With awards season kicking into high gear and Sundance about a week away, the South by Southwest Film and TV Festival released its initial program lineup on Wednesday. This year’s festival, running March 10 to 18, will open with “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,” a fantasy-adventure tale, based on the popular role-playing game, directed by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, and starring Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Hugh Grant and Regé-Jean Page.
The opening night selection of last year’s festival was “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” which went on to become a box-office hit and awards season darling.
Other highlights from the upcoming festival’s headliners section include the world premieres of director Eva Longoria’s “Flamin’ Hot,” the story of Richard Montañez, the disputed creator of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and “Problemista,” a surreal adventure starring Tilda Swinton alongside writer-director Julio Torres. “Evil Dead Rise,” the latest entry in the venerable horror franchise, this time from Irish writer-director Lee Cronin, will also debut at the fest.
“It’s an amazing collection of films, TV series and XR experiences that promise to inspire, entertain and challenge our audiences,” Claudette Godfrey, the festival’s vice president of film & TV, said in a statement. “We’re also proud to open with ‘Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves,’ a raucous and engaging fantasy adventure, and look forward to welcoming everyone to Austin in March for what promises to be an unforgettable event.”
The festival’s Midnighters section is an eclectic bunch with Mongolian pic “Aberrance,” from debut filmmaker Baatar Batsukh, and a trio of Australian fare: the 1970s-set “Late Night With the Devil,” starring David Dastmalchian; alien conspiracy pic “Monolith,” with Lily Sullivan; and “Talk to Me,” a buzzy supernatural debut from YouTube stars and brothers Danny and Michael Philippou that will first bow at Sundance this month.
Writer-director Ted Geoghegan (“Mohawk,” “We Are Still Here”) also returns to the festival with “Brooklyn 45,” about a séance gone wrong in the wake of World War II, while Bishal Dutta spins feature debut “It Lives Inside” around an Indian American teen wrestling with identity and a demonic entity. And if you dug the gory 2020 thriller “Becky” — yes, the one in which an adolescent girl fights Kevin James in the woods — well, SXSW has a treat for you: the world premiere of sequel “Becky 2: The Wrath of Becky,” in which Lulu Wilson returns to take on more fascist bad guys as the titular teen heroine.
Among the narrative competition titles is “Parachute,” the feature directing debut from actor Brittany Snow, who also co-wrote the story of a woman overcoming her addictions. Writer-director Ally Pankiw’s “I Used to Be Funny” stars Rachel Sennott, a scene-stealer at last year’s festival with her turn in “Bodies Bodies Bodies.”
Writer-director-star Leah McKendrick will premiere her millennial comedy “Scrambled,” co-starring Ego Nwodim, Clancy Brown and Yvonne Strahovski. Director Lisa Steen’s tale of intergenerational friendship, “Late Bloomers,” stars Karen Gillan.
The Narrative Spotlight section will include Billy Luther’s “Frybread Face and Me” and Jake Johnson’s feature directing debut, “Self Reliance,” in which the “New Girl” star appears with a cast that also includes Anna Kendrick, Andy Samberg, Natalie Morales, Christopher Lloyd, Wayne Brady, Mary Holland and Boban Marjanović.
SXSW was among the first film festivals to embrace television. This year’s small-screen premieres include “I’m a Virgo,” from showrunner-director-screenwriter Boots Riley and starring Jharrel Jerome, while “Mrs. Davis,” from showrunner Tara Hernandez — credited as writer and producer alongside Damon Lindelof — stars Betty Gilpin. “Slip” is toplined by showrunner-director-screenwriter Zoe Lister-Jones.
Among the films in the festival’s documentary spotlight section are James Adolphus’ “Being Mary Tyler Moore,” an exploration of how the television icon revolutionized depictions of women, and Ondi Timoner’s “The New Americans: Gaming a Revolution,” which pulls together threads of finance, media and political extremism in contemporary culture.
Additional titles will be announced in early February.
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