Everything We Saw at the 2016 SXSW Film Festival

sausage party sxsw

Sausage Party

Sausage Party is offensive and filthy and easily one of the dirtiest movies ever made. It final twenty minutes, which were mostly unfinished in this screening, may very well be the stuff of legend. In the Q&A that followed the screening, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon seemed shocked that the MPAA had already let them get away with an R-rating. It turns out that anthropomorphized food can do stuff in an R-rated movie that human beings cannot. [Full Review]

teenage cocktail

Teenage Cocktail

As an oddly sweet and uncomfortable drama about two teenage girls who fall in love and navigate the various barriers and boundaries of modern high school existence, Teenage Cocktail excels. Nichole Bloom and Fabianne Therese are remarkable in the two lead roles and their romance, as hormone-driven as it is, feels real and sweet and raw. Plus, any film that has the good taste to cast A.J. Bowen and Pat Healy deserves a big ‘ol high five. It’s just unfortunate that the film’s transition into thriller territory is so very silly, leading to a denouement that is a little too obvious and preposterous, especially when compared to what came before. Still, director John Carchietta has an eye for the sublime and the uncomfortable alike and this is a promising first film from an artist with a real eye.

tony robbins

Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru

I’ve never seen a movie quite like Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru, which is essentially a self-help concert film. Director Joe Berlinger was granted access to Robbins’ controversial “Date With Destiny” seminar and over the course of six 12-hour-long days, we watch Robbins as he helps visitors (who paid thousands of dollars to attend) achieve breakthroughs. The result is a fascinating film, but also a flawed one. Berlinger is enamored with Robbins and his process, selling him a great man and a healer who can do no wrong. But those who aren’t on board will watch with unnerved concern – Robbins looks an awful lot like an evangelical preacher, utilizing hypnotic techniques to transform his audience into putty in his hands. It’s disconcerting, fascinating footage that demands your attention…but the movie thinks the whole thing is uplifting and beautiful, refusing to even question Robbins’ methods or showcase one of his many critics. The movie is practically a must-see, just not necessarily for the reasons everyone involved thinks.

tower review

Tower

It feels wrong to call Tower thrilling, but for its first hour, it is an enthralling experience. Keith Maitland leaps between perspectives to depict the horrifying escalation of the situation from every angle, ratcheting up tension. Tower is devastating, but it’s also a portrait of ordinary men and women rising to the occasion to help their fellow human beings in the middle of a inexplicable war zone. It’s intense. It’s moving. [Full Review]

under the shadow

Under the Shadow

Everyone is calling Under the Shadow “the Iranian version of The Babadook” (our own Angie Han said as much in her review from Sundance), but Babak Anvari‘s terrifying new film is very much its own beast. Set in Tehran, Iran in 1988, the film follows an embittered mother and her young daughter as they live in constant fear of missile attacks from neighboring Iraq. But the fear and anxiety in the air breeds something especially awful – as people flee the city, demonic forces move in, terrorizing the leads for their own nefarious purposes. While Under the Shadow is a viscerally frightening film, it’s the setting, bonded to the horror at a DNA level, that makes this a special film. Narges Rashidi‘s Shideh lives in a society that oppresses her at every turn, that forces her to live in constant fear, with the spirits in her home as just the latest assaults on her existence in a nation that has gone out its way to strip her of her future. Under the Shadow is terrifying before the jump scares begin.

the waiting

The Waiting

Every generation gets their version of Rear Window and The Waiting is pretty good one. Partially shot in a found footage style, the film follows (total asshole) teenagers who decide to convince their crotchety old neighbor (James Caan, doing his James Caan thing) that his house is being haunted. As we follow their exploits through the cameras they film everything with, the film breaks into more a more traditional to showcase the perspectives of other characters…which don’t always align with what the (total asshole) teenagers are seeing. Naturally, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to their chosen victim and the ultimate revelations are surprisingly sad and sobering. It’s a shame that the film itself is only intermittently thrilling, but the human drama is on point.

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About the Author

Jacob Hall is the managing editor of /Film, with previous bylines all over the Internet. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, his pets, and his board game collection.