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Dave Franco and James Franco in “The Disaster Artist.” | Courtesy of SXSW
Dave Franco and James Franco in “The Disaster Artist.” | Courtesy of SXSW
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10 Standout Films From the SXSW Film Festival 2017

Picture of Sarah Karney
Updated: 31 March 2017
When you think of SXSW, the hottest new bands or latest tech gadgets may be the first thing to come to mind. But SXSW Film has grown into its own as the premier event for different genres and styles of films from all around the world. These 10 films were particularly well received or highly talked about at this year’s SXSW Film Festival.

Baby Driver

Starring Texas-native actor Jamie Foxx, Baby Driver will undoubtedly be one of this summer’s top movies seen in theaters. Baby Driver is not your typical heist and car chase movie. The soundtrack is dominated by whatever plays in Jamie Foxx’s character’s headphones that seem to never leave his ears, and there are other quirky musical moments throughout the film that keep you guessing.

The Big Sick

Modern romance pieces that depict realistic relationships are dominating pop culture right now, such as Aziz Ansari’s hit Netflix show, Master of None. The Big Sick is one such film that plays on emotional honesty punched with humor, and it’s what many viewers called their favorite film of the entire SXSW festival. It follows the relationship of a couple dealing with cultural indifferences and other emotional life moments that take you up and down the emotional rollercoaster.

“The Big Sick”
“The Big Sick” | © 2016 While You Were Comatose, LLC

Mr. Roosevelt

Austin-native Noël Wells wrote, directed, and starred in this down-to-earth film about a woman returning home to Austin for a funeral and running into the obligatory awkward situations from her past—the ones you can never avoid when visiting your hometown. Her character, a struggling comedian in Los Angeles, must stay with her ex and his new love until the funeral, placing her face to face with some inescapable demons from her past.

After a loved one falls ill, struggling comedian Emily Martin (Noël Wells) returns to her college town of Austin, Texas and must come to terms with her past while staying with her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend.
After a loved one falls ill, struggling comedian Emily Martin (Noël Wells) returns to her college town of Austin, Texas and must come to terms with her past while staying with her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend. | © Dagmar Weaver-Madsen

Dealt

Dealt is a documentary highlighting the story of the 62-year-old magician Richard Turner. What makes him so special? He’s blind and one of the best card magicians on the planet. This film dives deep into the main character’s oddities and distinct personality traits for an analytical but overall respectful portrait of Turner.

Lucky

This dramedy centers on the story of a 90-year-old atheist in a Western town played by Harry Dean Stanton. The last of his friends and enemies to survive, he must now come face to face with his own mortality. The film focuses on deep introspection of each character in the film, rather than the plot itself, but does so without any hint of dragging.

“Lucky”
“Lucky” | © Stefania Rosini

Most Beautiful Island

From Spanish director and actress Ana Asensio comes the timely story of an illegal immigrant residing in New York City who finds an opportunity to make cash as eye candy at a party. This thriller’s theme runs deep as it examines the dangerous situations many illegal women are in while trying to make it in the U.S. without a visa or green card. Don’t worry—it’s not so much political as it is suspenseful and engaging.

M.F.A.

Trigger warning—M.F.A. is the story of a rape victim bent on revenge. Art student Noelle, played by newcomer Francesca Eastwood, carries the film, which portrays violent sex crimes as realistically terrible as they truly are. The film perhaps tries to cover too many overwhelming social commentaries in one film, but nonetheless, it is a brave, outspoken, and groundbreaking piece.

Still from “MFA” featuring Francesca Eastwood and Michael Welch.
Still from “MFA” featuring Francesca Eastwood and Michael Welch. | © Aaron Kovalchik

The Disaster Artist

James Franco premiered a “work in progress” version of The Disaster Artist, a comedy based on the real experience about the making of cult “bad” classic movie, The Room. It’s a typical scenario from Franco and crew, playing off of the real life chemistry between both Francos, Seth Rogen, and other pals. Audience members were divided; some viewers loved the usual spaced out, spazzy comedy, while others were not very impressed.

Dave Franco and James Franco in “The Disaster Artist.”
Dave Franco and James Franco in “The Disaster Artist.” | Courtesy of SXSW

The Work

The Work took a documentary film crew inside Folsom Prison to follow three prisoners on their way to rehabilitation. Though you only see four days of therapy sessions, you go deep into each man’s past, present, and hopeful future, complete with heart-wrenching stories. Each man must confront himself and experience a new perspective on his own life, something that is truly stunning to watch.

Participants in the group therapy program at Folsom Prison featured in “THE WORK.”
Participants in the group therapy program at Folsom Prison featured in “THE WORK.” | © Joe Wigdahl

Win It All

Win It All is the light-hearted pick of this year’s SXSW Film Festival. It starts as a typical immature adult male finding his dream girl and aiming to set his life straight, but really takes a deeper look into the gambling addictions that make—and break—people like Eddie Garrett, the main character played by Jake Johnson. It’s great to see the character break through his bad habits to make major changes in his life, surrounded by genuine characters and many humorous moments.