First Wave of Films Announced for SXSW 2015


BRAND_A_Second_Coming_Big_TopPreston Barta // Editor

It’s that time of the year again, where we talk about everything South by Southwest. There is something thrilling about Austin’s beloved film festival. For a few days out of the year, everyone is a film junkie, hitting up red carpets to see their favorite stars or waiting for hours to catch the festival’s most buzzed about flick.

At the event, anything can happen: stand side-by-side at the urinal with Jonah Hill (it actually happened to us in 2012), take selfies with Clark Gregg or get your mind blown by Mark Duplass’ latest film (both of which are also true). You might even get to spot a few talents walking in the street.

With only two months away, SXSW (March 13-21) has announced their first wave of programming for the film section of their festival. While the complete festival listings will be announced on February 3, with the exception of the Midnighter features and Short Film Program, these seven films below give us plenty to be excited about.

The Opening Night Premiere will be Russell Brand’s concert doc BRAND: A Second Coming, directed by award-winning filmmaker Ondi Timoner (Dig!). This film may not offer you as much thrill as last year’s opener, Chef, but Brand is quite the interesting fella. So expect something funny yet educational.

Alicia Vikander plays Ava in Ex Machina. Photo courtesy of A24.

Alicia Vikander plays Ava in Ex Machina. Photo courtesy of A24.

Other films include Michael Showalter’s Sally Field-starring comedy Hi, My Name Is Doris; Karyn Kusama’s thriller The Invitation; Sara Hirsh Bordo’s documentary A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story; the Mavis Staples documentary Mavis!; the first feature from Grantland Features about NBA star Serge Ibaka returning to his homeland, Son of the Congo; and screenwriter Alex Garland’s (28 Days Later) directorial debut, the sci-fi thriller Ex Machina.

You can read more about these seven films below:

BRAND: A Second Coming (World Premiere)
Director: Ondi Timoner
BRAND: A Second Coming follows comedian/author Russell Brand’s evolution from addict and Hollywood star to unexpected political disruptor and newfound hero to the underserved. Brand is criticized for egomaniacal self-interest as he calls for revolution.

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story (World Premiere)
Director: Sara Bordo
From the producers of the most viewed TEDWomen event of 2013 comes A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story, a documentary following the inspiring journey of 25-year-old, 58-pound Lizzie from cyber-bullying victim to anti-bullying activist.

Ex Machina (North American Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Alex Garland
Stars: Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander
Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later and Sunshine, makes his directorial debut with the stylish and cerebral thriller Ex Machina, about a programmer who is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I.

Hello, My Name is Doris (World Premiere)
Director: Michael Showalter
Screenwriters: Michael Showalter and Laura Terruso
Stars: Sally FieldMax Greenfield and Beth Behrs
An isolated 60-year-old woman is motivated by a self-help seminar to romantically pursue a younger coworker, causing her to stumble into the spotlight of the Brooklyn hipster social scene.

The Invitation (World Premiere)
Director: Karyn Kusama
Screenwriters: Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi
Stars: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel HuismanEmayatzy Corinealdi and Lindsay Burdge
A reunion of old friends turns into a nightmare when one guest, a haunted man whose ex-wife is among the hosts, begins to fear that the night is part of a terrifying agenda.

Mavis! (World Premiere)
Director: Jessica Edwards
Her family group, the Staple Singers, inspired millions and helped propel the civil rights movement with their music. After 60 years of performing, legendary singer Mavis Staples’ message of love and equality is needed now more than ever.

Son of the Congo (World Premiere / SXsports screening)
Director/Screenwriter: Adam Hootnick
Serge Ibaka’s improbable journey has taken him from the violence of Congo to the top of the NBA. In Son of the Congo, Ibaka returns home, hoping his basketball success can help rebuild a country and inspire a new generation to dream of a better life.

As mentioned, the complete festival lineup will be announced Tuesday, February 3, with the exception of Midnighter features, which will be revealed with the Short Film Program on Tuesday, February 10. Celebrating its 22nd year, the SXSW Film Conference and Festival will take place March   13 – 21, 2015 in Austin, TX. For more information, visit

Feature Photo: Russell Brand in BRAND: A Second Coming. Photo courtesy of Interloper Films.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction ( as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.