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15 Must-See Movies at SXSW Film Festival 2015

From micro-indie comedies to music docs, these are the Austin fest’s flicks that have us buzzing


Scenes from 'Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove' and 'Moonwalkers.'

Van Brooks; Moonwalkers

Every year, critics and cinegeeks head to Austin, Texas, to sample a smorgasbord of lo-fi indies, thought-provoking docs, psychotronic midnight movies and oh-so-much-more at the annual SXSW Film Festival. From March 13-21, festgoers will have their pick of early sneak peeks at upcoming releases (the Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart comedy Get Hard, the Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy), choice Sundance offerings (Rodney Ascher's The Nightmare, the extraordinary Kurt Cobain portrait Montage of Heck) and dozens of works from potential next-big-thing directors to check out in between queso-filled meals.

The question, however, is: what are the ones you simply can't afford to miss? After scanning the schedule and breaking down players' stats, we've come up with the 15 movies that SXSW-ers have to catch during their time in the Lone Star state's unofficial capital. These are the all-over-the-map music documentaries, the micro-budgeted flicks and the indescribable mind-blowers that have us ready to mess with Texas.

Made in Japan

Made in Japan

‘Made in Japan’

The legacy of country music in Japan can often be summed up in one name: Tomi Fujiyama, the country's first big C&W star and one of the few from the land of the rising sun to ever sing in the Grand Ole Opry. This look at her life and successful career as a recording artist also follows the septuagenarian as she and her husband travel to the U.S., in hopes of performing at that iconic Nashville venue one more time. Expect laughter, tears, picking, grinning and yodeling. Lots of yodeling.


Miikka Skaffari


She helped popularize gospel and turn it into a music-industry bonanza, along with her father and siblings, in the 1950s; she provided the spiritual soundtrack for the civil right movement in the 1960s; and as part of the Staple Singers, she was a Top 40 staple throughout the 1970s. Director Jessica Edwards' doc shines the spotlight on Mavis Staples, paying tribute to her musical-pioneer past and making sure people pay attention to the soulful work the 75-year-old artist is doing today. Hallelujah indeed.



We've all heard the one about how the moon landing was allegedly faked and Stanley Kubrick supposedly shot the whole thing on a soundstage in London. Famed French commercial director and Guinness World Record-holder Antoine Bardou-Jacquet imagines that a C.I.A. agent (Sons of Anarchy's Ron Perlman) had tried to recruit the reclusive director for the faux-space travel gig — and ended up concocting a caper with a rock-band manager (Harry Potter regular Rupert Grint). What's the Gallic word for madcap again?


Kurt Zala


In which three 11-year-olds obsessed with the inaugural adventure of Indiana Jones spend most of their childhood trying to do a shot-for-shot remake of their favorite movie — and end up producing one of the most beloved fan-made masterpieces ever. Filmmakers Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen tag along as the now-grown creators finally try to nab the one scene they never got: Indy's battle over a Nazi fighter plane. Nothing could go wrong with their plan, right? Right? (Hey, as long as no snakes are involved, everything should be a-ok.)

'Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove'

Van Brooks

‘Sir Doug and the Genuine Texas Cosmic Groove’

Doug Sahm was a hippie, a rhythm & blues fanatic, a roots rocker, a psychedelic cowboy, a favorite of Bob Dylan's, a child prodigy who played with Hank Williams Sr. and, according to experts, the musical "King of Texas." The story of this Lone Star longhair who helped cross-breed genres several times over is a long and complicated one; thankfully, documentarian (and former Rolling Stone contributor) Joe Nick Patoski is going to lay it out for us in nice, broad strokes and school us in the ways of Sahm. Listen, any excuse to hear more Texas Tornados songs with a crowd is fine by us.

Theory of Obscurity

The Cryptic Corporation

‘Theory of Obscurity: A Film About the Residents’

We've already waxed poetic about this doc dedicated to the San Francisco band who've embraced anonymity almost as much as wearing giant eyeball heads and using video to complement their wonderfully eccentric tunes. With testimonies from fans and fellow iconoclastic musicians, archival clips of the avant-garde band at work and more offbeat time signatures per capita than you can shake a gingerbread man at, we simply can not wait to see it. Or, for that matter, watch a host of festivalgoers fall in love with a weirder-than-weird band we've been going nuts over for decades.

We Like it Like That

‘We Like It Like That’

It came from the barrio, this combo-platter sound of American soul and Cuban mambo — and it managed to keep hips shaking and feet moving throughout the 1960s. This is the history of boogaloo, the genre that gave us the Joe Cuba Quintet's classic "Bang Bang" and gave the era's Latin culture a voice, with stars like Johnny Colon and Joe Bataan testifying to the music's origins and impact. Please put out a soundtrack album stat.