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sxsw cheat sheet

Five things to know about the SXSW Film lineup beyond Whedon and Jump Street

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Andrew Garrison’s Trash Dance, about Allison Orr’s Trash Project dance piece. Photo by Jessica Pages
Austin Photo Set: News_Dan_5 sxsw film picks_feb 2012_cabin in the woods
Austin Photo Set: News_Dan_5 sxsw film picks_feb 2012_marley
Austin Photo Set: News_Dan_5 sxsw film picks_feb 2012_wonderwoman
Austin Photo Set: News_Jessica Pages_Trash Project_August 2011_bins

The SXSW Film lineup is now online. The lineup features a lot of what you’d expect from SXSW Film: Music documentaries are well-represented, the big narrative feature debuts have “cult favorite” written all over them, there’s a lot of Texas on screen, and there’s a political consciousness to a lot of the bill.

We’ve touched on some of the marquee names — world premiere of 21 Jump Street, y’all! — but there’s a lot more to the festival to explore. Here are five things worth knowing about the SXSW Film lineup this year.

1. The music documentaries are for both casual fans and mega-obsessive nerds

A film like Academy Award winner Kevin MacDonald’s MARLEY (bonus fact: apparently he’s the second cousin of SNL alum Norm MacDonald! Who knew?) is straight-up Oscar bait about a musical legend that both your parents and your frat-boy stepbrother can get all psyched about. Don Letts’ Rock And Roll Exposed: The Photography Of Bob Gruen — about the photographer who took pictures of the reggae icon, among many others — is probably a more niche-focused film.

That’s one of the cooler things about SXSW film: In all of its genres, it caters to both film dabblers and film obsessives, which ain’t easy. Documentaries about the Bad Brains and Big Star fit somewhere in between those two poles, as do about a dozen others (we didn’t count), which means if you’re trying to whet your appetite for music before SXSW Music kicks off, the Film festival offers a lot of opportunity.

2. That spectrum is in place for the big premieres, too

People who just want a head-start on the multiplex crowds when it comes to crowd-pleasing fare like the 21 Jump Street remake with Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum can check out the world premiere of that one. Folks who like their mainstream, guaranteed-to-open-wide movies to carry some nerd cred, meanwhile, can check out Cabin In The Woods, the forthcoming Joss Whedon project that isn’t The Avengers.

Whedon nerds — of whom there are many, possibly even writing this very article right now — have been waiting for Cabin In The Woods since the long-shelved film was first announced, and being able to say “I saw it first” for something that had been languishing without a release date since its completion in May 2009 is special. Place William Friedkin’s Killer Joe (with Matthew McConaughey and Emile Hirsch) and Broken Lizard’s The Babymaker wherever you see fit between them.

3. Texas, y’all

While not as explicitly dedicated to promoting its home state as, say, the Austin Film Festival, SXSW Film definitely reps Texas, and the lineup of local, locally-produced, and Texas-themed films is pretty awesome. Bob Byington’s Austin-made Somebody Up There Likes Me – starring Ron Swanson himself, Nick Offerman, and featuring appearances from Austin bands like Bob Schneider and Quiet Company – debuts at SXSW.

So does Andrew Garrison’s Trash Dance, about Allison Orr’s (frankly remarkable) Trash Project dance piece; The Imposter, a documentary about a kidnapped teenager from San Antonio that was a huge hit at Sundance, makes an appearance; and America’s Parking Lot, about the new Dallas Cowboys stadium in Arlington, shows up as well.

Plus, Big Easy Express, the documentary about the Mumford And Sons/Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes tour that rolled through Austin and Marfa last April, makes its world premiere, as well. Lots and lots of Texas here, you guys.

4. Sundance favorites pop up here, but they don’t overwhelm the bill

Being a major film festival that comes less than six weeks after Sundance gives SXSW some expectations. We’ve just heard an awful lot about movies that we haven’t had the chance to see yet, and we’re pretty psyched about some of them. But there are more films worth seeing at festivals than just those that hit the big one in Utah, and SXSW smartly avoids too much overlap.

The Paul Simon/apartheid documentary Under African Skies, about the recording of the seminal Graceland album, plays, as does the previously-mentioned The Imposter and a handful of others – but SXSW does a fine job of retaining its own identity even as the festival grows bigger.

5. There is probably something geared toward your very specific niche interest that will be worth seeing

Do you have a passion for both superheroes and feminist history? Do not sleep on WONDER WOMEN! The Untold Story of American Superheroines.

Devote a lot of time to thinking about what life is like for journeyman NFL players once their brief careers peter out? Check out the narrative feature debut of longtime music video director Matthew A. Cherry, The Last Fall, about that very thing.

Care deeply about [insert whatever you care deeply about here]? There is probably something for you to get SO PSYCHED about that you tweet to the director of that film about it in all caps, just like that. It should be a pretty great festival this year.

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Not too late to get a badge by visiting the SXSW website. You can also get a Film Pass for $80, or $10 individual tickets at the larger venues, subject to capacity.

 

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