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While SXSW is known for its musical line-up, its fascinating panels, and its outrageous parties, the film festival portion alone gives good enough reason to make the trek down to Austin. This year, after vetting a grand total of 8,183 entrants, the SXSW Film Staff selected 307 feature films, short films, music videos, independent episodics, title sequences, and virtual reality projects. 

Consisting of 89 world premieres, 13 North American premieres, and 49 feature films from first time filmmakers, this year's selections are inspiring in their breadth and depth. With AAA premieres flanked by low-budget shoe-stringers, for the next two weeks theaters around the city will be jam-packed full of passionate enthusiasts excited to get an advance look at the freshest on the silver screen. It's rather difficult to be in three places at once, so we had to spend some serious research time finding our 25 must sees. 

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Narrative Features

Isle of Dogs

ISLE OF DOGS tells the story of ATARI KOBAYASHI, 12-year-old ward to corrupt Mayor Kobayashi. When, by Executive Decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture. Source.

Ghost Stories a film by Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman. | Credit: Courtesy of IFC Midnight.

Ghost Stories a film by Jeremy Dyson & Andy Nyman. | Credit: Courtesy of IFC Midnight.

Ghost Stories

"Ghost Stories" stars Nyman as Professor Goodman, a psychologist and skeptic, who has his rationality tested when he stumbles across a long-lost file containing details of three terrifying hauntings. He then embarks on a mission to find rational explanations for the ghostly happenings. Paul Whitehouse (“The Death of Stalin”) and Alex Lawther (“The Imitation Game”) also star alongside Freeman, known to audiences worldwide as Dr. Watson in “Sherlock.” Source.

A Vigilante

A once abused woman, Sadie (Olivia Wilde), devotes herself to ridding victims of their domestic abusers while hunting down the husband she must kill to truly be free. A Vigilante is a thriller inspired by the strength and bravery of real domestic abuse survivors and the incredible obstacles to safety they face. Source.


BARRY is a dark comedy starring Bill Hader as a depressed, low-rent hitman from the Midwest. Lonely and dissatisfied in his life, he reluctantly travels to Los Angeles to execute a hit on an aspiring actor. Barry follows his “mark” into an acting class and ends up finding an accepting community in a group of eager hopefuls within the LA theater scene. Barry wants to start a new life as an actor but his criminal past won’t let him walk away -- can he find a way to balance both worlds? The eight-episode series also stars Stephen Root, Sarah Goldberg, Glenn Fleshler, Anthony Carrigan and Henry Winkler. The series was created, executive produced and written by Alec Berg and Bill Hader. Source.

American Animals | Credit: The Orchard

American Animals | Credit: The Orchard

American Animals

American Animals is both a heist movie and a misguided existential journey of four young men searching in all the wrong places for identity, adventure and a “special" life. Spencer wants to become an artist but doesn’t have anything to say. His friend Warren has been raised to believe that his life will be special. As they start university, it dawns on them that their lives may never be unique or extraordinary in any way. On a library tour, Spencer is shown the special collections room - home to the country’s most valuable books. When he shares this with Warren, they begin to wonder: what would their lives look like if they planned to execute the perfect robbery? Source.

Don't Leave Home

Melanie Thomas is an American artist whose latest show recounts the infamous Irish urban legend of Father Alistair Burke, who painted a portrait of 8-year-old Siobhan Callahan in 1986. Days later, Siobhan went missing on the very morning that her figure miraculously vanished from the painting as well. Though absolved of any wrongdoing, Burke abandoned the priesthood and went into self-exile. After receiving a bad review before her opening, Melanie is contacted by the reclusive Burke, who offers to fly her to Ireland to create a new sculpture that he will help her to sell while she’s there. Telling no one where she’s going, Melanie never stops to consider that some urban legends are real. Source.

AJIN: Demi-Human

Kei Nagai became a medical intern to save his sick little sister. One day, he dies in an accident, but he comes back to life right away. He realizes he's a demi-human, “Ajin”, and his life collapses. Captured by the government, he becomes a guinea pig for inhumane experiments. Suddenly, Sato - a vicious Ajin terrorist fighting against all mankind - comes to his rescue. Torn about his fate, Kei cannot bring himself to agree with Sato's vision for Ajin's future. Soon, Sato's shocking game against the government starts. Mankind clashing against Ajin, Ajin clashing against Ajin. The endless battle between two men who will not die. How are Ajins going to live their eternal life? Source.

Final Portrait

FINAL PORTRAIT is the story of the touching and offbeat friendship between American writer and art-lover James Lord and world renowned artist Alberto Giacometti, as seen through Lord’s eyes and revealing unique insight into the beauty, frustration, profundity and sometimes the chaos of the artistic process. Based on Lord’s memoir, set in 1964, while on a short trip to Paris, Lord is asked by his friend, Giacometti, to sit for a portrait. The process, promises Giacometti, will take only a few days and so Lord agrees — ultimately wondering "how much longer can it go on like this?" Source.


Elvis Presley The Searcher

Elvis Presley The Searcher

Elvis Presley The Searcher

The film takes the audience on a comprehensive creative journey from his childhood in Tupelo, Mississippi - where he absorbed the inspirations of black and white gospel music - through the final 1976 Jungle Room recording sessions at his iconic Graceland home in Memphis. It includes stunning atmospherics shot inside and around Graceland and features new interviews with session players, producers, engineers, directors and other artists who knew him or who were profoundly influenced by him including Priscilla Presley, Emmylou Harris, Robbie Robertson, Bruce Springsteen, Stax Records Producer David Porter and, in interviews conducted before their passing, Scotty Moore, Red West and Tom Petty. Source.

Meow Wolf: Origin Story

A group of artists in Santa Fe, NM become a DIY collective called Meow Wolf. Their immersive, large-scale exhibitions crack open a profitable niche in the arts industry, even as their social mission is challenged by the demands of rapid success. The group’s members navigate fracture and loss for years in pursuit of their idealistic vision. When they spark the interest of George R. R. Martin and receive his support to take over an old bowling alley, Meow Wolf builds a massive exhibition with over 140 artists working at a breakneck pace. With the wild success of the House of Eternal Return, Meow Wolf now faces its own internal turmoil as it begins to change the lives of creatives everywhere. Source.

Alt-Right: Age of Rage

Trump has won and the Alt-Right is on the rise. His improbable victory brought a previously hidden movement out of the fringe. On the other side, the shadow collective Antifa and civil rights organizations like the SPLC and NAACP are fighting back in the courts, the media, and the streets. “ALT-RIGHT: AGE OF RAGE” is a hard-hitting expose, investigating major players on both sides of the battle. As tensions between Americans in the first year of the Trump era boil over, the battle culminates in the tragic events of Charlottesville. Source.

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The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From A Mythical Man

One man's journey to find meaning in Bill Murray's many unexpected adventures with everyday people, rare and never-before seen footage of the comedic icon partipating in stories previously presumed to be urban legend. Whether it be singing karaoke late at night with strangers or crashing a kickball game in the middle of the afternoon, Bill Murray lives in the moment and by doing so, creates magic with real people. Source.

 The Director and The Jedi

 The Director and The Jedi

The Director and The Jedi

An intimate documentary delving into Rian Johnson's process as he comes in as a director new to the Star Wars universe. A fan since childhood, he sets out to make the most powerful Star Wars movie he can. Navigating the mammoth production, the scale of which he’s never directed before, we meet his cast and crew, see their individual challenges in bringing the film together, say goodbye to Carrie Fisher, and explore the significance of Rian’s more surprising decisions. Source.

People's Republic of Desire

In a digital universe where live streamers earn as much as $200K a month, can virtual relationships replace real-life human connection? People's Republic of Desire tells the stories of two such online stars who've risen from isolation to fame and fortune in China. The film takes us on a vérité journey through their live streaming showrooms, which have become virtual gathering places for hundreds of millions - from the super rich who lavish performers with digital gifts, to poor migrant workers who worship them. The characters are brought together in a series of bizarre online idol competitions, where they discover that happiness in their virtual world may be as elusive as in the real one. Source.

Daughters of the Sexual Revolution: The Untold Story of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

DAUGHTERS OF THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION is the never-before-told story of Suzanne Mitchell, the fiercely-loyal den mother of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Seen by many as regressive and exploitative, this diverse sisterhood of small-town “girls next door” became a controversial pop culture phenomenon at the height of the Sexual Revolution, changing the game of football -- and America -- forever. Source.

Satan performing in This One's For The Ladies | Credit: Determined Pictures LLC

Satan performing in This One's For The Ladies | Credit: Determined Pictures LLC

This One's For The Ladies

This One's For The Ladies is not for straight white men. It's a documentary for and about black and brown women and their allies. If you're an adult and like to have a laugh about adult things, you'll have a great time with the Ladies. However, if you are easily offended by an honest discussion of female sexuality, seeing a large black penis, or by getting real about how racial disparities impact the lives of these Ladies outside of the club, then this is not the movie for you. Source.

The Coffin Club

Musical and documentary unite to introduce The Coffin Club, a truly unique community organization bringing free-spirited seniors together to construct and personalize their own low-cost coffins. Based in small town New Zealand, with over 60 active members, this group of inspirational elderly meet once a week to rejoice in life while facing the realities of death. Source.

A Night at The Garden

In 1939, New York's Madison Square Garden played host to an American Nazi rally, mere months before the start of World War II. Through the use of archival footage, director Marshall Curry captures the fervor and magnitude of the German American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization based in the US. In the wake of the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia, this film elucidates a decades-long presence of Nazism in America and its relevance to today's political climate. Source.

Come & Take It

This short documentary film captures the transformation of a young woman to leadership of America’s most irreverent anti-gun violence movement called #CocksNotGlocks. After concealed carry of handguns is legalized on the University of Texas campus, Jessica Jin posts clever humor on social media, and with the help of a tight-knit group of young female students, a movement is born: The Great Texas Dildo Revolt. Source.

Virtual Cinema

The Atrium

Meow Wolf enters the world of interactive digital storytelling with THE ATRIUM. The Santa Fe-based collective channels the creativity behind its acclaimed, large-scale installations into a new form of storytelling. Meow Wolf injects the virtual into physical reality through its custom haptic installation, the first part of a cross-modal system aimed at virtual storytellers. Unravel the mystery of the portal-hopping Selig family from a new perspective, as a surveillance agent downloaded into the body of a cybernetic host. Adrift in the multiverse, you are tasked with investigating the abnormalities surrounding Morgan Selig. Source.

Beethoven's Fifth

Journey into interstellar space with a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth, First Movement by the Philharmonia Orchestra, London - featuring principal conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen. This experience is inspired by content on Voyager's Golden Record and is a collaboration between Daydream, the Philharmonia Orchestra, NASA, and NASA JPL. The Philharmonia Orchestra has released its second exclusive piece of Virtual Reality content, Beethoven’s Fifth. Commissioned by Daydream and directed by Jessica Brillhart, the film was conceived in partnership with Google and NASA to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft, and the Golden Records that they each carried. Source.

Everything Flows

Everything Flows

Everything Flows

Returning to the hometown after year's absence, the Director experienced a strange and overwhelming journey. Everything has changed or distorted beyond recognition. It's like feeling homesick for a place that doesn't even exist. However, the memories are still vivid. That's where she had her first life lesson and where everything began. This VR experience presents a surreal city views with a mixture of painting, video capture, sounds, dreaming, memory, and reality. You will be existed as an participant of Director's memory. You are welcome to explore, to see and to feel the space and the moments. Source.

Hold the World

Sir David Attenborough will take people behind the glass at London’s Natural History Museum in Hold The World, a world-first interactive virtual reality experience. Users will get ‘hands-on’ access to rare objects, while a three-dimensional hologram of Sir David offers his own unique insight on each specimen in a one-on-one interactive experience. Source.

Living With Jaguars

Living With Jaguars is an interactive virtual reality film documenting wild jaguars in Brazil. Part documentary and part immersive game, Living With Jaguars explores historical and current tensions in a rural region where jaguars prey on ranchers' cattle and ranchers kill them in retaliation. Now, ranchers and jaguars must find new ways to co-exist - or risk the future of a species under threat. In this film, users explore the complex and interconnected perspectives of four key stakeholders: jaguars, ranchers, conservation researchers, and ecotourism operators. Each is vying to protect their destiny in one of the harshest and most unforgiving regions of the world. Source.


GFE is an immersive 360 experimental film featuring a high end escort. The film's POV shifts from 3rd person to 1st person, offering an unflinching look at sex work while also forcing the viewer to confront an illicit activity. Ultimately the film seeks to explore the ever-increasing intersection of technology and pornography. Source.

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