Substream’s 16 Must-See Films Of SXSW 2016

The film portion of SXSW kicks off this Friday, March 11. Though it isn’t considered to be quite as big as Sundance in the world of cinema, SXSW has become a hub for developing filmmakers and seasoned pros to shares their most ambitious ideas. From shorts of all varieties, to major premieres, special work in progress screenings, and a wide array of midnight titles often too extreme for the general public, there is something for everyone playing in Austin over the next week. Our own film editor, James Shotwell, will be reporting daily from the festival, and to kick things off he’s put together a list of the 16 must-see titles at this year’s event.

For the sake of organization, the following list has been separated into three categories: Shorts, Documentaries and Features. There are literally hundreds of titles being shown at SXSW, but the films featured in this piece are those we believe people will be discussing for months if not years to come. Some will go on to be box office hits, while others may never see release outside the festival circuit. If you see something that appeals to you, please do not hesitate to reach out to the filmmakers and let them know you’re interested in their work. They probably won’t be able to tell you when you can see their film outside its screening(s) in Austin, but they will deeply appreciate your support.


Bacon & God’s Wrath (Directed by: Sol Freeman)

Synopsis: In this short mixed-media doc, a 90 year-old Jewish woman reflects on her life’s experiences as she prepares to try bacon for the first time.
Saturday, March 12 11:00am-12:30pm; Rollins Theatre at The Long Center
Monday, March 14 1:45pm-3:15pm; Tofper Theatre at ZACH
Thursday, March 17 2:45pm-4:15pm; Alamo Lamar B

Barry (Directed by: Jay Rondot)
Synopsis: BARRY is the story of Barry Berkins, a homespun cocaine dealer who joins Facebook in an attempt to take his business to the next level. However, he soon finds that sharing doesn’t always lead to caring.
Saturday, March 12 4:30PM – 5:58PM; Tofper Theatre at ZACH
Monday, March 14 11:30AM – 12:58PM; Rollins Theatre at the Long Center
Thursday, March 17 8:45PM – 10:13PM; Stateside Theatre

Her Friend Adam (Directed by: Ben Petrie)
Synopsis: Her Friend Adam takes place entirely in a female painter’s small studio apartment, as her boyfriend’s jealous impulses slowly take control of their evening. The young man’s anxieties throw the couple into a bizarre and unexpected skirmish, which gradually spirals out of control and explodes in an unhinged display of insecurity, humiliation and sexuality.
Saturday, March 12 4:30PM – 5:58PM; Tofper Theatre at ZACH
Monday, March 14 11:30AM – 12:58PM; Rollins Theatre at the Long Center
Thursday, March 17 8:45PM – 10:13PM; Stateside Theatre

Night Of The Slasher (Directed by: Shant Hamassian)
Synopsis: Beautiful teenage Jenelle dances half-naked, drinks alcohol, does drugs and has sex… but not for fun. She keeps a secret list titled “Horror Movie Sins” and checks each one off until…. a masked slasher appears! Her neck scar reveals she was attacked in the past by him and is now ready to fight back. She will do anything she can, including putting other people’s lives at risk, in order to lure him, trap him and defeat him once and for all. But she might be developing an addiction…
Friday, March 11 11:30PM – 1:07AM; Alamo Lamar A
Monday, March 14 9:00PM – 10:37PM; Alamo Ritz 1
Thursday, March 17 10:00PM – 11:37PM; Alamo Ritz 1


The Liberators (Directed by: Cassie Hay)

Synopsis: Medieval art treasures seized by the Nazis go missing at the end of World War II. Were they destroyed in the chaos of the final battles? Or were these thousand-year-old masterpieces stolen by advancing American troops? For over 40 years, the mystery remained unsolved. A true detective story, this film follows a dogged German art detective through the New York art world and military archives to the unlikeliest of destinations: a small town on the Texas prairie. The film raises intriguing questions as to the motivations of the art thief and the whereabouts of the items that, to this day, remain waiting to be discovered.
Friday, March 11 8:30pm; Stateside Theatre (World Premiere)
Saturday, March 12 6:45PM – 8:00PM; Rollins Theatre at the Long Center
Thursday, March 17 11:00AM – 12:15PM; Stateside Theatre

Boone (Directed by: Christopher LaMarca)

Synopsis: Haunting and deeply human, Boone tells the story of three young goat farmers as they transition with the seasons and come to terms with the physical and emotional grit required to live in deep relationship with the land. This experiential film is a visceral meditation on the sacrifice and struggle of a lifestyle born of self reliance; a sensual homage to the heart and soul of a farmer.
Saturday, March 12 11:15 AM; Alamo Ritz 2 (World Premiere)
Monday, March 14 8:00 PM; Alamo Lamar C
Friday, March 18- 4:00 PM; Alamo Ritz 2

Hired Gun (Directed by: Fran Strine)

Synopsis: This feature length one-off documentary introduces the prolific musicians who are virtually unknown to the public. Billy Joel, Whitesnake, P!NK and Metallica are synonymous with their own artistry and success, but who is responsible for their instrumental solos? Who tours with them live? It is the consummate side players who kill it show after show, often playing circles around the actual band members. In Hired Gun, viewers learn the firsthand stories from individuals who have mastered their craft and perform on the world’s biggest stages. This film details the highs and lows of touring life, the demands of hectic session schedules and the dedication required to make dreams a reality.
Friday, March 18th 1:00PM; Paramount Theatre (World Premiere)

I Am The Blues (Directed by: Daniel Cross)

Synopsis: Takes the audience on a musical journey through the swamps of the Louisiana Bayou, the juke joints of the Mississippi Delta and Moonshine soaked BBQs in the North Mississippi Hill Country. Visiting the last original blues devils, many in their 80’s, still living in the deep south, working without management and
touring the Chitlin’ Circuit. Let Bobby Rush, Barbara Lynn, Henry Gray, Carol Fran, Lazy Lester, Bilbo Walker, RL Boyce, Jimmy ’Duck’ Holmes, Lil Buck Sinegal, LC Ulmer and their friends awaken the blues in all of us.
Tuesday, March 15 1:45PM; Topfer Theater At ZACH
Friday, March 18 4:30PM; Stateside Theatre

The Smart Studios Story (Directed by: Wendy Schneider)

Synopsis: Chronicles the dramatic rise of the legendary Midwest music recording studio founded by musicians and recording legends Butch Vig and Steve Marker, where a defining generation of alternative rock music was created, including seminal albums by Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, L7 and Death Cab For Cutie. Never before seen archival footage, in-depth interviews and a mighty soundtrack portray for the first time the story of this studio and its pivotal role in the global rise of 1990’s alternative rock.
Wednesday, March 16 5:30PM; Paramount Theatre (World Premiere)
Friday, March 18 1:30PM; Alamo Ritz 1

Aspergers Are Us (Directed by: Alex Lehmann)

Synopsis: For the members of the comedy troupe “Asperger’s Are Us,” it’s easier to associate with a faceless audience than with their own families. No matter who the crowd, best friends Noah, New Michael, Jack and Ethan have one simple mantra: “We would much rather the audience appreciate us as comedians than people who have overcome adversity.” In this coming-of-age heartfelt documentary, this band of brothers finds themselves at a crossroad. With real life pulling them apart, they decide to plan one ambitious farewell show before they all go their separate ways. People with Asperger’s don’t deal well with uncertainty, and this is the most uncertain time in their lives.
Saturday, March 12th, 11:45AM; Alamo Lamar D (World Premiere)
Tuesday, March 15th, 11:30AM; Alamo Ritz 1
Thursday, March 17th, 8:15PM; Marchesa
Saturday, March 19th, 2:15PM; Alamo Lamar C

Newtown (Directed by: Kim A. Snyder)

Synopsis: There are no easy answers in Kim A. Snyder’s searing new documentary Newtown—no words of compassion or reassurance that can bring back the 20 children and six educators who lost their lives during the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Instead, Snyder gives us exclusive access into the lives and homes of those who lost loved ones, and others in the community who have been indelibly changed by the events. Each person, be it a parent, school nurse or state police officer, tries in their own way to make sense of their loss, as well as confront our nation’s inability to quell gun violence in even the most peaceful of communities. Newtown bears witness to their profound grief and allows it to reverberate within our collective conscience—exploring what happens to a community after it becomes the epicenter of a national discussion, and what is still left to cope with after the cameras leave.
Sunday, Mar. 13, 12:00PM; Paramount Theatre
Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2:30PM; Alamo Lamar D
Wednesday, Mar. 16, 2:30PM; Satellite Venue: Marchesa


Free In Deed (Directed by: Jake Mahaffy)
Synopsis: Set in the distinctive world of storefront churches, and based on actual events, Free In Deed depicts one man’s attempts to perform a miracle. When a single mother brings her young boy to church for healing, this lonely pentecostal minister is forced to confront the seemingly incurable illness of the child and his own demons as well. The more he prays, the more things seem to spiral out of his control.
Friday, March 11 9:30PM; Alamo Lamar B
Tuesday, March 15 6:30PM; Alamo Ritz 2
Wednesday, March 16 12:30PM; Alamo Lamar C

Hush (Directed by: Mike Flanagan)
Synopsis: Author Maddie Young (Siegel) has lived a life of isolation since losing her hearing as a teenager, fully retreating into her now silent world. But when the masked face of a psychotic killer appears in the window of her secluded home, Maddie must push herself beyond her mental and physical limits in order to survive the night.
Saturday, March 12 11:30PM; Stateside Theatre
Sunday, March 13 11:30PM; Alamo Lamar D
Friday, March 18 4:00PM; Alamo Lamar D

Operation Avalanche (Directed by: Matt Johnson)
Synopsis: 1967, the height of the cold war: the global race to put a man on the moon is afoot. Suspicions are brewing within the CIA that a Russian spy has infiltrated the inner-circle of NASA in an attempt to sabotage the Apollo Program. Two young agents from the CIA’s A/V department present a plan to expose the mole, and their supervisors reluctantly agree. They go undercover as filmmakers tasked with documenting the nation’s journey from the earth to the moon. To the chagrin of the powers that be, these crack agents uncover a conspiracy far more shocking than Soviet spies. The government is hiding a dark secret about Apollo, and the White House will stop at nothing to silence those who discover it.
Sunday, March 13 9:30PM; Alamo Lamar A
Monday, March 14 2:15PM; Alamo Ritz 2
Thursday, March 17 7:30PM; Alamo Ritz 1

Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday (Directed by: John Lee)
Synopsis: The new film stars the beloved fun-loving hero of TV, stage and film, Pee-wee Herman. In Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, a fateful meeting with a mysterious stranger inspires Pee-wee Herman to take his first-ever holiday in this epic story of friendship and destiny. The film stars Pee-wee Herman, Joe Manganiello (True Blood, Magic Mike XXL), Jessica Pohly (Stalker), Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) and Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), and was directed by John Lee (Wonder Showzen). Paul Reubens and Paul Rust (Love, Arrested Development) wrote the film, that was produced by Reubens and Judd Apatow (Trainwreck, Bridesmaids).
Thursday, March 18 6:00PM; Paramount

Stray (Directed by: Musa Syeed)
Synopsis: In Minneapolis’ large Somali refugee community, Adan has nowhere to go. His mom kicked him out, and his friends are tired of his headstrong ways. As a last resort, he moves into the mosque, praying for a little help. Surprisingly, God seems to answer. Adan quickly lands a good job, devout friends and a newfound faith. When Adan nearly hits a stray dog on the job, he’s forced to take it in for a night. But one of his new mosque friends considers the dog impure, and he throws Adan out. With Adan back on the streets, surrounded by his old crew, ex-girlfriends, prying FBI agents and his estranged family, the dog may be his only friend as he tries to keep his faith and get through the night.
Sunday, March 13 4:00PM; Vimeo Theater
Monday, March 14 3:15PM; Alamo Lamar C
Thursday, March 17 11:45AM; Alamo Lamar C