SXSW 2022 – Preview – Narrative ~ Part 1

The majority of time spent at SXSW will be with the narrative features, and I thought I’d be able to get by with just one post previewing the films I’m anticipating going into these next two weeks. Those fun-loving programmers in Austin have assembled such a fantastic array of selections that I found things were going a little long — so I doubled the fun and split this Narrative preview into two sections. The first will highlight some much-hyped debuts that I sadly won’t be able to see because they are only screening in person (bummer!), and I’ll also cover a group of interesting-looking indies I’m pretty curious to get my eyes on.

Bodies Bodies Bodies

Directed by: Halina Reijn
An impressive list of up-and-coming talent has been gathered together for this horror film, using its unique setting to drum up a mixture of laughs and scares. I love a good fright with a side of fun, and director Halina Reign’s movie feels like it could have a nice mean streak on top of subverting our thoughts on TikTok party culture. I wouldn’t bet against this one becoming a breakout hit when all is said and done.

Everything Everywhere All At Once

Directed by: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
By far the most anticipated movie going into SXSW, this time-traveling sci-fi extravaganza has already set #FilmTwitter ablaze with its transfixing poster and massively engaging trailer that makes the viewer want to hop forward in space a few months. If all turns out as it should, look for much-loved action star Michelle Yeoh to get heaps of praise and some long-overdue recognition for her leading work in Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s unpredictable endeavor.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Directed by: Tom Gormican
Coming off a massively successful 2021 where he turned in maybe his best onscreen performance ever in Pig, Nicolas Cage is getting 2022 off to a lively beginning by playing an alternate version of himself in Tom Gormican’s meta action-comedy. When Tiffany Haddish’s CIA agent calls on “Nick Cage” to thwart a deadly threat, he’ll realize reality is stranger than even the weirdest Hollywood film. Playing right into Cage’s strengths, this could either be a riot or a one-trick pony that fizzles out quickly after it’s through with its single joke set-up.

X

Directed by: Ti West
The crowd at SXSW is undoubtedly chomping at the bit to see what director Ti West has up his sleeve with his 1979-set horror film X, and from the looks of the first trailer, it’s going to be extreme in every sense of the word. West has been a bit all over the map for me, but with its shades of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, his new project looks frightening, well-cast, and playful enough to balance the more gruesome acts of violence in which he often delights. After Everything Everywhere All at Once, this is the film making people the most curious — it’s killing me to miss seeing it in the Lone Star State, especially considering that’s where the film is set.

Millie Lies Low

Directed by: Michelle Savill
A woman misses her flight while on her way to a hard to get internship in NYC. So what does she do? She pretends to be in the city while trying to pull together enough money to buy another ticket. The premise alone for Michelle Savill’s film sold me before I was halfway through. It’s one I’m rooting for to be as good as it sounds.

The Locust

Directed by: Faeze Azizkhani
Anyone that has ever written a piece and had to hand it over for public consumption knows what it’s like to then hear it scrutinized by others. What if you were a screenwriter that had to contend with people tearing apart your script, one that was semi-autobiographical, and could do little about it because you yielded your rights to the filmmakers? That’s the central conceit of The Locust, and I can see this one working nicely or becoming a slog if the premise wears out too fast. 

Women Do Cry

Directed by: Mina Mileva & Vesela Kazakova
Nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar just this past year for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm in which many thought she should have won, Maria Bakalova kickstarts a very busy 2022 with Women Do Cry (she’s also appearing in Bodies Bodies Bodies at SXSW and The Bubble for Netflix in April). Shot in Bulgaria, the film is a drama about a Bulgarian woman with HIV returning home and facing her family for the support she needs at this stage of her journey. Directed by a female duo, one that supplied her own family as inspiration, I’ve watched the preview for it and am not sure what to think yet. Bakalova has me willing to give it a look.

A Lot of Nothing

Directed by: Mo McRae
Good fences make good neighbors…but what really does make a good neighbor? We’re about to learn some answers to that and more in director Mo McRae’s examination of a household shocked by the revelation that their neighbor committed a crime. What they do about it and how it comes to be is something we the viewer have to see the movie to find out. Being the curious fella I am, the film has played their cards perfectly and got me hooked enough with the logline to want to find out more.

Soft & Quiet

Directed by: Beth de Araújo
A 90-minute real-time movie about a group of female white supremacists gathering food for an indoctrination ceremony that has a run-in with two Asian sisters at a convenience store sounds like a sketch from a cable TV show. Instead, it’s Beth de Araújo’s subversive horror (comedy? I can’t quite tell) that smashes a lot of hot buttons right when they are at the forefront of discussion in our society. Usually, these types of stories are told from a male point of view, so having this come from the side often described as “soft and quiet” gives de Araújo plenty of space to play.

Shadow

Directed by: Bruce Gladwin
I almost passed this one by because of its rather unremarkable title. Then I read a little more about it and was swayed to put this higher up in my list. Three intellectually disabled activists squabble in a town hall setting, giving way to a more profound message about the power of persuasion and what it means to be in charge of a group needing leadership. Arriving from Australia, Shadow may not have the most memorable title of SXSW, but it could be on everyone’s minds as they leave. We’ll see.

Also might want to check out: Pretty Problems, The Unknown Country, The Blind Man Who Did Not Want to See Titanic.

SXSW 2022 – Preview – Documentary

By the time most documentaries are out in the world ready for consumption, they’ve found their distributors or made their way into the conversation that will ping their target audience to watch for them. What I have enjoyed in my festival circuit so far is exploring the documentaries selected to participate in the event, several of which are making their debuts. This year more than fifty documentary films are showing, encompassing an entire film festival in and of themselves. Here are 11 that I’m looking forward to seeing if time allows.

Still Working 9 to 5

Directed by: Camille Hardman, Gary Lane
If we’re talking about a documentary finding its target audience, then Still Working 9 to 5 can stop right at my door because I have, and will continue to be, a massive fan of that 1980 classic that has endured these past 42 years. The new documentary is more than just a souped-up making-of recounting of how Jane Fonda gathered Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton together but an examination of women in the workplace then, before, and since. I’ve seen this one already (the festival bottleneck is real!  Thankfully, sometimes distributors/filmmakers are kind and let us get a peek before it gets too crazy!) and am looking forward to talking more about it soon!

I Get Knocked Down

Directed by: Sophie Robinson, Dunstan Bruce
Like many a teenager and college-age pub crawler in 1997, I owned a copy of British rock band Chumbawamba’s banger of a song, “Tubthumping.”  You likely remember it as “I Get Knocked Down,” and it remains a popular tune to put on when you need to get a crowd all singing along to the same song. It’s an earworm that’s hard to shake, and the one-hit-wonder phenomenon of the track weighed heavily on the band and its members. The former lead singer, Dunstan Bruce, co-directs this doc about his struggle with reconciling his past exploits and plans for the future with the path that fame took him.      

Sheryl

Directed by: Amy Scott
Editor turned director Amy Scott examines the life and career of recording artist Sheryl Crow in this doc that I have high on my list. I’m not expecting it to break the mold when documenting Crow’s struggles in the industry or a personal health crisis. Still, I’ve always found Crow and her music to be so open and honest that I’d wager a bet Scott has a pretty good array of material to edit down into an insightful work. Plus, I hear there are some excellent celebrity interviews along the way.

The Return of Tanya Tucker – Featuring Brandi Carlile

Directed by: Kathlyn Horan
If the stars align, I can pair my screening of Sheryl with another documentary about a famous singer. The Return of Tanya Tucker – Featuring Brandi Carlile, charts the country music legend’s return to the stage after Grammy winner Carlile pens an album inspired by the singer that helped her find her voice. I’m not as familiar with Tucker’s music as I am with Carlile’s, but I’ll never turn down watching a rag to riches story of a singer with a dream making it big. Fingers crossed, it’s as rousing as it sounds.

Really Good Rejects

Directed by: Alice Gu
For each festival, I like to choose a few films a little out of my zone, and this look into how one man (a luthier, or, a maker of stringed instruments such as violins or guitars) makes a particular style of guitar in high demand by the world’s best musicians feels like one that would make for a good write-up. I’m illiterate about what makes one guitar better than the other, so I’d consider this one a completely new learning experience for me. 

Bad Axe

Directed by: David Siev
With all that has happened over the last two years, between the pandemic, increased violence toward the Asian-American community, and the BLM movement, we can expect many documentaries to tackle these subjects head-on and bring an even greater spotlight to these ongoing issues. Filmmaker David Siev tells a personal story by turning his camera toward his family as they struggle to maintain their restaurant in Bad Axe, MI. As COVD grips the nation and racial tension in the community grows, old family wounds from long ago are brought up. 

Clean

Directed by: Lachlan McLeod
Watching so many movies gives you time to wonder about the weirdest things. What I’ve come to think about lately is, after all these shoot ‘em ups and action sequences are done, if this had happened in the real world, who comes and cleans up the mess of bodies and gore? Lachlan McLeod’s documentary gives some insight into that, following a crew of cleaners that handle scenes the average person wouldn’t be able to tolerate. While I’m not especially looking forward to hearing about the details of the unfortunate places they’ve had to go to, I am interested in this documentary to learn more about the people and how they cope with what they do. It could be an intriguing study of how we can detach our emotions when work is the main focus.

Mickey: The Story of a Mouse

Directed by: Jeff Malmberg
Like 9 to 5, a documentary about Disney or Mickey Mouse is not something you’re going to have to twist my arm very hard to see. I’ll be interested to know the scope of director Jeff Malmberg’s investigation into the cultural impact of Mickey Mouse around the globe since Walt created the cartoon character. Seeing that Disney+ is handling this, I can already tell that it’s not going to be anything negative toward the Mouse House, but will it be a sanitized take on the conglomerate that makes Mickey run? I can’t imagine SXSW would select this if it didn’t have an interesting angle into its thesis.

Your Friend, Memphis

Directed by: David Zucker
Shot over five years, the documentary follows a man with cerebral palsy and his attempts to live as much of a normal life as possible. The people around who love him want to be a support system while avoiding holding back his independence. You already get the picture that first-time director David Zucker will have many awkward situations to contend with as everyone will have an opinion about what Memphis is doing (or should be doing), but in the end, it’s him that has to decide. Hoping for a nice fly-on-the-wall observation of this journey all of them will be going on.

Fire of Love

Directed by: Sara Dosa
While taking photographs of a volcano, two married scientists perish when there is an unexpected volcanic explosion. It sounds like the plot summary of a doomed disaster romance, but it’s the jumping-off point for Sara Dosa’s documentary on Katia and Maurice Krafft, French volcanologists that died in 1991 after Japan’s Mount Unzen began to spew gas and volcanic matter. Numerous documentaries have been emerging lately about athletes and explorers pushing safety boundaries for achievement. This story is an example of a couple that wasn’t as lucky to escape their fate. I absolutely must know more about these two – this is one I don’t think I’ll be able to miss.

The Art of Making It

Directed by: Kelcey Edwards
How are we ever to know what makes someone successful? The “hard work” adage doesn’t always apply anymore. While we may turn our noses up at the rise of the influencer, a considerable effort goes into that side of the business model as well. This title was one of the documentaries I read about that I debated having on my list. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear about people skyrocketing to fame from a perfect Tweet, Instagram post, or TikTok video. I especially didn’t think I could handle director Kelcey Edwards balancing that with showing the opposite and featuring those that work their butts off and don’t get a leg up. This one could be frustrating…which is why I think I need to see it.