SXSW: Four directors to watch out for

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The South By Southwest Film Festival boasts big names and big stars, but it also allows new talent to shine. Here are four up-and-coming directors geared to impress festivalgoers this year.

Zachary Cotler and Magdalena Zyzak – “A Critically Endangered Species”
“A Critically Endangered Species” is the highly anticipated debut feature from award-winning poet Zachary Cotler and novelist Magdalena Zyzak. This dark drama chronicles the weeks leading up to the planned suicide of a famous poet (Lena Olin), during which she calls on male writers to visit her and compete to become the executor of her estate.  

Cotler has written poetry, fiction and literary criticism, while Zyzak has produced the films “Redland” and “Orion.” In this first foray into directing, the two writers are sure to bring some of the same thoughtfulness and passion from their works to the silver screen.  

“A Critically Endangered Species” will have its world premiere as part of the prestigious Narrative Feature competition alongside the festival’s other top films.

Adam Keleman – “Easy Living”
Adam Keleman has experience as a film critic, journalist and production assistant, and now he can add director to his resume with his debut film, “Easy Living.” The film tracks the exploits of a motivated saleswoman, Sherry Graham (Caroline Dhavernas), who tries to break the monotony of her suburban life by opening up a salon. After her plans fall apart, she makes another drastic action to reclaim control of her life.

“Easy Living’s” look and subject matter recalls the quiet desperation that defined “American Beauty.” If Keleman succeeds in his effort to critique a career-oriented world, it will be a fresh and exciting look at the ways modern life could drive us mad.

Part of the Narrative Spotlight category, “Easy Living” will strut into the festival just like its goal-driven protagonist.

Valerie Weiss – “The Archer”

“The Archer” is “The Hunger Games” meets “Escape from Alcatraz.” At its center is Lauren Pierce (Bailey Noble), a high school archery champion who inadvertently lands herself in a dangerous juvenile detention facility in the wild. When she uncovers its warden’s crimes, she sets out to escape and bring him to justice.

The film’s director, Valerie Weiss, has a Ph.D from Harvard Medical School and is an alumna of the American Film Institute Directing Workshop for Women. Her work on a previous coming-of-age drama, “A Light Beneath Their Feet,” earned critical acclaim thanks to its reality and depth, which audiences may expect from her venture into the normally flashy thriller genre.

“The Archer” will tear its way into the festival limelight as part of the Narrative Spotlight category.

Matthew Salleh – “Barbecue”
Barbecue might seem like a Texas thing, but director Matthew Salleh affirms its world-wide importance in his debut documentary feature. He thoroughly explores barbecue traditions in South Africa, Sweden, Australia and Syria using glorious 4K that will transport us to foreign grills.

Salleh has previously worked on short documentaries such as “Central Texas Barbecue” and “Please Don’t Rush.” He displays empathy for his subjects and paints powerfully intimate portraits of unique cultures, qualities that may elevate “Barbecue” above other documentaries at the festival.

“Barbecue” will have its mouth-watering world premiere as part of the Documentary Spotlight.