The South by Southwest Film and Television Festival kicks off Friday with a renewed sense of purpose. There is the new name, of course, adding “and TV”, along with new leadership. Equally important, the film “Everything Everywhere All At One,” poised to win big at the Academy Awards on Sunday, had its world premiere at last year’s festival.
Austin, Texas-based SXSW has long been a hotbed for unlikely commercial films like “A Quiet Place,” “Us” and “Baby Driver.” Lena Dunham, Barry Jenkins, Daniel Destin Cretton and Greta Gerwig premiered key early works, while “Everything Everywhere” directors Daniels, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert previously premiered their music videos and short films. their feature films at the festival.
With the triumph of the season at the box office and the awards of “Everything Everywhere All At Once”, the festival for the first time started a different kind of success. (To Leslie, the low-key film starring unlikely Oscar nominee Andrea Riseborough, also premiered at last year’s festival.)
“The reason I do my job is to support filmmakers who are extremely creative, imaginative and have a really specific vision of what they want to do. And I think Daniels is a perfect example of that,” said Claudette Godfrey, who takes over as head of the event from Janet Pierson, who has been leading it since 2008. “Who doesn’t want to premiere a film that’s been receiving accolades all year round ? But that’s not the goal of how we plan.”
This year’s festival opens with the world premiere of “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” written and directed by “Game Night’s” Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley 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 premieres include “Problemista,” the debut as writer-director-star from “Los Espookys” Julio Torres, co-starring Tilda Swinton. Perhaps the liveliest title at this year’s festival is ‘Bottoms’, a new film from director and co-writer Emma Seligman and co-writer and star Rachel Sennott, the pair who launched ‘Shiva Baby’ at the 2020 festival after the premiere of the short film. was based there in 2018. Adding to the excitement for ‘Bottoms’ is ‘The Bear’ Ayo Edebiri as co-star. Sennott also stars in another film at the festival, Ally Pankiw’s I Used to Be Funny.
A trio of films explores the personalities behind well-known businesses and products. Eva Longoria makes her feature directorial debut with “Flamin’ Hot,” the story of how Richard Montañez invented (or didn’t) 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 was brought to the West. “BlackBerry,” directed and written by and co-starring Matt Johnson, examines the rise and fall of the mobile 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,” the “Furies” by Veronica Ngo, “GukeN” by Veronica Ngo; Anthem,” “The Young Wife” by Tayarisa Poe, “Confessions of a Good Samaritan” by Penny Lane and “You Can Call Me Bill” by Alexandre O. Philippe.
Other notable premieres on the TV side include Boots Riley’s “I’m a Virgo,” Lee Sung Jin’s “Beef,” David E. Kelley’s “Love & Death,” and Zoe Lister’s “Slip.” Jones.
As for whether the success of “Everything Everywhere” created pressure to ditch future Oscar contenders, Godfrey was unequivocal.
“No. How do you compete with this movie? You don’t. It’s a unique vision. There’s no other movie like this in the foreseeable future,” Godfrey said. “That’s never the goal of what we’re planning, to try to plan the Oscar winners. I don’t necessarily think South by Southwest’s flavor is perfectly aligned with the Oscar voting pool. But maybe now we are.”
Godfrey, who was born and raised in Austin and has held several other positions at the festival, moved into her new role during the year, with programming already underway. Thus, he emphasized continuity rather than a sweeping new vision.
“I didn’t really think about it that much until every person in an interview says, ‘Well, how are you going to make it different?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I already made it,'” Godfrey said. “Because we were already working together and building this thing together as a team. So I haven’t thought about it that much, because I don’t think there’s anything different that I want it to be.”
Arguably the biggest challenge for this year’s festival is the calendar, with the Oscars scheduled during the busy first weekend of SXSW, creating potential headaches for films and talent availability, as well as press attention.
“It’s been interesting to have a lot of conversations about this with different people in different parts of the industry,” Godfrey said of the unusual dilemma, adding that we hope it won’t happen again. “I think the prevailing effect was just the realization that most people are not at the Oscars. So they can submit their Oscar coverage from Austin. In the case of talent, of course, there’s nothing airing that day with talent that should be at the Oscars. But not every great talent exists. … It helps spread the word.”
Indeed, the festival is saving some of its higher-profile titles for later in the week, including Lee Cronin’s “Evil Dead Rise,” Gina Gammell and Riley Keough’s “War Pony,” and Adele Lim’s “Joy Ride.” , starring “Everything Everywhere’s” Stephanie Hsu, as well as the yet-to-be-announced closing night headliner.
Unconcerned that star-studded studio projects could continue to work with yet-to-be-discovered talent, Godfrey called SXSW a “choose-your-own-adventure kind of event,” with audiences creating their own mix of what He will see. The festival also emphasizes the intersection between film and television work.
“There’s an element of the weird or the edgy or the weird part of Austin that I think has always been part of the identity of the whole thing. And I think that continues in the work we’re planning,” Godfrey said.
“So it’s like ‘Dungeons & Dragons,’ literally made for South by Southwest. It’s important to me to have space to play… and approach things that make sense for our larger and more diverse audience than a traditional film festival.”
Here are the plays The Times staff are looking forward to at this year’s festival.