Fast times at SXSW High

School, music among fest's topics

The 15th annual South by Southwest Film Conference and Festival on Monday announced a lineup of 113 feature films, including 64 world premieres, high school-themed features and a healthy batch of rock documentaries.

"I think this year's lineup represents our current world of extremes," SXSW Film Festival producer Matt Dentler said. "It's a well-rounded slate of films, from both veteran masters and promising newcomers."

Among the films focusing on high school life are "Frontrunners," Caroline Suh's docu about the campaign for student body president; Nanette Burstein's docu "American Teen," about the cliques of high school seniors in a small Indiana town; Greg Takoudes' drama "Up With Me," about a Harlem teen who is admitted to an upstate boarding school on scholarship; Brett Simon's dark comedy "Assassination of a High School President," about a high school newspaper reporter investigating a mysterious plot involving the class president, drugs and a stolen test score ring; and Gregg Bishop's horror-adventure "Dance of the Dead," where dateless high school losers must battle the living dead at prom.

Once again, the festival's main competition categories include eight narrative features and eight documentary features vying for grand jury prizes.

Narrative features in competition include "Explicit Ills," Mark Webber's tale of hope and power in Philadelphia; helmer Joe Maggio's drama "Paper Covers Rock," about a young woman who loses custody of her daughter after attempting suicide; and "Wellness," from writer-director Jake Mahaffy, about a man trying to succeed in a business that doesn't exist.

Along with "Frontrunners," the docu competition includes two films focusing on the war in Iraq: "Bulletproof Salesman," from helmers Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein, and "Full Battle Rattle," from directors Jesse Moss and Tony Gerber. Other docus include Stephen Higgins and Nina Gilden Seavey's "The Matador" and Josh Koury's "We Are Wizards."

Among the world premieres are helmer Daryl Wein's docu "Sex Positive"; "Ibid," from writer-director Russell Friedenberg; and the docu "Crawford," from David Modigliani.

The comedy "Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay," from writer-directors Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg, featuring Kal Penn and John Cho, is among the most notable of the Spotlight Premieres. The program kicks off with Robert Luketic's "21," the fest's opening-night film, and also features Kimberly Peirce's "Stop Loss."

Also in the spotlight are Martin Scorsese's "Shine a Light" and Morgan Spurlock's "Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden?"

The fest's closing night film is Stephen Walker's docu "Young at Heart."

The 24 Beats Per Second section offers a variety of rock docus, including "Heavy Metal in Baghdad," from Suroosh Alvi; Denny Tedesco's "The Wrecking Crew"; and "Nerdcore Rising," from Negin Farsad.

Other sections of the slate include Special Screenings, innovative Emerging Visions titles, 'Round Midnight genre flicks and Texas-centric films in the Lone Star States section.

The fest runs March 7-15 in Austin. The lineup of short films, panels and guest speakers will be announced next week.
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