The 2022 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival completed its programming Saturday, March 19, 2022. For nine days straight, fans around the world were able to experience provocative features, comedies that caused belly-laughs, horror flicks, and more! The SXSW line-up consisted of 99 Features including 76 World Premieres, 4 International Premieres, 4 North American Premieres, 2 U.S. Premieres, 13 Texas Premieres, and 111 Short Films. Essentially, fans of TV and film will have plenty to look forward to for the rest of the year.
This was my first time covering the SXSW film festival. And though I opted out of attending in person (Austin, TX), the virtual programming was one for the books. As usual, I gravitated to the horror features but also included some TV premieres in my schedule. Who would have thought? But after a great festival experience, I already cannot wait to experience the festival again next year. Here’s a recap of some wonderful 2022 SXSW festival moments.
Noteworthy Crowd Pleasers
1) Everything Everywhere All at Once | Directors: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert
On the opening night of SXSW 2022, the festival treated audiences to the anticipated Everything Everywhere All at Once in Austin, TX. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this screening in person, and the festival opted out of online options. However, there has been vast amounts of buzz surrounding this feature, which makes me all the more excited to see it on March 24th. Plus, Michelle Yeoh… need I say more?
2) The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent | Director: Tom Gormican
If you ever needed a reason to check out a movie, may I interest you in one starring Sir Nicolas Cage? At this point in his career, he’s tackling horror epics (Mandy, 2018), balancing emotional indie slow burns (Pig, 2021), bringing chaos to creative worlds (Prisoners of the Ghostland, 2021), and a lot more in between. But what better way to enjoy Nic Cage on screen than as himself? Director Gormican’s picture The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent does exactly that, and I can’t wait to see it. Premiering to rave reviews, the feature highlighted the film as a love letter to the man himself. What could be better? The movie is set to hit theaters April 22, 2022.
1) Linoleum | Director: Colin West
Synopsis: When a satellite falls from orbit and crashes into the suburban home of a dysfunctional family in Ohio, the father seizes the opportunity to fulfill his dream of becoming an astronaut by re-building it into his own rocket ship. While his wife and daughter believe he’s experiencing a midlife crisis, surreal events begin to unfold around him, forcing him to reconsider how interconnected their lives truly are… Principal Cast: Jim Gaffigan, Rhea Seehorn, Katelyn Nacon, Gabriel Rush, Amy Hargreaves, West Duchovny, Michael Ian Black, Tony Shalhoub, Elisabeth Henry, Roger Hendricks Simon
Review: No film was able to shock me emotionally as much as writer-director Colin West’s Linoleum. In this story about love and family, West provides audiences with a creative narrative with a chaotic dynamic among his characters. And though the story takes a while to get going to its point and big reveal, the end result is worth it for the effect alone!
2) Bitch Ass | Director: Bill Posley
Synopsis: The year is 1980. Young Cecil is bullied by kids in the 6th Street gang for being fat, shy, and always playing board games. They all pick on him and call him Bitch Ass. On a gang initiation night, they jump him and leave him for dead. Fast forward to 1999. No one has seen or heard from Bitch Ass since, and he has become an urban legend. Now, a new crop of 6th Street recruits are gearing up for another initiation night. They get tasked with robbing a house, but little do they know they’re walking into Bitch Ass’ house, and he has been plotting his revenge by building deadly versions of the childhood games they bullied him for playing. Let the games begin! Principal Cast: Sheaun McKinney, Tunde Laleye, Me’Lisa Sellers, Teon Kelly, and Tony Todd
Review: “Often occupied with humor to pair opposite of its horror elements, Posley’s Bitch Ass takes confident strides towards a steady balance of fun and terror.” The film features exciting callbacks to Tales from the Hood and Saw, venturing off to a horror epic with perfectly placed flashbacks, editing, and frequent humor. Bill Posley’s feature is a must-watch. Check out my full review at Pop Culture Reviews.
3) Chee$e | Director: Damian Marcano
Synopsis: In a remote village “behind God’s back” (“even God must have forgotten about it,” the locals crack), Skimma dreams of leaving the only place he’s known to explore the world. When Rebecca tells him she’s pregnant, Skimma is torn between leaving the island and the responsibilities that come with fatherhood. Principal Cast: Akil Gerard Williams, Lou Lyons, Ayanna Cezanne, Yidah Leonard, Binta Ford, Julio Prince, Trevison Pantin, Kevin Ash, Omar Jarra, Damian Marcano
Review: Chee$e is an island dreamer’s delight with hypnotic visuals and beautifully shot scenes dispersed throughout. Though it’s a story about escaping an island to explore what the world has to offer, so much of the film’s beauty lies in the people and livelihoods within Trinidad and Tobago. Additionally, Director Marcano captures Black manhood and responsibility with care and passion. For my full review, head to Pop Culture Reviews.
4) X | Director: Ti West
Synopsis: In 1979, a group of young filmmakers set out to make an adult film in rural Texas, but when their reclusive, elderly hosts catch them in the act, the cast find themselves fighting for their lives. Principal Cast: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Martin Henderson, Brittany Snow, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure, Scott Mescudi
Review: Ti West’s X is like a horror gift full of surprises that keep on giving. The film is a celebration of low-budget porn filmmaking, which may sound like a mess upon first glance. But with a perfect cast under Ti West’s stellar direction and his perfect capture of 1970s glam, this is the 2022 A24 movie you need to see. It’s in theaters now! For my full review, head over to Cinema Debate.
Episodic Premiere Highlights
For this year’s SXSW film festival, I surprised myself in ways I never thought were possible. I watched TV shows! To the average person, those statements together might seem silly. But anyone who knows me knows that I have a terrible habit of 1) always being behind of television shows and 2) never making it past pilot episodes. If there was ever a time for me to change, it was at the 2022 SXSW festival! Here are two episodic premieres I watched and thoroughly enjoyed:
1) They Call Me Magic | Director: Rick Famuyiwa
Synopsis: The four-part docuseries explores the remarkable accomplishments and global impact of Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s life, both on and off the court. From his humble beginnings in Lansing, Michigan to becoming a five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, he changed the conversation around HIV and transcended into a community activist and successful entrepreneur. Featuring never-before-seen footage and interviews with Magic, powerhouses from business and politics, and those in his inner circle, the series offers an unprecedented look at one of sport’s all-time greats.
Review: “Rick Famuyiwa’s four-part docuseries is a basketball fan’s dream. Exploring the impact and accomplishments of basketball star Magic Johnson, the docuseries is exciting from beginning to end. From his early start at Michigan State to his activism around HIV, Magic has become an instrumental figure in popular culture. And some of the never-before-seen footage will be sure to become new favorites among basketball fans everywhere.” The series will premiere on Apple TV+ on Friday, April 22, 2022.
2) The Girl from Plainville | Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Synopsis: Hulu’s “The Girl From Plainville” is inspired by the true story of Michelle Carter’s unprecedented “texting-suicide” case. Based on the Esquire article of the same name by Jesse Barron, the limited series explores Carter’s relationship with Conrad Roy III and the events that led to his death and, later, her conviction of involuntary manslaughter. Principal Cast: Elle Fanning, Chloë Sevigny, Colton Ryan, Cara Buono, Kai Lennox, Norbert Leo Butz
Review: “One of my most anticipated television shows of the year is The Girl from Plainville, and the first episode did not disappoint. With a story as shocking as the premise of this series, it’s hard not to become engrossed by everything it has to offer. Additionally, Elle Fanning’s performance in just the first episode is enough to get me hooked ahead of its premiere date. I can see this becoming one of Hulu’s best series.” See this based-on-a-true-story unfold on Tuesday, Hulu March 29, 2022.
Festival Winners | Highlights
Head on over to the SXSW website for a full list of film festival award winners. Here are some highlights:
1) Narrative Feature Competition Grand Jury Award
I Love My Dad | Director: James Morosini
Synopsis: Inspired by Writer/Director/Star James Morosini’s true life experience, I Love My Dad follows Chuck (Patton Oswalt), an estranged father who desperately wants to reconnect with his depressive son, Franklin (Morosini). Blocked on social media and concerned for his son’s life, Chuck impersonates a waitress (Claudia Sulewski) online and starts checking in with Franklin. But things begin to spiral when Franklin falls for this imaginary girl and wants nothing more than to meet her in person, as Chuck has inadvertently catfished his own son. Principal Cast: Patton Oswalt, James Morosini, Claudia Sulewski, Rachel Dratch, Ricky Velez, Lil Rel Howery, Amy Landecker
2) Short Film Jury Award for Documentary Short
Long Line of Ladies | Directors: Rayka Zehtabchi and Shaandiin Tome
Synopsis: A girl and her community prepare for her Ihuk, the once-dormant coming of age ceremony of the Karuk tribe of Northern California.
3) Special Jury Recognition for Directing and Community Filmmaking
Glitter Ain’t Gold | Director: Christian Nolan Jones
Synopsis: Jibril has a crush on Marlana, but she doesn’t notice him because she’s in awe of his sworn enemy, Rashad. After class, Jibril makes a declaration, “I’ma get me a chain.” His best friend, Tawanda, reluctantly supports this notion, and their journey begins.
4) The ZEISS Cinematography Award
A Vanishing Fog | Director: Director: Augusto Sandino | Cinematographer: Gio Park
Synopsis: The first feature film to be shot in the mysterious and endangered Páramo of Sumapaz, a crucial territory for the ecological balance of the western hemisphere, A VANISHING FOG draws on longstanding Latin American traditions of cinematic surrealism to tell the story of F, a solitary explorer and guardian of the mountains, condemned by his fate. He strives to protect the mystical and fragile ecosystem he inhabits while caring for his ailing father. Principal Cast: Sebastian Pii, Mario de Jesús Viana, Christian Ballesteros
Thank you for reading my recap of the 2022 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival! Until next year 🙂