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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.