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When it comes to North American film festivals, Austin, Texas’ South By Southwest (or SXSW) is one of the top three fests, alongside Sundance and Toronto. But SXSW not just a film festival, but a music festival, political event, and electronics trade show in one.
Most of the SXSW "festival territory" is on the notorious Sixth Avenue entertainment district, where there are dozens of clubs and the best pizza in the state. Within this area is 80% of the whole thing.
The SXSW festival (known by some as “South-buy”) was founded in 1986 by the people who ran the New Music Seminar (http://newmusicseminar.com/). After the first few years, the festival changed it’s name from NMS to Southwest, and became an annual fixture that basically takes over downtown Austin for two weeks. The whole mishegas is divided into three major parts and several smaller ones. Music, Movies and Interactive, plus what they call “eco” and some other things I can’t recall.
InteractiveThe Interactive portion of the festival is is a trade show, pure and simple, with products on exhibition and various seminars. The thing will start when at 8AM with the first panel discussions. President Obama himself makes a keynote speech Friday, March 11 at 2:30pm at Dell Hall at The Long Center for the Performing Arts (701 W Riverside Dr., off Guadalupe), admission for that is via a lottery.
MusicWhen Interactive ends, then the music festival starts. This is also a convention, but is more open and there are lots of places where one can just hang out and do what God put Austin there for you to do, listen to country-western and punk until you’re ears bleed. The entire industry will be there to some extent and it’s going to be one of those party-till-you-drop events.
FilmThis thing goes on for nine days. They’re going to screen 139 films: 89 world premieres, 14 North American premieres and seven U.S. premieres, including 52 films from first-time directors. These films were selected from 2,455 feature-length film submissions composed of 1,467 U.S. and 990 international feature-length films from a total of 7,235 submissions.
Among the highlights are a special work-in-progress preview screening of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s catnapping comedy Keanu, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused sequel Everybody Wants Some and John Michael McDonagh’s brilliantly titled: War on Everyone.
Notable world premieres include Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice, starring the above mentioned Keegan-Michael Key; Ti West’s In a Valley of Violence, starring Ethan Hawke and Taissa Farmiga; The Master Cleanse, with Johnny Galecki and Anna Friel; Sophie Goodhart’s My Blind Brother, starring Adam Scott and Nick Kroll; Shovel Buddies, featuring Bella Thorne; The Trust, starring Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood; and Kasra Farahani’s The Waiting, with James Caan.
Among the non premiers are: Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition, which opened Toronto in September, stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts and Chris Cooper and biopics about Miles Davis Miles Ahead, starring Don Cheadle, which closed the New York Film Festival last year) and Chet Baker (Born to Be Blue, starring Ethan Hawke).Not only that, they’ve decided to include TV shows: Danny McBride’s Vice Principals will also be featured. Between these three, there’s almost no time to sleep. (there is also an “Eco” section, or so they say—wow).
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