Austin's SxSW festival routinely brings some of the most individual and unexpected films to the Lone Star State, and this year's batch of entries are no different. 2016 will be home to classic childhood characters (Pee-Wee's Big Holiday) and new crime thrillers (The Trust), but there are some choice projects that are a bit off the beaten path and well worth the journey.
Here are five films not to be missed at SxSW 2016.
1. My Blind Brother
Who doesn't want more irreverent comedy with a star-studded cast? In My Blind Brother, Adam Scott plays a vision impaired swimmer named Robbie, whose handsome features have long defined him. His brother Bill (Nick Kroll) is the less-attractive sibling who lives in Robbie's shadow, until they both start pining for the same girl (Jenny Slate).
After 2014's Obvious Child cemented Slate as an indomitable comic force on the silver screen, there is little doubt that this darkly comic film will resonate with audiences looking for a unique view of brotherly love.
2. We Are X
With their unprecedented success, international sales and influential visual style, you'd think that more people would know the heavy metal group X Japan. The documentary We Are X chronicles the life of the band's co-founder, drummer and leader Yoshiki, who struggled to bring his group's music and aesthetic, known as visual kei, to Western audiences.
Culminating in X Japan's performance at Madison Square Garden, We Are X traces the struggles and tragedies the band faced along the way, including unexpected deaths and the intrusion of a brainwashing cult.
3. Miss Stevens
Navigating the ever-elusive balance between adolescent dreams and adult responsibilities, Miss Stevens (American Horror Story's Lily Rabe) is a high school teacher who still has a lot to learn. When she chaperones three students to a drama competition, she slowly develops a relationship with each of them and discovers that we never quite stop coming of age.
For younger fans more familiar with YouTube stars, Miss Stevens brings the film debut of Anthony Quintal, better known as Lohanthony around social media.
4. Don't Think Twice
After a successful showing at SxSW 2012 with his film Sleepwalk With Me, Mike Birbiglia is back at the festival lampooning another community near and dear to his heart: the world of improv comedians. When one of their own lands a TV show, a New York improv group finds themselves struggling to keep smiling.
Birbiglia's trademark self-deprecating humor is on full display here, but the talents of the ensemble — including Keegan-Michael Key (Key And Peele), Kate Micucci (Garfunkel And Oates) and Gillian Jacobs (Love) — really have the potential to elevate Don't Think Twice to comedic gold.
Married couple Joe (Martin Starr) and Emily (Mae Whitman) see their domestic harmony challenged when Joe starts developing a computer program that can comprehend human empathy. He brings Emily on board to lend her voice to the automated system, and it doesn't take long before the project spirals into Joe's desperate attempt to create the perfect virtual version of his own romantic partner.
In addition to his talented leads, director Logan Kibens assembles a stellar supporting cast that includes Nat Faxon, Cameron Esposito and Retta for a dark but telling take on contemporary relationships. For fans of films that combine the horrors of technology and romance (Her, The One I Love), Operator is another deep dive into the concepts of love, reality and connection.