South by Southwest: A Growing Culture

Whilst Sundance has always been the premiere film festival destination in America, the last few years has seen the growing importance of Austin’s South by Southwest, which previews film alongside music, comedy and gaming. This year’s edition, in the film segment, scored a major coup with the world premiere of Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, his visual effects-heavy adaptation of Ernest Cline’s best-selling YA novel set in a future world where inhabitants find solace in a nostalgia-driven virtual reality game.

Reviews have been largely positive for the film, which stars Tye Sherdian and Olivia Cooke, with IndieWire calling it “Spielberg’s biggest crowdpleaser in years”. But it was not the only world premiere to gain attention. The Office’s John Krasinski delivered A Quiet Place, a spook-story in which he stars with his real-life wife Emily Blunt. Written by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, the story plays out with virtually no dialogue with a family living in a post-apocalyptic world where they’re forced to be silent for fear of attracting creatures that prey on sound.

Another movie that’s drawn strong notices is Blockers, a raucous comedy directed by Kay Cannon, the writer of the Pitch Perfect trilogy, who makes her directorial debut here. Written by Brian and Jim Kehoe, it’s a neat premise as three high-school girls make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night and three parents resolve to prevent this leap into adulthood. It stars Leslie Mann, Judd Apatow’s wife and regular actress, in a story that’s being dubbed ‘the female Superbad’. It releases in the UK, like Ready Player One, at the end of March.

Also on show this week is actress Daryl Hannah’s feature directorial debut, Paradox. The film, which will be distributed by streaming site Netflix, is a western-themed musical odyssey starring legendary musicians Neil Young and Willie Nelson. All set around a band of outlaws who hide out in the mountains, the film was written and directed by Hannah, whose only previous fictional behind-camera effort was a 1993 short, The Last Supper. It also features an original soundtrack by Young, which will be released on 23 March, the same day it hits Netflix – making it the perfect film for SXSW.

The South By Southwest festival runs until 17 March. For more information, click here.

James Mottram

1. Still from John Krasinksi’s A Quiet Place