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‘Birdeater’ and ‘The Moogai’ take on SXSW Austin!

12 January 2024

Umbrella Entertainment is thrilled to announce that psychological thriller Birdeater will have its international premiere at SXSW Austin, with The Moogai also joining the program following its Sundance debut.

Australia is among the most represented countries outside of the US in the initial line-up for this year’s SXSW Film and TV Festival, with Jon Bell’s The Moogai, and Jack Clark and Jim Weir’s Birdeater included in the selections.

To be held in Austin, Texas from March 16-24,The SXSW Festival features sessions, music and comedy showcases, film and television screenings, world-class exhibitions, professional development and networking opportunities, tech competitions, awards ceremonies, and much more.

The ensemble cast of ‘Birdeater’.

After winning the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at last year’s Sydney Film Festival (SFF), Birdeater will have its international premiere in the Visions section, which showcases “audacious, risk-taking artists who demonstrate innovation and creativity”.

Produced by Stephanie Troost and Ulysses Oliver, the story follows a bride-to-be (Shabana Abeez) who is invited to her own fiancé’s buck’s party, where uncomfortable details about their relationship are exposed. The cast also includes Mackenzie Fearnley, Ben Hunter, and Jack Bannister.

In a statement, Oliver and Breathless Films’ co-founder Ben Ferris told IF that having the film reach a global audience was “mind blowing”.

“We’re so thrilled that the super-talented cast and crew led by directing duo Jack Clark and Jim Weir are getting the recognition they deserve,” they said.

“If the audience reaction at SFF is anything to go by, then this is going to be a really exciting rodeo in Austin, Texas.”

Rounding out the Australian feature selections is The Moogai, which will screen in Festival Favourite category less than two months after its world premiere at this month’s Sundance Film Festival, and three years after Bell was awarded the Jury Prize in the event’s Midnight Shorts section for the original short.

Starring Shari Sebbens and Meyne Wyatt, the horror film picks up with a young Aboriginal couple bringing home their second baby. What should be a joyous time takes a sinister turn as the mother starts seeing a malevolent spirit she is convinced is trying to take her baby. The cast also includes Tessa Rose, Jahdeana Mary, Clarence Ryan, and Bella Heathcote.

Shari Sebbens in ‘The Moogai’.

It is produced by Causeway Films’ Kristina Ceyton and Samantha Jennings, alongside No Coincidence Media’s Mitchell Stanley, who produced the original short.

Bell told IF it was an “honour and a dream” to once again contribute to the festival.

“SXSW was so supportive of the short film version of The Moogai that being able to take the feature version back there feels like somehow returning home, which may sound odd considering I’ve never actually been to Texas,” he said.

“But if there’s anywhere in the US that’s similar to Australia it’s probably Texas — we both talk slow and like BBQ and horror films. I am still pumped from 2021’s Midnight Jury Prize. I’ve got all the love in the world for SXSW; they’re like the cool cousin who shows you around and looks after you when you go and stay with family on the other side of the country, or the Pacific Ocean as it were.” 

Additional titles for the festival will be revealed next month. Find the full line-up here.

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