The 2014 SXSW Film Festival kicks off tomorrow with the world premiere of Jon Favreau's star-studded comedy "Chef." The latest edition of the event is poised to deliver an exciting
combination of new talents and established names. Here's a sampling of
the movies that Indiewire's team is looking forward to checking out at
this year's festival.
Joel Potrykus' nutty debut feature "Ape" followed the exploits of a deranged standup comedian struggling to make ends meet. "Buzzard" is similarly focused on a man at the bottom of the economic food chain battling to get by while stirring up trouble in every direction. It's also a genuinely brilliant contemporary satire of workplace frustrations. Like "Office Space" on crack, the movie revolves around a wry young schemer ("Ape" star Joshua Burge) who casually steals money from the bank that employs him while wasting his days with an equally directionless pal eating chips and playing videogames in a basement lair dubbed "the party zone." But when his scams catch up to him, the character gradually loses his mind in a series of increasingly surreal and surprising developments that involve -- among many other things -- a treadmill, a makeshift Freddy Krueger glove, and one very long take involving pasta. By the end, like Martin Scorsese's "After Hours," Potrykus' labyrinthine farce is so compellingly weird you just have to roll with it and accept it for what it is: an astute look at what it means to attempt an escape from the system and wind up devoured by it.
Mark Duplass and "Insidious" overseer Jason Blum co-produced this curious-sounding thriller about a man who responds to a mysterious advertisement to make a cool grand by filming one man (Duplass) for the day. It's no surprise that the desperate character (played by director Patrick Brice) gets more than he bargained for -- but the details are said to both surprise and unsettle in equal measures. Programmed in the festival's "Visions" section, "Creep" is one of those eccentric genre entries with the potential to generate a lot of interpretive discussions -- in other words, the ideal movie to mull over at a film festival.
Filmmaker Riley Steams returns to SXSW after wowing with the short dark comedy "The Club" with "Faults,"his first feature starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Leland Orser. While the short was about a young girl sent by her parents to be raised by wolves, "Faults" revolves around another kind of non-traditional parenting -- in which a couple hires "an expert on cults...to kidnap and deprogram their brainwashed daughter," per SXSW's official description. Sold.
"The Heart Machine"
Billed by the filmmakers on their Kickstarter page as a "modern mystery about love and intimacy in the digital age," film critic Zachary Wigon's first feature "The Heart Machine" has the makings of an indie perfectly pitched at the technically savvy SXSW crowd. The romance stars promising up-and-comers John Gallagher Jr. ("Short Term 12") and Kate Lyn Sheil (who wowed in "Sun Don't Shine" and TV's "House of Cards") as a pair who meet online and are forced to deal with some nasty truths when Gallagher's character begins to question whether everything he's been told by his crush is a lie.
"The Legend of Shorty"
A documentary focused on Mexico's legendary drug lord, "El Chapo," otherwise known as Shorty, immediately offers the hook of its real-life Al Capone-like villain. But then directors Angus McQueen and Guillermo Galdos' movie, produced by the team behind "Searching for Sugarman," got a special surprise weeks ahead of SXSW: Shorty was captured by Mexican authorities, ending a chapter in the history of Mexico's war on drugs and adding an exciting coda to an unquestionably riveting story that would be purely exciting if it weren't also terrifyingly real.