The South by Southwest Festival is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Every year, thousands of fans arrive in Downtown Austin, TX to partake in a couple of weeks of great music, technology, and film. For this special episode of The Hollywood Outsider, we take you deep into the heart of the film festival portion, and even deeper into the films themselves.
There are well over 100 films, documentaries, and shorts at SXSW and – while we can’t see them all – we have a nice sample of what came out of this year’s stellar lineup of independent films. Over 20 movies are on the docket this year, and we review them all…with more than a few surprises.
So sit back and relax. You’re about to experience South by Southwest from the comfort of your own chair.
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The films discussed on this episode of The Hollywood Outsider Podcast:
|Walking Out||David, 14, city mouse of a kid, travels to rural Montana for his annual hunting trip with Cal, 40, his lonely, estranged “off-the-grid” father. As they ascend deep into the woods, Cal teaches David about predators and prey, fathers and sons, the past and the increasingly complicated present. An encounter with a bear cub results in serious injuries to both David and Cal. After futile attempts to hike out together, David resolves to carry his father on his back to safety while simultaneously healing his broken spirit. “Walking Out” is an intimate epic, a relentlessly primal, fiercely rawboned tale of connection, survival and the true path to manhood.|
|The Transfiguration||An official selection at the Cannes Film Festival, writer/director Michael O’Shea’s debut feature “The Transfiguration” follows troubled teen Milo who hides behind his fascination with vampire lore. When he meets the equally alienated Sophie, the two form a bond that begins to challenge Milo’s dark obsession, blurring his fantasy into reality. A chilling portrait of violence, “The Transfiguration” is an atmospheric thriller set against the grit of New York City.|
|This Is Your Death||Today’s audience has become infatuated with watching others degrade themselves on national television. They crave a wild argument, a bloody fight, or a publicized scandal. It has become the ultimate source of entertainment. But when the boundaries seem like they can’t be pushed any further, game-show host Adam Rogers steps in to break down the wall by hosting a new game show where contestants end their lives for a chance to win money. Adam will only be satisfied if his reality show is number one in the ratings, and he’ll stop at nothing to make sure he gets there, even if it means letting go of his humanity.|
|Small Town Crime||Ex-cop Mike Kendall (John Hawkes) discovers the body of a young woman and, in an act of self-redemption, becomes hellbent on finding the killer. While his un-couth and quirky detective style helps break open the case, his dogged determination unwittingly puts his sister (Octavia Spencer) and best friend (Anthony Anderson) in danger. Additional cast members include Robert Forster, Clifton Collins, Jr., Michael Vartan, James Lafferty, Daniel Sunjata, Caity Lotz, Jeremy Ratchford, Don Harvey, Stefanie Scott and Dale Dickey.|
|Win It All||Jake Johnson stars as small time gambler Eddie Garrett, who agrees to watch a duffel bag for an acquaintance who is heading to prison. When he discovers cash in the bag, he’s unable to resist the temptation and winds up deeply in debt. When the prison release is shortened, Eddie suddenly has a small window of time to win all the money back.|
|Going to Brazil||Four childhood friends are reunited at a wedding in Rio. But when they accidentally kill a young man during a party that gets out of hand, they are forced to flee the city in a crazy adventure that takes them from the favelas to the posh embassies, from the beaches to the rainforest, and is filled with caipirinhas, guns and bikinis.|
|Hounds of Love||In suburban Perth during the mid 1980s, people are unaware that women are disappearing at the hands of serial killers John and Evelyn White. After an innocent lapse in judgment, Vicki Maloney is randomly abducted by the disturbed couple. With her murder imminent, Vicki realizes she must find a way to drive a wedge between Evelyn and John if she is to survive. Hounds of Love is an exercise in expertly-crafted tension, offering a bold, challenging debut from writer/director Ben Young.|
|Prevenge||A pitch black, wryly British comedy from the mind of Alice Lowe, “Prevenge” follows Ruth, a pregnant woman on a killing spree that’s as funny as it is vicious. It’s her misanthropic unborn baby dictating Ruth’s actions, holding society responsible for the absence of a father. The child speaks to Ruth from the womb, coaching her to lure and ultimately kill her unsuspecting victims. Struggling with her conscience, loneliness, and a strange strain of prepartum madness, Ruth must ultimately choose between redemption and destruction at the moment of motherhood. “Prevenge” marks the directorial debut from Lowe, who is a triple threat, writing, directing, and acting in the film during her own pregnancy.|
|Goran||Goran lives a simple life surrounded by his friends and family in the snow-covered Croatian highlands. This carefree existence is put to an end when his wife announces she is expecting a child. Whereas they have every reason to celebrate, the good news will unleash the fiery personalities of the highlanders, leading to a darkly comic twist of events. The white winter will soon turn red.|
|Colossal||Gloria is an out-of-work party girl who, after getting kicked out of her apartment by her boyfriend, is forced to leave her life in New York and move back to her hometown. When news reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, South Korea, Gloria gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this far-off phenomenon. As events begin to spin out of control, Gloria must determine why her seemingly insignificant existence has such a colossal effect on the fate of the world.|
|Fits & Starts||David Warwik is a struggling writer who has been toiling away at the same novel for years. His wife Jennifer is a hot young literary figure, who has just released a new masterpiece. When her publisher invites the couple to an artists’ salon at his home in Connecticut, the pair embark on a twisted journey, and David must face his demons and try to “not be weird” among the waspy salon guests and competitive art set in attendance. He encounters a dentist with publishing aspirations, a book critic full of condescending advice, a fellow writer who may know his wife a little too well, an old “friend,” and a high powered bipolar literary agent who just might be able to help him…for a price.|
|Like Me||After posting a video of herself robbing a convenience store, Kiya amasses a huge social media following. A reckless loner, she seeks some form of genuine human connection. Through her travels, she encounters a drifter, an Internet troll and a paint huffing outsider who are all pulled into her circle of chaos, junk food, and drugs. In a world of fabricated personalities, Kiya is intent on exposing something gutturally truthful about humanity, but ultimately, she must confront herself.|
|Dara Ju||Seyi, a 24-year-old Nigerian-American, works on Wall Street. Desperate to succeed because of his outsider status—due to class and race—he commits a crime, insider trading, which brings his entire world crashing down on him. Seyi’s troubled circumstances force him finally to confront his tumultuous relationship with his ailing father, his romantic relationship with his privileged white girlfriend, and his racial and immigrant backgrounds—with nothing less at stake for him than his soul.|
|M. F. A.||An art student struggling with creativity is violently raped by a fellow classmate. After attempting the traditional routes to cope with her trauma, she impulsively confronts her attacker – a decision that has deadly repercussions. Her world is turned upside down as a chilling reality is uncovered: she is one of many silenced sexual assault survivors on campus. A vigilante is born- retribution is the inspiration she’s been waiting for.|
|A Critically Endangered Species||The story of the final weeks leading up to the disappearance (and presumable death) of Maya Dardel, an internationally respected poet and novelist who lived, until 2016, in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Maya announces on National Public Radio that she is going to end her life and that young male writers may compete to become executor of her estate. The man who wins will inherit Maya’s home, land, books, unpublished manuscripts, and be expected to protect and promote her posthumous reputation.|
|Most Beautiful Island||“Most Beautiful Island” is a psychological thriller examining the plight of undocumented female immigrants hoping to make a life in New York. Shot on Super 16 with an intimate, voyeuristic sensibility, “Most Beautiful Island” chronicles one harrowing day in the life of Luciana, a young immigrant woman struggling to make ends meet while striving to escape her past. As Luciana’s day unfolds, she is whisked, physically and emotionally, through a series of troublesome, unforeseeable extremes. Before her day is done, she inadvertently finds herself a central participant in a cruel game. Lives are placed at risk, while psyches are twisted and broken for the perverse entertainment of a privileged few.|
|The Ballad of Lefty Brown||Lefty Brown is a 63 year old sidekick. Loyal, crotchety and rarely taken seriously, he’s ridden with Western legend Eddie Johnson for his entire adult life. Now Johnson has been appointed Senator of Montana, and despite the objections of his spirited wife Laura, he plans to leave Lefty in charge of his ranch. But when a rustler kills Johnson, Lefty is forced from his partner’s shadow. Devastated by guilt, he sets out on a journey that will reunite him with old friends US Marshall Tom Harrah and Governor James Bierce as he confronts the ugly realities of frontier justice.|
|Us and Them||With it’s raw energy and stream of consciousness plot, “Us and Them” is a backlash against the drone of British period dramas. Danny is an ordinary working class kid who is tired of the rough deal he faces. His plan? To start a revolution by streaming attacks against the one percent on the web. His goal? To terrify the elite into bringing about change. Writer/director Joe Martin taps into his blue collar roots to capture the zeitgeist of outsider politics that have gripped the western world. In “Us and Them” he lays bare the inequality and anger that wrong footed the media and led to the shock events of Brexit and Trump’s victory.|
|Atomic Blonde||The crown jewel of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, Agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is equal parts spycraft, sensuality and savagery, willing to deploy any of her skills to stay alive on her impossible mission. Sent alone into Berlin to deliver a priceless dossier out of the destabilized city, she partners with embedded station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) to navigate her way through the deadliest game of spies.|
|Baby Driver||A talented, young getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. When he meets the girl of his dreams (Lily James), Baby sees a chance to ditch his criminal life and make a clean getaway. But after being coerced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), he must face the music when a doomed heist threatens his life, love and freedom.|
|Free Fire||Bold, breathless and wickedly fun, “Free Fire” is an electrifying action comedy about an arms deal that goes spectacularly and explosively wrong. Acclaimed filmmaker Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High Rise) propels the audience head-on into quite possibly the most epic shootout ever seen on film as he crafts a spectacular parody –– and biting critique –– of the insanity of gun violence. Everyone’s got a gun, and absolutely no one is in control. Packed with witty one-liners, flamboyant characters and remarkable feats of cinematic gunplay, Free Fire is a full-throttle action extravaganza that keeps things fresh and fun with Wheatley’s alternately buoyant and savage sense of humor.|
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