In just over a week, (9th – 17th March) the annual South by Southwest Conference and Festival (SXSW) will be turning Austin into an incubator of creativity across film, music, technology, gaming and various other industries. It’s consistently one of the biggest – if not the biggest – showcase events in the world, and for the film component running throughout the entire festival, this will be an important week-and-a-bit for a number of Australian filmmakers and artists making the journey over to Texas.
One of those filmmakers will be Leigh Whannell, best known as the devilish mind behind the Saw and Insidious franchises (both with buddy James Wan). He’ll be attending the world premiere of futuristic thriller Upgrade (formerly known as Stem) which was shot on location in Melbourne with production from Goalpost Pictures and Blumhouse Productions. The film, part of the festival’s “Midnighters” program, is set in a utopian near-future where technology controls just about everything, setting the scene for a plot that follows a technophobe (Logan Marshall-Green) who avenges his wife’s murder and his own paralysis-causing injury with the help of an implanted computer chip that turns out to have a mind of its own. The film also stars Betty Gabriel, Harrison Gilbertson, Benedict Hardie, and Clayton Jacobson, who will have his own film also premiering at SXSW.
Though Jacobson’s Brothers’ Nest will be in a vastly different category, fitting into the comedy-drama slot as part of the “Narrative Spotlight” program, with a script written by Jamie Browne, who was also behind The Mule and Please Like Me.. The film, which was formerly known as Sibling Rivalry, stars Clayton alongside Shane Jacobson as brothers who travel to their family home in regional Victoria to murder their stepfather (Kym Gyngell) while their mother (Lynette Curran) is dying of cancer. Meanwhile, a young woman played by Sarah Snook turns up at the house looking to buy a horse.
NYC-based Australian filmmaker Renée Marie Petropoulos will have her short Tangles & Knots join Hyun Lee’s Asian Girls screen as part of SXSW’s “Narrative Shorts Competition”. The former is about an intimate bond between mother and daughter becoming threatened when the mother helps her teenage daughter throw a party to impress peers, while the latter is about a Chinese factory worker who lives alone and suffers nightly nightmares concerning the Japanese office lady who lives in the apartment next door.
Sydney virtual reality studio Start VR will also be premiering their original project Awake: Episode One as part of the festival’s comprehensive selection of VR projects. The narrative VR film will follow protagonist Harry, a man who is prisoner in his own house and is obsessed with uncovering the truth behind every one of his recurring dreams. This will sit on a program with Four Worlds, another Aussie-involved project that consists of four installations of looping VR experiences, enhanced by extra sensory stimulation and a soundtrack designed by Mark Pritchard. Other Australian VR projects include the deeply moving Parragirls Past, Present, street-art focused work Rone, and Summation of Force which is a study of backyard cricket and human movement.
With feature films, shorts, VR and a few more, it’s looking like Australian filmmakers and artists will be well represented throughout the film festival component of SXSW. Make sure you’re keeping an eye out for these ones and for more information head to the official SXSW website HERE.
Image: Upgrade. Supplied.