SXSW opens on Friday with the world premiere of all-star fantasy romp Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, kicking off what is expected to be a rambunctious 10 days of screenings of films both spoken for and available for worldwide distribution.
Over the years the festival has proved itself to be a valuable launchpad for studio titles and the most recent evidence of that was last year’s edition, where A24 premiered Oscar frontrunner Everything Everywhere All At Once in 2022 as well as Ti West’s horror X, Lionsgate brought The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent with Nicolas Cage and Pedro Pascal, and Paramount debuted The Lost City starring Channing Tatum and Sandra Bullock.
Among this year’s anticipated highlights are New Line/Warner Bros’ horror Evil Dead Rise, A4’s comedy Problemista with Tilda Swinton, MGM’s Bottoms from Emma Seligman who directed 2020 SXSW entry Shiva Baby, Eva Longoria’s feature directorial debut Flamin’ Hot from Searchlight Pictures, and Lionsgate comedy ensemble Joy Ride with Oscar-nominated Stephanie Hsu from Everything Everywhere All At Once.
There will also be a work in progress screening of Robert Rodriguez’s Hypnotic starring Ben Affleck as a detective searching for his missing daughter. The film originated under Solstice Studios and is now with Ketchup Entertainment on board as US distributor.
There are plenty of enticing acquisitions prospects set to play at SXSW, which runs through March 19. Here Screen highlights 15 that might pique buyers’ interest.
Americana (US, Narrative Spotlight)
Dir: Tony Tost
Synopsis: Darkly comedic thriller about the fall-out from a botched theft of the mythical Lakota Ghost Shirt and the characters in pursuit once the hallowed garment lands on the black market.
Key cast: Sydney Sweeney, Paul Watler Hauser lead the cast.
World premiere: March 17, 1.30pm
Sales: WME Independent, Bron
Black Barbie (US, Documentary Spotlight)
Dir: Lagueria Davis
Synopsis: The story of the first Black Barbie told through the eye’s the filmmaker’s octogenarian aunt, Beulah Mae Mitchell, who worked on the Mattel assembly line for 45 years and asked why there wasn’t a doll that looked like her.
World premiere: March 11, 11am
Geoff McFetridge: Drawing A Life (US, Documentary Feature Competition)
Dir: Dan Covert
Synopsis: Geoff McFetridge’s art is everywhere, from Apple watch faces, to solo shows around the world, to film titles for Spike Jonze. Covert’s film offers an intimate portrait of an artist’s authentic life in an age dominated by social media and influencers.
World premiere: March 12, 12.30pm
Sales: Visit Film
Hail Mary (US, Narrative Spotlight)
Dir: Rosemary Rodriguez
Synopsis: Genre-bending take on the Mary and Joseph story sees a mysteriously pregnant Central American girl trying to cross the US-Mexican border while evading cartels, Border Patrol, and a deadly virus.
Key cast: Natalia del Riego, Benny Emmanuel, Jack Huston
World Premiere: March 13, 9.30pm
Sales: CAA Media Finance, XYZ Films
I Used To Be Funny (US, Narrative Feature Competition)
Dir: Ally Pankiw
Synopsis: Dark dramedy about a stand-up comedian and au pair struggling with PTSD ponders whether to join the search for a missing girl she used to nanny.
Key cast: Cast List: Rachel Sennott, Olga Petsa, Jason Jones
World premiere: March 13, 2.30pm
Sales: WME Independent
Late Bloomers (US, Narrative Feature Competition)
Dir: Lisa Steen
Synopsis: A chance encounter at a hospital after she breaks her hip leads to a job for a 28-year-old drifter and the realisation it’s time to grow up.
Key cast: Karen Gillan, Margaret Sophie Stein, Jermaine Fowler
World premiere: March 10, 6.45pm
Sales: UTA Independent Group
National Anthem (US, Narrative Spotlight)
Dir: Luke Gilford
Synopsis: A 21-year old construction worker in rural New Mexico discovers himself when he joins a community of queer ranchers and rodeo performers and contends with life’s big questions.
Key cast: Charlie Plummer, Eve Lindley, Mason Alexander Park
World premiere: March 10, 8.45pm
Sales: CAA Media Finance
Northern Comfort (Ger-Ice-UK, Narrative Spotlight)
Dir: Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson
Synopsis: A group of people from all walks of life attend a fear of flying course and find themselves stranded in Iceland.
Key cast: Lydia Leonard, Timothy Spall, Ella Rumpf, Sverrir Guðnason
World premiere: March 12, 2pm
Parachute (US, Narrative Feature Competition)
Dir: Brittany Snow
Synopsis: A young woman out of rehab for obsessions over eating, love and body image falls for a young man released from prison for a moment of stupidity.
Key cast List: Courtney Eaton, Thomas Mann, Gina Rodriguez, Joel McHale, Dave Bautista, Jennifer Westfeldt
World Premiere: March 11, 7.15pm
Sales: Great Escape
Pay Or Die (US, Documentary Feature Competition)
Dirs: Rachael Dyer, Scott Ruderman
Synopsis: Three American families deal with the pressure of struggling to meet the soaring cost of insulin in the richest country on the planet.
World premiere: March 11, 3.15pm
Sales: UTA Independent Film Group
Queendom (Fra-US, Documentary Feature Competition)
Dir: Agniia Galdanova
Synopsis: A young queer artist from a small town in Russia puts herself at risk as she protests the government through radical performances that highlight harassment of the LGBTQ+ community and embody a new form of activism.
World premiere: March 11, 6.30pm
Sales: Submarine, UTA Independent Film Group
Raging Grace (UK, Narrative Feature Competition)
Dir: Paris Zarcilla
Synopsis: British-born Filipino filmmaker Paris Zarcilla’s coming-of-age tale weaves drama, horror and thriller elements and follows an undocumented Filipina worker and her daughter who discover all is not right when she takes a job looking after a wealthy old man.
World premiere: March 12, 1pm
Sales: Blue Finch
Scrambled (US, Narrative Feature Competition)
Dir: Leah McKendrick
Synopsis: comedy about a millennial women who decides to freeze her eggs and undergoes a journey of self-discovery in the process.
Key cast: Leah McKendrick, Ego Nwodim, Andrew Santino
World premiere: March 11, 4pm
Sales: Lionsgate, worldwide
Self Reliance (US, Narrative Spotlight)
Dir: Jake Johnson
Synopsis: Comedy about a man offered a million dollars to play a reality TV game in which hunters try to kill him and thinks he’s found the perfect loophole.
Key cast: Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Andy Samberg, Natalie Morales
World premiere: March 11, 6.30pm
Sales: MRC Films
You Sing Loud, I Sing Louder (US, Narrative Spotlight)
Dir: Emma Westenberg
Key cast: Ewan McGregor, Clara McGregor
Synopsis: Killer Films is among the producers on this road movie about an estranged father who takes daughter on a trip.
World premiere: March 11, 9.15pm
Sales: UTA Independent Film Group.
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