Our Most Anticipated Films of SXSW 2022

After a two-year hiatus, the SXSW film festival returns in person with an impressive lineup. Here are 12 recommendations featuring voices from the FREE THE WORK community.

By Daisy Gonzalez, Content Specialist for FREE THE WORK.

The Austin-based festival’s abrupt cancellation in the March of 2020 due to the spread of coronavirus, signaled a seismic shift in the entertainment industry and devastated creators around the world. Streaming ruled supreme as studios adapted to bringing stories to audiences at home.

But now, cinema has returned! After 2 years of a pandemic freeze, SXSW is back in person with a roaring roster of filmmakers offering everything from star-studded premieres to new visions from up-and-coming creators. Our team picked out a few films from creators that you should have at the top of your lists!

Here’s FREE THE WORK’s guide to the must-watch feature films of SXSW 2022.

“Everything Everywhere All At Once”

Allyson Riggs, Courtesy of A24

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as DANIELS — initially started out writing and directing a slew of viral music videos, commercials, and short films, then moved into feature films. They made a splash at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival with their feature directorial debut, the fart drama, ‘Swiss Army Man’ starring Daniel Radcliffe, Paul Dano, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Intrigued?

DANIELS arrives to open SXSW with Everything Everywhere All At Once a hilarious and big-hearted sci-fi action-adventure about an exhausted Chinese American woman (Michelle Yeoh) who can’t seem to finish her taxes. Been there. Needless to say, we are excited to see the DANIELS sophomore film and couldn’t help ourselves to start our list with such a special opener.

Everything Everywhere All At Once is playing in the Headliner section and is scheduled to open SXSW on March 11, 2022. Check here to see the full lineup and click here to see more from Daniel Kwan on FREE THE WORK.

“The Prank”

Connor Kalopsis & Rita Moreno in THE PRANK | Credit: Mathew Rudenberg

Named one of Indie Wire’s rising female directors in 2020, FREE THE WORK creator Maureen Bharoocha is a filmmaker to watch at SXSW. Bharoocha is half Irish Catholic and half Indian Muslim and because of her mixed background, she enjoys telling stories about complicated characters, specializes in dark comedy and drama, and is a master of tone. Maureen’s feature debut was the SXSW arm-wrestling comedy, Golden Arm, which sold to HBO and premiered in 2021.

With a cast led by none other than the legendary Rita Moreno, The Prank follows two high school students who play a prank on their physics teacher, Mrs. Wheeler, played by Moreno. When she fails them on a test; they teach the imperious, demanding, insulting instructor a lesson by falsely accusing her of the murder of a missing student. High school shenanigans will definitely ensue.

The Prank is premiering in the Narrative Spotlight section and is scheduled to premiere on March 13, 2022. Check here to see the full lineup and click here to see more from Maureen Bharoocha on FREE THE WORK.

“Seriously Red”

Bobby Cannavale & Krew Boylan | Credit: Kane Skennar

FREE THE WORK creator Gracie Otto is an accomplished Australian filmmaker from the Otto acting family. Her background in fashion, narrative, and documentary storytelling has led her through an impressive career across film, television, and branded content. With Seriously Red, Otto makes her fourth appearance at SXSW. Previously she attended as an actress/editor with feature film Three Blind Mice, and “Living Between Fucks” and director of the feature documentary “Under the Volcano.”

Although the programmers at SXSW don’t select films based on a theme, there is a lot of Dolly Parton to be found across this year’s lineup that honestly, we can’t complain about. Seriously Red follows Raylene ‘Red’ Delaney (Krew Boylan) as she trades her 9 to 5 for a life as a Dolly Parton impersonator. Gracie Otto’s rich visual textures are sure to make Seriously Red a real diamond in a rhinestone world.

Seriously Red is playing in the Narrative Feature Competition and is scheduled to premiere on March 13, 2022. Check here to see the full lineup and click here to see more from Gracie Otto on FREE THE WORK.

“BODIES BODIES BODIES”

Credit: Gwen Capistran

The triple threat from the Netherlands, actor, writer, director Halina Reijn has had an impressive presence across the festival circuit. The FREE THE WORK creator’s directorial debut Instinct was the Netherland’s 2019 Foreign Language Oscar submission and was selected for Locarno, TIFF, and BFI festivals. Halina also created, co-wrote, produced, and starred in the series Red Light.

Bodies Bodies Bodies follows a group of rich 20-somethings who plan a hurricane party at a remote family mansion when things turn deadline. A fresh and funny look at backstabbing, fake friends, and one party gone very, very wrong, this latest genre-bend from A24 is a SXSW Headliner you can’t miss.

Bodies Bodies Bodies is playing in the Headliner section and is scheduled to premiere on March 14, 2022. Check here to see the full lineup and click here to see more from Halina Reijn on FREE THE WORK.

“Millie Lies Low”

MILLIE | Credit: Sandy Lane Productions

FREE THE WORK creator, Michelle Savill tells cinematic stories about the human condition, mining reality for humor, with a touch of magic. She meticulously crafts each character and their world from real-life observations. Winner of the Best Narrative Short at SXSW 2013, returns to the festival with Millie Lies Low as a promising talent in the film space.

Millie Lies Low follows a broke and anxiety-ridden architecture grad who misses her flight to New York for a prestigious internship and decides to fake having made it to New York, while lying low in her hometown, scrounging for another ticket. We’ve all been there.

Millie Lies Low is premiering in the Narrative Spotlight section and is scheduled to premiere on March 13, 2022. Check here to see the full lineup and click here to see more from Michelle Savill on FREE THE WORK.

“Pretty Problems”

Rise and Shine. Lindsey (Britt Rentschler) + Carrie (Charlotte Ubben) | Credit: Alyssa Brocato

Before FREE THE WORK creator Kestrin Pantera began her career as a director in the commercial and film space, did you know that she was a classically trained cellist-turned-rocker who toured in rock bands? With a background as decorated as hers across branded content and film, it is no surprise to see Pantera emerge as a rising star at SXSW.

Pretty Problems follows Jack and Lindsey Simpson on the most unhinged weekend of their lives… at the Sonoma Chateau. With the “haves,” anything goes — including their bearings on reality. Can their relationship survive this new wild west of wealth? Do they even want it to?

Pretty Problems is premiering in the Narrative Spotlight section and is scheduled to premiere on March 14, 2022. Check here to see the full lineup and click here to see more from Kestrin Pantera on FREE THE WORK.

“Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down”

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Senator Mark Kelly | Credit: Dyanna Taylor

Documentarians and FREE THE WORK creators Julie Cohen and Betsy West are no strangers to high-profile deconstructions of political figures. Nominated for an Academy Award for their hit documentary RBG in 2018, the directing duo arrives at SXSW with an intimate look at former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her recovery journey following an assassination attempt in 2011, and her new life as one of the most effective activists in the battle against gun violence.

Featuring extensive Verite filming of Gabby and her husband, astronaut-turned-Senator Mark Kelly; interviews with Barack Obama and other friends and colleagues; and exclusive access to stunning videos taken in the weeks following her near-death, this film is the story of a rising star transformed by gun violence, and a close-up portrait of the marriage that sustains her.

Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down is premiering in the Documentary Spotlight section on March 12, 2022. Check here to see the full lineup and here to see more from Julie Cohen and Betsy West on FREE THE WORK.

“Really Good Rejects”

Reuben Cox selects guitars to modify at Old Style Guitar Shop. | Credit: Film still

FREE THE WORK creator Alice Gu is an award-winning director and director of photography. A Los Angeles native, Alice began her career as a director of photography, working with renowned directors Werner Herzog, Stacy Peralta, and Rory Kennedy, among others. A rising star, Alice Gu’s work is sure to be the talk of SXSW.

Los Angeles luthier, Reuben Cox, channels his inner instinct and artistic intuition in creating unique, custom guitars sought after by some of rock’s biggest and most respected artists. Featuring words of wisdom and pontification from musical legends like Jackson Browne, Carrie Brownstein, Aaron Dessner of The National, Jim James, Andrew Bird, Perfume Genius, among others, the film covers songwriting, the human experience, and connecting with the human collective.

Really Good Rejects is premiering in the 24 Beats Per Second section on March 13, 2022. Check here to see the full lineup and click here to see more from Alice Gu on FREE THE WORK.

“Still Working 9 to 5”

Dolly Parton | Credit: Brian Tweedt

Directed by Camille Hardman and Gary Lane and edited by Oreet Rees and Elisa Bonora, Still Working 9 to 5 explores why workplace inequality is no laughing matter in the 40 years since the seminal comedy, 9 to 5, was released in 1980.

The documentary explores the comedic tone of the film and how it resonated with a wide audience at a time when the feminist message was being rejected and/or feared by a large swathe of the population. Sure to leave folks talking, Still Working 9 to 5 is an offering you can’t miss.

Still Working 9 to 5 is premiering in the Documentary Spotlight section on March 13, 2022. Check here to see the full lineup.

“Amansa Tiafi (Public Toilet Africa)”

Ama and Sadiq | Credit: Timothy Yiadom

This year’s Global section is powered by none other than MUBI, the global curation powerhouse, and the selection that caught our eye comes from Ghanaian-born Obarima Kofi Ofosu-Yeboah. His lens focuses on the aspirations and hopes of the African people. With several festivals and awards on his belt and an extensive career in academia, Ofosu-Yeboah is a talent to watch.

Amansa Tiafi (Public Toilet Africa) follows Ama as she returns to the city where she was gifted to a white art collector as a little girl. Her quest to repay an old debt quickly goes on a tailspin when she recruits an ex-lover. Evading capture, the lonely country road they travel is beset with a series of bizarre encounters, and their fate is tied to that of two passengers they cross paths with.

Amansa Tiafi (Public Toilet Africa) is premiering in the Global section Presented by MUBI on March 11, 2022. Check here to see the full lineup.

“The Unknown Country”

Lily Gladstone stars as Tana, a grieving young woman on an unexpected cross-country road trip through the American Midwest. | Credit: Morrisa Maltz ©2022 Morrisa Maltz, LLC

Sometimes, the best stories are found in your own backyard. Written and directed by Morrisa Moltz and with a story by Lily Gladstone, Morrisa Maltz, Vanara Taing, Lainey Bearkiller Shangreux The Unknown Country is a road trip film that takes us through South Dakota down to Texas and is a work of fiction melded with documentary elements in an innovative, seamless manner.

With visuals inspired from writer-director Morrisa Maltz’ photography project of the same name, the film follows Tana (Lily Gladstone) on largely solitary journey with an unknown destination, as she navigates the complex, post-2016 election social climate, and a natural landscape that is increasingly surreal. Along the way, she bonds with unexpected people that are as much a part of the landscape as the mountains and roads. Sure to be a beautifully introspective experience, The Unknown Country should be on your radar.

The Unknown Country is premiering in the Visions section on March 13, 2022. Check here to see the full lineup.

“Chee$e”

Parrot (Trevison Pantin), Skimma (Akil Gerard Williams), and Peter (Julio Prince) head out to sea. | Credit: CHEE$E by Damian Marcano

Trinidadian filmmaker Damian Marcano’s first feature is Chee$e is seven years in the making and sure to be a fun good time at the movies. The project started as a 19-minute short that was purchased by Warner Bros’ Stage 13 and was later purchased back by Marcano and developed into a feature film. Marcano has directed episodes of FX’s Snowfall and the HBO series Winning Time.

A goofy stoner comedy about the efforts of a disillusioned weed dealer named Skimma and his efforts to provide for his child, Chee$e is sure to be a delight. Carefully balancing the fun weed induced shenanigans with the serious undertones of a man attempting to escape a life he didn’t imagine for himself, Marcano has us excited to catch this at the festival.

Chee$e is premiering in the Visions section on March 11, 2022. Check here to see the full lineup.

Daisy Gonzalez is the Content Specialist for FREE THE WORK. You can connect with her via culture@freethework.com and by following FREE THE WORK on Twitter and Instagram.

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FREE THE WORK

FREE THE WORK is a non-profit organization committed to making equity actionable in media and to creating opportunities for a global workforce of talent.