At the top of the month, we took a look ahead to over eighty new films we look forward to seeing this year, and now, as the winter and spring festivals reveal their lineups, the premieres of a good number of those titles are set. On Wednesday, the SXSW Film Festival, whose twenty-sixth edition will open in Austin on March 8 with Jordan Peele’s Us, unleashed an almost overwhelming round of over a hundred feature films and series episodes. There are undoubtedly more than a few discoveries tucked into the narrative and documentary competitions from filmmakers we don’t know much about yet. Scanning the other sections, here are some of the films that leap out at first glance:
- Matthew McConaughey is The Beach Bum in Harmony Korine’s latest, which also stars Snoop Dog, Zac Efron, and Isla Fisher.
- Lynn Shelton, who’s been wildly busy directing television (Mad Men, Glow, the list is a long one), returned to feature filmmaking in 2017 with Outside In. Her new one, Sword of Trust, stars Marc Maron as a pawnshop owner who teams up with his sidekick and a couple to sell an antique sword that some believe proves that the South actually won the Civil War.
- Bob Byington (Somebody Up There Likes Me, 7 Chinese Brothers) is back at SXSW with Frances Ferguson, a comedy narrated by Nick Offerman about a woman who can’t seem to keep out of trouble.
- Olivia Wilde makes her directorial debut with Booksmart, a high school comedy starring Jessica Williams, Will Forte, Lisa Kudrow, and Jason Sudeikis.
- Tom Cullen, who won awards and hearts with his turn as Russell in Andrew Haigh’s Weekend (2011), is also debuting as a director. Pink Wall is a relationship drama starring Tatiana Maslany and Jay Duplass.
- The Day Shall Come, by Chris Morris (Four Lions and four episodes of Veep), is a comedic thriller about terrorism.
- Jesse Eisenberg will take up karate in Riley Stearns’s The Art of Self-Defense.
- Jessica Oreck (Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo) will bring One Man Dies a Million Times, which centers on a Russian couple who, in the near future, struggle to save a seed bank.
- Among the docs are Sandy K. Boone’s J. R. “Bob” Dobbs and The Church of the SubGenius, which will tell us how an inside joke became a cultural phenomenon, and David Modigliani’s Running with Beto, which tracks Beto O’Rourke’s rise from obscurity to current talk of a presidential run.
- One series highlight will surely be Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows, which picks up where their 2014 feature left off.
Special events will include the premiere of Love, Death & Robots, an anthology of animated shorts overseen by David Fincher (The Social Network) and Tim Miller (Deadpool). Robert Rodriguez, probably most famous for making a feature, El Mariachi, in 1992 on a budget of $7,000, has made another film, Red 11, for $7,000, and he’ll be talking about how he’s pulled it off. And David Byrne will be on hand for a screening of a new 4K restoration of his True Stories (1986).
Last week, the Sundance Film Festival announced two final additions to its lineup, Alison Klayman’s The Brink, a documentary about what Steve Bannon’s been up to since he left the White House, and Dan Reed’s Leaving Neverland, in which two men in their thirties discuss their allegations against Michael Jackson, namely, that the pop star sexually abused them when one of them was seven years old and the other, ten. As Zack Sharf reports for IndieWire, not only has Jackson’s estate condemned the film but his fans have been inundating the festival’s corporate partners with messages and social media posts protesting the screening. This week, Sundance confirmed that it would not be pulling the film and, in a statement to its partners, recommended that they not “comment publicly or engage in the discourse around Leaving Neverland.” HBO will broadcast the film in the spring, and Channel 4 has acquired rights for Britain. Sundance 2019 opens next Thursday and runs through February 3.
With its latest round of announcements, the Berlin International Film Festival has now completed its competition and Berlinale Special lineups. Amazing Grace, the Aretha Franklin documentary that is, by all accounts, absolutely transporting, Adam McKay’s Vice, and Farewell to the Night, André Téchiné’s eighth collaboration with Catherine Deneuve, will all screen out of competition. That leaves just two new titles that’ll actually be competing for the Golden Bear, Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms, based on his experiences as an Israeli in Paris, and Zhang Yimou’s One Second, which centers on a film buff and a homeless woman in northwestern China in the mid-1970s.
Among the previously announced films that Synonyms and One Second will go up against is Mr. Jones, the latest feature from Agnieszka Holland. As a screenwriter, Holland has collaborated with Andrzej Wajda and Krzysztof Kieślowski, and as a director, she’s seen two of her films, Europa Europa (1990) and In Darkness (2011), nominated for Academy Awards. She’s also directed episodes of David Simon’s The Wire and Treme as well as her own miniseries, Burning Bush, and next month, she’ll be pitching a new one. Napoleon will explore the cult of personality that swelled up around the man who would become Emperor of the French. Written by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, the team behind Sleeper Cell and the Kung Fu Panda franchise, Napoleon is one of ten projects that the Berlinale’s coproduction market has invited to pitch during its Drama Series Days (February 11 through 13).