Thursday , April 18 2024

SXSW 2024 Film Review: ‘Sasquatch Sunset’ Makes a Yeti out of Jesse Eisenberg

Doubtlessly, I’ve seen over a thousand movies in my life. Never have I seen a feature-length film without one word of human dialog until Sasquatch Sunset. And that’s only one of the strange but tremendously entertaining aspects of this film.

Sasquatch Sunset, an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival in January, made its Texas premiere as part of the 2024 edition of the SXSW Conference and Festivals, which ran March 8 through 16. This was the 31st year of the film and TV festival, which included 118 feature films with 91 world premieres. The festival also included over 100 TV shows, short films, and extended reality (XR) experiences.

What’s a Sasquatch?

Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network, Zombieland) is one such experience. At least he played one in this film which also stared Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road, American Honey), Nathan Zellner (Kumiko the Treasure Hunter), and Christope Zajac-Denek (Twin Peaks).

the SXSW red carpet
Jesse Eisenberg and Nathan Zellner discuss the film on the SXSW red carpet

Brain still a little hairy on the definition of sasquatch? Sasquatch is an alternate name for the perhaps mythical creature which believers say inhabit the American Northwest, more commonly known as Bigfoot. The human-ape mixture also has believers in other parts of the world where it, among other names, has the monikers the Abominable Snowman, Yeti, and Yowie.

This film about these creatures has a unique story, script, production, and musical score.

Furry Road

The story follows a sasquatch family on a yearlong journey as they move through the Pacific Northwest. The family encounters life in many forms and stages.

There are challenges from animal life, such as skunks and mountain lions. More challenging, however, are the experiences of life itself. Sex, childbirth, growth, and death all cause moments of crisis and revelation for the family.

sasquatch baby
A baby is born to the sasquatch family

Their experiences brought forth both laughter and crying among the audience at Austin’s Paramount Theatre. This may sound like a film to bring the kids to. Don’t do it unless you’re prepared to explain the on-screen animal-like intercourse and why the adolescent sasquatch is rubbing that long thing sticking out from the top of where his legs come together.

Making It

The above story seems somewhat complicated to tell without dialog, but director/writer David Zellner pulled it off. During the Q&A after the screening, Eisenberg said that it was one of the greatest scripts he’d ever read. Most screenplays run from 90 to 120 pages. This one was only 60 pages because there was no dialog.

The sasquatch make-up
The sasquatch make-up totally disguised the actors

How do you tell a story without words? Eisenberg explained that for a week before filming began, the actors and directors attended “Sasquatch Camp.” They created grunts, groans, squeaks, and expressions as a “sasquatch language.” They were coached by a mime who helped them work on facial expressions that could express emotions through the extremely thick sasquatch costumes and make-up.

This worked and the results were amazing.

And Octopus

There’s no octopus in the movie, but its musical score was created by the Austin-based band The Octopus Project. Band members came together in 1999 to create sounds which “stretch the imagination.” They performed at music festivals around the world including Lollapalooza and Coachella.

Yvonne Lambert of The Octopus Project which provided music for the film

In 2012, they began refocusing to provide music for video games and film. Since then, they have earned credits for more than a dozen titles.

Next Step

Amazing visuals, impressive music and a story that will touch your heart. The film will move into theaters in April. You can watch the trailer below.

Next year’s SXSW will take place March 7 through 15. You can find out more at their website or on Twitter (@sxsw), Facebook , Instagram, or LinkedIn .

About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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