Narrative Feature Competition
A Critically Endangered Species
Synopsis from SXSW: The story of the final weeks leading up to the disappearance (and presumable death) of Maya Dardel, an internationally respected poet and novelist who lived, until 2016, in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. Maya announces on National Public Radio that she is going to end her life and that young male writers may compete to become executor of her estate. The man who wins will inherit Maya’s home, land, books, unpublished manuscripts, and be expected to protect and promote her posthumous reputation.
Synopsis from SXSW: A young British woman named Sinaloa comes to Texas to find Merle, her half-sister by way of their dead country musician father. It doesn’t take long for Sinaloa to charm her way into Merle’s life. Her singing awakens something in Merle and erases some of the lingering doubts about their shared bloodline. But an all-too-familiar chaos comes with it, which soon starts to unravel Merle’s stable world—her job, her upcoming marriage, and an already tense relationship with her mother, Patricia. And while the family music legacy brought this stranger to town, darker motives are woven into the songs she sings, showing glimpses of a violent rage that’s been building for years.
Most Beautiful Island
Synopsis from SXSW: "Most Beautiful Island" is a psychological thriller examining the plight of undocumented female immigrants hoping to make a life in New York. Shot on Super 16 with an intimate, voyeuristic sensibility, "Most Beautiful Island" chronicles one harrowing day in the life of Luciana, a young immigrant woman struggling to make ends meet while striving to escape her past. As Luciana's day unfolds, she is whisked, physically and emotionally, through a series of troublesome, unforeseeable extremes. Before her day is done, she inadvertently finds herself a central participant in a cruel game. Lives are placed at risk, while psyches are twisted and broken for the perverse entertainment of a privileged few.
Synopsis from SXSW: After posting a video of herself robbing a convenience store, Kiya amasses a huge social media following. A reckless loner, she seeks some form of genuine human connection. Through her travels, she encounters a drifter, an Internet troll and a paint huffing outsider who are all pulled into her circle of chaos, junk food, and drugs. In a world of fabricated personalities, Kiya is intent on exposing something gutturally truthful about humanity, but ultimately, she must confront herself.
Documentary Feature Competition
Bill Frisell, A Portrait
Synopsis from SXSW: A character portrait of anti-archetype guitar hero, Bill Frisell, this nuanced film traces the ideas and processes that shaped Frisell’s music, and provides rare insight into the mind and personality of one of the significant musicians of recent decades. Full of live music, revealing stories, and intimate access to the normally reclusive Frisell, various collaborations are followed from development to fruition, including the last ever performance of the Paul Motian Trio with Frisell and Joe Lovano. Also featuring Bonnie Raitt, Hal Willner, Paul Simon, Joey Baron, Jim Hall, Jason Moran, Nels Cline, Mike Gibbs, John Zorn, Jack DeJohnette, John Abercrombie, Kenny Wollesen and Tony Scherr.
The Blood is at the Doorstep
Synopsis from SXSW: On April 30, 2014, Dontre Hamilton, a black, unarmed man diagnosed with schizophrenia, was shot 14 times and killed by a Milwaukee police officer responding to a non-emergency wellness check in a popular downtown park. His death sparked months of unrest and his family into activism. Filmed over the course of three years in the direct aftermath of Dontre's death, this intimate verite documentary follows his family as they struggle to find answers and challenge a criminal justice system stacked against them. Offering a painfully realistic glimpse inside a movement born out of tragedy, this explosive documentary takes a behind the scenes look at one of America’s most pressing social issues.
Synopsis from SXSW: Sixty-two year old Richard Turner is renowned as one of the world’s greatest card magicians, yet he is completely blind. In this documentary, Richard traces his journey from his troubled childhood, when he began losing his vision, to present day as he relentlessly pursues perfection while struggling with the reality that his biggest weakness might also be his greatest strength.
Let There Be Light
Synopsis from SXSW: In the southern French countryside, a group of dedicated scientists from 37 countries around the world are collaboratively building the world's most complex experiment: An artificial star on Earth that will provide perpetual, cheap, clean energy for all mankind. If it fails, it will be one of the biggest scientific and political blunders of all time. Meanwhile, maverick inventors in garages are also trying to unlock nuclear fusion, at a fraction of the cost. Sceptics are not convinced. As it is often said: "Nuclear fusion is the energy of the future...and always will be!" Are we about to engineer our way out of the energy crisis, or betting on a lottery ticket that won't pay off?
Synopsis from SXSW: Oscar® winner Charlize Theron explodes into summer in Atomic Blonde, a breakneck action-thriller that follows MI6’s most lethal assassin through a ticking time bomb of a city simmering with revolution and double-crossing hives of traitors. The crown jewel of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, Agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is equal parts spycraft, sensuality and savagery, willing to deploy any of her skills to stay alive on her impossible mission. Sent alone into Berlin to deliver a priceless dossier out of the destabilized city, she partners with embedded station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) to navigate her way through the deadliest game of spies.
Synopsis from SXSW: Bold, breathless and wickedly fun, "Free Fire" is an electrifying action comedy about an arms deal that goes spectacularly and explosively wrong. Acclaimed filmmaker Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High Rise) propels the audience head-on into quite possibly the most epic shootout ever seen on film as he crafts a spectacular parody –– and biting critique –– of the insanity of gun violence. Everyone’s got a gun, and absolutely no one is in control. Packed with witty one-liners, flamboyant characters and remarkable feats of cinematic gunplay, Free Fire is a full-throttle action extravaganza that keeps things fresh and fun with Wheatley’s alternately buoyant and savage sense of humor.
Synopsis from SXSW: LIFE is a terrifying sci-fi thriller about a team of scientists aboard the International Space Station whose mission of discovery turns to one of primal fear when they find a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.
On the Road
Synopsis from SXSW: Michael Winterbottom follows acclaimed British rock band and Grammy nominees Wolf Alice on their tour, recording their gigs as well as the romance and routine of their daily life backstage. The resulting film shows the realities of touring from the point of view of a new member of the crew.
Song to Song
Synopsis from SXSW: In this modern love story set against the Austin, Texas music scene, two entangled couples -- struggling songwriters Faye and BV, and music mogul Cook and the waitress whom he ensnares -- chase success through a rock ‘n’ roll landscape of seduction and betrayal.
Hounds of Love
Synopsis from SXSW: In suburban Perth during the mid 1980s, people are unaware that women are disappearing at the hands of serial killers John and Evelyn White. After an innocent lapse in judgment, Vicki Maloney is randomly abducted by the disturbed couple. With her murder imminent, Vicki realizes she must find a way to drive a wedge between Evelyn and John if she is to survive. Hounds of Love is an exercise in expertly-crafted tension, offering a bold, challenging debut from writer/director Ben Young.
Synopsis from SXSW: Diana Prieto is pregnant and taking care of her first child, Martin who has a child development problem, has become overwhelming. She has no one to help her while her husband Tomas spends months working in Asia. Diana’s at her breaking point with Martin when Luz, a gifted caregiver from the Philippines, steps in to help. Martin quickly begins improving under Luz’s supervision, but Diana’s worried that he’s only being taught to speak Filipino. Diana begins to suspect that Luz is using the language barrier and voodoo to turn Martin against Diana and into something far more sinister…
The Most Hated Woman in America
Synopsis from SXSW: A true-crime biopic about the disappearance of Madalyn Murray O'Hair, founder of the "American Atheists" and pioneering firebrand in the political culture war. "The Most Hated Woman In America" captures the rise and fall of a complex character who was a controversial villain to some and an unlikely hero to others.
Synopsis from SXSW: Small Crimes is a delightfully suspenseful, blackly comic tale that follows a disgraced former cop, fresh off a six-year prison sentence for attempted murder, who returns home looking for redemption but winds up trapped in the mess he left behind. Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Jacki Weaver, Robert Forster, Gary Cole, Molly Parker, Macon Blair, Pat Healy.
This is Your Death
Synopsis from SXSW: Today’s audience has become infatuated with watching others degrade themselves on national television. They crave a wild argument, a bloody fight, or a publicized scandal. It has become the ultimate source of entertainment. But when the boundaries seem like they can’t be pushed any further, game-show host Adam Rogers steps in to break down the wall by hosting a new game show where contestants end their lives for a chance to win money. Adam will only be satisfied if his reality show is number one in the ratings, and he’ll stop at nothing to make sure he gets there, even if it means letting go of his humanity.
Us and Them
Synopsis from SXSW: With it’s raw energy and stream of consciousness plot, "Us and Them" is a backlash against the drone of British period dramas. Danny is an ordinary working class kid who is tired of the rough deal he faces. His plan? To start a revolution by streaming attacks against the one percent on the web. His goal? To terrify the elite into bringing about change. Writer/director Joe Martin taps into his blue collar roots to capture the zeitgeist of outsider politics that have gripped the western world. In "Us and Them" he lays bare the inequality and anger that wrong footed the media and led to the shock events of Brexit and Trump’s victory.
Win it All
Synopsis from SXSW: Jake Johnson stars as small time gambler Eddie Garrett, who agrees to watch a duffel bag for an acquaintance who is heading to prison. When he discovers cash in the bag, he’s unable to resist the temptation and winds up deeply in debt. When the prison release is shortened, Eddie suddenly has a small window of time to win all the money back.
Synopsis from SXSW: Barbecue is about more than grilling a piece of meat. It’s a ritual performed religiously across the world. For some it’s a path to salvation. Every culture has a form of barbecue. It is the pride of nations. It brings the world together. From Shisanyama in South Africa, to Engangsgrill in Sweden, people light the coals, gather, and tell their story. From the Syrian border to an outback Australian town, intimate portraits of those who stoke the flames reveal a bold vision of humanity. Journeying to 12 countries, with glorious cinematic images in 4K and a rich orchestral score, "Barbecue" is a symphony of meat and fire told in epic detail.
Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web
Synopsis from SXSW: The larger-than-life story of Kim Dotcom, the "most wanted man online," is extraordinary enough, but the battle between Dotcom and the US Government and entertainment industry, being fought in New Zealand, is one that goes to the heart of ownership, privacy and piracy in the digital age. Three years in the making, this independent film chronicles a spectacular moment in global online history, dubbed the 'largest copyright case’ ever and the truth about what happened.
Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo
Synopsis from SXSW: At the heart of Apollo was the team who worked in Mission Control in Houston. They were born in the mid 20th century, a time of economic turmoil and conflict. Some came from farms and a lifestyle little changed for a century. Others grew up in a blue-collar America of mines and smoke stacks. They ranged from kids just out of college to those hardened by military service. But from this group of people an extraordinary team was born, setting out on what JFK called: “The most hazardous, dangerous, and greatest adventure upon which mankind has ever embarked.” The film takes us from the faltering start of the US program, through their personal struggles, to the glories of the Moon landings.
Behind the Curtain: Todrick Hall
Synopsis from SXSW: Todrick Hall launches his most ambitious project yet: the full-scale original musical, Straight Outta Oz. From a small town in Texas to big-time show business, comes an inspiring documentary of grit, perseverance and the redemptive power of art. We watch him struggle to write songs about growing up gay and black in small-town Texas, his difficult relationship with his mom, and the harsh realities of trying to make it in show business. With limited time and budget the odds are against him, but Todrick's passion and his team of talented performers overcome all obstacles to bring this story to the world.
Synopsis from SXSW: Adah and Aaron are recovering addicts who are struggling to stay sober. After meeting in their psychoanalyst’s waiting room, they fall in love, relapse on poppers, and become the biggest assholes in New York City.
Synopsis from SXSW: A unique documentary/narrative hybrid chronicling the stranger-than-fiction true story of George Lazenby, a poor Australian car mechanic who, through an unbelievable set of circumstances, landed the role of James Bond in "On Her Majesty’s Secret Service" (1969), despite having never acted a day in his life. Then after being offered the next six Bond films and a $1 million signing bonus, he turned it all down.
Synopsis from SXSW: "DRIB" is a fiction/documentary hybrid that re-enacts the story of a failed violent marketing scheme for a well known energy drink. The film simultaneously exposes and revels in media manipulation as it explores the strange and painfully comic advertising process that took place in 2014 — with the person who ruined it all appearing in the role of himself. To avoid legal issues, the real energy drink brand has been replaced with our own: DRIB. The film tracks how art becomes commerce, how something fake can have real effects, and reveals inside information about an industry and the company that almost stopped the film from ever being made.
Paa Joe & The Lion
Synopsis from SXSW: Ghana. Inside a dusty shack sleeps Paa Joe, the world renowned Grandfather of the fantasy coffin trade. He dreams of his bygone days: bringing money home in briefcases, work being shipped the world over. Now he sleeps as the cars hurtle passed. There are no customers, no tourists – there are no coffins to make. His son dreams too, of returning his father to his former glory and rebuilding the family legacy together. Over the next four years they stand side-by-side, conquering love and death and embracing a life changing opportunity to travel to the UK to undertake an artist residency. It is the start of their future together – father and son, master and apprentice, Paa Joe and The Lion.
Synopsis from SXSW: Jake and Mati are two outsiders in the northerly Portuguese city of Porto who once experienced a brief but intimate connection. He's an American loner exiled from his family; she’s a French student abroad with her professor lover. One day they see each other from a distance at an archeological site and then again at a train station and a café, where Jake works up the courage to speak to Mati for the first time, and they embark on a night of carefree intimacy. This experience is looked at years later using fragments from Mati and Jake's lives apart, both of them still haunted by the powerful moments they shared.
Synopsis from SXSW: In the wake of a devastating personal tragedy, struggling would-be filmmaker Parker Smith decides to take a road-trip across America. Intending to make a "lo-fi" documentary about his journey he purchases a decade old camera off of eBay, and is surprised to discover that it holds a long forgotten video tape containing strange home video footage of the notorious bodybuilder Gregg Valentino, a/k/a 'The Man Whose Arms Exploded'. Convinced that Valentino’s odd tape found its way into his hands for some important existential reason, Parker sets off from Austin, Texas to New York to find the fading bodybuilder armed with only his beloved cat, two cameras and a minivan.
Synopsis from SXSW: It's the story of a small town gorilla, Sylvio, who is stuck in his job at a debt collection agency. Deep down he just wants to express himself with his hand puppet, Herbert Herpels, and his experimental puppet show that highlights the quiet moments of life. He accidentally joins a local TV program and a series of on-air mishaps threaten to shatter his identity, sending him on an adventure of self-discovery where reality and fantasy start to blend.
Game of Death
Synopsis from SXSW: Kill or be killed is the golden rule of the Game of Death, which sucks for seven decent-looking young friends who decide to play one sunny day. They quickly and gruesomely realize that if they don't murder people, their heads will literally explode. Hence, they go on a killing spree, taking the lives of anyone they meet in their middle-of-nowhere town. The killer-instinct in each of them bubbles to the surface as their search for victims unravels into chaos. Divided, terrified and confronted with their own mortality, their drive to survive blurs with their desire to win the game. Will they turn on each other? "Jumanji" meets "Natural Born Killers"... The Game of Death will blow your mind.
Synopsis from SXSW: Every camper’s worst nightmare came true at Lake Bodom in 1960 when four teenagers were stabbed to death while sleeping in their tent. As the years passed and the case grew cold, the unsolved mystery turned into an urban legend, a creepy campfire story passed from generation to generation. Now, a group of teenagers arrives at the same campsite, hoping to solve the murder by reconstructing it minute by minute. As night falls, turns out not all of them are there to play. Tonight... it’s girls against boys. Let the killing games begin.
Meatball Machine Kodoku
Synopsis from SXSW: Nobody knows where they came from. They parasitize in human beings, take control of them and change their bodies into hideous monsters (Necro-borg). The Necro-borg fight each other until the other dies. Where did they come from? To what end? Yuji and Kaoru, whom both have dark secrets within themselves, get caught up in the horrific battles of Necro-borg. What will their fate be?
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