This year’s SXSW Film Festival is mere hours from kicking off in Austin, Texas, complete with a packed slate that should keep festival attendees pretty happy in between bouts of chowing down breakfast tacos and basking in the good ol’ Texas sunshine. As ever, the festival features a strong lineup of both fresh premieres and festival favorites, much of which is bursting with new talent. Who’s going to break out in a big way at this year’s festival? We’ve got some ideas.
Addison Timlin, “Little Sister”
A former theater kid who has moved into the cinematic space, thanks to turns in films like “Derailed” and “That Awkward Moment,” Timlin finally gets her chance to really stand out on the big screen in Zach Clark’s “Little Sister.” The film affords Timlin a genuinely unique role, that of a young nun who returns home for family visit to get back in the fold with her baffled parents and her wounded brother. Secrets abound — like her teen goth past! — but the film promises to be an honest and funny look at familial relations and the ties that bind. Timlin has the best role of the bunch, and the entire film follows her very special path to, well, some kind of personal enlightenment.
Glen Powell, “Everybody Wants Some!!”
Richard Linklater’s “spiritual sequel” to his beloved “Dazed and Confused” is full to bursting with emerging talent, including stars Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch and Tyler Hoechlin (who will likely be best known to audiences who check out the film as “that kid from ‘Road to Perdition’ really, really grown up”), but if anyone steals the show, it’s Glen Powell. The actor has been around for quite some time — he’s even appeared in a batch of superhero films, though usually as characters like “Trader #1” — and he recently picked up a role on “Scream Queens,” but rest assured, “Everybody Wants Some!!” is going to be his big turning point. As the good-time-having, life-advice-spewing Finnegan, Powell manages to outshine the entire cast with nothing but charm, humor and just general star power. He’s the one to watch in a sea of “ones to watch.”
Judah Lewis, “Demolition”
After premiering at TIFF in September, the Jake Gyllenhaal-starring drama from Jean-Marc Vallee was mostly forgotten, but a new set of screenings at SXSW and a spring release date might just push it back into the cultural consciousness. Good thing, too, because while both Gyllenhaal and co-star Naomi Watts turn in nice work, the under-sung hero of the film is young Lewis, who appears as Watts’ son. Thrust into a very weird situation with some very damaged people, Lewis’ Chris stays remarkably game and exceedingly in the moment. When he made it, the film was only Lewis’ third credit to date, but he demonstrates a spark and natural ease that more film-goers should tune into as soon as possible.
Hannah Marks, “Slash”
Clay Liford’s latest goes deep inside two twisted worlds: High school and “slash” fan fiction. Marks stars alongside Michael Johnston as a teen with a big secret to hide (okay, she writes slash fiction, but you probably could have guessed that) who finds her world turned upside by the intersection between her private passion and public forums. Marks has a natural charm that’s shown through in other roles, like in the horror anthology “Southbound” and the MTV series “Awkward,” but “Slash” looks to give her a large venue to really show off the chops, while being silly, strange and a maybe even a touch romantic.
Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, “Sing Street”
Sure, it’s a bit of a cheat, as “Sing Street” really broke out at Sudance in January, but few people could anticipate just what a crowd-pleaser John Carney’s latest musically-tinged feature would be. And more than that, who could possibly anticipate that his cast — most of whom, including star Walsh-Peelo, who carries the whole thing, were found as part of an open casting call with nary a credit to their name — would be able to so charmingly capture the spirit of their characters, of the eighties and of the copious rock jams that litter the feature? Everyone in the film is deeply appealing, but Walsh-Peelo is a genuinely fresh, brand new face that ably leads the film and his co-stars into dancing-in-the-aisles instant classic territory. Get on board now.
Kris Avedisian, “Donald Cried”
Avedisian is coming out guns blazing at this year’s SXSW, with his film “Donald Cried,” which he wrote, directed, starred in and produced, all from his own original short of the same name. The darkly comic film takes the “it’s hard to go home again” premise to oddball extremes, with Avedisian stepping in as the eponymous Donald, a misanthrope who never made it, playing up against his long lost pal Peter, who is just home to bury his grandmother. The film already has big buzz and will next screen at New York’s own New Directors/New Films, proving that the multi-talented Avedisian is very much somebody to watch.
Nichole Bloom, “Teenage Cocktail”
A veritable mixed drink of a “Visions” entry, John Carchietta’s feature is a heady mix of love story, high school feature, violent revenge tale and cautionary yarn about the dangers of the Internet. In the midst of all this madness, Bloom brings true sweetness and light to the lovely Annie, the new kid in school in soon falls in (and falls in love) with the darkly alluring Jules (Fabianne Therese). As the two navigate a rocky relationship made all the more troubled by mad parents and a terrifyingly popular webcam business, the story stays rooted in Bloom’s innocent charm, which is forced to withstand — and confront — some pretty nasty forces.