Back to IndieWire

SXSW 2013: The 10 Films We Can’t Wait to See

SXSW 2013: The 10 Films We Can't Wait to See

The SXSW Film Festival kicks off on Friday with a studio comedy, “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” but it’s the smaller movies that really stand out at this essential celebration of new American cinema. From “Tiny Furniture” to “Weekend,” low budget movies that have premiered with little to no buzz at SXSW often wind up among the more significant sleeper hits of the year (and a few grow even bigger than that). Documentaries like last year’s big winner “Beware of Mister Baker” reflect the funky, hip vibe of the festival, which is also jam-packed with interactive and music festivities. With such distinctive characteristics fueling its program, SXSW guarantees exposure for a rich collection of movies largely made beyond the standards for mainstream sensibilities. The latest edition 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.

“12 O’Clock Boys” (Directed by Lotfy Nathan)

The documentaries at SXSW tend to stand out from the activist-driven productions that dominate most other festivals by focusing on unique character studies. First-time director Lotfy Nathan’s “12 O’Clock Boys,” which tracks a 13-year-old lower class Baltimore resident who idolizes the local urban dirt bike gang, is the paragon of that tradition at this year’s festival. Nathan’s painstakingly crafted portrait of the dirt bike community renders a lethal obsession in lyrical terms, creating a luscious paean to the lust for danger as the ultimate escape from societal restrictions. Like the SXSW breakout “45365,” it’s also a portrait of a world that seems at once in tune with the harsher realities of daily existence and one step ahead of them by finding the beauty in chaotic impulses. [Eric Kohn]

“Before You Know It” (Directed by PJ Raval)

might not be a sexy topic like same-sex marriage, but one of the
biggest and often ignored issues facing LGBT communities is the fact
that there is a rapidly aging population within them that is not
properly being cared for. There
are an estimated 2.4 million LGBT Americans over the age of 55. As a
demographic, they are 5 times less likely to access social services
than their heterosexual counterparts, half as likely to have health
insurance coverage, and 10 times less likely to have a caretaker if they
fall ill. And unfortunately there is not much attention being paid to
them by their younger LGBT counterparts (or anyone else, for that
matter). Which is one of the reasons that PJ Raval’s documentary “Before
You Know It” is such a crucial new edition to the LGBT doc canon.
Following three different LGBT seniors each facing a different array of
issues, it affectingly personifies a increasingly forgotten generation
of queer folks. [Peter Knegt]

“Haunter” (Directed by Vincenzo Natali)

Canadian director Vincenzo Natali has an uncommonly smart approach to genre, one grounded in strong characters and resonances to larger themes. 2010’s “Splice” was an unsettling mad scientist tale as parenting nightmare, while 1997 cult favorite “Cube” was a dystopian imagining of a mysterious torture chamber/deadly human experiment into which a group of strangers has been dumped. His Midnighter take on ghost stories, “Haunter,” sounds just as promising in concept, as it starts with the dead rather than the living, centering on a teenage girl (Abigail Breslin) who’s the only one in her family to realize that they’re just reliving the day of their death over and over again. [Alison Willmore]

“Hey Bartender” (Directed by Douglas Tirola)

For subject matter alone, “Hey Bartender” is a perfect alignment of content and platform at SXSW. And then there’s the cultural overload of mixologist imagery: The white oxford rolled above elbows, revealing tattooed forearms made lean and ropy through the maracas of cocktail shaking, now has all the iconography of a Ikea uniform. However, director Douglas Tirola — who produced a compelling exploration of independent pro wrestling in 2012’s “Fake It So Real” — wants to take the trend a step further by exploring the stories of those who are trying to ride the trend to brighter and better futures. [Dana Harris]

“Holy Ghost People” (Directed by Mitchell Altieri)

Sharing its title with Peter Adair’s 1967 documentary about an Appalachian Pentecostal region in which faith healing and snake handling are common practice, this film uses a similar setting as a backdrop for a thriller about a girl who enlists an alcoholic ex-Marine to take her to a remote religious community in hopes of finding her missing sister. Director Mitchell Altieri, who as half of The Butcher Brothers has made gory horror flicks in the past, seems to be aiming for something less slasher-centric in this effort, and the recent films “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Sound of My Voice” have demonstrated that topics of faith and closed, cult-like groups can provide rich material for indie films. [Alison Willmore]

“Milo” (Directed by Jacob Vaughan)

How can you NOT be all for a film that’s official SXSW synopsis reads simply: “A
man discovers that his chronic stomach problems are due to the fact
that he has a demon baby living in his colon.” Add that to the presence
of Jay and Mark Duplass (as executive producers) and a cast that
includes Ken Marino, Gillian Jacobs, Peter Sormare, Stephen Root,
Patrick Warburton and Mary Kay Place and we’re beyond sold. Even if it’s
bad, Jacob Vaughan’s directorial debut (his other credits include
editing Katie Aselton’s “Black Rock”) could still very likely be cult
classic-ly so. [Peter Knegt]

“Drinking Buddies” (Directed by Joe Swanberg)

When the news came out that prolific microbudget American filmmaker Joe Swanberg was making a relationship comedy with movie stars, I was among the initial skeptics. But it sounds like “Drinking Buddies,” which stars Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde and Ron Livingston, has come together in the tradition of Swanberg’s other movies: shot and edited on a quick time frame, heavily improvised and attuned to the intimate experiences of young adulthood. Set around the platonic friendship of two Chicago residents working a brewery, the movie sounds like a traditional Swanbergian take on relationship politics. As the filmmaker improves his technique each time out, the movies are less impressive for their honesty than for their skill, which makes this project — bound to receive more attention than anything he’s done before — worth anticipating whether or not you’ve been a fan of Swanberg’s earlier films. There’s no question that his process, like the director, continues to mature. [Eric Kohn]

“Short Term 12” (Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton)

Brie Larson has mined a pretty great career as a stellar supporting player with memorable performances in “Rampart,” “21 Jump Street” and Diablo Cody’s HBO show “United States of Tara” as Toni Collette’s rebellious daughter. In “Short Term 12,” the second feature from “I Am Not a Hipster” director Destin Daniel Cretton, the young actress moves up to leading lady status to anchor the drama as Grace, a twenty-something supervisor at a foster-care facility, pregnant with the child of her co-worker boyfriend (John Gallagher Jr.), and weighed down by one dark secret she’s harboring. Larson’s involvement is reason enough to expect a solid feature. Another: the pedigree of the Cretton’s project. Based on his short of the same name, which won the Jury Prize at Sundance in 2009, the feature script adaptation won a Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting prize from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. [Nigel M. Smith]

“Some Girl(s)” (Directed by Daisy von Scherler Mayer)

Neil LaBute’s recent cinematic output (the dreadful “Wicker Man” remake, “Lakeview Terrance” and the so-so comedy “Death at a Funeral”) hasn’t put the playwright-filmmaker in good graces, but his latest effort “Some Girl(s)” looks like it has the chance to reverse the bad karma. For one, it’s based on his stellar play that plays to LaBute’s strengths — the delicate power balance between the two sexes (as evidenced in his strongest works “In the Company of Men,” “Your Friends and Neighbors” and “The Shape of Things”). Two, it boasts one hell of a terrific ensemble (Adam Brody, Emily Watson, Jennifer Morrison, Zoe Kazan and Kristen Bell headline the cast). And thirdly, LaBute chose not to direct it, in favor of Daisy von Scherler Mayer, known for the seminal Parker Posey vehicle “Party Girl” and AMC’s “Mad Men.” What of the plot? In “Some Girl(s),” Brody plays a soon-to-be-married writer who embarks on a journey to reunite up with ex-lovers in an attempt to make amends for past relationship transgressions. [Nigel M. Smith]

“We Always Lie to Strangers” (Directed by AJ Schnack and David Wilson)

As the film’s title suggests, this story about the music-hall tourist destination of Branson, Mo. may be the kind for which two filmmakers are better than one. Documentarian Schnack profiled musicians They Might Be Giants in “Gigantic” (SXSW 2002 ) and with “Kurt Cobain About a Boy.” Wilson came to SXSW with his short “Big Birding Day” — and he’s based in Columbia, Mo., about 200 miles north of the “Live Music Show Capital of the World” that boasts dozens of tribute acts. Branson is also home to many performing families, and they’re the focus of this doc that explores the inherent and unexpected weirdness that results when you live in a city that proclaims itself the bedrock of family-values entertainment. [Dana Harris]

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Festivals and tagged , , , , , , , ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox