SXSW Film 2016: Festival Recap

By Liz Lopez

The Audience Awards follow the previously announced 2016 Jury Awards, which included Grand Jury Winners The Arbalest for Narrative Feature and Tower for Documentary Feature. Some of the award winning films listed below have gone on to participate in additional film festivals. The Headliner, Demolition, was theatrically released and others have not yet announced plans for distribution.

There have been other films I have written reviews about that have had a theatrical release already, and if the release was limited, it has also had a digital release to date, such as Hush, in early April.

Mike Birbiglia’s film, Don’t Think Twice, an Official Selection at SXSW this year and an Official Selection at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival will be released by The Film Arcade in New York on July 22nd, followed by a nationwide rollout. I viewed this film and enjoyed the ensemble cast, including Keegan Michael – Key, who was also starring in Keanu during SXSW.

Carnage Park, a 2016 Sundance Film Festival and SXSW Film Festival – Official Selection will open have a theatrical release as of July 1st in New York (later in the same month for LA) and will be available On Demand /all digital platforms as well.

Sausage Party was screened as a Work-In-Progress during the festival as a Special Event that was also part of Convergence and SouthBites. Now, the first R-rated CG animated movie is scheduled to have the theatrical release on August 12th by Colombia Pictures.

In a Valley of Violence, written and directed by Ti West and produced by Blumhouse (Focus World) stars:  Ethan Hawke, James Ransone, Taissa Farmiga, Karen Gillan and John Travolta. The film is scheduled to be screened at the BAMcinemaFest 2016. I viewed this film, enjoyed all the performances and certainly hope it has a theatrical release date announced in the future.

The 2016 SXSW Film Festival Audience Award Winners are as follows in various categories:

Narrative Feature Competition Audience Award Winner: Transpecos

The film is directed by Austin-based Greg Kwedar and stars former Austin based actor Gabriel Luna, Johnny Simmons, and Clifton Collins Jr. (Triple 9, Capote). Screenwriters are Kwedar and Clint Bentley.

I viewed this film and it deserves to receive this award. The writing is good, the performances are as well and the three principal characters, Border Patrol officers, are effectively portrayed by Luna, Simmons and Clifton Collins Jr.

The debut feature from the writer/director begins at a makeshift Border Patrol checkpoint on a remote highway in the desert. It is manned by three agents: Flores (Luna); Davis (Simmons); and Hobbs (Clifton Collins Jr.). Although it begins like a routine day without much to do, it soon changes when a driver in a vehicle with questionable contents arrives. What soon follows is an unraveling of one man’s secrets and the effect it has on their careers and lives.

The film by Kwedar has gone on to screen at the Nashville Film Festival, the Dallas International Film Festival, and a couple of others. On June 1st, the film will be screened at Seattle International Film Festival.


Documentary Feature Competition Audience Award Winner: Tower Director: Keith Maitland

I viewed the film during the latter part of the SXSW Festival and it certainly is very informative and engaging in the manner the story is presented, keeping the viewer totally engaged.

The next screenings planned for the film are June 2nd and 3rd at the Seattle International Film Festival; deadCenter Film Festival in Oklahoma City and AFIDocs Film Festival in Silver Spring, MD.


Headliners Audience Award Winner: Demolition Director: Jean-Marc Vallée (My full film review is available on the website.)


Narrative Spotlight Audience Award Winner: From Nowhere Director: Matthew Newton


Documentary Spotlight Audience Award Winner: Mr. Gaga Director: Tomer Heymann


Visions Audience Award Winner: Jules and Dolores Director: Caito Ortiz ‘O Roubo da Taca’

This is a hilarious and smart film from Brazil that made its World Premiere in Austin during the festival. I am certainly hoping that this film has a theatrical release in the United States so a wider audience will be able to have the opportunity to enjoy the story and performances.

Synopsis – Rio de Janeiro, 1983. In order to pay off his gambling debts and to please the beautiful love of his life, Dolores, fun-loving Peralta and his happy-go-lucky buddy Borracha decide to steal the golden replica of the legendary Jules Rimet soccer world cup trophy. Too bad they heist the original trophy, which puts the entire country on the alert. “Jules and Dolores” tell us the real preposterous and unusual story behind this theft. Language: Portuguese and English with English Subtitles


Midnighters Audience Award Winner: I Am a Hero Director: Shinsuke Sato


Episodic Audience Award Winner: Vice Principals Directors: Jody Hill, David Gordon Green, Danny McBride. This series is set to be aired on Sunday, July 17th.


24 Beats Per Second Audience Award Winner: Honky Tonk Heaven: Legend the Broken Spoke Directors: Brenda Greene Mitchell, Sam Wainwright Douglas


SXGLOBAL Audience Award Winner: Ghostland Director: Simon Stadler


Festival Favorites Audience Award Winner: Gleason Director: Clay Tweel


SXSW Film Design Awards Excellence In Title Design Audience Award Winner: We Are X Designer: Allison Brownmoore of Blue Spill


The nine- day 2016 SXSW Film Festival screened 143 features, consisting of 89 World Premieres, 12 North American Premieres and 8 U.S. Premieres, with 52 first-time filmmakers. 114 shorts screened as part of ten curated shorts programs. The SXSW Film Conference presented 200+ Film Sessions (Panels, Workshops, Keynotes, Conversations, Networking Meetups and Mentors) plus an additional 450+ Convergence sessions open to more than one badge, including Future of Entertainment and VR/AR Tracks. For the complete list of 2016 Award Winners, visit

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