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5 Films to Watch at SXSW 2024

Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | March 7th, 2024

It’s once more time for SXSW Film & TV, and I return to Austin, Texas, for part of the festival, which runs March 8-16. It’s a great place to be every year, showcasing not only films, but also episodic series and immersive experiences (as in VR, AR, XR, etc.). There’s also the concurrent music festival, plus technology and additional conferences. Here are 5 recommendations of what to see. All titles are hyperlinked to the movie’s page on the SXSW site. Enjoy!

Jackie van Beek IN AUDREY ©Bankside Films

Audrey (Natalie Bailey)

How much did I love The Breaker Upperers, back in 2018? So much! That manic New Zealand comedy had me rolling on the floor, and as a result I am ready for anything else staring one of its two leads, Jackie van Beek. And now I’ll have that chance. In Audrey, from director Natalie Bailey (making her feature debut after a long career in television), van Beek plays a frustrated former actress whose dreams never worked out who now gets a second opportunity to make it big after her daughter, Audrey, falls into a coma. Sound improbable? Bring it on!

l-r (faces): Irmena Chichikova and Derrick B. Harden in THE BLACK SEA. Credit: Jackson Hunt

The Black Sea (Derrick B. Harden/Crystal Moselle)

First-time co-director and star Derrick B. Harden, collaborating with the more experienced Crystal Moselle (Sophia), takes us on a journey to Bulgaria in The Black Sea, in which he plays the hapless Khalid. He’s a guy from Brooklyn who, after meeting an older Bulgarian woman on Facebook, heads off to her country for a promised large sum so that she can touch him (a local fortune teller of some sort told her it would cure her cancer). Before he arrives, however, that woman dies, leaving Khalid high and dry, without money or friends, and very much standing out. Slowly, however, he begins to forge connections. Rough as the film may be in many places, it nevertheless has an energy and charm about it that makes for fully engaged viewing.

Dev Patel in MONKEY MAN ©Universal Pictures

Monkey Man (Dev Patel)

Dev Patel (The Wedding Guest) has long been a favorite of mine, and now with Monkey Man he steps behind the camera to direct his first feature. He also stars. Playing a man who has long served as an intentional loser in an underground fight club, he promises bloody action, galore. Especially when the character he plays decides to finally take revenge on those who have long abused him. Move over, John Wick.

l-r: Adam David Thompson and Riley Dandy in THINGS WILL BE DIFFERENT. Credit: Carissa Dorson

Things Will Be Different (Michael Felker)

I always dig good lo-fi sci-fi, and Michael Felker’s Things Will Be Different promises to be just that. A film about what happens when two siblings on the run from the police (having committed a crime) end up in a barn that transports them to a different time, the movie should offer one unsettling twist after another. Felker may be (yet another) first-time feature director, but I have high hopes. Time will tell.

Faryal Mehmood in WAKHRI. Credit: One of a Kind LLC

Wakhri (Iram Parveen Bilal)

In 2020, writer/director Iram Parveen Bilal was all set to premiere her feature I’ll Meet You There at SXSW when Covid happened (I was still able to view and review it virtually, however). Now she’s back, with Wakhri, an extremely assured and narratively engaging next film. Inspired by the life of the late Pakistani social-media influencer Qandeel Baloch, the movie follows widowed mother Noor (terrific newcomer Faryal Mehmood) after she decides to push against her nation’s patriarchal restrictions on sex and identity, adopting a liberated persona, “Wakhri” (which, according to the subtitles, translates as “one of a kind”), who soon goes viral in a series of taped performances. Soon, many women take inspiration from her, leading to violent reprisals. No one said revolution was easy.


Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator, as well as Film Festival Today's Editor. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, Chris is, in addition, lead film critic at Hammer to Nail and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice.

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