The annual mid-March South by Southwest (better known as SXSW) shindig has just about everything going for it. Taking place in hip Austin, it’s perhaps best known as a musical festival, but the film portion has grown in importance as the years roll by, premiering exciting new releases from big names and new talent alike.
Now in its 24th year, the 2017 edition looks to continue the trend, bringing comfortably over 100 features to town from 10-18 March, including an impressive 85 world premieres.
Reclusive and now increasingly prolific auteur Terrence Malick opens proceedings with Song to Song, an appropriate choice as it focusses on the Austin music scene. He gathers his usual impressive collection of stars including Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman, Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender together for this voyage into the hip heart of the host city.
Edgar Wright’s highly anticipated Baby Driver starring Ansel Elgort (amongst many others) as a young getaway driver also launches, and they’ll be space for Ben Wheatley’s frenetic Free Fire that first played Toronto last year, and Michael Winterbottom’s On the Road, a tour film following rock band Wolf Alice.
For those looking outside the usual suspects, the documentary strand in particular looks impressive this year. Alongside Winterbottom, the films on display range from a look behind The Muppets curtain with Frank Oz’s Muppet Guys Talking – Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched, to harder hitting political features. The Blood Is at the Doorstep investigates the killing of a mentally ill black man by the police in Milwaukee, and Stranger Fruit does the same for Michael Brown’s killing in Ferguson.
There’s plenty of fascinating indie fare spread across the festival as well including Joe Swanberg’s new comedy Win It All about a small-time gambler inadvisably trusted with a bag of cash, and Noël Wells’ debut Mr. Roosevelt about LA struggles and lost love, but perhaps the most exciting new releases come in episodic form. Jim Carrey moves to this longer format as the creator of I’m Dying Up Here, a comedy-drama that sees stand-ups deal with a colleague’s success. Most exciting of all though is an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s superlative American Gods, due to start airing in April.
That should give us plenty to look forward to as this topsy-turvy year continues.