This is a primer for navigating the opening weekend of SXSW 2018 starting on Friday, March 9, with an emphasis on the SXSW Film Festival and Conference:
The opening night world premiere is the scary thriller A Quiet Place, directed by, co-written and starring John Krasinski and Emily Blunt (married to Krasinski since 2010). While the film opens in early April, the premiere promises a first look and post-screening Q&A with the creators. Also that night a documentary on Tequila and Mezcal – Agave: The Spirit of a Nation – celebrates its world premiere.
A good way of dividing your energy should take into account the three key areas of objective enjoyment: movies, panels and speakers, and parties and displays.
In addition to A Quiet Place, other studio products having American premieres include Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dog (March 17 American Premiere, from Fox Searchlight opening in late March) and Universal’s Blockers (out April 6). Universal has used SXSW to launch films (mostly raunchy yet popular comedies) for over a decade starting with Knocked Up to Bridesmaids and now Blockers, which revolves around parents who vow to prevent their kids from having sex on prom night.
World premieres of films not studio affiliated — and quite frankly some of the best offerings — include writer/director Laura Steinel’s Family starring Taylor Schilling; a coming of age movie the description of which sounds like an Islam Lady Bird, Jinn from writer/director Nijla Mu’min; and Saide, from writer/director Megan Griffiths about a young girl and her relation to her mother while her father serves repeated tours of military duty.
World premiere documentaries encompass !Las Sandinistas! about women members of the Nicaragua Sandinista Revolution; TransMilitary about transgender soldiers; and Weed The People, about parents using cannabis for children suffering from cancer.
SXSW Film divides its hundreds of movies into categories like one that concentrates on music called “24 Beats Per Second.” One of the films in that category toplines Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemmons as a father-daughter duo polishing their music chops before she goes off to college in Hearts Beat Loud. Other movies in that category include docs on musicians from Elvis to Lynyrd Skynyrd to Ruben Blades, along with Ethan Hawke’s (writer/director) biopic of Blaze Foley, appropriately titled BLAZE.
Conversation has its own merits as the keynote line-up and various panels promise diverse and insightful filmic comments.
On Saturday, March 10 the keynote addresses (all of which become available online eventually) start with Darren Aronofsky, followed by Barry Jenkins the following day. Richard Linklater will moderate a conversation with Olivier Assayas on Sunday, March 11 in conjunction with a restored version of his 1994 film Cold Water. Spike Lee delivers a Master’s Class for She’s Gotta Have It later that same day.
SXSW with few exceptions is a walking affair. Sometimes getting from point A to point B takes longer than intended because you get caught in these street jams. Corporate sponsors literally lease out an existing space and turn it into a sundry storefront. It’s called networking in the parlance of out time.
So for instance, you turn the corner at Colorado and 3rd St. (between Lavaca) and there’s an exhibit for AMC’s new series The Terror.
The show chronicles a British Royal Navy expedition in the Arctic where over one-hundred-crew-members were lost. Expect a couple of rooms that will be cooled to freezing temperatures while you navigate images from the actual show.
The Austin lounge Basecamp (120 W. 5th Street) gets taken over by the L.A. group A-List Communications, and will host parties all weekend for a variety of films including Sadie, Outside In, American Animals, The Unicorn and others. Helmers and actors from the various films will be present.
Not to be outplayed, Warner Brothers has a recreation of one of the sets from Ready Player One at the location of Brazos Hall (the Northeast corner of Brazos and E. 4th St.).
The Ready Player One structure offers a reasonable facsimile of the multi-story trailer park so integral to the story. Visitors are given RFID wristbands upon entering with the express purpose of keeping track of their 1980s trivia knowledge as they progress up various levels.
As faithful readers may note, Ready Player One, which opens wide in late March, marks a return to the sci-fi genre for Steven Spielberg channeling author Ernest Cline’s visionary novel. Cline, an Austin resident, will make various appearances. On Sunday afternoon, Cline and several of the film’s actors will appear as part of a livestream promotion. There’s no indication that RPO is part of the SXSW docket however with the level of promotion it wouldn’t be a surprise if said movie popped up in a surprise screening slot.