South by Southwest in Austin is synonymous with two things: crowds and innovation. While we hear a lot about the interactive and music and sides of the festival, the third major part of the festival – film – actually runs the longest.
Like with the music and interactive events, the film festival showcases both big names and emerging stars.
Headlining films this year include Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some” and “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.” Then there’s not-yet-discovered directors and a slew of documentaries.
Janet Pierson curates the film lineup for SXSW. She gave us the low-down on some of her picks.
On “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday:”
This is Pee-wee Herman’s (Paul Reubens) latest full-length feature film to hit theatres. It’s produced by Judd Apatow. Netflix will be the big distriution partner for the film, but first it’s premiering at SXSW.
Pierson says the festival had Reubens a few years ago for an HBO special, and it was “pandemonium.”
“People were so excited to see him … hanging from the rafters,” she says. “He had a great time.”
For this film, Pierson says the cast and producers did a wonderful job.
“Just the opening sequence alone is just – you cannot believe,” she says. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s got a fantastic cast. Great rapport.”
“Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday” is screening at the Paramount Theater on Thursday, March 17 from 6 to 7:29 p.m. and at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar from 11 to 12:29 p.m.
On some big names you can expect to see:
Seth Rogen also made an appearance for two world premieres. His episodic series “Preacher” is adapted from a 1990s comic book series. It has it all: an Irish vampire, a supernatural preacher in a small Texas town and the ex-girlfriend. That’s screening Monday, March 14 from 2:45 p.m. to 3:49 p.m. at the Paramount Theater.
Pierson says the film is amazing.
“It’s from the point of view of the food in a store thinking about the great beyond, when they ever get to go outside the doors,” she says. “It’s hilarious, but fascinating too. It’s complex and multi-leveled in a lot of ways.”
On a few films by yet-to-be-discovered artists:
“Tower” looks at the Charles Whitman University of Texas tower shooting in 1966. The second screening is Monday, March 14 from 7:15 to 8:51 at the Rollins Theater at the Long Center. The third screening runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1:06 on Thursday, March 17 at the Paramount Theater.
The same filmmaker, Keith Maitland, has a documentary at the festival. “A Song For You: The Austin City Limits Story” celebrates 40 years of the music show. That’s screening Thursday, March 17 from 2:30 to 4:06 p.m. at the Paramount and at the Topfer Theatre at ZACH from 4:15 p.m. to 5:51 p.m. on Sunday, March 19.
There’s also the documentary “The Liberators,” about a German art detective investigating medieval masterpieces stole by the Nazis at the end of World War II. They’re found in a small town on the Texas prairie.
“We didn’t know anything about it,” Pierson says. “It’s a wild suspense story.”
The second screening starts at 11 a.m. on Thursday, March 17 at Stateside Theatre.
On the festival’s leaning toward certain themes in documentary features:
“It’s always interesting how that emerges,” Pierson says. “One year it was about bees and farms and one year it was about addiction. … This year the only theme that emerged was, over and over again, you had people creating their own reality with community.
“There’s comedy all over our program this year. But it’s people who are kind of taking their life into their own hands and creating something new with it.”
There’s also a documentary about the comedy troupe “Asperger’s Are Us,” showing Tuesday, at 11:30 a.m. at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. There are also screenings Thursday, March 17 and Saturday, March 19 at different locations.
On the virtual reality track at the conference:
“We’ll be having three days of virtual reality and augmented reality sessions,” Pierson says. “(There’s) an expo, and even a cinema experience where people can watch stuff together.”
SXSW Film 2016 runs through March 19. Most screenings are open to those with a Film Badge, Gold Badge, Platinum Badge, Film Festival Wristband. Some are open to those with an Interactive Badge. The VR/AR track is open to those with a Music Badge, Film Badge, Interactive Badge, Gold Badge, Platinum Badge, and Artist Wristband.