Female filmmakers take the spotlight at this year's South by Southwest Film Festival

Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Other titles showing in the festival's headliners section are Shana Fest's "Boundaries" and the closing night North American premiere of Wes Anderson's "Isle of Dogs," which debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival and opens theatrically March 22 from Fox Searchlight.

Playing among the festival favorites section are a number of films that premiered earlier this year at Sundance, including social satires "Blindspotting" and "Sorry to Bother You," the Robert Pattinson comedy "Damsel," the female filmmaker documentary "Half the Picture" and Fred Rogers documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor."

One of the most anticipated premieres of the festival is Julia Hart's sci-fi drama "Fast Color," starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, in the narrative spotlight section. Hart's debut as writer-director, "Miss Stevens," premiered at the festival in 2016 and featured a then-unknown Timothee Chalamet. Also in the narrative spotlight is the return of Austin-based filmmaker Andrew Bujalski with the female-driven "Support the Girls," starring Regina Hall. In the documentary spotlight section, Anthony Wonke's "The Director and the Jedi" offers a behind the scenes look at the making of Rian Johnson's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."

TV shows in lineup

SXSW was also among the first festivals to feature television work in their program, and this year includes the premieres of Bill Hader's HBO comedy series "Barry" and the long-awaited TBS series "The Last O.G." created by Jordan Peele and starring Tracy Morgan and Tiffany Haddish.

Newman's competition entry "First Match" is a drama about a Brooklyn girl fighting for a spot on her high school's boys wrestling team. "First Match" was financed by Netflix and will be released by the streaming platform at the end of March, which makes Newman all the more grateful to be playing to audiences at SXSW in particular.

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"My film would be easy to overlook because it doesn't have huge name stars and it's not for sale," said Newman. "No one would be clamoring to see it necessarily because there isn't that kind of big pull. So I'm hoping that at South-By it finds a broader audience of people who are just looking for interesting stories."

Another narrative spotlight premiere is the New Zealand comedy "The Breaker Upperers," written and directed by Jackie van Beek and Madeline Sami. Executive produced by "Thor: Ragnarok" director Taika Waititi, the film stars Van Beek and Sami as two women who run a business assisting dissatisfied people in breaking up with their romantic partners.

Sami and Van Beek noted how inspired they were by "Bridesmaids," which just so happened to have its world premiere at SXSW in 2011.

"I looked up at the screen and there were six women on-screen. And I thought, 'This is a turning point. Things are changing,'" said Van Beek. "I think it's absolutely vital that our perspectives are up there on screen."


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