‘The Arbalest’ and ‘Tower’ win top prizes at SXSW film fest
Though attention out of the event this year has largely been on larger studio movies such as “Everybody Wants Some,” “Keanu” and “Sausage Party,” the South by Southwest Film Festival has also long been a vital launching pad for new talent. Past competition wins have been important moments of discovery for filmmakers and performers in films such as “Tiny Furniture,” “Short Term 12” and last year’s winner, “Krisha.”
This year, the festival’s narrative feature grand jury award went to Adam Pinney’s “The Arbalest,” a dry, offbeat story of obsession. The documentary feature grand jury winner was Keith Maitland’s “Tower,” a multimedia look at the mass school shooting at the University of Texas in 1966.
Michelle Obama releases a new song, but won’t run for president, she tells SXSW crowd
The announcement of Michelle Obama as a music keynote panelist at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, might have seemed strange. But in hindsight, it made perfect sense: She had a song to release.
On Wednesday morning, the first lady joined actress Sophia Bush, songwriter Diane Warren and rappers Missy Elliott and Queen Latifah on stage in the Austin Convention Center for a conversation about women in the arts, education and society.
SXSW breakout film ‘Don’t Think Twice’ takes a shot at ‘SNL,’ slyly
One of the big breakouts at this year’s SXSW Film Festival is “Don’t Think Twice.” And one of the most potent aspects of the film is its broadside against “Saturday Night Live.”
Just don’t call it a broadside to its director.
Mike Birbiglia’s movie — starring improv comics, about improv comedy, though not always comedic — has been sparking strongly enthusiastic responses at the festival.
Michelle Obama delivers keynote address with some famous friends
The Powerpuff Girls are here. The party can start
Jenny Slate, Nick Kroll and Zoe Kazan at the ‘My Blind Brother’ world premiere at SXSW
“My Blind Brother,” Sophie Goodhart’s debut feature as writer and director, is an assured, acerbic look at family, guilt, jealousy, grief and competitiveness. The project began as a short film of the same name starring Tony Hale that debuted at South By Southwest in 2003 before playing other festivals, including Cannes.
The film walks a fine line between being a quirky family story and an essay on jealousy and regret, veering between romance and dark comedy. In a Q&A after the film’s world premiere Saturday at South By Southwest, actress Zoe Kazan, who plays Rose’s friend Francie, praised Goodhart’s “control of the comi-tragic tone.”
Seth Rogen finally premieres the dark comic book adaptation ‘Preacher’
Of all the comic book material Hollywood has tried to adapt in its current throes of Marvelmania and DC-dom, not many come with the challenges of “Preacher.”
The mid-1990s Garth Ennis work (from DC’s Vertigo imprint) is dark, sprawling and, most critically, controversial.
A violent story about a pugnacious preacher, his vampire pal and a butt-kicking ex linking up to track down an absent God and take Him to task for the state of humanity isn’t the stuff down-the-middle TV shows are made of. It isn’t even necessarily the stuff basic-cable shows are made of.
Sure enough, all of these challenges are what creators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg faced as they tried to bring the property to the screen.
“Me and Evan grew up together and read a ton of comic books,” Rogen said. “As soon as we had any power in Hollywood we tried to make it.” This involved many false starts, he noted; in fact, there were so many twists and turns that they began their bid during production on “Pineapple Express” nearly a decade ago.
It’s always been in the hands of people more talented and powerful than us. But they all ... it up. And it rode downhill into our laps.
— Seth Rogen on ‘Preacher’
Horror director Ti West takes a shot at western ‘In a Valley of Violence’ with Ethan Hawke, John Travolta
There are plenty of ways in which the South by Southwest Film Festival has grown in scale over the years. But it is still the kind of event where one might run into a filmmaker such as Ti West on an Austin, Texas, street corner the night before the world premiere of his much-anticipated western, “In a Valley of Violence.”
And he will stop to chat for the cycle of a couple street lights, professing his seemingly genuine enthusiasm for the film and how excited he is for people to see the performances by Ethan Hawke and John Travolta.
Sia, Elle King, Willie Nelson and more rock SXSW
Key and Peele movie ‘Keanu’ makes a funny but uneven SXSW debut
Whether it’s introducing fantastically named college-football players, doing spot-on Obama impressions or making inspired mayhem across the TV dial, the comedy duo of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele have been deservedly at the top of the sketch game for years, as socially provocative as they are goofy.
Hopes, then, run understandably high for their first feature film, an action-spoof called “Keanu” that made its “work-in-progress” debut at a late (like, end-at-3:30-a.m.-late) screening Saturday night at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival, an event at which the stars showed up and tossed stuffed animal giveaways into the crowd.
Key and Peele produced and star in the film, while the latter was also a writer. “Keanu” is directed by Peter Atencio, another ingredient in their secret sauce; he has helmed every episode of their hit Comedy Central show. In other words, it’s an all-in-the-family affair.
The film focuses on underachieving stoner Rel (Peele) and his best friend/cousin Clarence (Key), a suburban square whose very presence riffs on racial preconceptions. (Warner Bros.’ New Line made “Keanu” and will release it in theaters April 29.)
The title is a reference to, yes, that Keanu, only this time he’s a cat that saves Rel by showing up at his door after the stoner underwent a bad breakup -- but whose disappearance sends him and Clarence on a crime-riddled spin through some of L.A.'s gang underworld. It’s that kind of movie.
Director Joe Berlinger on his new Tony Robbins documentary before its SXSW premiere
Though he had directed some of the most acclaimed documentaries of the contemporary era, Joe Berlinger was just a regular guy grappling with personal issues when he decided to attend a Tony Robbins seminar in 2012.
Robbins had reached out to Berlinger after seeing the filmmaker’s Metallica documentary, “Some Kind of Monster,” a number of years before, and the two had formed a friendship. The self-help guru invited Berlinger, an admitted skeptic about the brand of personal improvement Robbins practiced, to attend his week-long “Date With Destiny” event.
What resulted was a journey that changed Berlinger’s life. And given how he resolved to make a movie about Robbins (and convinced his reluctant subject of the appeal of same), it might change your life too -- or, OK, at least set percolating a series of questions about the nature of charismatic leadership and the ways we approach and measure the benefits of psychological counseling.
Berlinger was taking a breather at a hotel in Austin, Texas, on Friday evening. On Monday, the director’s “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru” will make its world premiere, ahead of its eventual release by Netflix. (The Times was shown a cut of the film ahead of the festival). What could have been an exposé in line with, say, Berlinger’s search-under-every-rock criminal-injustice tale “Paradise Lost,” about the so-called West Memphis 3, is instead a piece far more immediate and non-conclusive. It is also frequently spellbinding.
U.S. Olympian asked to remove hijab for ID photo at SXSW
Ibtihaj Muhammad, a 2016 Olympic fencer and South by Southwest speaker who is Muslim, was asked to remove her hijab as she proceeded through registration at the festival Saturday afternoon.
“I can’t make this stuff up,” she tweeted.
SXSW officials said they had removed the volunteer who checked her in.
Muhammad is expected to make history this summer by being the first hijab-wearing woman to represent the U.S. in the Olympics. She will appear on a Saturday evening panel called “The New Church: Sport as Currency of American Life.”
Fede Alvarez returns to SXSW with the thriller ‘Don’t Breathe’
The official South by Southwest festival program and schedule had the film listed as “Untitled Fede Alvarez/Ghost House Thriller” for the names of its director and production company. The synopsis was a brief, oblique two sentences and there were no photos released. The audience arrived at the Stateside Theatre in Austin, Texas, for a late-night screening of this mysterious film to find the marquee proclaim the film’s title as “Don’t Breathe.”
“For me, I want to tell you, honestly I feel this is my first film,” Alvarez said while introducing “Don’t Breathe.” “‘Evil Dead’ was technically my first film, but it was Sam Raimi, it was me, it was Rob Tappert, it was a lot of people. This is the most personal film, I guess.”
— Fede Alvarez, director, speaking about his new movie at Austin’s Stateside Theatre at SXSW.
Check out our panels!
Jon Healey from our editorial board spoke Friday about copyright issues in the digital age.
Mitra Kalita on Sunday will talk about helping newsrooms transition to the future.
Dexter Thomas’ panel is Monday on tech and diversity.
Hope to see you here!
Obama at SXSW: ‘The reason I’m here really is to recruit all of you’
President Obama made a strong plea to the technological community to help fix government even as he offered a pointed rebuttal to a popular Silicon Valley position.
Speaking at South by Southwest, the music, film and interactive gathering, Obama on Friday urged digital experts to join a battle to solve bureaucratic challenges such as voting inefficiencies and the disbursement of federal funds. But he said that unequivocally supporting those in the tech world who resist government intervention would be misguided.
Sad news from SXSW
A colleague of SXSW co-founder Louis Meyers says the musician has died on the day the major entertainment festival opened for the 30th year. He was 60.
Folk Alliance International Director Aengus Finnan said Meyers died Friday in Austin. The cause of death wasn’t immediately known.
— Tribune news servicesRead More
The scene at SXSW
President Obama gets interactive SXSW
The interactive portion of SXSW landed a familiar name for this year’s keynote address. President Obama is taking part in a discussion with Texas Tribune Chief Executive Evan Smith about “civic engagement in the 21st century.”
L.A. Times reporter Steven Zeitchik is on the scene:
From indie bands to Michelle Obama, SXSW Music wants to do it all. Can it?
Could the highest-profile booking at this year’s South by Southwest music festival also be an indication that the annual event is flailing?
Next week, Michelle Obama will deliver the keynote address at SXSW Music, set to run Tuesday to Sunday in Austin, Texas. There’s no doubt that the first lady was a serious get for the conference, especially compared with 2015’s keynote speaker, rapper Snoop Dogg, whose presentation took the form of a low-impact chat with his manager.
Obama’s shoehorned appearance is just the latest sign of an identity crisis for SXSW Music as the once-powerful confab is increasingly overshadowed by its counterparts devoted to film and technology.
What’s playing at the South by Southwest film festival?
The features lineup for this year’s South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival is a typically unpredictable group of films that leans toward the eclectic and unusual.
With the program announcement released Tuesday, the Austin, Texas-based festival, which this year runs from March 11 to 19, looks to maintain its position on the festival calendar as a home for fresh talent and outsider voices.
South by Southwest Film Festival always delivers fun, spirit and this year, Obama
If audiences have come to expect one thing from the South by Southwest Film Festival, it is the unexpected. Even as it has grown in size and stature, the festival has worked hard to maintain a rambunctious spirit that one returning filmmaker describes as “warm-hearted subversion.”
Based in Austin, Texas, the film festival kicks off Friday and runs through March 19. The larger South By Southwest event also includes interactive and musical components with conferences, keynote speeches and live performances.