SXSW to Open with Winterbottom's "Code 46"; Competition to Include all U.S. and World Premieres
by Brian Brooks
The South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW) revealed its line-up over the weekend, including a roster of more than 150 films, including 90 feature-length works with more than 40 screening as U.S. or world premieres. Also new for 2004, films screening in both the documentary feature competition and narrative feature competition will be U.S. or world premieres made in the last 12 months. Opening SXSW on March 12 will be the U.S. premiere of Michael Winterbottom's "Code 46," starring current Oscar nominees Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton. The film, which will screen in the festival's special screenings premieres section, is set in the near future where cities are heavily policed and only accessible via checkpoints.
The documentary feature competition includes six titles, all of which are world premieres. Included in the line up is director Goro Toshima's look at the lives of three parolees as they enter life outside of prison in "A Hard Straight." "A League of Ordinary Gentlemen" by Christopher Browne takes a "humorous" look at contemporary professional bowling as well as investigating sports as entertainment and how it relates to American society, while director Deirdre Fishel's "Still Doing It" probes the sex lives of women over 60. American capitalism, consumerism, and its impact on society, culture, and democracy is explored in Lori Cheatle's ("From Swastika to Jim Crow," 2000) "This Land is Your Land." "Up for Grabs," meanwhile takes a look at what the fest calls "the stranger than fiction tale of the legal and publicity battle over the 'million-dollar baseball' from Barry Bonds' record-setting 73rd home run." Rounding out the doc competition is Alison Berg's "Witches in Exile," a chronicle on the lives of accused witches in the African country of Ghana, and their daily quest to live in the Kukuo Witches Camp.
The seven films screening in the narrative feature competition are a mix of U.S. and world debuts. Paint-ball superstar Bobby Dukes is the subject of Brant Sersen's world premiere, "Blackballed," in which Dukes reclaims his title following a 10-year ban from the game. Adam Goldberg's Toronto feature, "I Love Your Work" screens in the section about a movie star who suffers a downward spiral after becoming obsessed with a young film student who reminds him of his own pre-fame life. Greg Lombardo will world premiere his film on marital discord, "Knots," while the U.S. premiere of Peter Wellington's "Luck" centers on a gambling addict's desire to win-over the woman of his dreams. Also slated is the world premiere of "Male Fantasy," by Blaine Thurier, about a divorced man's quest to reinvent himself as a ladies man by applying a "magical philosophy." The world premiere of "Mind The Gap" by Eric Schaeffer ("One Night at McCool's," 2001) centers on five adults who seek happiness by taking huge risks, while the U.S. premiere of "Rick" by Curtiss Clayton (Gus Van Sant's former editor) follows an egocentric businessman who must live his life while dealing with a curse.
Thirty-one films make up SXSW's special screening premieres section with a mixture culled from other festivals, projects without distribution, and titles whose subject matter, as the festival described to indieWIRE, "will receive big exposure on its own." Directors Michael Shoob and Joseph Mealey's world premiere film "Bush's Brain" is expected to raise some eyebrows at the festival, which takes place in the Texas capital of Austin. The film takes a "behind-the-scenes" look at strategist Karl Rove, the elusive political genius behind the rise of George W. Bush whose near obsession with the former Texas governor is credited by many in helping propel them both to the White House. Lions Gate will have a special screening of its film "Blind Horizon" by Michael Haussman, starring Val Kilmer, Neve Campbell, and Sam Shephard in this film about a man who suffers amnesia due to a gunshot wound, later believing he may be a part of an assassination plot. Lars von Trier's Cannes 2003 feature, "Dogville," starring Nicole Kidman is slated to screen as a "modern masters premiere." Also featured as special screenings in the section is Kevin Smith's latest feature "Jersey Girl," starring Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, and George Carlin, as well as John Crowley's "Intermission" starring Colin Farrell, and David Mackenzie's "Young Adam," starring Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton.
The section also hosts a slew of Sundance 2004 titles including "Super Size Me" by Morgan Spurlock, winner of the fest's documentary director award, as well as Jared Hess's comedy "Napoleon Dynamite," "Farmingville" by Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini, and Shola Lynch's doc chronicling the presidential bid by the first black woman elected to Congress in "Chisholm '72 - Unbought & Unbossed."
SXSW will also screen first-time directors as well as filmmakers exploring genres outside their mainstay in its emerging visions section, including "Able Edwards" by Graham Robertson and executive-produced by Steven Soderbergh. The sidebar will also screen the U.S. premiere of Kris Lefcoe's "Public Domain," which is a dogma-style film using "hidden" cameras in a mock game show that awards contestants with "the most pathetic lives." Midnight films will also screen in the 'Round Midnight sidebar as well as Texas-made features in the Lone Star States sidebar. The festival's 24 beats per second section features musical docs, including Sundance 2004 film "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky and the doc on L.A.'s legendary KROQ DJ Rodney Bingenheimer, "The Mayor of Sunset Strip" by George Hickenlooper. In addition to the SXSW Film Conference and Festival, the event will also host its music program March 17-21.
"I would definitely say that in the seven years that I've worked at SXSW, the 2004 program is the one I'm the most proud of," festival producer Matt Dentler told indieWIRE by phone Friday. "We've nailed it. Not only did we do what any film festival should try to do, but also what SXSW in particular should be doing."
The festival has yet to announce its roster of short films, expected next week. Additionally, there will be other films screened as sneaks that are still to be unveiled including the festival's closing film on March 20.
[ For more information, visit the SXSW web site: http://www.sxsw.com ]
The 2004 SXSW Competition and Special Screenings Lineup (information provided by the festival):
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION
A Hard Straight
Director: Goro Toshima.
Three parolees in their post-prison lives enjoy their newfound freedom,
as well as negotiate the difficulties of re-entering an uncaring and
sometimes hostile society.
A League of Ordinary Gentlemen
Director: Christopher Browne.
A humorous look at the modern world of professional bowling, as well as
a social commentary on sports as entertainment and the changing values
of American society.
Still Doing It
Director: Deirdre Fishel.
Women over 60 discuss their active sex lives, from dating to marriage,
and all of the provocative landscape in between.
This Land Is Your Land
Director: Lori Cheatle.
A funny and moving exploration of the impact of consumerism and
capitalism on American society, culture, and democracy.
Up For Grabs
Director: Michael Wranovics.
The stranger-than-fiction tale of the legal and publicity battle over the
"million-dollar baseball" from Barry Bonds' record-setting 73rd home
Witches In Exile
Director: Alison Berg.
Filmmakers follow accused witches in Ghana through their daily struggle
to survive in the Kukuo Witches Camp.
NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION
Director: Brant Sersen.
Cast: Rob Corddry, Paul Scheer, Dannah Feinglass, Ed Helms.
Caught cheating and banned for 10 years, Bobby Dukes - paintball's first
returns to reclaim his title and erase the memory of his tainted past.
I Love Your Work
Director: Adam Goldberg.
Cast: Giovanni Ribisi, Franka Potente, Joshua Jackson,
Marisa Coughlan, Christina Ricci, Vince Vaughn.
A fictional movie star suffers a gradual mental breakdown as he becomes
obsessed with a young film student who reminds him of his own life
before becoming famous.
Director: Greg Lombardo.
Cast: Annabeth Gish, Scott Cohen, John Stamos, Paulina Porizkova, Tara
When Dave finds out, in graphic fashion, that his marriage is anything
but perfect, his life takes on some strange complications.
Director: Peter Wellington.
Cast: Luke Kirby, Sarah Polley, Jed Rees.
Paralyzed by his own obsession with luck and destiny, a gambling addict
wonders if he's lucky enough to win the girl of his dreams.
Director: Blaine Thurier.
Cast: Robert Dayton, Cindy Wolfe, Steve Wood, Shane Nelken, Kim Cote.
Divorced from his wife and reality, an eccentric man applies a magical
philosophy to his romantic life to become a successful ladies man, rise
from his depression, and achieve godhood.
Mind The Gap
Director: Eric Schaeffer.
Cast: Alan King, Elizabeth Reaser, Eric Schaeffer, Jill Sobule, Charles
Parnell, John Heard.
Five seemingly unrelated adults decide to take huge risks with their
lives, searching for the happiness constantly eluding them.
Director: Curtiss Clayton.
Cast: Bill Pullman, Aaron Stanford, Sandra Oh,
Agnes Bruckner, Dylan Baker.
An egocentric businessman must juggle his responsibilities at work and
home, all while suffering from a curse.
SPECIAL SCREENINGS PREMIERES
Director: Jonathan Demme
A documentary portrait of Jean Dominique, a Haitian radio journalist and
human rights activist.
Director: Rolf de Heer.
Cast: Helen Buday, Gary Sweet.
A husband comes home to find a videotape of his wife. What starts as an
arousing birthday gift becomes a video ransom note as he realizes his
wife is held hostage at gunpoint.
Director: Jan Krawitz.
In this intimate documentary, several dwarfs who were filmed 20 years
ago allow the camera into their lives once again.
Director: Michael Haussman.
Cast: Val Kilmer, Neve Campbell, Amy Smart, Sam Shephard.
Suffering from a gunshot wound and amnesia, a man begins to realize he
may be part of an assassination plot.
Director: Michael Shoob, Joseph Mealey.
A behind-the-scenes look at the controversial career of George W. Bush's
trusted strategist, Karl Rove.
Chisholm '72 - Unbought & Unbossed
Director: Shola Lynch.
A documentary chronicling the presidential bid of Shirley Chisholm, the
first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
Director: Michael Winterbottom.
Cast: Tim Robbins, Samantha Morton.
A love story set in an eerily possible near-future where cities are
heavily controlled and only accessible through checkpoints.
Director: Nisha Ganatra.
Cast: Roshan Seth, Carol Kane, Madhur Jaffrey.
After his wife and daughter leave him, a first generation Indian-American
man turns to the pages of a popular women's magazine to help him woo his
next door neighbor.
Director: Lars von Trier.
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, James Caan, Patricia Clarkson, Paul
A woman on the run seeks refuge in a bizarre American mountain town.
Director: Amanda Micheli.
When they meet, two stuntwomen from opposite ends of the world find a
way to survive Hollywood together.
Duck You Sucker
Director: Sergio Leone.
Cast: James Coburn, Rod Steiger.
In this Western classic, Juan, the leader of a bandit family, meets Sean
Mallory, an IRA explosives expert on the run from the British.
Director: Kirby Dick.
Following the families of five patients in a hospice program, this is a
profound and moving chronicle of the end of life.
Director: Scott Smith.
Cast: Miranda Richardson, Katherine Isabelle, Callum Keith Rennie, Mark
A family comes to terms with themselves in the middle of unexpected tragedy
during the 1960s.
Director: Carlos Sandoval and Catherine Tambini.
A documentary exploring the attempted murder of two day laborers working in
Director: Bill Plympton.
Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Ed Begley Jr, Craig Bierko, David Carradine, Beverly
An animated gothic high school comedy about two lovers and their fateful
Director: John Crowley.
Cast: Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy, Colm Meaney, Kelly Macdonald.
The end of a relationship triggers a tidal wave of chaos for a group of
friends, exploring the path between breaking up and making up.
Director: Kevin Smith.
Cast: Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, George Carlin.
A single parent learns how to become a good father when he's forced to
move back in with his own dad.
Director: Tricia Brock.
Cast: Will Lee Scott, Lucas Black, Fred Willard, Niki J. Crawford, Taj
A guitar-playing car thief winds up in a Baptist halfway house, where he
discovers an autistic child prodigy with a knack for playing blues
Love Me If You Dare
Director: Yann Samuell.
Cast: Guillaume Canet, Marion Cotillard, Thibaut Verhaeghe, Josephine
Childhood friends spend their lives daring one another over various
adventures. As they grow older, their relationship changes and the dares
become much more romantic.
Mail Order Bride
Director: Hucko Botko.
Cast: Andrew Gurland, Eugenia Yuan, Adrian Martinez, Sam Lisenco.
A documentary filmmaker and a security guard battle for the affection
of a Vietnamese mail order bride after she arrives in Manhattan.
Director: Roger Michell.
Cast: Anne Reid, Peter Vaughan, Anna Wilson-Jones, Daniel Craig, Danira
An older woman finds love with a much younger man, who happens to be her
adult daughter's married lover.
Director: Jared Hess.
Cast: Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez, Jon Gries, Aaron Ruell.
Napoleon Dynamite is a teen stuck in rural Idaho who navigates
adolescence in moonboots.
The New Americans
Exec. Producer: Steve James.
This multi-part miniseries follows the lives of a series of new
immigrants as they struggle to adapt to the United States.
Director: Chistoffer Boe.
Cast: Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Maria Bonnevie, Krister Henriksson, Nicolas Bro.
A young man who thought himself already in love is drawn into a
mind-blowing parallel universe when he is captured by a deep and
Director: John Landis.
A documentary on a shady used car salesman, one who convinces customers
to buy vehicles that others have deemed unfit for sale.
Small Ball: A Little League Story
Director: Andrew Kolker, Louis Alvarez.
Filmmakers follow a little league team all the way to the World Series.
Director: Bronwen Hughes.
Cast: Thomas Jane, Deborah Kara Unger.
An amazing true story about Andre Stander, a South African cop that
unexpectedly became a successful bank robber.
Straight Into Darkness
Director: Jeff Burr.
Cast: Scott MacDonald, Ryan Francis, David Warner.
Two U.S. soldiers go AWOL in Europe during WWII, only to stumble upon a
nightmarish army of children.
Super Size Me
Director: Morgan Spurlock.
Why are Americans so fat? One filmmaker explores the obesity epidemic in
this look at our hunger for fast food, while he embarks on a fast
food-only diet for 30 days.
When Ocean Meets Sky
Director: Crayton Robey.
A look at Fire Island Pines, as it turns 50, and its legacy as a haven
for gay and lesbian tourists around the world.
Director: David Mackenzie.
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Peter Mullan, Emily Mortimer.
A drifter and a married couple discover a dead body that may mean more
than they ever expected.