written by Anthony D'Alessandro, Deadline
Paramount and eOne’s Dungeouns and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves will fire up this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival with its opening-night world premiere March 10 before its theatrical release on March 31.
The fanboy demo title is one of a handful looking to gain steam at the Austin, TX event, which will be in its second year live and in-person after going virtual during Covid from 2020-2021. The 30th annual SXSWE runs until March 18 and will be in-person only (no virtual).
Other notable spring cinefile titles in Wednesday’s reveal of the fest’s first titles include Warner Bros’ Evil Dead Rise, the next installment in the Sam Raimi horror franchise; A24’s Emma Stone-produced, Tilda Swinton-starring Problemista; and Searchlight’s Eva Longoria directorial Flamin’ Hot about the Mexican American Frito Lay janitor who revolutionized the snack industry with his idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Also announced today by SXSW are titles in its Feature and Short Competitions, Midnighters, and select titles from other categories and XR Experience. Other big movie and TV shows in addition to those in the fest’s Global, Visions, 24 Beats and Festival Favorites sections will be unveiled early next month.
Among some starry indies this year already are Pitch Perfect star Brittany Snow’s directorial debut Parachute, about food addiction and love, starring Kid Cudi, Dave Bautista, Gina Rodriguez and Joel McHale. There’s also Lisa Steen’s Late Bloomers starring Guardians of the Galaxy’s Karen Gillan; and movies starring Luis Guzmán (the Jamie Foxx-produced Story Ave); Anthony Mackie (If You Were the Last); Clancy Brown, Yvonne Strahovski and June Diane Raphael in Lionsgate’s Scrambled; and Jake Johnson’s directorial debut Self Reliance, which boasts an all-star lineup including Anna Kendrick, Andy Samberg, Emily Hampshire, Natalie Morales, Wayne Brady, Christopher Lloyd and more.
On the TV side, Starz is unrolling its second season of Blindspotting at the festival in addition to Peacock premiering the Damon Lindelof A.I. series Mrs. Davis. Roku has Zoe Lister-Jones’ romantic comedy series Slip, HBO the documentary Being Mary Tyler Moore and Amazon the Boots Riley-created series I’m a Virgo.
If a studio is looking to create social-media wattage for its adults 18-34 targeted pics, then you go to SXSW. It’s where Paramount first debuted A Quiet Place in 2018, rocketing the pic to global-phenom status. Paramount was also the first back after Covid last year, reawakening moviegoers to the romantic comedy with the world premiere of Sandra Bullock-Channing Tatum-Brad Pitt title The Lost City, which went on to gross more than $105 million stateside.
A24 set flame to dynamite last year with the SXSW opening film Everything Everywhere All at Once. The Daniels-directed movie became an arthouse sensation, the studio’s highest-grossing movie with $70M domestic/$104M global, and a lynchpin awards-season contender with two Golden Globe wins (for Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan) and five SAG noms including Feature Cast Ensemble.
Also creating a stir on the ground last year in Austin were the world premieres of the Nicolas Cage satire The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and A24’s horror title Bodies Bodies Bodies.
“We are thrilled to announce the first wave of our incredible lineup for SXSW 2023,” said Claudette Godfrey, VP Film & TV, in today’s press release. “It’s an amazing collection of films, TV series and XR experiences that promise to inspire, entertain and challenge our audiences. We’re also proud to open with Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, a raucous and engaging fantasy adventure, and look forward to welcoming everyone to Austin in March for what promises to be an unforgettable event.”
Dungeons and Dragons, based on the popular role-playing game, is directed and co-written by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley. In the film, a charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers embark on an epic quest to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people. The pic stars Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Hugh Grant, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Chloe Coleman and Daisy Head.
Here’s the SXSW lineup:
Big names, big talent: Headliners bring star power to SXSW, featuring red carpet premieres and gala film events with major and rising names in cinema.
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves
Directors: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Producers: Jeremy Latcham, Brian Goldner, Nick Meyer, Screenwriters: Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Michael Gilio
A charming thief and a band of unlikely adventurers undertake an epic heist to retrieve a lost relic, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people. Cast List: Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Hugh Grant, Regé-Jean Page, Justice Smith, Sophia Lillis, Chloe Coleman, Daisy Head (Opening Night World Premiere)
Evil Dead Rise
Director/Screenwriter: Lee Cronin, Producer: Rob Tapert
Evil Dead Rise tells a twisted tale of two estranged sisters, played by Sutherland and Sullivan, whose reunion is cut short by the rise of flesh-possessing demons, thrusting them into a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable. Executive Producers include Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. Cast List: Lily Sullivan, Alyssa Sutherland, Morgan Davies, Gabrielle Echols, Nell Fisher
Director/Screenwriter: Julio Torres, Producers: Emma Stone, Dave McCary, Ali Herting
Alejandro (Torres) is an aspiring toy designer from El Salvador, struggling to bring his unusual ideas to life in New York City. As time on his work visa runs out, a job assisting an erratic art-world outcast (Swinton) becomes his only hope to stay in the country and realize his dream. From writer/director Julio Torres comes a surreal adventure through the equally treacherous worlds of New York City and the U.S. Immigration system. Cast List: Julio Torres, Tilda Swinton, RZA (World Premiere)
Director: Eva Longoria, Producer: DeVon Franklin, Screenwriters: Linda Yvette Chávez, Lewis Colick
Flamin’ Hot is the story of Richard Montañez, the Frito Lay janitor who channeled his Mexican American heritage and upbringing to turn Flamin’ Hot Cheetos into a snack that disrupted the food industry and became a global phenomenon. Cast List: Jesse Garcia, Annie Gonzalez, Dennis Haysbert, Emilio Rivera, Tony Shalhoub, Matt Walsh, Pepe Serna, Bobby Soto, Jimmy Gonzales, Brice Gonzalez (World Premiere)
NARRATIVE FEATURE COMPETITION
Eight world premieres, and eight unique ways to celebrate the art of storytelling.
I Used To Be Funny (Canada)
Director/Screenwriter: Ally Pankiw, Producers: James Weyman, Jason Aita, Breann Smordin
Sam, a stand-up comedian struggling with PTSD, weighs whether or not to join the search for Brooke, a missing teenage girl she used to nanny. Cast List: Rachel Sennott, Olga Petsa, Jason Jones, Sabrina Jalees, Caleb Hearon, Ennis Esmer, Dani Kind (World Premiere)
Director: Lisa Steen, Producers: Alexandra Barreto, Taylor Feltner, Sam Bisbee, Screenwriter: Anna Greenfield
An aimless 28-year-old Brooklynite lands in the hospital after drunkenly breaking her hip being stupid. An encounter with a cranky elderly Polish woman who speaks no English leads to a job caring for her. Neither likes it, but it’s time to grow up. Cast List: Karen Gillan, Margaret Sophie Stein, Jermaine Fowler, Kevin Nealon, Talia Balsam (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Imran J. Khan, Producers: Christina Won, Jessica Sittig, Christopher Storer, Tyson Bidner
It’s the mid-90s and 13 year old Pakistani-American Ilyas is forced out of his cushy Islamic private school and thrown into public school with non-Muslim kids, all while suffering daily through life with his inescapable pre-pubescent Mustache. Cast List: Atharva Verma, Rizwan Manji, Alicia Silverstone, Hasan Minhaj, Meesha Shafi, Ayana Manji (World Premiere)
Director: Brittany Snow, Producers: Jordan Yale Levine, Jordan Beckerman, Brittany Snow, Lizzie Shapiro, Screenwriters: Brittany Snow, Becca Gleason
Riley is determined to recover from her addictions to food and body image when she soon falls for another addiction, Ethan. Cast List: Courtney Eaton, Thomas Mann, Francesca Reale, Gina Rodriguez, Joel McHale, Scott Mescudi, Dave Bautista, Jennifer Westfeldt, Kathryn Gallagher, Chrissie Fit, Kelley Jakle (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Dillon Tucker, Producers: Ricky Fosheim, Dillon Tucker, Ray Lee
A young screenwriter/musician grapples with Pure O, a lesser-known form of OCD, while juggling his recent engagement and his day job at a high end Malibu drug rehab. Inspired by the filmmaker’s own personal true story. Cast List: Daniel Dorr, Hope Lauren, Landry Bender, Jeff Baker, Candice Renee, Breon Gorman, Tim Landfield, Isaac Nippert, Devon Martinez, Clint James (World Premiere)
Raging Grace (UK)
Director/Screenwriter: Paris Zarcilla, Producer: Chi Thai
A bold coming-of-rage story where Joy, a Filipino immigrant, and her daughter Grace encounter a darkness that threatens all they have worked for. Cast List: Maxine Eigenman, Leanne Best, David Hayman (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Leah McKendrick, Producers: Gillian Bohrer, Jonathan Levine, Brett Haley, Amanda Mortimer. Edited by Sandra Torres Granovsky.
A broke, single millennial unleashes an existential shitstorm when she freezes her eggs. Cast List: Leah McKendrick, Ego Nwodim, Andrew Santino, Clancy Brown, Laura Ceron, Yvonne Strahovski, June Diane Raphael, Adam Rodriguez, Brett Dier, Sterling Sulieman (World Premiere)
Director: Aristotle Torres, Producers: Lizzie Shapiro, Datari Turner, Jamie Foxx, Aristotle Torres, Screenwriters: Bonsu Thompson, Aristotle Torres
After running away from home, a teenage graffiti artist holds up an unsuspecting MTA worker in a robbery gone right that changes their lives forever. Cast List: Asante Blackk, Luis Guzmán, Alex Hibbert, Melvin Gregg, Coral Peña, Cassandra Freeman, Hassan Johnson (World Premiere)
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION
Eight world premieres: Eight non-fiction stories that demonstrate integrity, energy and unique voices.
Director/Screenwriter: Ken August Meyer, Producers: Ken A. Meyer, Jason Roark
A sick man discovers empathetic wisdom on how to cope with his deadly autoimmune disease within the colorful expressive works of the late Swiss-German modern artist, Paul Klee. (World Premiere)
Another Body (UK, U.S.)
Directors: Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn, Producers: Elizabeth Woodward, Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn, Screenwriters: Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn, Isabel Freeman
Another Body follows a college student after she discovers deepfakes of herself circulating online. (World Premiere)
Geoff McFetridge: Drawing a Life
Director/Producer: Dan Covert, Screenwriters: Erik Auli, Dan Covert, Amy Dempsey, Tara Rose Stromberg
What defines a life? The iconic work of artist Geoff McFetridge is everywhere. But this film is more than a primer on his career—it’s about the choices we confront in trying to lead meaningful lives, and how we use our most precious resource: time. (World Premiere)
Join or Die
Directors/Producers/Screenwriters: Rebecca Davis, Pete Davis
A film about why you should join a club—and why the fate of America may depend on it. Follow the story of America’s civic unraveling through the work of Robert Putnam, whose legendary Bowling Alone findings light a path out of our democracy’s crisis. (World Premiere)
Pay Or Die
Directors: Rachael Dyer, Scott Ruderman, Producers: Rachael Dyer, Scott Ruderman, Yael Melamede
3 American families are on the receiving end of a ransom note. Their journeys reflect how lives are being threatened and taken by the soaring price of insulin, and reveal the harrowing reality of life with illness in the richest country in the world. (World Premiere)
Queendom (France, U.S.)
Director: Agniia Galdanova, Producers: Igor Myakotin, Agniia Galdanova
Gena, a queer artist from a small town in Russia, dresses in otherworldly costumes and protests the government on the streets of Moscow. She stages radical performances in public, which becomes a new form of art and activism – and puts her life in danger. (World Premiere)