Funny or Die friends Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, and Dave Franco are bringing their brand of humor to the SXSW Film festival this year in Neighbors, directed by The Muppets scribe Nick Stoller. Neighbors is about a young couple (Rogen and Rose Byrne) who are forced to live next to a fraternity house after the birth of their newborn baby. The comedy joins already announced films including Jon Favreau’s food truck sendup Chef and the much-anticipated premiere of the Veronica Mars movie at this year’s fest. The full lineup includes 68 films from first-time filmmakers, 76 world premieres, 10 North American premieres, and seven U.S. premieres.
Also debuting are Space Station 76, a sci-fi feature starring Patrick Wilson, Matt Bomer, and Liv Tyler; Cesar Chavez, the biopic about the iconic California labor activist from actor/director Diego Luna, starring Michael Pena; and We’ll Never Have Paris, written by The Big Bang Theory star Simon Helberg and starring Helberg and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
As for the choice of Neighbors to premiere at the fest, it’s hardly Rogen’s first time at SXSW, having appeared in Knocked Up in 2007 and Observe and Report in 2009. Comedies are not unusual for the festival, but Head of SXSW Film Janet Pierson says they have to have unique slant to work. “We like stuff that has an edge to it, where you can really feel the hand of the writer/director,” she says. “We try not to go too broad with comedy but we love to include it when we can.”
Space Station 76 is among several films that feature sci-fi and time travel prominently, Pierson points out, noting that Predestination starring Ethan Hawke, and Australian film The Infinite Man have similar elements. “Sometimes you don’t show a film because it has something another film has, but this time we went with it. It’s in the zeitgeist,” she says. Space Station 76 “is really unique, really different, and kind of wonderful,” Pierson adds.
The documentary portion of the festival features Harmontown, a film about Community creator Dan Harmon, and Supermensch, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, about Shep Gordon and directed by Mike Myers. Harmontown, Pierson says, is “a very intimate look at him [Harmon] in the time when he wasn’t on Community and what it meant for him to meet and embrace his fans.”
As always, many of the films have overlapping themes with the interactive and music parts of the week-long festival. There’s Print the Legend, which follows the rise of 3-D printing and the nature of startups, and several music-themed documentaries, including Sheffield: Sex City about Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, and SVDDXNLY about A$AP Rocky’s quick climb to fame.
The film portion of SXSW, now in its 21st year, runs March 7-15 in Austin, Texas, coinciding with the interactive and music components of the annual event. This year will also feature a number of new TV projects in its “Episodic” category, including HBO’s Silicon Valley from Mike Judge, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire, Hulu’s supernatural comedy Deadbeat, Fox’s COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey, and From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, which is set to debut on Texas-native Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network.
Several films that were big hits at this year’s Sundance Film Festival are getting a second go-round at SXSW this year in the Festival Favorites category, including Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, the Prop 8 documentary The Case Against 8, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, the Aaron Swartz doc The Internet’s Own Boy, and The Raid 2.
Special film events are also a highlight of the festival, and this year include a screening of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre on its 40th anniversary and an extended Q&A with Wes Anderson following a screening of his new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel.
The full lineup of SXSW feature films (both narrative and documentary) is available on the SXSW Film website.