TEXAS, USA — The curtains are about to be raised and Hollywood stars ready to descend in Austin for the South By Southwest Film Festival, one of the biggest annual destinations for the latest in the world of movies in this part of the country.
Central Texas plays more than just the role of host, however. Many movies that have debuted at SXSW in the past tell Texas stories or feature local personalities; just last year one of the big-ticket premieres was "Apollo 10 1/2," an animated memory piece that saw Houston-born director Richard Linklater revisiting the memories of his east Texas upbringing.
This year's festival, which kicks off March 10, will continue the trend of Texas representation. Here are just some of the movies premiering in Austin this year with Lone Star State ties, as well as when they'll be available for audiences to watch elsewhere.
"Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves"
A year after eventual Oscar nominee "Everything Everywhere All At Once" debuted to a rapturous opening-night crowd at the Paramount Theatre, a big-screen reboot of the hyperpopular roleplaying game "Dungeons & Dragons" hopes to kick off the festival with the same buzzy response.
The potential launching point for a new tentpole franchise, "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" assembles a who's-who of A-listers for a fantasy/action romp, including Chris Pine, Hugh Grant and Rege-Jean Page. Also in the mix is San Antonio-born actress Michelle Rodriguez, best known for playing Letty in the "Fast & Furious" franchise. She resided in the Alamo City for nearly a decade before moving to the Dominican Republic.
"Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves" premieres at 6 p.m. on March 10 at the Paramount Theatre. It opens in theaters everywhere on March 31.
Another of the more highly anticipated movies debuting at SXSW this year, "Flamin' Hot" tells the story of Richard Montañez, a janitor-turned-businessman who claims to have invented Flamin' Hot Cheetos (a story which has been challenged by the LA Times' reporting).
Given Montañez's heritage and the Mexican-American cultural backdrop to his story, perhaps it's no surprise that multiple South Texas natives are involved in the project. Leading the way is actress-turned-director Eva Longoria, who was born in Corpus Christi, spent her childhood in Texas and continues to make a local impact through her San Antonio-based charity Eva's Heroes.
There's Lone Star State representation in the cast as well. "Mayans M.C." star and San Antonio native Emilio Rivera steps into the shoes of Montañez's father, and Corpus Christi native Pepe Serna rounds out the Texas delegation.
"Flamin' Hot" premieres at 3:15 p.m. on March 11 at the Paramount Theatre. It's set to release on Hulu June 9.
For the bite-size movie crowd there's "Dead Enders," a 12-minute horror short centered on protagonist Maya contending with "a sinister race of controlling parasites set loose by irresponsible oil drillers."
"Dead Enders" was co-created by San Antonian Fidel Ruiz-Healy, who directed and wrote the short alongside collaborator Tyler Walker. Having recently directed commercials for Budweiser and worked as cinematographer on Sundance-selected movies, Ruiz-Healy produced his latest film in the Alamo City, just down the highway from where it will debut.
"Dead Enders" will premiere as part of the Midnight Shorts Program at 9:45 p.m. on March 13 at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.
"Going Varsity in Mariachi"
After debuting at the Sundance Film Festival in January, this documentary which gives high school mariachi competitors from the Lone Star State the classic underdog-story treatment of sports movies will premiere to Texas audiences. "Going Varsity in Mariachi" hits close to home for at least one of its co-directors: Alejandra Vasquez was raised in rural Texas, and has produced prior shorts which have won jury awards at SXSW.
"Going Varsity in Mariachi" will premiere at 3:15 p.m. on March 12 at the Paramount Theatre. It's currently awaiting distribution.
"The Long Game"
Austin-based filmmaker Julio Quintana won't have to go very far for the premiere of his new film "The Long Game," which dramatizes the true story of a group of Mexican-American Del Rio caddies who overcame 1950s prejudice and minimal resources to win the state title. In addition to the story's Texas backdrop, it stars a local A-lister in Houston's own Dennis Quaid.
"The Long Game" premieres at 11:45 a.m. on March 12 at the Paramount Theatre. It's currently awaiting distribution.
"Love & Death"
It isn't a movie, but the premiere of the upcoming HBO Max series "Love & Death" is sure to generate buzz in downtown Austin regardless. The true-crime series documents a brutal axe killing that unfolded in north Texas in 1980, and enlists Elizabeth Olsen in the starring role of Betty Gore, who was controversially found not guilty of killing her husband.
Two of Olsen's costars, Jesse Plemons and Olivia Grace Applegate, are also from Dallas and San Antonio, respectively. And anyone will recognize Plemons as having gotten his start on "Friday Night Lights," one of the most beloved Lone Star State-set shows.
The first episode of "Love & Death" will premiere at noon on March 11 at the Paramount Theatre. It debuts April 27 on HBO Max.