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Ten Films from SXSW 2017 Required in Australian Cinemas Immediately

They're making waves in Austin, let's hope the tide brings them to our shores.
By Sarah Ward
March 21, 2017
By Sarah Ward
March 21, 2017

Film festival envy: it's a real thing. If you've spent the past week or so wishing that you were sitting in a darkened room in Austin, Texas, then you know what we're talking about. South by Southwest is fast becoming that other American film fest worth paying attention to at this time of year — if a potential indie hit or buzzy title isn't ready for Sundance, it'll likely turn up here. Indeed, the 2017 program featured more than 125 films on 13 screens over 9 days. Now that's some epic viewing.

When you consider some of the movies that made the cut, you might agree. Edgar Wright's Ansel Elgort, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey-starring Baby Driver made its debut at SXSW, as did the John Wick-meets-Lucy sounding Atomic Blonde with Charlize Theron. They're among the flicks we know we'll see in Australian cinemas, although we'll have to wait until August to do so. With the festival also highlighting a wealth of potential future cinematic classics, here's ten others we're hoping make it to Aussie screens too.


Featuring an all-star cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett and Val Kilmer, put Song to Song in the safe bet category. Terrence Malick's movies usually find their way to Australia, even if they only make it to a handful of screens in a handful of capital cities like his last two features, To the Wonder and Knight of Cups. Here, the always divisive, suddenly prolific filmmaker behind Badlands and The Tree of Life tells a tale of two couples set against the Austin music scene, complete with appearances by Florence Welch, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, The Black Lips, Tegan and Sara and more. As for whether he's balanced his usually gorgeous visuals with a meatier narrative, all signs point to no — but, love him or hate him, that's one of the things that has made his recent work absolutely unmissable.


Oh hi, The Room fans. Now, before anyone starts throwing a football back and forth, add The Disaster Artist to your list of must-see movies in 2017. It's another movie certain to hurtle towards an Australian cinema soon, and to have spoons hurtled at it as a result. James Franco (who else?) not only stars as Tommy Wiseau in this behind-the-scenes look at the film everyone loves to not really love, but also directs a cast that features Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Sharon Stone, Jacki Weaver, Zac Efron, Bryan Cranston… the list goes on. If you lapped up Wiseau's so-bad-it's-still-bad flick, there's a very big chance that you'll do the same with this as well.


First things first: Most Beautiful Island won SXSW's narrative feature competition, an honour that the likes of Short Term 12 and Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture previously achieved. The first feature from Spanish actress turned writer/director Ana Asensio, it follows one day in the life of Luciana — played by Asensio — as the immigrant to the US tries to make ends meet. Sounds timely, doesn't it? How could it not. With a game afoot, and the chasm between the privileged and the struggling part of the story, it also sounds like an intriguing thriller


Critic turned filmmaker Ceylan Ozgün Ozçelik makes her feature debut with a partly crowdfunded thriller that's both immersed in modern-day Turkey in its story and universal in its themes. Screening at SXSW after its Berlinale premiere, Inflame explores a subject the world has had to hear too much about of late, and often in all caps tweets. No prizes for guessing that we're talking about fake news. Here, a television news video editor is forced to tow the line when the powers-that-be decide that the station should no longer comment on politicians. To say that paranoia starts to set in is quite the understatement.


If there's one thing that Small Town Crime boasts in spades, sight unseen, it's an interesting cast. Deadwood and Winter's Bone star John Hawkes plays an ex-cop turned unlikely detective when he comes across the body of a dead young woman, and he's joined by two-time Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer, plus Anthony Anderson, Robert Forster, Clifton Collins, Jr. and Michael Vartan. More Hawkes on screen is always a good thing. More Hawkes in the lead, even better. Writer/director siblings Eshom and Ian Nelms clearly agree, and you can bet their pulpy effort is all the better for it.

Noël Wells/Twitter.


Watched Saturday Night Live in recent years, or Netflix's Master of None? If so, you should recognise Noël Wells. As well as doing great things on screen, she's made the leap behind the camera, writing and directing the feature Mr Roosevelt. Actually, she stars too, playing a struggling comedian who returns to Austin after a loved one falls ill, and does what everyone does when they're forced to head back home: runs into an ex. Yes, films set in Austin are a trend at SXSW. And yes, the premise sounds familiar; however expect Wells to give everything some extra spark.


In 2015, Laura Terruso co-wrote the script for the endearing Hello, My Name Is Doris, which was actually based on her short film. With Fits and Starts, she takes on helming duties on her first feature — and, if you haven't already guessed it, providing ace up-and-comers with a platform for their debut efforts is something else that SXSW excels at. Story-wise, the movie follows a struggling writer and his much more successful wife as they attend a gathering at her publisher's home, with hijinks ensuing. It has been compared to Martin Scorsese's '80s comedy After Hours, which is great news indeed.


Sorry, Girls fans — Lola Kirke is fast becoming the family's standout screen talent, with Gemini the latest piece of evidence to support that inevitably controversial opinion. This neo-noir casts the Mozart in the Jungle star as a personal assistant to Zoe Kravitz's Hollywood celebrity, then plunges the two into the middle of a crime mystery, complete with John Cho as a detective. Sure, Los Angeles and seedy happenings seem to go hand-in-hand in film, but the combination seems to work. And, in this case, it seems primed to showcase Kirke's talents, with folks at SXSW well and truly singing her praises.


With season three of Twin Peaks less than two months away from hitting our TV screens (yes, of course we're counting), there's never been a better time to delve into all things David Lynch. Let's grab some cherry pie, a cup of coffee and call it a damn fine time, actually, although this documentary isn't about his recent efforts. Instead, watch and listen as the filmmaker takes you on a tour of his upbringing, efforts to make Eraserhead 40 years ago, and artistic and musical output. Don't expect any answers — Lynch famously likes to let his work speak for itself, rather than speak about it — but do expect to spend an enjoyable time in the inimitable master auteur's company.


After making this year's Academy Award shortlist for Best Documentary for her debut Hooligan Sparrow, Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang returns with I Am Another You. Meeting 22-year-old homeless man Dylan is just the beginning of her second effort, with the charming drifter taking her on a journey — not only through his life in Florida or his rejection of society's norms, but through that much-sought-after idyll known as the American dream. If it takes an outsider's eye to tell this tale then Wang has it, with her own experience as a newcomer to the US forming part of the package. Airing in SXSW's doco competition, the end result received special jury recognition for excellence in documentary storytelling.

Published on March 21, 2017 by Sarah Ward
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