‘Atlanta’ Season 3 premiere to close in-person 2022 SXSW Film Festival
After two years of virtual programming, the South by Southwest Film Festival has announced the program for its return to an in-person event. The festival will close with the long-awaited Season 3 premiere of the FX series “Atlanta.” As previously announced, the opening night film will be the world premiere of A24’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert and starring Michelle Yeoh.
The 2022 edition of SXSW, scheduled to run March 11-20, will be focused primarily on in-person events in Austin, Texas. The announced program includes 99 feature films, with 76 world premieres.
The recently concluded Sundance Film Festival had originally planned to have an in-person event, but it was only a few weeks before the festival launch that organizers shifted to mostly virtual in face of the quickly spreading Omicron variant.
“With safety in mind, we are going forward as an in-person experience,” said Janet Pierson, SXSW director of film. Proof of primary vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test will be required for attendees, and masks will be required at all screenings.
SXSW was among the first film events affected by the pandemic, when the in-person 2020 event was canceled only a week before it was set to start. For 2022, films will have an in-person premiere, then move to the festival’s online viewing platform for a 48-hour viewing window available to badge holders only. No additional tickets will be available for online viewing.
“We are very focused on the in-real-life event. Hybrid is not really the word that we’re using,” said Claudette Godfrey, the festival’s director of programming. “We are focused on in-person, and then we have an online component.”
Godfrey said that a “vast majority” of the program will be available for next-day streaming, while acknowledging that some of the holdouts are indeed among the festival’s top-draw headliners.
“Everyone’s comfort level is different,” Godfrey said of the decision by filmmakers as to whether to be on the online platform. Nevertheless, the festival’s online component does offer a way to increase access.
“That’s exciting to me, because we can have the broader audience,” said Godfrey. “People who wouldn’t necessarily be able to ever get to South by Southwest can be part of our community and experience that.”
The “Atlanta” premiere will mark the return of the Emmy-winning series — created by Donald Glover and starring Glover, Zazie Beetz, Brian Tyree Henry and LaKeith Stanfield — that last showed new episodes in 2018.
SXSW was among the first film festivals to feature television content, beginning with the premiere of “Girls” in 2012 and adding the TV-focused episodic section beginning in 2014. The festival is breaking its own rule by featuring the premiere episode of the latest season of “Atlanta,” as previously it has showcased only series premieres.
“We always knew that that might change if there was something we couldn’t say no to,” said Pierson. “‘Atlanta’ was the episodic we couldn’t say no to. We were just too excited about it.”
The opening night premiere of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” directed by the filmmaking team behind 2016’s “Swiss Army Man” and starring Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu and Ke Huy Quan, will bring back filmmakers with a history with the festival. Kwan and Scheinert, who work together under the moniker Daniels, have previously been at SXSW with some of their extensive music video work.
“We could not be more excited about the opening night film to represent everything that we care about,” said Pierson. “It’s innovative and exciting and entertaining but emotionally grounded. It’s wild, but they’re able to carry it off. It’s a gift that film came to us.”
Other films in the festival’s marquee headliners section include the world premieres of Richard Linklater’s animated “Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood,” with Jack Black, Zachary Levi and Glen Powell from Netflix; Halina Reijn’s “Bodies Bodies Bodies,” starring Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Pete Davidson and Rachel Sennott from A24; Adam Nee and Aaron Nee’s “The Lost City,” starring Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum and Daniel Radcliffe from Paramount; and Tom Gormican’s “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” starring Nicolas Cage, Pedro Pascal and Tiffany Haddish from Lionsgate.
As for the tension for attention between movies and TV at the festival, Pierson stressed there is space for both.
“We’re looking for a range of work, different voices, different experiences, different scale,” said Pierson. “It’s definitely not a competition. It’s just sort of what we all watch. We’re watching features, we are watching episodics.”
For the record:
10:36 a.m. Feb. 3, 2022An earlier version of this article listed Kathleen Robertson and Liz Destro as showrunners of “Swimming With Sharks.” Robertson is the sole showrunner.
The episodic premieres also include “61st Street,” from showrunners Peter Moffat and J. David Shanks, starring Courtney B. Vance and Aunjanue Ellis; “DMZ,” from showrunner Roberto Patino and producer-director Ava DuVernay, starring Rosario Dawson, Benjamin Bratt and Hoon Lee; “Halo,” from showrunner Steven Kane and producer Steven Spielberg, starring Pablo Schreiber, Natascha McElhone and Bokeem Woodbine; “Shining Girls,” from showrunner Silka Luisa, starring Elisabeth Moss, Jamie Bell and Phillipa Soo; “Swimming With Sharks,” from showrunner Kathleen Robertson, starring Kiernan Shipka, Diane Kruger and Donald Sutherland; and “Brené Brown: Atlas of the Heart,” from showrunner Meaghan Rady and featuring Brown.
Additional series premieres include “The Girl From Plainville,” from showrunner Liz Hannah, starring Elle Fanning and Chloë Sevigny; “The Last Movie Stars,” from director Ethan Hawke and starring Laura Linney, Melanie Griffith, Sam Rockwell and Billy Crudup; “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” from showrunners Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Naomie Harris; “Untitled Magic Johnson Documentary Series,” from director Rick Famuyiwa; and “WeCrashed,” from showrunners Drew Crevello and Lee Eisenberg, starring Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway.
Among the films premiering in the narrative spotlight section are Jeff Baena’s “Spin Me Round,” starring Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza and Alessandro Nivola; Eli Horowitz’s “The Cow,” starring Winona Ryder and Dermot Mulroney; Maureen Bharoocha’s “The Prank,” starring Connor Kalopsis, Ramona Young, Rita Moreno and Keith David; Michael Morris’ “To Leslie,” starring Andrea Riseborough, Allison Janney and Marc Maron; and Michael Tully’s “Lover, Beloved,” starring Suzanne Vega.
In the documentary spotlight section is “Facing Nolan,” about baseball legend Nolan Ryan, directed by Bradley Jackson; “Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down,” directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West; “Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks,” directed by Reginald Harkema; “Mickey: The Story of a Mouse,” directed by Jeff Malmberg; “More Than Robots,” directed by Gillian Jacobs; and “We Feed People,” about chef and activist José Andrés, directed by Ron Howard.
The music-focused 24 beats per second category includes documentaries focused on Ronnie James Dio, Courtney Barnett, Sheryl Crow, Tanya TuckerCesária Évora and Mojo Nixon, as well as Andrew Dominik’s “This Much I Know to Be True,” about Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
The festival’s midnighters section includes Bill Posley’s “Bitch Ass,” starring Tony Todd; Brendan Muldowney’s “The Cellar,” starring Elisha Cuthbert; and Ti West’s “X,” starring Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Scott Mescudi and Brittany Snow.
Moving forward from the challenges of the last two years, SXSW organizers are excited to return to in-person screenings and the special in-the-room, you-had-to-be-there magic on which the festival has largely made its reputation.
“For filmmakers to be able to experience their work with an audience — even if there’s more audience to be had in streaming and television — there’s nothing like being able to experience it in-person, to feel the room,” said Pierson. “So that is something we feel great about.”
“Just being able to experience films with your peers ... for filmmakers, I feel like so much of it is like toiling in the dark with just a handful of your collaborators,” said Godfrey. “And when you come to the festival, it’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, there’s other people out here.’ And you can build this bigger community. That is why we are still doing our jobs, because, of course, everything is hard, but that payoff this year, when we get to see some of those people and be together, it’s going to be amazing.”
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