Hollywood, Silicon Valley and music industry hopefuls will once again don their hipster gear for the 2015 South by Southwest Festival, which kicks off Friday in Austin, Texas.
Movies, TV, conversations with artists and experts in a variety of fields, plus live musical performances will abound at this intersection of culture and technology. And this year, you don’t have to be there to feel like you are.
Roku and the fest have team to create SXSW On, which will stream 12 hours of free coverage from the event’s varied offerings each day.
TheWrap sizes up the buzziest elements of this year’s lineup, starting with…
A Crowded Film State
“Faced with a record 2,400 feature submissions, we had every intention of cutting back on the total number in our lineup,” said the fest’s film chief Janet Pierson, when she announced the lineup in January. “But as we discovered the fantastic array of talent and fell in love with these 145 features, we had no choice but to program as many that resonated as possible.”
Here are a few of the films we think you should check out at SXSW:
Director: Alex Garland
Cast: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander
Prolific screenwriter Alex Garland makes his directorial debut on “Ex Machina,” which is having its world premiere in the Headliners category of SXSW. Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac, two of the stars of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” headline this slightly smaller sci-fi tale about a genius eccentric billionaire, an unsuspecting employee who works for him and the girl-like artificially intelligent robot caught between them.
GTFO: Get The F% Out
Director: Shannon Sun-Higginson
As GamerGate continues to rage on across social media, director Sun-Higginson serves up a timely documentary on the issue of gender inequality, misogyny and harassment in the video game industry. Through interviews with video game creators, journalists, and academics, the film will seek to “paint a complex picture of the video game industry, while revealing the systemic and human motivations behind acts of harassment.”
Director: Alex Winter
A “ripped from the headlines” tale for the digital age, the documentay chronicles the recent capture of Ross William Ulbricht, the online entrepreneur known as Dread Pirate Roberts. He owned and operated the online black market Silk Road and the film examines “how the brightest minds and thought leaders behind the Deep Web and Bitcoin are now caught in the cross-hairs of the battle for control of a future inextricably linked to technology, with our digital rights hanging in the balance.” It will air on EPIX.
Hello, My Name Is Doris
Director: Michael Showalter
Cast: Sally Field, Max Greenfield, Beth Behrs, Wendi Mclendon-Covey
Michael Showalter directing Sally Field in what could be her comeback role? Yes, please. The actress hasn’t had a substantial role since 2012’s “Lincoln,” and even then she had to play second fiddle to Daniel Day Lewis as arguably the most popular U.S. President in history. But in “Hello My Name Is Doris,” Field gets free reign as the titular Doris, who rediscovers herself by immersing in Brooklyn’s hipster scene.
This biopic focuses on the formative years of Beach Boys front man Brian Wilson and features Paul Dano and John Cusack playing the musician at various points in his life. It has buzz after debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival, especially for its score by Atticus Ross. It’s already been picked up for distribution by Roadside Attractions.
Director: Etan Cohen
Cast: Will Ferrell, Kevin Hart, Tip “T.I.” Harris, Alison Brie and Craig T. Nelson
Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart combine comedy brands in this film about a hedge fund manager who is collared for fraud and tasks a man he thinks is a hardened criminal with preparing him for life behind bars. Shenanigans ensue. Comedy writer Etan Cohen, who did the films like “Idiocracy” and “Tropic Thunder,” makes his directorial debut here. See the movie before it’s released nationwide on Mar 27.
The increasing importance of technology in everyday life is, naturally, a big topic of discussion at this year’s SXSW. Despite, or maybe because of, that the panels that virtually guarantee thoughtful conversation and some good old-fashioned entertainment are a popular part of the fun.
Here are our picks for the conferences and conversations to seek out this year:
A Conversation with Ryan Gosling and Guillermo Del Toro
Friday, March 13
Austin Convention Center
Gosling is premiering his directorial debut “Lost River,” and who better to talk through the stylized, twisted fairy tale than Del Toro, a master of the art? The two have never worked together before, but seem oddly compatible. May this be the beginning of a long and prolific collaboration.
Advocates vs Agitators: the Social Influence
Sunday, March 15
As technology becomes more central than ever to the convergence of film/TV, music and pop culture, a few experts in the field gather to discuss how just one bad customer service experience can send a brand viral — in the worst way possible. Social media ambassadors from Southwest Airlines, Chevrolet and Oracle discuss the fine line corporations are now forced to walk between placating potential costumers and standing up to anonymous online trolls.
The VEEP Speaks
Monday, March 16
Austin Convention Center
The cast of “Veep” is hilarious on stage and off (their awards season shenanigans are proof), so any conversation with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and whichever of her “Veep” cohorts along for the ride should be well worth your time. She’ll be joined by Matt Walsh, who plays her increasingly superfluous communications manager Mike, and Sam Richardson, the bumbling new campaign staffer she just can’t seem to get rid of.
Keynote on a High-Note
The rapper will be giving the keynote speech during the music portion of the Austin-set film, music and technology festival. His speech will be open to those holding music and platinum passes. There’s no word on what he’ll talk about, but the veteran of the recording star and filmmaker always has plenty to say. Previous keynote speakers include Lady Gaga last year and Dave Grohl, who spoke last year.
Bringing the mosh-pit to your living room
This year Roku and SXSW have teamed up to deliver SXSW On, the perfect solution for those who want to enjoy SXSW from home.
It’s an on-demand streaming channel for Roku users that will broadcast 12 hours of live SXSW coverage each day. The free service isn’t just for SXSW’s music offerings, either.
During the tech portion of the festival, the streaming channel will run four hours of material daily, including keynote addresses and tech-centered panels.
“People can tune into South by Southwest on their (own) time but will experience the excitement of it as it’s happening,” Scott Wilcox, the festival’s director of technology, told USA Today.
The film portion of the festival kicks off on Friday with the world premiere of the Russell Brand documentary “BRAND: A Second Coming,” and close on March 21.