Texas-centric highlights from the SXSW 2024 Film Festival

The annual South by Southwest Conference and Festivals officially ends Saturday. Freelance journalist and filmmaker Karen Bernstein has been attending events all week.

By Karen BernsteinMarch 15, 2024 2:32 pm, ,

Since the SXSW festival shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, in-person crowds have felt a bit sparse. This year felt as full and robust as ever before in SXSW’s 37-year history.

There were sold-out Texas premieres, excitement and discussion about independent film wherever you turned.

» MORE: From AI technology to new films, here’s what to look forward to at South by Southwest

Many of the films come to SXSW with distribution in place, leaving those truly independent creators scrambling for attention.

But checking in with the interviewees after the hubbub settled down, I heard some great reports about offers from future festivals.

Preconceived,” produced and directed by first-time documentary filmmakers Sabrine Keane and Kate Dumke, won the Best of Texas award at SXSW. It takes a critical look at the mission behind Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Maleeha, a Muslim woman who turned to a CPC in Dallas, is featured in the film.

A close up photo of one hand holding a sign reading "Protection at Conception" and another holding a plastic fetus. In the background, is the U.S. Supreme Court building.

Demonstrators gather in front of SCOTUS in a film still from “Preconceived.”

Christy Carpenter and Abby Ginzberg, co-producers and directors of “Shaking it Up: The Life and Times of Liz Carpenter,” enjoyed a long standing ovation at their screening at Austin’s Zach Scott Theater. Future screenings are scheduled at the LBJ Library and the Bullock Museum.

HBO and Dan Reed’s latest documentary, “The Truth vs. Alex Jones,” was filmed at the damages trial in a Texas courtroom in 2022. HBO Max will start streaming the film this month.

A photo of Alex Jones seated in between lawyers in a courtroom.

“The Truth vs. Alex Jones.”

Sing Sing” is directed by Texan Greg Kwedar and produced by Monique Walton, an award-winning graduate of UT-Austin. It stars Oscar-nominated Colman Domingo and is a touching and poetic look at the Rehabilitation Through The Arts program at that New York prison.

Texas-based filmmaker Tara Pirnia and producer Elizabeth Avellán hosted an after-party at Troublemaker Studios in Austin for the premiere of their narrative feature, “Switch Up,” which filmed in Padre Island and South Texas. Pirnia describes the film as a “rom-com” similar to the film “Trading Places,” but without the Eddie Murphy character.

Two people embrace on a beach.

Cristian de la Fuente and Julieth Restrepo in “Switch Up.”

Producer Mike Blizzard hosted the SXSW Q&A for the Lance Oppenheim / Elara Pictures / HBO-Max docuseries “Ren Faire” (for which I am also a producer). A TV premiere of the first episode in a three-part docuseries about the Renaissance Festival in Todd Mission, Texas, the largest in this country. Knights in full armor passed out hats to the crowd.

What do The Black Keys – that legendary rock duo from Akron, Ohio – have to do with Texas? Look no further than the history of Texas blues makers themselves. Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach came to SXSW for the premiere of “This Is a Film About The Black Keys,” produced and directed by Jeff Dupre. One audience member described the documentary as “the most humorous and honest” he’d ever seen.

A publicity photo of Dan Auerbach, left, and Patrick Carney.

Dan Auerbach, left, and Patrick Carney in a photo courtesy “This Is a Film About The Black Keys.”

Speaking of humor, the legendary comedy duo Cheech and Chong showed up to the premiere of their hybrid scripted/documentary feature “Cheech and Chong’s Last Movie” with Director David Bushell in a classic car with a smoking marijuana joint on top.

Other films with Texas ties to keep an eye on include “Plastic People,” “The in Between,” and “An Army of Women.”

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