The South by Southwest organizers continue fanning the flames of anticipation.
While the music component of the festival — which kicks off Friday and runs for 10 days — turns 22 this year, the relatively younger film and interactive aspects (launched in 1994) dominate the headlines with a salient lineup of promising screenings and noteworthy speakers.
Although the handful of movies in official competition remain decisively beyond the mainstream, a number of familiar faces plan to take advantage of SXSW’s lively environment to premiere high-profile works — all of which appeal to SXSW’s young attendees.
"Observe and Report," a new Seth Rogen vehicle co-starring Anna Faris, will debut as a centerpiece of the festival in Austin’s lavish Paramount Theater. The event brings Rogen back to the festival following his attendance for the premiere of "Knocked Up" in 2007.
Arriving with similar fanfare, "Spider-Man" director Sam Raimi plans a midnight showing of a work-in-progress cut of his upcoming horror film, "Drag Me to Hell." Veteran director Jonathan Demme brings his latest music doc, "Neil Young Trunk Show," on March 21, right in the center of the concert section of the conference.
And just yesterday, SXSW revealed that Fox will show 20 minutes from Sacha Baron Cohen’s developing feature "Bruno." No word yet on whether Cohen will show up in character.
Overall, it appears that SXSW film festival producer Janet Pierson has attempted to emulate the approach of her younger predecessor, Matt Dentler, in combining a program of low-budget films from mostly new and emerging artists with hip, media-friendly events.
Under Dentler, who left for a job at the sales company Cinetic, where he continues to work with independent filmmakers,- the festival became an essential contributor to the growth of the American independent film community. It will continue that tradition by hosting a series of conversations and initiatives based around the future of the medium.
IFC Films, one of the most active distributors at the festival, will premiere a number of movies on the same days that they become available on demand through the company’s Festival Direct cable channel. Meanwhile, the Austin Convention Center will host numerous panels on the future of distribution and the impact of new technologies on film production.
Major events this year include discussions with filmmakers Robert Rodriguez, Henry Selick, Todd Haynes and Richard Linklater. Additionally, in a perfect melding of the festival’s film and interactive ingredients, IMDb founder Col Needham will make a rare public appearance to discuss his famous online database.
Although the schedule sounds dense, nobody is expected to take it all in at once: SXSW brought in roughly 9,000 attendees last year, and current organizers hope to break that staggering record.