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HtN’s 10 Most Anticipated Films of SXSW ‘24

For its 31st edition, the SXSW Film & TV Festival will host nine days of screenings from March 8-16, 2024. Bears Rebecca Fonté and Chris Reed will be deep in the hearth of Austin, Texas for the festival. Here are their picks for the always intriguing program.

Chris Reed’s Picks for SXSW 2024

2024 marks the 10th anniversary of my first-ever trip to Austin, Texas, for SXSW, and what a great decade for film (and more) it has been at the festival. Though not as dominant a launchpad for new work as its earlier-in-the-year cousins Sundance and Berlin, it remains an important showcase of a great variety of moving-image content, offering up not only films, but also episodic series and immersive experiences (as in VR, AR, XR, etc.), to say nothing of its attendant music festival, plus technology and additional conferences. Here are my recommendations of 5 things to see. Enjoy!

An Army of Women (Julie Lunde Lillesæter)

Set in Austin, this hard-hitting documentary examines the myriad ways in which the local police department and district attorney have failed victims of sexual assault and rape over the years. Filmmaker Julie Lunde Lillesæter, making her directorial feature debut—while also serving as cinematographer—follows a diverse group of women as they challenge the authorities who refuse to take their pain and suffering seriously. As much as some of the content can be hard to watch, there is good news at the end, as well as heartening fellowship along the way.

Billy & Molly: An Otter Love Story (Charlie Hamilton James)

Who doesn’t love a good nature documentary? As an addict of Dodo channel rescue stories, I am especially susceptible to gorgeous images married to the tale of some cute animal getting a second chance at life. Enter Molly, an otter who washes up on the shores of Scotland’s Shetland Islands only to be rescued by Billy, aided by wife Susan and sheepdog Jade. Shot in 4K, the movie promises to wow our eyes and warm our hearts. Director Charlie Hamilton James is a veteran National Geographic photographer and storyteller, so this should be more than good.

The Hobby (Simon Ennis, 2024)

Director Simon Ennis (Lunarcy!) takes us on a delightful ride into the world of board games with his latest documentary, which features a cast of unique and engaging characters. We meet enthusiasts of “the hobby” (as they call it), including players, collectors, journalists/podcasters, and designers, all of whom are given ample space to wax rhapsodic about their passion. At the center of the narrative is the first-ever World Series of Board Games, taking place in Las Vegas in 2022. Who wins? Everyone, for there is no greater prize than the joy of competition and, even more important, community.

The School of Canine Massage (Emma D. Miller)

One of 7 films in the Documentary Shorts Program 1, this lovely 10-minute movie brings us into the wonders of doggie massage. Think that pampering your pet in this way is just too much? Think again! These lucky canine companions clearly adore the attention. Director Emma D. Miller (producer of the 2022 SXSW feature What We Leave Behind), shows us the beauty of bonding with your fur baby in the best possible way. Plus, if you pay close attention, you’ll learn some good techniques to try at home.

A still from SCHOOL OF CANINE MASSAGE @Marcona Media

Secret Mall Apartment (Jeremy Workman, 2024)

From 2003-2007, a group of 8 artists set up a hidden, fully furnished apartment inside the Providence Place Mall in the heart of Rhode Island’s capital. Escaping the prying eyes of security, they found a vacant space created by the odd angles of the original construction and decided to do something with it. Their work was part performance art and part protest against the ways that gentrification was destroying old neighborhoods and pricing people like them out of the city center. It’s a story stranger than fiction that also serves as a meditation on the nature of art and its purpose. Director Jeremy Workman (Lily Topples the World) returns to SXSW with his latest documentary, which combines archival video, reenactments, and modern-day interviews to hold our attention with each and every frame.

Bears Rebecca Fonté’s Picks for SXSW 2024

SXSW the whole experience has staked its claim as the most synchronist festival in the world, standing at the confluence of film, music and technology. Bringing together creators from all these fields in one place, the program excels when it highlights projects that crossover from one sector to another. With that in mind, here are five films that I think best consummate the confluence of creativity that SXSW can deliver.

The Antisocial Network (Giorgio Angelini/Arthur Jones)

The team behind the documentary about Internet meme Pepe the Frog (Feels Good Man) dives deeper into incel culture and the website that brought together some of the worst instincts of man (and not woman) 4chan. Now, with the insight of time behind them, some of the original ‘channers’ look back at the hatred (and porn) they harvested and unleashed upon culture. Does the discord they nurtured still ‘feel good?’

Brandy Hellville & the Cult of Fast Fashion (Eva Orner)

Who is Brandy Melville? Founded by Italian designer and Ayn Rand enthusiast Silvio Marsan the ‘fast fashion’ brand depends on its teenage employees to steer its style and embraces instagram as its primary platform for marketing. Controversially manufacturing its pieces in only one size (which varies by the actual product) the so-called ‘One Size Fits All’ brand has been accused of adding to the toxicity of the current body image epidemic rampant in today’s youth. Is it true the door at their headquarters only open so far so that larger body can’t even get into the lobby? 

How Music Got Free (Alexandria Stapleton)

As someone who owns over 13,000 pieces of physical music media, I somehow escaped the sway of the piracy revolution that unraveled sixty plus years of the ‘machine.’ Everyone has heard of Napster, but this is the story of Dell Glover, a fugitive so anonymous that as this preview goes to publish he doesn’t even have a wikipedia page. How did this CD Baby factory worker ally with teenage hackers to upend an entire industry?”

A still from WAKHRI ©One of a Kind LLC

Wakhri (Iram Parveen Bilal)

Influencers come from the most implausible places as proven by this narrative based on the shocking story of Qandeel Baloch, a pakistani model and social commentator who achieved viral fame with her audition tape for Pakistan Idol. Her popular videos and her catchphrases like “How em luking?” (How am I looking?) and “Maire sar mai pain ho raha hai” (my head hurts) widely embraced by Pakistani youth eventually lead to her murder by her brother for bringing her family dishonor. 

My Sextortion Diary (Patricia Franquesa)

A stolen laptop that has nothing to do with Hunter Biden? I’m in. With her life leaving a digital trail of footprints behind her, Patti finds herself an easy target of extortion when her computer goes missing in this narrative feature from Spain. With the legal authorities powerless to assist her, she must find her own justice against this new state-of-the-art crime. What are you doing to preserve your privacy?

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm) & Bears Rebecca Fonté (@BearsFonte)


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