Has the SXSW Film Festival really been around for 25 years? It feels like just yesterday that this addendum to the venerable Austin, Texas music gathering began programming scrappy microbudget indies and a multitude of rock docs for curious visitors. Now, of course, this cinematic offshoot of what’s become a multi-tentacled beast filled with comedy shows, TV-show previews, panels and powwows on bleeding-edge tech, gaming demos, guest speakers and oh-so-much more – a veritable hipster one-stop shop, this – has carved out a nice niche for itself in the film-fest world. Yes, you still get to see some big-ticket items (The Disaster Artist premiered here last year). But you go for a peek at the shape of things to come. This was the festival that had first shown a spotlight on Lena Dunham and Barry Jenkins and It Comes at Night‘s Trey Edward Shults. The future may be lurking in its eclectic lineup.
And this year’s programming once again presents a hodge-podge of movies that run the gamut from marquee-name Hollywood movies (Paramount’s spring thriller A Quiet Place starring Emily Blunt is the opening-night selection) to mash notes from the digital underground, music docs on Southern rockers and free-jazz legends and a Mississippi native named Elvis, the usual midnight-movie psychotronica and a whole lot of beautifully unclassifiable missives from the margins. And should you somehow think, well, this all sounds so conventional – there’s also a futuristic, free-form frontier tone poem from Neil Young and Darry Hannah. Here are 20 films we’ve singled out from SXSW’s everything-under-the-Lone-Star-sun roster. Keep Austin weird. And keep this film festival even weirder.