’ “Slip.” .

As to whether the success of “Everything Everywhere” created any pressure to discover future Oscar nominees, Godfrey was emphatic.

“No. How do you compete with that movie? You’re not a singular vision. There’s not another movie that’s going to be like that in the immediate future,” Godfrey said. Oscar winners. I don’t necessarily think the flavor of South by Southwest is perfectly aligned with the Oscar voting pool. But maybe now we are.”

Godfrey, who was born and raised in Austin and has held many other positions at the festival, took up his new role mid-year with programming already underway. So he emphasized continuity rather than a radical new vision.

“I actually didn’t think much of it until every single person in an interview said, ‘Well, how are you going to make it different?’ And I said, ‘Well, I’ve come to this,’” Godfrey said. “Because we were already working together and we built this together as a team. So I haven’t given it much thought, because I don’t think there’s something different that I want it to be.”

Arguably the biggest challenge for this year’s festival is the schedule, as scheduling the Oscars during SXSW’s busy first weekend creates potential headaches for films and talent availability, as well as for the attention of journalists.

“It’s been interesting to have a lot of conversations about it with different people in different parts of the industry,” Godfrey said of the unusual dilemma, adding that hopefully it won’t be repeated. “I think the predominant kind of outcome has been just realizing that most people aren’t at the Oscars. So they can present their Oscar coverage from Austin. In the case of talent, of course, there is nothing projected that day with talent that would have to be at the Oscars. But not all the great talents are there. … It has helped spread the word.”

Four people stand together in 'Joy Ride'.

Sabrina Wu as Deadeye, Ashley Park as Audrey, Sherry Cola as Lolo, and Stephanie Hsu as Kat in “Joy Ride.”

(Ed Araquel/Lionsgate)

In fact, the festival is saving some of its highest-profile titles for later in the week, like Lee Cronin’s “Evil Dead Rise,” Gina Gammell and Riley Keough’s “War Pony,” and Adele Lim’s “Joy Ride.” starring in “Everything Everywhere’s.” Stephanie Hsu, plus a yet-to-be-announced closing night title.

Unconcerned that stellar studio projects could fuel the work of as-yet-undiscovered talent, Godfrey called SXSW a “choose-your-own-adventure type event,” with audiences creating their own mix of what to watch. The festival also emphasizes the crossover between film and television work.

“There’s an element of weirdness or edginess or an unconventional part of Austin that I think has always been part of the identity of the whole event. And I think that is reflected in the work that we schedule,” Godfrey said.

“So it’s like ‘Dungeons & Dragons,’ literally made for South by Southwest. Having the space to play…and leaning into things that make sense to our larger audience and different from a traditional film festival is important to me.”

These are the projects that the staff of the Times are looking forward to at this year’s festival.