If you happen to see a guy who looks like Ryan Gosling walking around the Texas capital city today – chances are higher than usual that said stranger is in fact the movie star himself.
Friday kicks off the film portion of South by Southwest (SXSW). While we’re usually talking about more films and more venues in which to see them – that’s not the case this year.
Let’s be clear – there are still plenty of films to see at this 24th edition of the South by Southwest Film Festival. The numbers go like this – nine days, 263 films, 13 screens, seven venues, 84 feature film world premieres and 51 feature film directorial debuts.
Janet Pierson directs SXSW Film. She says they tried to trim down a little on the number of titles and also made the decision to eliminate film venues away from downtown Austin.
“The biggest thing I try to relate to people is take chances and if you can’t get into one thing, see something else, and just go to see whatever works in your schedule in whatever part of town you are and some of the theatres are a little easier to get into than others,” Pierson says.
One of the hottest tickets of course will be the opening night film – the world premiere of Austin-based writer/director Terrence Malick’s highly-anticipated Song to Song. The film was shot in the Texas capital city and its music scene provides the backdrop.
“The cast is phenomenal: Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett for starters,” Pierson says.
She says there are a lot of other top films on tap this year.
“People are really looking forward to Edgar Wright’s new Baby Driver and it’s tons of fun. And a film like The Disaster Artist is hilarious, it’s phenomenal. And Atomic Blonde is Charlize Theron in a way you haven’t seen her before. She kind of this great action hero in a spy’s thriller,” she says.
But it’s not all big names and budgets of course. The bread and butter of the film festival is new discovery. One theme SXSW Film Director Pierson discovered in this year’s lineup – looking inside the creative process.
“All these films are kind of looking at what it means to create – from writers to painters to comedians,” she says.
Among those are several documentaries, including Muppet Guys Talking directed by Frank Oz. There’s nother on Bill Nye and one by longtime Richard Linklater collaborator Sandra Adair.
“[It’s] called The Secret Life of Lance Letscher and he’s an extraordinary Austin artist – collage artist – who is world-renowned. And it’s just an intimate, beautiful look at everything about how he approaches his work, how he makes his work, taking it through his evolution and you really get the sense of one really accomplished artist really looking at another very accomplished artist,” Pierson says.
From here – there are just so many different things we could touch on. The new curated virtual reality program, or the continued exploration of the form of episodics, the emergence of several great female directors, and the films that tap into the Black Lives Matter movement. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention this one.
“We’re going to be showing the original Alien, but Ridley Scott will be here in person and there’s definitely going to be some reveal of the newer work – which everyone is excited about,” Pierson says.
And in the same vein comes Life, the first closing night film SXSW has showcased in a while.
“Because there just wasn’t anything special enough that kind of made it special enough to kind of do that on the Saturday night of music,” Pierson says.
Life, starring Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal – fits the bill.
Other things to be excited about include free films. SXSW is showing them again outside the Long Center in downtown Austin. And for South by music or interactive badge holders more access to film and vice versa.
“We’ve always been the place where it all happens here and then people would bump up against certain walls – but now kind of the walls have come down,” Pierson says.
In case those attending SXSW didn’t have enough to do with the slightly pared down film festival – there are now even more options.