Pleasure (Ninja Thyberg, 2021): Sweden/Netherlands/France

Posted by Larry Gleeson

This was one of the most interesting, difficult to watch films, I’ve had the pleasure of viewing (pun intended – not sorry). Writer/Director Ninja Thyberg nails the opening after the intro titles as the film’s lead character, Bella Cherry, portrayed by Sofia Kappel, is questioned at immigration as to whether she is in the United States for work or pleasure and she demurely coos, “Pleasure,” with a devil-may-care hint of what’s to come.

Unfortunately, after the brief porn-style opening, the narrative got real. Bella has trouble finding a job and eventually shows up to do an adult film audition. She’s nineteen years old, attractive, with beautiful blonde hair, and is looking for some good times. What transpires is the making of an adult film scene. It’s reflexive filmmaking aka we are aware of a film scene about making a film scene. The camera operator is crude and vulgar as he draws the silent ire of Bella. The male character continues the domineering behavior and Bella is trying her best to perform fellatio yet is quite awkward. She’s paid $900 for the day’s work.

From this first sex scene, Bella begins navigating the world of adult film. Although she doesn’t appear comfortable most of the time, she makes friends. Her Swedish mother calls telling her not to give up, stay the course and become successful. There is some miscommunication as Bella is not working in a dentist’s office. Far from it. As the narrative bends into very raw and brutal sex scenes, Bella comes to the realization the adult film industry is about business and comes to the realization that the adult film “stars” are not as whole and authentic as the B-movie actresses that Bella broke in with.

At times maybe Pleasure is a little cliche with its Porn Party where all the stars and industry actors come together at a mansion with a swimming pool and a stunning and expansive view of the surrounding suburban/urban area. Still, Pleasure hits the mark. Though Bella is new to the game she brings her own game. She learns to warm up to the more seasoned girls with her boldness and affinity for their affirmations while relying on her instincts to navigate her experiences with the male-dominated sets, predatory managers, and backbiting competitors.

Moreover, Pleasure uses its explicit portrayal to expose rather than titillate, offering a highly realistic feel for a no-holds-barred worker’s-eye view of the industry. Leading a cast mined from the adult entertainment world, first-time actress Kappel embodies a character who is constantly renegotiating, and re-crafting who she is from the fresh-faced newcomer to the fetish boundary-challenging performer to the ascending industry queen as she expresses herself wholeheartedly and unequivocally to the fullest. It is quite a performance. A must-see!

Pleasure screened in the Midnight Section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and honestly, I wasn’t expecting Thyberg’s hardcore approach to illuminating an industry often not thought very highly of and not given much attention. The closest film I’ve seen that delves below the superficial surface of the adult film industry was the 1997 Paul Thomas Anderson helmed Boogie Nights. Pleasure goes deeper and is not a suitable film for an audience under the age of 18. With a runtime of 100 minutes, Pleasure is highly revealing and highly recommended.

*Contains graphic sexual content and sexual violence. Not suitable for audiences under 18.

 

 

2021 SXSW Film Festival Lineup Announced: Features, Shorts, Episodics & More

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Jordan Roberts

02/10/2021

The time has come to roll out the digital red carpet and reveal the full lineup for the 28th edition of the SXSW Film Festival for SXSW Online from March 16-20, 2021 including Opening Night Headliner Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil; Centerpiece film Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free, and Closing Night film Alone Together.

 

 

Diving into the 2021 Film Festival program by the numbers, SXSW audiences will be able to experience 75 features including 57 World Premieres, 3 International Premieres, 4 North American Premieres, 1 U.S. Premiere, 8 Texas Premieres, and 53 films from first-time filmmakers. Plus, 84 Short Films including Music Videos, 5 Episodic Premieres, 6 Episodic Pilots, 20 Virtual Cinema projects, 14 Title Design entries, and 30 Special Events – an estimated 80 bags worth of popcorn or 20 bowls of queso.

 

Janet Pierson, Festival Director

 

“It’s been a year unlike any we’ve experienced, first marked by the cancellation of SXSW 2020,” said Janet Pierson, Director of Film. “We feel privileged to have been able to pivot to SXSW Online and present a fantastic treasure trove of programming, including a pared-down and wonderful selection of films that we know will delight, entertain, and move our attendees. SXSW Online will bring attendees a multifaceted event that speaks to so many areas of creativity in one five-day experience that everyone can access on their laptops, phones, and TVs. While we won’t have the wonderful in-person SXSW that we know and love, we can gather together to be inspired by the work.”

 

SXSW Online will take place across several platforms – web, mobile, and premium viewing from your TV – for a dynamic viewing experience. Seven films will launch every two hours from 10am-8pm CT with most of the films released March 16–18, starting with films with global access and no audience capacity limits. A film will remain available on-demand until it hits its audience capacity or the event ends. Those without a capacity limit will be available for the duration of the event. While SXSW is a global event, certain films will be restricted to access in the United States due to rights and/or filmmaker or distributor discretion.

In addition to on-demand Films, concurrent platform channels will be broadcasting Conference sessions, Comedy, Music showcases, and more. Stay tuned for the launch of the SXSW Online platforms and schedule later this month which will include more information on how to watch, network, and more.

Films in the SXSW 2021 lineup screen in the following categories: Headliners; Narrative Feature Competition; Documentary Feature Competition; Narrative Spotlight; Documentary Spotlight; Visions; Midnighters; Global; 24 Beats Per Second; Festival Favorites; and, new this year, 2020 Spotlight. The Episodic program consists of Episodic Premieres and the Episodic Pilot Competition. Special Events for 2021 consist of conversations, table readings, and other unique one-off events. Shorts screen as part of 10 curated sections and our Virtual Cinema programming will be available on the VRrOOm platform with selected work in VRChat. Explore the full lineup by screening section below.

All categories (with the exception of Special Events) will be eligible for section-specific Audience Awards. SXSW Film Awards winners will be announced on Friday, March 19 via sxsw.com along with all competition winners within their respective screening categories.

 

 

This year’s Headliners: Opening and Closing Night Films and a Centerpiece Film with associated Special Events on our Live Channel.

Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil
Director: Michael D. Ratner, Producer: Marc Ambrose
Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil is a powerful YouTube Originals documentary event, exploring every aspect that led to Lovato’s nearly fatal overdose in 2018, and her awakenings in the aftermath. (World Premiere) (Opening Night Film)

Alone Together
Directors: Bradley Bell, Pablo Jones-Soler, Producers: Ross Levine, Emmie Lichtenberg, Brian Ferenchik
Charli XCX, a popstar in quarantine, embarks on a whirlwind creative and romantic journey while making an album in 40 days that unites a community around the world. (World Premiere) (Closing Night Film)

Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free
Director: Mary Wharton, Producer: Peter Afterman
Drawn from a newly discovered archive of 16mm film showing Tom Petty at work on his 1994 record Wildflowers, considered by many including Rolling Stone to be his greatest album ever, Somewhere You Feel Free is an intimate view of a musical icon. (World Premiere) (Centerpiece Film)

 

Narrative Feature Competition

Eight world premieres, eight unique ways to celebrate the art of storytelling.

Here Before (United Kingdom)
Director/Screenwriter: Stacey Gregg, Producers: Sophie Vickers, Julia Godzinskay
After new neighbors move in next door, a bereaved mother begins to question her reality in this unsettling psychological thriller. Cast List: Andrea Riseborough, Martin McCann, Jonjo O’Neill, Eileen O’Higgins (World Premiere)

I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking)
Directors: Kelley Kali, Angelique Molina, Screenwriters: Kelley Kali, Angelique Molina, Roma Kong, Producers: Roma Kong, Angelique Molina, Kelley Kali, Capella Fahoome
When a recently widowed mother becomes houseless, she convinces her 8-year-old daughter that they are only camping for fun while working to get them off the streets. Executive produced by Deon Cole. Cast List: Kelley Kali, Wesley Moss, Deon Cole, Brooklynn Marie, Steven Ira Scipio, Andrew Galvan, Lamar Usher, Brian Brooks II, Jacolyn Holmes, Xing-Mai Deng (World Premiere)

Islands (Canada)
Director/Screenwriter: Martin Edralin, Producer: Martin Edralin, Priscilla Galvez
Joshua, a shy Filipino immigrant on the cusp of 50, has lived in the comfort of his parents’ home his entire life. With his parents now in old age, he pleads with God for a companion, terrified of being alone after they pass. Cast List: Rogelio Balagtas, Sheila Lotuaco, Esteban Comilang, Vangie Alcasid, Pablo Quiogue, Isys Szuky, Maximus Szuky (World Premiere)

Our Father
Director/Screenwriter: Bradley Grant Smith, Producers: Alex Thompson, Ian Keiser, Steven Callas
In a last ditch attempt to foster a meaningful bond, estranged sisters Beta and Zelda go in search of their mysterious Uncle Jerry. Cast List: Baize Buzan, Allison Torem, Austin Pendleton, Corey Hendrix, Tim Hopper, Ann Whitney, Keith Kupferer, Guy Massey, Lance Baker, D’Wayne Taylor (World Premiere)

Potato Dreams of America
Director/Screenwriter: Wes Hurley, Producers: Mischa Jakupcak, Wes Hurley
A true story about a gay boy growing up in the collapsing USSR, his courageous mail-order bride mother, and their adventurous escape to Seattle in the 90s.* Cast List: Marya Sea Kaminski, Dan Lauria, Tyler Bocock, Lea DeLaria, Sera Barbieri, Hersh Powers, Jonathan Bennett, Sophia Mitri Schloss, Cynthia Lauren Tewes, James Grixoni* (World Premiere)

The End Of Us
Directors/Screenwriters: Henry Loevner, Steven Kanter, Producers: Claudia Restrepo, Henry Loevner, Steven Kanter, Lovell Holder
After a savage breakup, two exes must continue living together when California issues its stay-at-home order for COVID-19. Now they’ll try to move on without moving out. Cast List: Ben Coleman, Ali Vingiano, Derrick DeBlasis, Gadiel Del Orbe, Kate Peterman, Colin Weatherby, Caroline Kwan, Will Neff, Jesse Benjamin, Claudia Restrepo (World Premiere)

The Fallout
Director/Screenwriter: Megan Park, Producers: David Brown, Shaun Sanghai, Rebecca Miller, Cara Shine, Joannie Burnstein, Todd Lundbohm, Giulia Prenna
High schooler Vada navigates the emotional fallout she experiences in the wake of a school tragedy. Relationships with her family, friends and view of the world are forever altered. Cast List: Jenna Ortega, Maddie Ziegler, Niles Fitch, Will Ropp, Lumi Pollack, John Ortiz, Julie Bowen, Shailene Woodley (World Premiere)

Women is Losers
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: Lissette Feliciano
In 1960s San Francisco, a once-promising catholic school girl, Celina Guerrera (Lorenza Izzo), sets out to rise above the oppression of poverty and invest in a future for herself that sets new precedents for the time. Cast List: Lorenza Izzo, Bryan Craig, Chrissie Fit, Simu Liu, Steven Bauer, Liza Weil, Cranston Johnson, Alejandra Miranda, Shalim Ortiz, Lincoln Bonilla (World Premiere)

 

Documentary Feature Competition

Eight world premieres: Eight real world stories that demonstrate innovation, energy and bold voices.

Introducing, Selma Blair
Director: Rachel Fleit, Producers: Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon, Troy Nankin
Introducing, Selma Blair is a deeply intimate and raw portrait of the actress after she is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and makes a valiant, risky effort to try to slow the progression of her disease. For the acclaimed, yet often supporting actress, her starring role has finally arrived – she just has to show up and fully embrace herself. (World Premiere)

Kid Candidate
Director: Jasmine Stodel, Producers: Jasmine Stodel, Chevis LaBelle, William Dorrien-Smith
Kid Candidate tells the story of Hayden Pedigo, a 24-year old experimental musician and his unlikely run for Amarillo city council after his Harmony Korine inspired spoof campaign video went viral. (World Premiere)

Lily Topples The World
Director: Jeremy Workman, Producers: Jeremy Workman, Robert J. Lyons
Lily Topples The World follows 20-year-old Lily Hevesh — the world’s most acclaimed domino toppler and the only woman in her field — in a coming-of-age story of artistry, passion, and unlikely triumph. Executive produced by Kelly Marie Tran. (World Premiere)

Not Going Quietly
Director: Nicholas Bruckman, Screenwriters: Nicholas Bruckman, Amanda Roddy, Producer: Amanda Roddy
When a young father chances to meet a powerful senator on an airplane, their exchange goes viral, sparking one of the most unlikely political movements in a generation. (World Premiere)

The Oxy Kingpins
Director: Brendan FitzGerald, Producers: Drea Bernardi, Brendan FitzGerald, Nick August-Perna
The Oxy Kingpins covers the untold story of how a network of pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, and retailers worked together to orchestrate and perpetuate the opioid crisis that has killed over half a million people in America. (World Premiere)

The Return: Life After ISIS (Spain, United Kingdom)
Director/Screenwriter: Alba Sotorra Clua, Producers: Alba Sotorra Clua, Vesna Cudic
Shamima Begum (UK) and Hoda Muthana (US) made it into worldwide headlines when they left their countries as teenagers to join ISIS. Now they want to return but their countries don’t want them back. (World Premiere)

Subjects of Desire (Canada) Director/Screenwriter: Jennifer Holness, Producers: Jennifer Holness, Sudz Sutherland
Subjects of Desire is a thought provoking film that examines the cultural shift in beauty standards towards embracing (or appropriating) Black aesthetics and features, deconstructing what we understand about race and the power behind beauty. (World Premiere)

United States vs. Reality Winner
Director: Sonia Kennebeck, Producer: Ines Hofmann Kanna
A state of secrets and a ruthless hunt for whistleblowers – this is the story of 25-year-old Reality Winner who disclosed a document about Russian election interference to the media and became the number one leak target of the Trump administration. (World Premiere)

 

Narrative Spotlight

High profile narrative features receiving their World, International, North American, U.S. or Texas premieres at SXSW.

The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson (Australia)
Director/Screenwriter: Leah Purcell, Producers: Bain Stewart, David Jowsey, Angela Littlejohn, Greer Simpkin, Leah Purcell
The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson is a reimagining of Leah Purcell’s acclaimed play and Henry Lawson’s classic short story. A searing Australian western thriller asking the question: how far do you go to protect your loved ones? Cast List: Leah Purcell, Rob Collins, Sam Reid, Jessica De Gouw, Malachi Dower-Roberts (World Premiere)

The Fabulous Filipino Brothers (Philippines, United States)
Director: Dante Basco, Screenwriters: Dante Basco, Darion Basco, Dionysio Basco, Arianna Basco, Producers: Joan Banaga, Rawn Erickson II, Dante Basco, Rome Reyes, Sienna Olazo, Belay A Santillan, Guido Zaballero
From Northern California to The Philippines, four brothers confront their issues with love, family, and culture, surrounding a highly controversial Filipino wedding. Told in four vignettes with cockfights, adultery, romance, food, and family. Cast List: Dante Basco, Derek Basco, Dionysio Basco, Darion Basco, Solenn Heussaff, Liza Lapira, Tirso Cruz III, Cheryl Tsai, Arriana Basco, Joe Jitsukawa (World Premiere)

Language Lessons
Director: Natalie Morales, Screenwriters: Mark Duplass, Natalie Morales, Producer: Mel Eslyn
A Spanish teacher and her student develop an unexpected friendship. Cast List: Natalie Morales, Mark Duplass, Desean Terry, Christine Quesada (North American)

Ludi
Director: Edson Jean, Screenwriters: Edson Jean, Joshua Jean-Baptiste, Producers: Fabiola Rodriguez, Mark Pulaski
Ludi, a hardworking and exhausted nurse, battles coworkers, clients and one impatient bus driver to learn her self worth as she chases the American Dream in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood. Cast List: Shein Mompremier, Alan Myles Heyman, Madelin Marchant, Success St. Fleur Jr., Kerline Alce, Plus Pierre, Patrice DeGraff Arenas, Farah Larrieux (Texas Premiere)

Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break (United Kingdom)
Director: Nick Gillespie, Screenwriters: Brook Driver, Matt White, Nick Gillespie, Producer: Finn Bruce
When Paul’s chances of winning a national talent contest are ruined and his dreams of fame are slashed, he plans a deathly revenge rampage!! 1 lunch break, 5 spectacular murders! Each wrongdoer dispatched in a fitting manner by the sparkly suited Paul! Cast List: Tom Meeten, Katherine Parkinson, Kris Marshall, Alice Lowe, Mandeep Dhillon, Johnny Vegas, Steve Oram, Craig Parkinson, Kevin Bishop, Pippa Haywood (World Premiere)

Recovery Directors: Mallory Everton, Stephen Meek, Screenwriters: Whitney Call, Mallory Everton, Producers: Scott Christopherson, Stephen Meek, Abi Nielson Hunsaker
Two directionless sisters brave a cross-country road trip to rescue their grandmother from a COVID outbreak at her nursing home. Cast List: Whitney Call, Mallory Everton, Anne Sward Hansen, Julia Jolley, Baylee Thornock, Jessica Drolet, Stephen Meek, Tyler Andrew Jones, Noah Kershisnik, Justin Call (World Premiere)

See You Then
Director: Mari Walker, Screenwriters: Kristen Uno, Mari Walker, Producers: Mia Schulman, Kristen Uno, Mari Walker
A decade after abruptly breaking up with Naomi, Kris invites her to dinner to catch-up on their complicated lives, relationships, and Kris’ transition. Cast List: Pooya Mohseni, Lynn Chen, Nican Robinson, Danny Jacobs, Nikohl Boosheri (U.S. Premiere)

Swan Song
Director/Screenwriter: Todd Stephens, Producers: Todd Stephens, Eric Eisenbrey, Tim Kaltenecker, Stephen Israel
An aging hairdresser (Udo Kier) escapes his nursing home and embarks on an odyssey across his small town to style a dead woman’s hair for her funeral, rediscovering his sparkle along the way. Cast List: Udo Kier, Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans, Michael Urie, Ira Hawkins, Stephanie McVay (World Premiere)

 

Documentary Spotlight

Shining a light on new documentary features receiving their World, International, North American or U.S. premieres at SXSW.

Alien On Stage (United Kingdom)
Directors/Producers: Danielle Kummer, Lucy Harvey
British bus driver’s amateur stage show of Ridley Scott’s Alien, accidentally makes it to a famous London theatre! With awkward acting and special effects requiring more luck than judgement, will their homemade homage be alright on the night? (International Premiere)

Fruits of Labor
Director: Emily Cohen Ibañez, Screenwriters: Ashley Solis Pavon, Emily Cohen Ibañez Producer: Emily Cohen Ibañez
A Mexican-American teenage farmworker dreams of graduating high school, when ICE raids in her community threaten to separate her family and force her to become her family’s breadwinner. (World Premiere)

The Hunt for Planet B
Director: Nathaniel Kahn, Producers: Bonnie Hlinomaz, Nathaniel Kahn
Taking us behind the scenes with NASA’s high-stakes James Webb Space Telescope, The Hunt for Planet B follows a pioneering group of scientists—many of them women—on their quest to find another Earth among the stars. (World Premiere)

Hysterical
Director: Andrea Nevins, Producers: Ross Dinerstein, Rebecca Evans, Carolina Groppa
Hysterical is an honest and hilarious backstage pass into the lives of some of stand-up comedy’s most boundary-breaking women, exploring the hard-fought journey to become the voices of their generation and their gender. Featuring Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Rachel Feinstein, Marina Franklin, Nikki Glaser, Judy Gold, Kathy Griffin, Jessica Kirson, Sherri Shepherd, Iliza Shlesinger and more. Available on FX in 2021. (World Premiere)

The Lost Sons
Director: Ursula Macfarlane, Producer: Gagan Rehill
1960s Chicago, a baby is kidnapped from a hospital. Fifteen months later, a toddler is abandoned. Could he be the same baby? In a tale of breathtaking twists and turns, two mysteries begin to unravel and dark family secrets are revealed. (World Premiere)

Mau (Austria, United States)
Directors: Benji Bergmann, Jono Bergmann, Producer: Karol Martesko-Fenster
Mau follows the unlikely story of design visionary Bruce Mau and his ever-optimistic push for massive change. (World Premiere)

Spring Valley
Director: Garrett Zevgetis, Producers: Chico Colvard, Jeff Consiglio, Ariana Garfinkel
An explosive viral video shows a white policeman throwing a Black teenager from her school desk. One woman uproots her life to help the girl, face the officer, and dismantle the system behind the “Assault at Spring Valley.” (World Premiere)

WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn
Director: Jed Rothstein, Producer: Ross Dinerstein
WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn explores the rise and fall of one of the biggest corporate flameouts and venture capitalist bubbles in recent years – the story of WeWork, and its hippie-messianic leader Adam Neumann. (World Premiere)

When Claude Got Shot
Director: Brad Lichtenstein, Producer: Steven Cantor, Brad Lichtenstein, Jamie Schutz, Santana Wilson (co-producer)
Three strangers’ lives become inextricably entwined by a weekend of gun violence. (World Premiere)

Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America
Directors: Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler, Screenwriter: Jeffery Robinson, Producers: Jeffery Robinson, Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler
ACLU lawyer Jeffery Robinson’s shattering talk on the history of U.S. anti-Black racism is interwoven with archival footage, interviews and Robinson’s story, exploring the legacy of white supremacy and our collective responsibility to overcome it. (World Premiere)

 

Midnighters

Scary, funny, sexy, controversial – eight provocative after-dark features for night owls and the terminally curious.

Broadcast Signal Intrusion
Director: Jacob Gentry, Screenwriters: Phil Drinkwater, Tim Woodall, Producers: Greg Newman, Brett Hays, Giles Edwards, Nicola Goelzhaeuser
In the late 90s, a video archivist unearths a series of sinister pirate broadcasts and becomes obsessed with uncovering the dark conspiracy behind them. Cast List: Harry Shum Jr., Kelley Mack, Chris Sullivan, Jennifer Jelsema, Arif Yampolsky, Justin Welborn, Michael B. Woods, Steve Pringle (World Premiere)

The Feast (United Kingdom)
Director: Lee-Haven Jones, Screenwriter/Producer: Roger Williams
Over an evening a wealthy family gathers for a sumptuous dinner with guests in their ostentatious house in the Welsh mountains. Served by a mysteriously disturbing young woman, the assembled party do not realise they are about to eat their last supper. Cast List: Anne Elwy, Nia Roberts, Julian Lewis Jones, Steffan Cennydd, Sion Alun Davies, Lisa Palfrey, Rhodri Meilir (World Premiere)

Gaia (South Africa)
Director: Jaco Bouwer, Screenwriter: Tertius Kapp, Producer: Tertius Kapp, Jorrie van der Walt, Jaco Bouwer
In the depths of an ancient forest, something has been growing. Something older than humanity itself, and perhaps greater too. When a park ranger discovers a man and his son living wild, she stumbles onto a secret that is about to change the world. Cast List: Monique Rockman, Carel Nel, Alex van Dyk, Anthony Oseyemi (World Premiere)

Jakob’s Wife
Director: Travis Stevens, Screenwriters: Travis Stevens, Kathy Charles, Mark Steensland, Producers: Barbara Crampton, Bob Portal, Travis Stevens, Inderpal Singh
The disappearance of a young woman threatens to change the beige and banal lives of Anne Fedder (Barbara Crampton) and her pastor husband Jakob Fedder (Larry Fessenden) forever. Cast List: Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Mark Kelly, Sarah Lind, Robert Rusler, Nyisha Bell, Phil Brooks (World Premiere)

Offseason
Director/Screenwriter: Mickey Keating, Producer: Eric B. Fleischman, Maurice Fadida
After receiving a mysterious letter, a woman travels to a desolate island town and soon becomes trapped in a nightmare. Cast List: Joe Swanberg, Jocelin Donahue, Melora Walters, Richard Brake, Jeremy Gardner (World Premiere)

Sound Of Violence (Finland, United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Alex Noyer, Producer: Hannu Aukia, Alex Noyer
A young girl recovers her hearing and gains synesthetic abilities during the brutal murder of her family. Finding solace in the sounds of bodily harm, as an adult, she pursues a career in music composing her masterpiece through gruesome murders. Cast List: Jasmin Savoy Brown, Lili Simmons, James Jagger, Tessa Munro (World Premiere)

The Spine of Night
Directors/Screenwriters: Philip Gelatt, Morgan Galen King, Producers: Will Battersby, Philip Gelatt, Jean Rattle
In this ultra-violent, fantasy epic, ancient dark magic falls into sinister hands and unleashes ages of suffering onto mankind. A group of heroes from different eras and cultures must band together in order to defeat it at all costs. Cast List: Richard E. Grant, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt, Betty Gabriel, Joe Manganiello, Larry Fessenden, Nina Lisandrello, Abby Savage, Tom Lipinski, Patrick Breen (World Premiere)

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror
Director/Screenwriter: Kier-La Janisse, Producers: Kier-La Janisse, David Gregory, Winnie Cheung
Woodlands Dark Days and Days Bewitched is the first feature-length documentary on the history of folk horror, from the 1960s to today. (World Premiere)

 

Festival Favorites

Acclaimed standouts and selected premieres from festivals around the world.

Dear Mr. Brody
Director: Keith Maitland, Producers: Melissa Robyn Glassman, Megan Gilbride, Keith Maitland, Sarah Wilson
A psychedelic journey into the heart (and bank account) of Michael Brody, Jr, the hippie-millionaire who offered the world peace for the price of a postage stamp. (Texas Premiere)

How It Ends
Directors/Screenwriters/Producers: Daryl Wein, Zoe Lister-Jones
On the last day on Earth, one woman goes on a journey through LA to make it to her last party before the world ends, running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way. Cast List: Zoe Lister-Jones, Cailee Spaeny, Nick Kroll, Olivia Wilde, Helen Hunt, Lamorne Morris, Fred Armisen, Bradley Whitford, Charlie Day, Whitney Cummings

In the Same Breath
Director: Nanfu Wang, Producers: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn
Nanfu Wang’s deeply personal In The Same Breath recounts the origin and spread of the novel coronavirus from the earliest days of the outbreak in Wuhan to its rampage across the United States. (Texas Premiere)

Ma Belle, My Beauty
Director/Screenwriter: Marion Hill, Producers: Ben Matheny, Kelsey Scult, Marion Hill
A surprise reunion in southern France reignites passions and jealousies between two women who were formerly polyamorous lovers. Cast List: Idella Johnson, Hannah Pepper, Lucien Guignard, Sivan Noam Shimon (Texas Premiere)

R#J
Director: Carey Williams, Screenwriters: Carey Williams, Rickie Castaneda, Producers: Timur Bekmambetov, Igor Tsay
A re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet, featuring a diverse cast in the classic Shakespearean roles. This modern day take is told on mobile and is a mashup of Shakespearean dialogue with current social media communication. Cast List: Camaron Engels, Francesca Noel, RJ Cyler, Diego Tinoco, Russell Hornsby, Siddiq Saunderson (Texas Premiere)

Violation (Canada)
Directors/Screenwriters/Producers: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Dusty Mancinelli
A troubled woman on the edge of divorce returns home to her younger sister after years apart. But when her sister and brother-in-law betray her trust, she embarks on a vicious crusade of revenge. Cast List: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Anna Maguire, Jesse LaVercombe, Obi Abili, Jasmin Geljo, Cynthia Ashperger (Texas Premiere)

 

Visions

Visions filmmakers are audacious, risk-taking artists in the new cinema landscape who demonstrate raw innovation and creativity in documentary and narrative filmmaking.

Ayar
Director: Floyd Russ, Screenwriters: Ariana Ron Pedrique, Floyd Russ, Vilma Vega, Producers: Kara Durrett, Floyd Russ, Corey Waters, Andy Coverdale
Ayar, a first-generation American Latina, returns home to reunite with her daughter. But when her mother, Renata, refuses to let her see her due to Covid, Ayar is confronted by the many roles she’s been forced to play, including the role in this film. Cast List: Ariana Ron Pedrique, Vilma Vega, Henry Foster Brown, Simon Haycock, Calliah Sophie Estrada, Pete Pano, Briza Covarrubias, Ceasar Hartman, Jay Lawrence Kiman, Frances Fuches (World Premiere)

Delia Derbyshire – the Myths and the Legendary Tapes (United Kingdom)
Director/Screenwriter: Caroline Catz, Producer: Andy Starke
A portrait of the character and legacy of electronic sound pioneer Delia Derbyshire, who realized the Doctor Who theme tune in 1963 and explores the idea that this extraordinary composer lived outside of time and space as other people experience it. Featuring Caroline Catz, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Julian Rhind-tutt, Tom Meeten, Richard Glover, Saskia Reeves, Michael Higgs. (International Premiere)

Inbetween Girl
Director/Screenwriter: Mei Makino, Producers: Matt Stryker, Connor Pickens, Emily Gollahon, Kate Gollahon, Udoy Rahim
Teen artist Angie Chen turns to secret hookups with the heartthrob of her private school after her parents’ sudden divorce. Cast List: Emma Galbraith, William Magnuson, Emily Garrett, Lizabeth Waters, KaiChow Lau, Thanh Phuong Bui, Shanshan Jin, Kelsey Buckley (World Premiere)

Through the Plexi-Glass: The Last Days of the San Jose
Director: Liz Lambert, Producers: Liz Lambert, Tina Gazzerro Clapp, Ariel Quintans
The documentary tells the story of a real estate deal’s unexpected detour — one that sparked the gentrification of Austin’s hippest neighborhood — and reveals layers of knotty, unanswerable questions, all more relevant than ever today. (World Premiere)

Twyla Moves
Director: Steven Cantor, Producers: Steven Cantor, Jamie Schutz
Interwoven with her storied career and prolific works, Twyla Moves sees legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp navigate her latest creative challenge: making a dance for a world plagued by the Covid-19 pandemic. (World Premiere)

 

24 Beats Per Second

Showcasing the sounds, culture and influence of music and musicians, with an emphasis on documentary.

Disintegration Loops
Director/Screenwriter: David Wexler, Producers: David Wexler, Bradford Coleman
As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 looms near, William Basinski contemplates the enduring legacy of The Disintegration Loops (his elegy to the 2001 Attacks), while quarantined in the midst of COVID-19. (World Premiere)

I Went To The Dance/J’ai Été Au Bal
Directors: Les Blank, Chris Strachwitz, Producer: Chris Strachwitz
Beautiful 5K restoration of the celebrated film on the history of Cajun and Creole/Zydeco music of SW Louisiana. Exhilarating performances by Clifton Chenier, Marc and Ann Savoy, BeauSoleil, and more. By Les Blank, Chris Strachwitz and Maureen Gosling (World Premiere)

Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché (United Kingdom)
Directors: Paul Sng, Celeste Bell, Screenwriters: Celeste Bell, Zoë Howe, Producers: Rebecca Mark-Lawson, Matthew Silverman, Daria Nitsche
The death of punk icon and X-Ray Spex frontwoman Poly Styrene sends her daughter on a journey across the world and through her mother’s archives to reconcile their fraught relationship. (North American Premiere)

Soy Cubana
Directors: Jeremy Ungar, Ivaylo Getov, Screenwriters: Agustín Rexach Martín, Ivaylo Getov, Jeremy Ungar, Producer: Robin Miller Ungar
When the Vocal Vidas, an all-female Cuban quartet, are invited to play their first show in the US, a simple concert becomes a journey across physical and ideological borders – affirming the connective power of music, even in the most uncertain times. (World Premiere)

Under the Volcano (Australia)
Director: Gracie Otto, Screenwriters: Cody Greenwood, Gracie Otto, Ian Shadwell, Producers: Cody Greenwood
The story of George Martin’s AIR Studios Montserrat and the island that changed music forever. Featuring interviews with Sting, Mark Knopfler, Nick Rhodes, Jimmy Buffett, Verdine White, Tony Lommi, Stewart Copeland, Guy Fletcher, Midge Ure, and Roger Glover. (World Premiere)

 

Global

A diverse selection of international filmmaking talent, featuring innovative narratives, artful documentaries, premieres, festival favorites and more.

Bantú Mama (Dominican Republic)
Director: Ivan Herrera, Screenwriters: Clarisse Albrecht, Ivan Herrera, Producers: Ivan Herrera, Nicolas LaMadrid, Franmiris Lombert
An Afropean woman escapes after being arrested in the Dominican Republic. She is sheltered by a group of minors, in a dangerous district of Santo Domingo. By becoming their protégée and maternal figure, she will see her destiny change inexorably. Cast List: Clarisse Albrecht, Scarlett Reyes, Arturo Perez, Euris Javiel, Donis Taveras, Jarold Santos (World Premiere)

Fucking with Nobody (Finland)
Director: Hannaleena Hauru, Screenwriters: Hannaleena Hauru, Lasse Poser, Producers: Emilia Haukka, Jussi Rantamäki
Hanna is a film director. She loses her dream job to her rival Kristian who is much more popular, and not single. Thus, she decides to create a parody romance on Instagram to question the image one offers to society. This fake romance will have unexpected effects. Cast List: Hannaleena Hauru, Samuel Kujala, Lasse Poser (North American Premiere)

Luchadoras (Germany/Mexico)
Directors: Paola Calvo, Patrick Jasim, Screenwriters: Patrick Jasim, Paola Calvo, Phillip Kaminiak, Producer: Phillip Kaminiak
Luchadoras portrays the courageous female wrestlers of Ciudad Juárez, a city known for its high murder rate against women – who in the ring and in their daily lives fight to redefine the image of what it means to be a woman in Mexico. (World Premiere)

Ninjababy (Norway)
Director: Yngvild Sve Flikke, Screenwriter: Johan Fasting, Producer: Yngve Sæther
When Rakel (23), way too late, finds out she’s six months pregnant after a not-so-romantic one-night stand, her world changes. Cast List: Kristine Thorp, Arthur Berning, Nader Khademi, Tora Christine Dietrichson (International Premiere)

Trapped (Egypt)
Director: Manal Khaled, Screenwriters: Manal Khaled, Rasha Azab, Producer: Manal Khaled
Trapped revolves around a number of women from different walks of life whose destinies are tied together; being all under one siege. As the events unfold, their own personal stories reflect on a far bigger siege that depicts the shackles imposed by a patriarchal society. Cast List: Coroline Khalil, Reem Hegab, Osama Abo El Ata, Ne’ma Mohsen, Mona Mokhtar, Sara’a Jebel (World Premiere).

2020 Spotlight

Exciting Narrative, Documentary and Episodic projects from across our sections from the 2020 edition of the SXSW Film Festival.

Best Summer Ever
Directors: Michael Parks Randa, Lauren Smitelli, Screenwriters: Michael Parks Randa, Will Halby, Terra Mackintosh, Andrew Pilkington, Lauren Smitelli, Producers: Andrew Pilkington, Katie White, Terra Mackintosh, Leah Romond, Jake Sharpless
A fresh and exhilarating take on the beloved teen musical genre featuring eight original songs and a fully integrated cast and crew of people with and without disabilities. Cast List: Shannon DeVido, Rickey Wilson Jr., MuMu, Jacob Waltuck, Emily Kranking, Eileen Grubba, Holly Palmer, Ajani “AJ” Murray, Lawerence Carter-Long, Bradford Hayes (Texas Premiere)

Chad
Showrunner/Screenwriter: Nasim Pedrad, Director: Rhys Thomas, Producer: David Cress
An awkward 14-year-old Persian-American boy navigates his first year of high school on a mission to become popular. Cast List: Nasim Pedrad, Jake Ryan, Ella Mika, Saba Homayoon, Paul Chahidi, Alexa Loo, Thomas Barbusca (World Premiere) (Episodic)

Clerk (Canada, U.S.A.)
Director: Malcolm Ingram, Producers: Malcolm Ingram, Craig Fleming
A documentary on the life and career of Kevin Smith. (World Premiere)

Executive Order (Brazil)
Director: Lázaro Ramos, Screenwriters: Lusa Silvestre, Lázaro Ramos, Aldri Anunciação, Elísio Lopes Jr, Producers: Daniel Filho, Tania Rocha
In a dystopian near future in Brazil, an authoritarian government orders all citizens of African descent to move to Africa – creating chaos, protests, and an underground resistance movement that inspires the nation. Cast List: Alfred Enoch, Taís Araújo, Seu Jorge, Adriana Esteves, Renata Sorrah, Mariana Xavier, Pablo Sanábio (Texas Premiere)

Violet
Director/Screenwriter: Justine Bateman, Producers: Justine Bateman, Michael D. Jones, Larry Hummel, Matt Paul
A film development executive realizes that “guiding voice” inside her head has been lying to her about everything. Cast List: Olivia Munn, Luke Bracey, Justin Theroux (World Premiere)

We Are As Gods
Directors/Screenwriters: Jason Sussberg, David Alvarado, Producers: Kate McLean, Jamie Meltzer, David Alvarado, Jason Sussberg
“We are as gods and might as well get good at it,” Stewart Brand wrote in ‘68. The legendary pioneer of LSD, cyberspace, futurism, and modern environmentalism now urges people to use our god-like powers to fight extinction by reviving lost species. (World Premiere)

We Are The Thousand (Italy)
Director/Screenwriter: Anita Rivaroli, Producer: Simone Catania
Learn the story behind the viral video and what came after! We Are The Thousand takes you backstage with the Rockin’1000. A thousand musicians gathered together with one mission–to get the Foo Fighters to perform in their small town. (North American Premiere)

Witch Hunt
Director/Screenwriter: Elle Callahan, Producers: Eric B. Fleischman, Maurice Fadida
In a modern America where witches are real and witchcraft is illegal, a sheltered teenager must face her own demons and prejudices as she helps two young witches avoid law enforcement and cross the southern border to asylum in Mexico. Cast List: Gideon Adlon, Elizabeth Mitchell, Abigail Cowen, Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti, Christian Camargo (World Premiere)

Without Getting Killed or Caught
Directors: Tamara Saviano, Paul Whitfield, Screenwriters: Tamara Saviano, Bart Knaggs, Producers: Tamara Saviano, Paul Whitfield
Without Getting Killed or Caught is the true story of Guy Clark, the dean of Texas songwriters, who struggles to write poetic, yet indelible songs while balancing a complicated marriage with wife Susanna, and a deep friendship with Townes Van Zandt. (World Premiere)

 

Episodic Premieres

Presenting world premieres of prestige serials slated for release.

Confronting A Serial Killer
Showrunner: Po Kutchins, Director: Joe Berlinger, Producers: Eve Rodrick, Eleanor Yu, Cassandra Corbett, Janine Nask, Julia Pontecorvo, Lesley Grossman, Emma McNamara, Ariel Kay
Confronting a Serial Killer tells the story of the unprecedented relationship between author Jillian Lauren and serial killer Sam Little while investigating the devastating impact of bias against marginalized women in the criminal justice system. (World Premiere)

Cruel Summer
Showrunner: Tia Napolitano, Director: Max Winkler
From Exec Producer Jessica Biel, Freeform’s Cruel Summer is a psychological thriller taking place over three summers when a popular girl goes missing and an awkward outlier transforms to queen bee and eventually, the most despised person in America. Cast List: Olivia Holt, Chiara Aurelia, Michael Landes, Froy Gutierrez, Harley Quinn Smith, Allius Barnes, Blake Lee, Brooklyn Sudano (World Premiere)

The Girlfriend Experience
Director/Screenwriter: Anja Marquardt, Producer: Philip Fleishman
The third installment of The Girlfriend Experience is set in the London tech scene. Iris, a neuroscience major, begins to explore the transactional world of The Girlfriend Experience and quickly learns that client sessions provide her with a compelling edge in the tech world. Cast List: Julia Goldani Telles, Oliver Masucci, Frank Dillane, Daniel Betts, Armin Karima, Tobi Bamtefa, Jemima Rooper (World Premiere)

Made for Love
Showrunner: Christina Lee, Director: Stephanie Laing, Screenwriters: Written for Television by Alissa Nutting & Dean Bakopoulos and Patrick Somerville and Christina Lee
Based on Alissa Nutting’s tragicomic novel, Made for Love is a dark, absurd, and cynically poignant story of divorce and revenge following Hazel Green (Cristin Milioti), a thirty-something woman on the run after 10 years in a suffocating marriage. Cast List: Cristin Milioti, Billy Magnussen, Dan Bakkedahl, Noma Dumezweni, Augusto Aguilera, Caleb Foote and Ray Romano. Executive producers: Christina Lee, Alissa Nutting, Patrick Somerville, Dean Bakopoulos, Liza Chasin, SJ Clarkson. (World Premiere)

Sasquatch
Showrunner/Director: Joshua Rofé, Producers: Duplass Brothers Productions, Number 19
Sasquatch is a true crime doc series following investigative journalist David Holthouse as he attempts to solve a bizarre twenty-five year old triple homicide that was said to be the work of a mythical creature. (World Premiere)

Them
Showrunner: Little Marvin
Set in 1953, Them, a co-production from Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television, centers on a Black family who move from North Carolina to an all-white Los Angeles neighborhood. The family’s idyllic home becomes ground zero where malevolent forces, next door and otherworldly, threaten to taunt, ravage & destroy them. Cast List: Deborah Ayorinde, Ashley Thomas, Alison Pill, Melody Hurd, Shahadi Wright Joseph (World Premiere)

 

Episodic Pilot Competition

A pilot showcase introducing fresh work from bright new talent, many with an eye towards finding production, completion funds, or a release platform.

4 Feet High (Argentina, France)
Directors: Maria Belen Poncio, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, Screenwriters: Greta Molas, Javier Correa Caceres, Elisa Gagliano, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, Maria Belen Poncio, Delphine Agut, Ivana Galdeano, Gabriela Vidal
Imagine your last year of High School in a wheelchair. Cast List: Marisol Agostina Irigoyen, Florencia Licera, Marcio Ramses, Natalia Di Cienzo, Francisca Spinotti (Texas Premiere)

Dale’s House
Showrunner: Julie Lake, Director: Kat Whalen, Screenwriters: Matt Kirsch, Julie Lake, Producers: Matt Kirsch, Julie Lake, Dana Fares
Dale’s House is a horror comedy about two estranged best friends, both at rock bottom in their careers and personal lives, who end up house sitting together in a demonic house that grants them all the success they desire, in exchange for their souls. Cast List: Julie Lake, Matt Kirsch, Sandy McCree, Jeff Cahn (World Premiere)

For the Record (Canada)
Showrunner: Julian De Zotti, Directors: Lisa Baylin, Julian De Zotti, Screenwriter: Julian De Zotti, Producer: Lisa Baylin
Ray and Angela just broke up. What if music had the power to bring them back together? Follow the iconic songs that make up the unforgettable soundtrack for a uniquely interconnected cast of characters. Cast List: Anna Hopkins, Julian De Zotti, Lyriq Bent, Alexandra Beaton, Karen LeBlanc, Maurice Dean Wint, Kyra Clavell, Moni Ogunsuyi, Alannah Ong, Johnny Orlando (International Premiere)

Parked in America
Showrunner/Screenwriter: Kayla Yumi Lewis, Director: Luke Salin, Producers: Ann Swenson, Cole Bannick, Jori Johnson, Alexandro Pacheco
Parked in America is a half-hour dramedy following Jamie Park, a Korean teenager, who moves in with her relatives in Illinois after a family tragedy strikes back at home in Seoul. Cast List: Judy Song, Jeff Lawless, Solomon Abell, Ella Baker-Smith, Judy Han, Jim Cairl, Lexi Perkel, MeeWha Alana Lee (World Premiere)

The Position
Director/Screenwriter: Matthew Lessner, Producers: Breeda Wool, Michael Kaleda, Matthew Lessner
The Position is a metaphysical comedy about two modern women’s unlikely partnership and subsequent misadventures in pursuit of a portal to the multiverse. Cast List: Breeda Wool, Remi Nicole (World Premiere)

Pretend Partners
Showrunners/Screenwriters/Producers: Kristin Erickson, Ron Najor, Director: Ron Najor
Two (not so good) friends realize they are better together than alone. Cast List: Kristin Erickson, Ron Najor, Kandis Fay, Dan J. Johnson (World Premiere)

 

Special Events

Special Events for 2021 consist of conversations associated with projects in the 2021 Film Festival, table readings and other unique one-off events on our Live Channel 4.

Opening Night Special Event: YouTube Originals Docuseries Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil Special Event Q&A
Global superstar Demi Lovato, Director and Executive Producer Michael D. Ratner, YouTube’s Global Head of Original Content Susanne Daniels and moderator Jenelle Riley from Variety discuss the new documentary event exploring the traumas and every aspect that led to Lovato’s nearly fatal overdose in 2018, followed by her powerful awakenings in the aftermath.

Closing Night Film Special Event: Live Q&A with Charli XCX, a SICK moderator, and Directors Bradley & Pablo
Live Q&A Followed by a virtual rave dance party which will consist of: – A pre-recorded DJ set from Charli, shot in a big empty warehouse space with minimal, dark rave-y lighting. A true pandemic rave shot as a live performance.
– Different performers will be spotlighted on Zoom dancing to the set: Poison Oakland + other drag performers + fans featured in the film + lucky attendees!

7 Sounds
Filmmaker Sam Green and musician JD Samson ask you to step away from your computer and focus on the experience of listening in the present moment. 7 Sounds is an immersive, live-streamed audio-video work that explores the universal influence of sound. The piece weaves seven specific audio recordings into a meditation on the power of sound to bend time, cross borders, and profoundly shape our perception — opening new ways to hear our everyday world.

Art and Life Talk with Filmmakers Daryl Wein & Zoe Lister-Jones of Mister Lister Films
Dive into the filmmaking careers of husband-wife duo, Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones of such films as How It Ends (Sundance/SXSW 2021), The Craft (Sony), White Rabbit (Sundance/Gravitas), Band Aid (Sundance/IFC Films), Lola Versus (Fox Searchlight), and Breaking Upwards (IFC Films/SXSW).

Black Monday Q&A
Join the brilliant cast and showrunners of Black Monday as they come together virtually for an exclusive Q&A. This series never fails to surprise as it tells subversively modern stories against a backdrop of big hair and bigger fashions. Miraculously, Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells, Paul Scheer, Yassir Lester, and Casey Wilson and showrunners David Caspe and Jordan Cahan are even more fun live. Hilarity guaranteed.

Clerk and Twerk with Kevin Smith and Malcolm Ingram
Clerk is an examination and celebration of the life of Kevin Smith – and an exploration on how one kid from Jersey completely transformed the cultural landscape. A journey which began 25 years ago at the Sundance Film festival where his DIY film Clerks, financed on credit cards took the film world by storm. Leading to a career as a filmmaker, podcaster, stand-up comedian, author, comic book writer, television producer – a veritable pop culture icon with a very large and loyal fanbase.

Confronting a Serial Killer Conversation
Discussion with the team behind Confronting a Serial Killer: director/EP Joe Berlinger, EP/showrunner Po Kutchins and Jillian Lauren. Premiering on STARZ this Spring, the five-episode series that tells the timely story of the unprecedented relationship between acclaimed author and journalist Jillian Lauren and the most prolific serial killer in American history, Sam Little, and her race against time to identify his victims before it’s too late.

Jada Pinkett Smith in Conversation with the Creator, Executive Producers, and Cast of the New Amazon Prime Video Terror Anthology, Them
Them creator and executive producer Little Marvin and executive producer Lena Waithe, will join cast, Deborah Ayorinde, Ashley Thomas, Alison Pill, Melody Hurd, and Shahadi Wright Joseph in a discussion moderated by Jada Pinkett Smith (Actress, Red Table Talk Host). In this candid conversation, executive producers and cast will unpack the first episode, set to World Premiere during this year’s SXSW Film Festival, as well as themes explored across the series. Them is a co-production from Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television.

A Conversation with the Filmmakers Behind Hulu’s WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn
Join Director Jed Rothstein and Producer Ross Dinerstein as they uncover the rise and fall of WeWork, the real estate startup whose CEO Adam Neumann blended spirituality, entrepreneurial hustle and free beer to convince investors that shared office space could change the world… until it entered near bankruptcy. The two will share a behind-the-scenes look at this captivating documentary while breaking down the personality that drove the company’s culture and its massive financial deals.

Cosmic Breakthrough: Women in The Hunt for Planet B
Are we alone? This dynamic panel of eminent scientists and engineers will discuss the search for life in the universe. With the discovery of thousands of exoplanets and the huge James Webb Space Telescope launching this year, a new golden age of astronomy is dawning—and these women are at the heart of it. With Natalie Batalha, Amy Lo, Sara Seager, Jill Tarter, and Maggie Turnbull; moderated by Nathaniel Kahn.

Cruel Summer Q&A
From Executive Producer Jessica Biel (The Sinner), Cruel Summer is a psychological thriller that follows two young women; Kate Wallis, the popular girl with a charmed life who one day goes missing, and Jeanette Turner, the nerdy wannabee who is accused of being connected to Kate’s disappearance. Please join us for an exciting panel with series stars Olivia Holt, Chiara Aurelia, and executive producers Tia Napolitano, Jessica Biel and Michelle Purple. The panel will be moderated by Jessica Radloff from Glamour Magazine.

HBO Max’s Made for Love: Panel with Stars and Executive Producers
Join stars Cristin Milioti, Billy Magnussen, Dan Bakkedahl, Noma Dumezweni, Caleb Foote and Ray Romano, and executive producers Christina Lee and Alissa Nutting for a conversation about HBO Max’s upcoming series Made for Love premiering this spring. The darkly absurd and cynically poignant story of love and divorce follows Hazel Green (Milioti), a thirty-something woman on the run after 10 years in a suffocating marriage to Byron Gogol (Magnussen), a controlling tech billionaire. Glamour‘s Samantha Barry moderates.

Homeroom with Nasim Pedrad, Creator of TBS’s New Comedy Series Chad
A conversation with Nasim Pedrad, the creator, star and executive producer of TBS’ upcoming series, Chad, and Glamour‘s Editor-in-Chief Samantha Barry.

Hysterical: Behind the Velvet Curtain with Stand-Up Comedy’s Boundary-Breaking Women
Stand-up comedy had always been a male domain. Join the cast and director of Hysterical, a feature documentary that explores female comics’ hard-fought journey to become the voices of their generation and gender, for an honest and hilarious Q&A. The all-female panel discusses their shared stories and struggles as some of the boundary-breaking women shattering comedy’s glass ceiling with perfectly timed punch lines. Hysterical, produced by Campfire, will be available on FX in 2021. Panelists include Fortune Feimster, Rachel Feinstein, Marina Franklin, Sherri Shepherd, Iliza Shlesinger, Jessica Kirson (who also serves as EP) and director/EP Andrea Nevins. Moderated by Melanie McFarland.

In Conversation with Mark Duplass and Natalie Morales
Language Lessons filmmakers Mark Duplass and Natalie Morales sit down to discuss the process of writing a bilingual movie, the complexities of platonic love, and filmmaking during a global pandemic.

Incorporating Choreography and Verse Into Blindspotting
A discussion with the Blindspotting series creators and writers Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, lead actress Jasmine Cephas Jones, director Aurora Guerrero, cinematographer Tarin Anderson, and renowned choreographers Lil Buck and Jon Boogz on incorporating choreography and verse into the new television series Blindspotting.

Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story: Scenes from the Rough Cut
See work-in-progress scenes from the rough cut of Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story. This documentary weaves together live performances and interviews from the 50th anniversary of the iconic festival, featuring some of the biggest names in music, along with a wealth of archival documentary footage from the past half century. Academy-award nominee Frank Marshall shares insights from behind the scenes.

The Making and Digital Restoration of I Went to the Dance
This virtual Q&A, hosted by journalist/author Joe Nick Patoski, will go behind the scenes of the making of the celebrated 1989 feature documentary on the roots of SW Louisiana’s Cajun & Creole/Zydeco music, I Went to the Dance. Featured are Co-Filmmaker/Producer, Chris Strachwitz, Co-Filmmaker/Editor Maureen Gosling and Associate Producer/Sound Recordist, Chris Simon. It will also delve into the challenges and magic behind the 2021 ground-breaking 5k digital restoration of a documentary, I Went to the Dance, by Harrod Blank and Anthony Matt. Blank, the son of the late Co-Filmmaker/Cinematographer Les Blank, took on the task to bring back to life this exuberant film which celebrates the most important and influential performers of the era.

On the Road(trip) to Recovery: Filmmakers Mallory Everton, Whitney Call and Stephen Meek Talk Their Feature Debut in the Midst of a Pandemic
For most people, quarantine looked a lot like baking bread and catching up on Tiger King, but for Utah-based sketch comics Mallory Everton, Whitney Call, and Stephen Meek, they saw a chance to do something different. The creative minds (and lifelong friends) behind JK Studios wrote, produced, directed, starred – and even gaffed – their first feature film with Recovery. In this SXSW-exclusive Q&A, the gang comes together to chat about their journey to creating their first feature…all from a safe social distance. The masks will come OFF as the filmmakers dive into what it really takes to make a movie with your quarantine family and the long road to a SXSW World Premiere. From Sorø Films and the whole family, we hope you’ll join us on the road to Recovery.

Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché: In Conversation with the Filmmakers
In this special Q&A event, directors Celeste Bell and Paul Sng will discuss their new documentary film Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché, about the late punk icon’s life, legacy, and relationship with Bell, her daughter. Featuring editor Xanna Ward Dixon and moderated by producer Matthew Silverman, this conversation will cover everything from Poly’s influence on the riot grrrl and Afropunk movements to the years-long filmmaking process that took place across three continents.

A Q&A with Kier-La Janisse of Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched
Join programmer Liane Cunje in conversation with Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched director Kier-La Janisse as they discuss the process behind the film – from its genesis as a short featurette to a comprehensive look at the folk horror phenomenon in film and television worldwide that became the House of Psychotic Women author’s first feature as a writer, director, and producer. They’ll discuss the myriad definitions and taxonomies of folk horror, its touchstone films and most vocal champions, and the many challenges of finishing a documentary in the midst of a global pandemic.

Solar Opposites Table Read & SHLORPION SILENT (AND ALONE) DISCO
The Solar Opposites are going to SXSW! Join Justin Roiland (“Korvo”), Thomas Middleditch (“Terry”), Sean Giambrone (“Yumyulack”), Mary Mack (“Jesse”), executive producer Mike McMahan, and more as they take it bigger, funnier, and more oppositer than ever before during a virtual table read. As Hulu’s most-watched original comedy premiere to date, Solar Opposites centers around a family of four aliens and their Pupa who are still stuck on earth in suburban America.

Scoring My First Feature Film: A Conversation with Finneas O’Connell
Join internationally acclaimed, multi GRAMMY-Award-winning artist and producer Finneas O’Connell and Variety contributor (Songs for Screens) Andrew Hampp for an exclusive and live discussion at SXSW, as O’Connell delves into the process and his experience when making his feature film-score debut; composing and performing for The Fallout, a powerful new film about the unseen faces of a tragedy.

Swipe Righteous
Lifted from the parchment and downloaded onto your smartphone, Swipe Righteous reimagines famous Bible stories through our screens. Watch as Adam swipes right on Eve, Cain blocks Abel, and God tweets out his Ten Commandments — all told through Screenlife format by Searching and Unfriended Timur Bekmambetov and the creators of Dead of Night and Phony Texts.

SXSW Film Fest Episodic Pitch-a-Thon Presented by SeriesFest
For the second year in a row at SXSW Film, independent content creators will have the opportunity to participate in the Episodic Pitch-A-Thon presented by SeriesFest in partnership with SXSW. SXSW 2021 filmmakers will participate in the virtual event where each Creator/Creative Team will have 5 minutes to pitch in front of an audience. An industry panel of experts including top television, news media, and digital execs, will then have 7 minutes to give their feedback on each project.

Til Death Do Us Part: *A Jakob’s Wife Discussion
Moderator Jordan Crucchiola leads an intimate conversation with genre legends Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden and writer/director Travis Stevens about reinventing yourself later in life, finding your own voice as an artist and how to have a happy marriage in a horror film.

Twyla Moves… You
Twyla Tharp teaches you her infamous and humorous Banjo dance and then talks about the experience of synopsizing her 55 year career into an 82 minute film experience.

Violet Q&A
Join Violet writer/director/producer Justine Bateman and special guests for a discussion of the film.

Weed, Murder & Bigfoot: A Conversation with the Team Behind Hulu’s Sasquatch
While visiting a pot farm in Northern California in 1993, investigative journalist David Holthouse heard a story that still haunts him: On a nearby farm three men were torn limb from limb in a savage Bigfoot attack. Hulu’s Sasquatch follows David as he revisits the Redwoods in search of any evidence that might lead to the truth of what happened that night. Join David Holthouse, director Joshua Rofé, and executive producer Mark Duplass as they break down the production of this wild murder mystery.

 

his year’s Headliners: Opening and Closing Night Films and a Centerpiece Film with associated Special Events on our Live Channel.

Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil
Director: Michael D. Ratner, Producer: Marc Ambrose
Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil is a powerful YouTube Originals documentary event, exploring every aspect that led to Lovato’s nearly fatal overdose in 2018, and her awakenings in the aftermath. (World Premiere) (Opening Night Film)

Alone Together
Directors: Bradley Bell, Pablo Jones-Soler, Producers: Ross Levine, Emmie Lichtenberg, Brian Ferenchik
Charli XCX, a popstar in quarantine, embarks on a whirlwind creative and romantic journey while making an album in 40 days that unites a community around the world. (World Premiere) (Closing Night Film)

Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free
Director: Mary Wharton, Producer: Peter Afterman
Drawn from a newly discovered archive of 16mm film showing Tom Petty at work on his 1994 record Wildflowers, considered by many including Rolling Stone to be his greatest album ever, Somewhere You Feel Free is an intimate view of a musical icon. (World Premiere) (Centerpiece Film)

Back to Top »

Narrative Feature Competition

Eight world premieres, eight unique ways to celebrate the art of storytelling.

Here Before (United Kingdom)
Director/Screenwriter: Stacey Gregg, Producers: Sophie Vickers, Julia Godzinskay
After new neighbors move in next door, a bereaved mother begins to question her reality in this unsettling psychological thriller. Cast List: Andrea Riseborough, Martin McCann, Jonjo O’Neill, Eileen O’Higgins (World Premiere)

I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking)
Directors: Kelley Kali, Angelique Molina, Screenwriters: Kelley Kali, Angelique Molina, Roma Kong, Producers: Roma Kong, Angelique Molina, Kelley Kali, Capella Fahoome
When a recently widowed mother becomes houseless, she convinces her 8-year-old daughter that they are only camping for fun while working to get them off the streets. Executive produced by Deon Cole. Cast List: Kelley Kali, Wesley Moss, Deon Cole, Brooklynn Marie, Steven Ira Scipio, Andrew Galvan, Lamar Usher, Brian Brooks II, Jacolyn Holmes, Xing-Mai Deng (World Premiere)

Islands (Canada)
Director/Screenwriter: Martin Edralin, Producer: Martin Edralin, Priscilla Galvez
Joshua, a shy Filipino immigrant on the cusp of 50, has lived in the comfort of his parents’ home his entire life. With his parents now in old age, he pleads with God for a companion, terrified of being alone after they pass. Cast List: Rogelio Balagtas, Sheila Lotuaco, Esteban Comilang, Vangie Alcasid, Pablo Quiogue, Isys Szuky, Maximus Szuky (World Premiere)

Our Father
Director/Screenwriter: Bradley Grant Smith, Producers: Alex Thompson, Ian Keiser, Steven Callas
In a last ditch attempt to foster a meaningful bond, estranged sisters Beta and Zelda go in search of their mysterious Uncle Jerry. Cast List: Baize Buzan, Allison Torem, Austin Pendleton, Corey Hendrix, Tim Hopper, Ann Whitney, Keith Kupferer, Guy Massey, Lance Baker, D’Wayne Taylor (World Premiere)

Potato Dreams of America
Director/Screenwriter: Wes Hurley, Producers: Mischa Jakupcak, Wes Hurley
A true story about a gay boy growing up in the collapsing USSR, his courageous mail-order bride mother, and their adventurous escape to Seattle in the 90s.* Cast List: Marya Sea Kaminski, Dan Lauria, Tyler Bocock, Lea DeLaria, Sera Barbieri, Hersh Powers, Jonathan Bennett, Sophia Mitri Schloss, Cynthia Lauren Tewes, James Grixoni* (World Premiere)

The End Of Us
Directors/Screenwriters: Henry Loevner, Steven Kanter, Producers: Claudia Restrepo, Henry Loevner, Steven Kanter, Lovell Holder
After a savage breakup, two exes must continue living together when California issues its stay-at-home order for COVID-19. Now they’ll try to move on without moving out. Cast List: Ben Coleman, Ali Vingiano, Derrick DeBlasis, Gadiel Del Orbe, Kate Peterman, Colin Weatherby, Caroline Kwan, Will Neff, Jesse Benjamin, Claudia Restrepo (World Premiere)

The Fallout
Director/Screenwriter: Megan Park, Producers: David Brown, Shaun Sanghai, Rebecca Miller, Cara Shine, Joannie Burnstein, Todd Lundbohm, Giulia Prenna
High schooler Vada navigates the emotional fallout she experiences in the wake of a school tragedy. Relationships with her family, friends and view of the world are forever altered. Cast List: Jenna Ortega, Maddie Ziegler, Niles Fitch, Will Ropp, Lumi Pollack, John Ortiz, Julie Bowen, Shailene Woodley (World Premiere)

Women is Losers
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: Lissette Feliciano
In 1960s San Francisco, a once-promising catholic school girl, Celina Guerrera (Lorenza Izzo), sets out to rise above the oppression of poverty and invest in a future for herself that sets new precedents for the time. Cast List: Lorenza Izzo, Bryan Craig, Chrissie Fit, Simu Liu, Steven Bauer, Liza Weil, Cranston Johnson, Alejandra Miranda, Shalim Ortiz, Lincoln Bonilla (World Premiere)

Back to Top»

Documentary Feature Competition

Eight world premieres: Eight real world stories that demonstrate innovation, energy and bold voices.

Introducing, Selma Blair
Director: Rachel Fleit, Producers: Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon, Troy Nankin
Introducing, Selma Blair is a deeply intimate and raw portrait of the actress after she is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and makes a valiant, risky effort to try to slow the progression of her disease. For the acclaimed, yet often supporting actress, her starring role has finally arrived – she just has to show up and fully embrace herself. (World Premiere)

Kid Candidate
Director: Jasmine Stodel, Producers: Jasmine Stodel, Chevis LaBelle, William Dorrien-Smith
Kid Candidate tells the story of Hayden Pedigo, a 24-year old experimental musician and his unlikely run for Amarillo city council after his Harmony Korine inspired spoof campaign video went viral. (World Premiere)

Lily Topples The World
Director: Jeremy Workman, Producers: Jeremy Workman, Robert J. Lyons
Lily Topples The World follows 20-year-old Lily Hevesh — the world’s most acclaimed domino toppler and the only woman in her field — in a coming-of-age story of artistry, passion, and unlikely triumph. Executive produced by Kelly Marie Tran. (World Premiere)

Not Going Quietly
Director: Nicholas Bruckman, Screenwriters: Nicholas Bruckman, Amanda Roddy, Producer: Amanda Roddy
When a young father chances to meet a powerful senator on an airplane, their exchange goes viral, sparking one of the most unlikely political movements in a generation. (World Premiere)

The Oxy Kingpins
Director: Brendan FitzGerald, Producers: Drea Bernardi, Brendan FitzGerald, Nick August-Perna
The Oxy Kingpins covers the untold story of how a network of pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, and retailers worked together to orchestrate and perpetuate the opioid crisis that has killed over half a million people in America. (World Premiere)

The Return: Life After ISIS (Spain, United Kingdom)
Director/Screenwriter: Alba Sotorra Clua, Producers: Alba Sotorra Clua, Vesna Cudic
Shamima Begum (UK) and Hoda Muthana (US) made it into worldwide headlines when they left their countries as teenagers to join ISIS. Now they want to return but their countries don’t want them back. (World Premiere)

Subjects of Desire (Canada) Director/Screenwriter: Jennifer Holness, Producers: Jennifer Holness, Sudz Sutherland
Subjects of Desire is a thought provoking film that examines the cultural shift in beauty standards towards embracing (or appropriating) Black aesthetics and features, deconstructing what we understand about race and the power behind beauty. (World Premiere)

United States vs. Reality Winner
Director: Sonia Kennebeck, Producer: Ines Hofmann Kanna
A state of secrets and a ruthless hunt for whistleblowers – this is the story of 25-year-old Reality Winner who disclosed a document about Russian election interference to the media and became the number one leak target of the Trump administration. (World Premiere)

Back to Top »

Narrative Spotlight

High profile narrative features receiving their World, International, North American, U.S. or Texas premieres at SXSW.

The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson (Australia)
Director/Screenwriter: Leah Purcell, Producers: Bain Stewart, David Jowsey, Angela Littlejohn, Greer Simpkin, Leah Purcell
The Drover’s Wife The Legend of Molly Johnson is a reimagining of Leah Purcell’s acclaimed play and Henry Lawson’s classic short story. A searing Australian western thriller asking the question: how far do you go to protect your loved ones? Cast List: Leah Purcell, Rob Collins, Sam Reid, Jessica De Gouw, Malachi Dower-Roberts (World Premiere)

The Fabulous Filipino Brothers (Philippines, United States)
Director: Dante Basco, Screenwriters: Dante Basco, Darion Basco, Dionysio Basco, Arianna Basco, Producers: Joan Banaga, Rawn Erickson II, Dante Basco, Rome Reyes, Sienna Olazo, Belay A Santillan, Guido Zaballero
From Northern California to The Philippines, four brothers confront their issues with love, family, and culture, surrounding a highly controversial Filipino wedding. Told in four vignettes with cockfights, adultery, romance, food, and family. Cast List: Dante Basco, Derek Basco, Dionysio Basco, Darion Basco, Solenn Heussaff, Liza Lapira, Tirso Cruz III, Cheryl Tsai, Arriana Basco, Joe Jitsukawa (World Premiere)

Language Lessons
Director: Natalie Morales, Screenwriters: Mark Duplass, Natalie Morales, Producer: Mel Eslyn
A Spanish teacher and her student develop an unexpected friendship. Cast List: Natalie Morales, Mark Duplass, Desean Terry, Christine Quesada (North American)

Ludi
Director: Edson Jean, Screenwriters: Edson Jean, Joshua Jean-Baptiste, Producers: Fabiola Rodriguez, Mark Pulaski
Ludi, a hardworking and exhausted nurse, battles coworkers, clients and one impatient bus driver to learn her self worth as she chases the American Dream in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood. Cast List: Shein Mompremier, Alan Myles Heyman, Madelin Marchant, Success St. Fleur Jr., Kerline Alce, Plus Pierre, Patrice DeGraff Arenas, Farah Larrieux (Texas Premiere)

Paul Dood’s Deadly Lunch Break (United Kingdom)
Director: Nick Gillespie, Screenwriters: Brook Driver, Matt White, Nick Gillespie, Producer: Finn Bruce
When Paul’s chances of winning a national talent contest are ruined and his dreams of fame are slashed, he plans a deathly revenge rampage!! 1 lunch break, 5 spectacular murders! Each wrongdoer dispatched in a fitting manner by the sparkly suited Paul! Cast List: Tom Meeten, Katherine Parkinson, Kris Marshall, Alice Lowe, Mandeep Dhillon, Johnny Vegas, Steve Oram, Craig Parkinson, Kevin Bishop, Pippa Haywood (World Premiere)

Recovery Directors: Mallory Everton, Stephen Meek, Screenwriters: Whitney Call, Mallory Everton, Producers: Scott Christopherson, Stephen Meek, Abi Nielson Hunsaker
Two directionless sisters brave a cross-country road trip to rescue their grandmother from a COVID outbreak at her nursing home. Cast List: Whitney Call, Mallory Everton, Anne Sward Hansen, Julia Jolley, Baylee Thornock, Jessica Drolet, Stephen Meek, Tyler Andrew Jones, Noah Kershisnik, Justin Call (World Premiere)

See You Then
Director: Mari Walker, Screenwriters: Kristen Uno, Mari Walker, Producers: Mia Schulman, Kristen Uno, Mari Walker
A decade after abruptly breaking up with Naomi, Kris invites her to dinner to catch-up on their complicated lives, relationships, and Kris’ transition. Cast List: Pooya Mohseni, Lynn Chen, Nican Robinson, Danny Jacobs, Nikohl Boosheri (U.S. Premiere)

Swan Song
Director/Screenwriter: Todd Stephens, Producers: Todd Stephens, Eric Eisenbrey, Tim Kaltenecker, Stephen Israel
An aging hairdresser (Udo Kier) escapes his nursing home and embarks on an odyssey across his small town to style a dead woman’s hair for her funeral, rediscovering his sparkle along the way. Cast List: Udo Kier, Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans, Michael Urie, Ira Hawkins, Stephanie McVay (World Premiere)

Back to Top »

Documentary Spotlight

Shining a light on new documentary features receiving their World, International, North American or U.S. premieres at SXSW.

Alien On Stage (United Kingdom)
Directors/Producers: Danielle Kummer, Lucy Harvey
British bus driver’s amateur stage show of Ridley Scott’s Alien, accidentally makes it to a famous London theatre! With awkward acting and special effects requiring more luck than judgement, will their homemade homage be alright on the night? (International Premiere)

Fruits of Labor
Director: Emily Cohen Ibañez, Screenwriters: Ashley Solis Pavon, Emily Cohen Ibañez Producer: Emily Cohen Ibañez
A Mexican-American teenage farmworker dreams of graduating high school, when ICE raids in her community threaten to separate her family and force her to become her family’s breadwinner. (World Premiere)

The Hunt for Planet B
Director: Nathaniel Kahn, Producers: Bonnie Hlinomaz, Nathaniel Kahn
Taking us behind the scenes with NASA’s high-stakes James Webb Space Telescope, The Hunt for Planet B follows a pioneering group of scientists—many of them women—on their quest to find another Earth among the stars. (World Premiere)

Hysterical
Director: Andrea Nevins, Producers: Ross Dinerstein, Rebecca Evans, Carolina Groppa
Hysterical is an honest and hilarious backstage pass into the lives of some of stand-up comedy’s most boundary-breaking women, exploring the hard-fought journey to become the voices of their generation and their gender. Featuring Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Rachel Feinstein, Marina Franklin, Nikki Glaser, Judy Gold, Kathy Griffin, Jessica Kirson, Sherri Shepherd, Iliza Shlesinger and more. Available on FX in 2021. (World Premiere)

The Lost Sons
Director: Ursula Macfarlane, Producer: Gagan Rehill
1960s Chicago, a baby is kidnapped from a hospital. Fifteen months later, a toddler is abandoned. Could he be the same baby? In a tale of breathtaking twists and turns, two mysteries begin to unravel and dark family secrets are revealed. (World Premiere)

Mau (Austria, United States)
Directors: Benji Bergmann, Jono Bergmann, Producer: Karol Martesko-Fenster
Mau follows the unlikely story of design visionary Bruce Mau and his ever-optimistic push for massive change. (World Premiere)

Spring Valley
Director: Garrett Zevgetis, Producers: Chico Colvard, Jeff Consiglio, Ariana Garfinkel
An explosive viral video shows a white policeman throwing a Black teenager from her school desk. One woman uproots her life to help the girl, face the officer, and dismantle the system behind the “Assault at Spring Valley.” (World Premiere)

WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn
Director: Jed Rothstein, Producer: Ross Dinerstein
WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn explores the rise and fall of one of the biggest corporate flameouts and venture capitalist bubbles in recent years – the story of WeWork, and its hippie-messianic leader Adam Neumann. (World Premiere)

When Claude Got Shot
Director: Brad Lichtenstein, Producer: Steven Cantor, Brad Lichtenstein, Jamie Schutz, Santana Wilson (co-producer)
Three strangers’ lives become inextricably entwined by a weekend of gun violence. (World Premiere)

Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America
Directors: Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler, Screenwriter: Jeffery Robinson, Producers: Jeffery Robinson, Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler
ACLU lawyer Jeffery Robinson’s shattering talk on the history of U.S. anti-Black racism is interwoven with archival footage, interviews and Robinson’s story, exploring the legacy of white supremacy and our collective responsibility to overcome it. (World Premiere)

Back to Top »

Midnighters

Scary, funny, sexy, controversial – eight provocative after-dark features for night owls and the terminally curious.

Broadcast Signal Intrusion
Director: Jacob Gentry, Screenwriters: Phil Drinkwater, Tim Woodall, Producers: Greg Newman, Brett Hays, Giles Edwards, Nicola Goelzhaeuser
In the late 90s, a video archivist unearths a series of sinister pirate broadcasts and becomes obsessed with uncovering the dark conspiracy behind them. Cast List: Harry Shum Jr., Kelley Mack, Chris Sullivan, Jennifer Jelsema, Arif Yampolsky, Justin Welborn, Michael B. Woods, Steve Pringle (World Premiere)

The Feast (United Kingdom)
Director: Lee-Haven Jones, Screenwriter/Producer: Roger Williams
Over an evening a wealthy family gathers for a sumptuous dinner with guests in their ostentatious house in the Welsh mountains. Served by a mysteriously disturbing young woman, the assembled party do not realise they are about to eat their last supper. Cast List: Anne Elwy, Nia Roberts, Julian Lewis Jones, Steffan Cennydd, Sion Alun Davies, Lisa Palfrey, Rhodri Meilir (World Premiere)

Gaia (South Africa)
Director: Jaco Bouwer, Screenwriter: Tertius Kapp, Producer: Tertius Kapp, Jorrie van der Walt, Jaco Bouwer
In the depths of an ancient forest, something has been growing. Something older than humanity itself, and perhaps greater too. When a park ranger discovers a man and his son living wild, she stumbles onto a secret that is about to change the world. Cast List: Monique Rockman, Carel Nel, Alex van Dyk, Anthony Oseyemi (World Premiere)

Jakob’s Wife
Director: Travis Stevens, Screenwriters: Travis Stevens, Kathy Charles, Mark Steensland, Producers: Barbara Crampton, Bob Portal, Travis Stevens, Inderpal Singh
The disappearance of a young woman threatens to change the beige and banal lives of Anne Fedder (Barbara Crampton) and her pastor husband Jakob Fedder (Larry Fessenden) forever. Cast List: Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Mark Kelly, Sarah Lind, Robert Rusler, Nyisha Bell, Phil Brooks (World Premiere)

Offseason
Director/Screenwriter: Mickey Keating, Producer: Eric B. Fleischman, Maurice Fadida
After receiving a mysterious letter, a woman travels to a desolate island town and soon becomes trapped in a nightmare. Cast List: Joe Swanberg, Jocelin Donahue, Melora Walters, Richard Brake, Jeremy Gardner (World Premiere)

Sound Of Violence (Finland, United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Alex Noyer, Producer: Hannu Aukia, Alex Noyer
A young girl recovers her hearing and gains synesthetic abilities during the brutal murder of her family. Finding solace in the sounds of bodily harm, as an adult, she pursues a career in music composing her masterpiece through gruesome murders. Cast List: Jasmin Savoy Brown, Lili Simmons, James Jagger, Tessa Munro (World Premiere)

The Spine of Night
Directors/Screenwriters: Philip Gelatt, Morgan Galen King, Producers: Will Battersby, Philip Gelatt, Jean Rattle
In this ultra-violent, fantasy epic, ancient dark magic falls into sinister hands and unleashes ages of suffering onto mankind. A group of heroes from different eras and cultures must band together in order to defeat it at all costs. Cast List: Richard E. Grant, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt, Betty Gabriel, Joe Manganiello, Larry Fessenden, Nina Lisandrello, Abby Savage, Tom Lipinski, Patrick Breen (World Premiere)

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror
Director/Screenwriter: Kier-La Janisse, Producers: Kier-La Janisse, David Gregory, Winnie Cheung
Woodlands Dark Days and Days Bewitched is the first feature-length documentary on the history of folk horror, from the 1960s to today. (World Premiere)

Back to Top »

Festival Favorites

Acclaimed standouts and selected premieres from festivals around the world.

Dear Mr. Brody
Director: Keith Maitland, Producers: Melissa Robyn Glassman, Megan Gilbride, Keith Maitland, Sarah Wilson
A psychedelic journey into the heart (and bank account) of Michael Brody, Jr, the hippie-millionaire who offered the world peace for the price of a postage stamp. (Texas Premiere)

How It Ends
Directors/Screenwriters/Producers: Daryl Wein, Zoe Lister-Jones
On the last day on Earth, one woman goes on a journey through LA to make it to her last party before the world ends, running into an eclectic cast of characters along the way. Cast List: Zoe Lister-Jones, Cailee Spaeny, Nick Kroll, Olivia Wilde, Helen Hunt, Lamorne Morris, Fred Armisen, Bradley Whitford, Charlie Day, Whitney Cummings

In the Same Breath
Director: Nanfu Wang, Producers: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn
Nanfu Wang’s deeply personal In The Same Breath recounts the origin and spread of the novel coronavirus from the earliest days of the outbreak in Wuhan to its rampage across the United States. (Texas Premiere)

Ma Belle, My Beauty
Director/Screenwriter: Marion Hill, Producers: Ben Matheny, Kelsey Scult, Marion Hill
A surprise reunion in southern France reignites passions and jealousies between two women who were formerly polyamorous lovers. Cast List: Idella Johnson, Hannah Pepper, Lucien Guignard, Sivan Noam Shimon (Texas Premiere)

R#J
Director: Carey Williams, Screenwriters: Carey Williams, Rickie Castaneda, Producers: Timur Bekmambetov, Igor Tsay
A re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet, featuring a diverse cast in the classic Shakespearean roles. This modern day take is told on mobile and is a mashup of Shakespearean dialogue with current social media communication. Cast List: Camaron Engels, Francesca Noel, RJ Cyler, Diego Tinoco, Russell Hornsby, Siddiq Saunderson (Texas Premiere)

Violation (Canada)
Directors/Screenwriters/Producers: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Dusty Mancinelli
A troubled woman on the edge of divorce returns home to her younger sister after years apart. But when her sister and brother-in-law betray her trust, she embarks on a vicious crusade of revenge. Cast List: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Anna Maguire, Jesse LaVercombe, Obi Abili, Jasmin Geljo, Cynthia Ashperger (Texas Premiere)

Back to Top »

Visions

Visions filmmakers are audacious, risk-taking artists in the new cinema landscape who demonstrate raw innovation and creativity in documentary and narrative filmmaking.

Ayar
Director: Floyd Russ, Screenwriters: Ariana Ron Pedrique, Floyd Russ, Vilma Vega, Producers: Kara Durrett, Floyd Russ, Corey Waters, Andy Coverdale
Ayar, a first-generation American Latina, returns home to reunite with her daughter. But when her mother, Renata, refuses to let her see her due to Covid, Ayar is confronted by the many roles she’s been forced to play, including the role in this film. Cast List: Ariana Ron Pedrique, Vilma Vega, Henry Foster Brown, Simon Haycock, Calliah Sophie Estrada, Pete Pano, Briza Covarrubias, Ceasar Hartman, Jay Lawrence Kiman, Frances Fuches (World Premiere)

Delia Derbyshire – the Myths and the Legendary Tapes (United Kingdom)
Director/Screenwriter: Caroline Catz, Producer: Andy Starke
A portrait of the character and legacy of electronic sound pioneer Delia Derbyshire, who realized the Doctor Who theme tune in 1963 and explores the idea that this extraordinary composer lived outside of time and space as other people experience it. Featuring Caroline Catz, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Julian Rhind-tutt, Tom Meeten, Richard Glover, Saskia Reeves, Michael Higgs. (International Premiere)

Inbetween Girl
Director/Screenwriter: Mei Makino, Producers: Matt Stryker, Connor Pickens, Emily Gollahon, Kate Gollahon, Udoy Rahim
Teen artist Angie Chen turns to secret hookups with the heartthrob of her private school after her parents’ sudden divorce. Cast List: Emma Galbraith, William Magnuson, Emily Garrett, Lizabeth Waters, KaiChow Lau, Thanh Phuong Bui, Shanshan Jin, Kelsey Buckley (World Premiere)

Through the Plexi-Glass: The Last Days of the San Jose
Director: Liz Lambert, Producers: Liz Lambert, Tina Gazzerro Clapp, Ariel Quintans
The documentary tells the story of a real estate deal’s unexpected detour — one that sparked the gentrification of Austin’s hippest neighborhood — and reveals layers of knotty, unanswerable questions, all more relevant than ever today. (World Premiere)

Twyla Moves
Director: Steven Cantor, Producers: Steven Cantor, Jamie Schutz
Interwoven with her storied career and prolific works, Twyla Moves sees legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp navigate her latest creative challenge: making a dance for a world plagued by the Covid-19 pandemic. (World Premiere)

Back to Top »

24 Beats Per Second

Showcasing the sounds, culture and influence of music and musicians, with an emphasis on documentary.

Disintegration Loops
Director/Screenwriter: David Wexler, Producers: David Wexler, Bradford Coleman
As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 looms near, William Basinski contemplates the enduring legacy of The Disintegration Loops (his elegy to the 2001 Attacks), while quarantined in the midst of COVID-19. (World Premiere)

I Went To The Dance/J’ai Été Au Bal
Directors: Les Blank, Chris Strachwitz, Producer: Chris Strachwitz
Beautiful 5K restoration of the celebrated film on the history of Cajun and Creole/Zydeco music of SW Louisiana. Exhilarating performances by Clifton Chenier, Marc and Ann Savoy, BeauSoleil, and more. By Les Blank, Chris Strachwitz and Maureen Gosling (World Premiere)

Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché (United Kingdom)
Directors: Paul Sng, Celeste Bell, Screenwriters: Celeste Bell, Zoë Howe, Producers: Rebecca Mark-Lawson, Matthew Silverman, Daria Nitsche
The death of punk icon and X-Ray Spex frontwoman Poly Styrene sends her daughter on a journey across the world and through her mother’s archives to reconcile their fraught relationship. (North American Premiere)

Soy Cubana
Directors: Jeremy Ungar, Ivaylo Getov, Screenwriters: Agustín Rexach Martín, Ivaylo Getov, Jeremy Ungar, Producer: Robin Miller Ungar
When the Vocal Vidas, an all-female Cuban quartet, are invited to play their first show in the US, a simple concert becomes a journey across physical and ideological borders – affirming the connective power of music, even in the most uncertain times. (World Premiere)

Under the Volcano (Australia)
Director: Gracie Otto, Screenwriters: Cody Greenwood, Gracie Otto, Ian Shadwell, Producers: Cody Greenwood
The story of George Martin’s AIR Studios Montserrat and the island that changed music forever. Featuring interviews with Sting, Mark Knopfler, Nick Rhodes, Jimmy Buffett, Verdine White, Tony Lommi, Stewart Copeland, Guy Fletcher, Midge Ure, and Roger Glover. (World Premiere)

Back to Top »

Global

A diverse selection of international filmmaking talent, featuring innovative narratives, artful documentaries, premieres, festival favorites and more.

Bantú Mama (Dominican Republic)
Director: Ivan Herrera, Screenwriters: Clarisse Albrecht, Ivan Herrera, Producers: Ivan Herrera, Nicolas LaMadrid, Franmiris Lombert
An Afropean woman escapes after being arrested in the Dominican Republic. She is sheltered by a group of minors, in a dangerous district of Santo Domingo. By becoming their protégée and maternal figure, she will see her destiny change inexorably. Cast List: Clarisse Albrecht, Scarlett Reyes, Arturo Perez, Euris Javiel, Donis Taveras, Jarold Santos (World Premiere)

Fucking with Nobody (Finland)
Director: Hannaleena Hauru, Screenwriters: Hannaleena Hauru, Lasse Poser, Producers: Emilia Haukka, Jussi Rantamäki
Hanna is a film director. She loses her dream job to her rival Kristian who is much more popular, and not single. Thus, she decides to create a parody romance on Instagram to question the image one offers to society. This fake romance will have unexpected effects. Cast List: Hannaleena Hauru, Samuel Kujala, Lasse Poser (North American Premiere)

Luchadoras (Germany/Mexico)
Directors: Paola Calvo, Patrick Jasim, Screenwriters: Patrick Jasim, Paola Calvo, Phillip Kaminiak, Producer: Phillip Kaminiak
Luchadoras portrays the courageous female wrestlers of Ciudad Juárez, a city known for its high murder rate against women – who in the ring and in their daily lives fight to redefine the image of what it means to be a woman in Mexico. (World Premiere)

Ninjababy (Norway)
Director: Yngvild Sve Flikke, Screenwriter: Johan Fasting, Producer: Yngve Sæther
When Rakel (23), way too late, finds out she’s six months pregnant after a not-so-romantic one-night stand, her world changes. Cast List: Kristine Thorp, Arthur Berning, Nader Khademi, Tora Christine Dietrichson (International Premiere)

Trapped (Egypt)
Director: Manal Khaled, Screenwriters: Manal Khaled, Rasha Azab, Producer: Manal Khaled
Trapped revolves around a number of women from different walks of life whose destinies are tied together; being all under one siege. As the events unfold, their own personal stories reflect on a far bigger siege that depicts the shackles imposed by a patriarchal society. Cast List: Coroline Khalil, Reem Hegab, Osama Abo El Ata, Ne’ma Mohsen, Mona Mokhtar, Sara’a Jebel (World Premiere)

Back to Top »

2020 Spotlight

Exciting Narrative, Documentary and Episodic projects from across our sections from the 2020 edition of the SXSW Film Festival.

Best Summer Ever
Directors: Michael Parks Randa, Lauren Smitelli, Screenwriters: Michael Parks Randa, Will Halby, Terra Mackintosh, Andrew Pilkington, Lauren Smitelli, Producers: Andrew Pilkington, Katie White, Terra Mackintosh, Leah Romond, Jake Sharpless
A fresh and exhilarating take on the beloved teen musical genre featuring eight original songs and a fully integrated cast and crew of people with and without disabilities. Cast List: Shannon DeVido, Rickey Wilson Jr., MuMu, Jacob Waltuck, Emily Kranking, Eileen Grubba, Holly Palmer, Ajani “AJ” Murray, Lawerence Carter-Long, Bradford Hayes (Texas Premiere)

Chad
Showrunner/Screenwriter: Nasim Pedrad, Director: Rhys Thomas, Producer: David Cress
An awkward 14-year-old Persian-American boy navigates his first year of high school on a mission to become popular. Cast List: Nasim Pedrad, Jake Ryan, Ella Mika, Saba Homayoon, Paul Chahidi, Alexa Loo, Thomas Barbusca (World Premiere) (Episodic)

Clerk (Canada, U.S.A.)
Director: Malcolm Ingram, Producers: Malcolm Ingram, Craig Fleming
A documentary on the life and career of Kevin Smith. (World Premiere)

Executive Order (Brazil)
Director: Lázaro Ramos, Screenwriters: Lusa Silvestre, Lázaro Ramos, Aldri Anunciação, Elísio Lopes Jr, Producers: Daniel Filho, Tania Rocha
In a dystopian near future in Brazil, an authoritarian government orders all citizens of African descent to move to Africa – creating chaos, protests, and an underground resistance movement that inspires the nation. Cast List: Alfred Enoch, Taís Araújo, Seu Jorge, Adriana Esteves, Renata Sorrah, Mariana Xavier, Pablo Sanábio (Texas Premiere)

Violet
Director/Screenwriter: Justine Bateman, Producers: Justine Bateman, Michael D. Jones, Larry Hummel, Matt Paul
A film development executive realizes that “guiding voice” inside her head has been lying to her about everything. Cast List: Olivia Munn, Luke Bracey, Justin Theroux (World Premiere)

We Are As Gods
Directors/Screenwriters: Jason Sussberg, David Alvarado, Producers: Kate McLean, Jamie Meltzer, David Alvarado, Jason Sussberg
“We are as gods and might as well get good at it,” Stewart Brand wrote in ‘68. The legendary pioneer of LSD, cyberspace, futurism, and modern environmentalism now urges people to use our god-like powers to fight extinction by reviving lost species. (World Premiere)

We Are The Thousand (Italy)
Director/Screenwriter: Anita Rivaroli, Producer: Simone Catania
Learn the story behind the viral video and what came after! We Are The Thousand takes you backstage with the Rockin’1000. A thousand musicians gathered together with one mission–to get the Foo Fighters to perform in their small town. (North American Premiere)

Witch Hunt
Director/Screenwriter: Elle Callahan, Producers: Eric B. Fleischman, Maurice Fadida
In a modern America where witches are real and witchcraft is illegal, a sheltered teenager must face her own demons and prejudices as she helps two young witches avoid law enforcement and cross the southern border to asylum in Mexico. Cast List: Gideon Adlon, Elizabeth Mitchell, Abigail Cowen, Nicholas and Cameron Crovetti, Christian Camargo (World Premiere)

Without Getting Killed or Caught
Directors: Tamara Saviano, Paul Whitfield, Screenwriters: Tamara Saviano, Bart Knaggs, Producers: Tamara Saviano, Paul Whitfield
Without Getting Killed or Caught is the true story of Guy Clark, the dean of Texas songwriters, who struggles to write poetic, yet indelible songs while balancing a complicated marriage with wife Susanna, and a deep friendship with Townes Van Zandt. (World Premiere)

Back to Top »

Episodic Premieres

Presenting world premieres of prestige serials slated for release.

Confronting A Serial Killer
Showrunner: Po Kutchins, Director: Joe Berlinger, Producers: Eve Rodrick, Eleanor Yu, Cassandra Corbett, Janine Nask, Julia Pontecorvo, Lesley Grossman, Emma McNamara, Ariel Kay
Confronting a Serial Killer tells the story of the unprecedented relationship between author Jillian Lauren and serial killer Sam Little while investigating the devastating impact of bias against marginalized women in the criminal justice system. (World Premiere)

Cruel Summer
Showrunner: Tia Napolitano, Director: Max Winkler
From Exec Producer Jessica Biel, Freeform’s Cruel Summer is a psychological thriller taking place over three summers when a popular girl goes missing and an awkward outlier transforms to queen bee and eventually, the most despised person in America. Cast List: Olivia Holt, Chiara Aurelia, Michael Landes, Froy Gutierrez, Harley Quinn Smith, Allius Barnes, Blake Lee, Brooklyn Sudano (World Premiere)

The Girlfriend Experience
Director/Screenwriter: Anja Marquardt, Producer: Philip Fleishman
The third installment of The Girlfriend Experience is set in the London tech scene. Iris, a neuroscience major, begins to explore the transactional world of The Girlfriend Experience and quickly learns that client sessions provide her with a compelling edge in the tech world. Cast List: Julia Goldani Telles, Oliver Masucci, Frank Dillane, Daniel Betts, Armin Karima, Tobi Bamtefa, Jemima Rooper (World Premiere)

Made for Love
Showrunner: Christina Lee, Director: Stephanie Laing, Screenwriters: Written for Television by Alissa Nutting & Dean Bakopoulos and Patrick Somerville and Christina Lee
Based on Alissa Nutting’s tragicomic novel, Made for Love is a dark, absurd, and cynically poignant story of divorce and revenge following Hazel Green (Cristin Milioti), a thirty-something woman on the run after 10 years in a suffocating marriage. Cast List: Cristin Milioti, Billy Magnussen, Dan Bakkedahl, Noma Dumezweni, Augusto Aguilera, Caleb Foote and Ray Romano. Executive producers: Christina Lee, Alissa Nutting, Patrick Somerville, Dean Bakopoulos, Liza Chasin, SJ Clarkson. (World Premiere)

Sasquatch
Showrunner/Director: Joshua Rofé, Producers: Duplass Brothers Productions, Number 19
Sasquatch is a true crime doc series following investigative journalist David Holthouse as he attempts to solve a bizarre twenty-five year old triple homicide that was said to be the work of a mythical creature. (World Premiere)

Them
Showrunner: Little Marvin
Set in 1953, Them, a co-production from Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television, centers on a Black family who move from North Carolina to an all-white Los Angeles neighborhood. The family’s idyllic home becomes ground zero where malevolent forces, next door and otherworldly, threaten to taunt, ravage & destroy them. Cast List: Deborah Ayorinde, Ashley Thomas, Alison Pill, Melody Hurd, Shahadi Wright Joseph (World Premiere)

Back to Top »

Episodic Pilot Competition

A pilot showcase introducing fresh work from bright new talent, many with an eye towards finding production, completion funds, or a release platform.

4 Feet High (Argentina, France)
Directors: Maria Belen Poncio, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, Screenwriters: Greta Molas, Javier Correa Caceres, Elisa Gagliano, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, Maria Belen Poncio, Delphine Agut, Ivana Galdeano, Gabriela Vidal
Imagine your last year of High School in a wheelchair. Cast List: Marisol Agostina Irigoyen, Florencia Licera, Marcio Ramses, Natalia Di Cienzo, Francisca Spinotti (Texas Premiere)

Dale’s House
Showrunner: Julie Lake, Director: Kat Whalen, Screenwriters: Matt Kirsch, Julie Lake, Producers: Matt Kirsch, Julie Lake, Dana Fares
Dale’s House is a horror comedy about two estranged best friends, both at rock bottom in their careers and personal lives, who end up house sitting together in a demonic house that grants them all the success they desire, in exchange for their souls. Cast List: Julie Lake, Matt Kirsch, Sandy McCree, Jeff Cahn (World Premiere)

For the Record (Canada)
Showrunner: Julian De Zotti, Directors: Lisa Baylin, Julian De Zotti, Screenwriter: Julian De Zotti, Producer: Lisa Baylin
Ray and Angela just broke up. What if music had the power to bring them back together? Follow the iconic songs that make up the unforgettable soundtrack for a uniquely interconnected cast of characters. Cast List: Anna Hopkins, Julian De Zotti, Lyriq Bent, Alexandra Beaton, Karen LeBlanc, Maurice Dean Wint, Kyra Clavell, Moni Ogunsuyi, Alannah Ong, Johnny Orlando (International Premiere)

Parked in America
Showrunner/Screenwriter: Kayla Yumi Lewis, Director: Luke Salin, Producers: Ann Swenson, Cole Bannick, Jori Johnson, Alexandro Pacheco
Parked in America is a half-hour dramedy following Jamie Park, a Korean teenager, who moves in with her relatives in Illinois after a family tragedy strikes back at home in Seoul. Cast List: Judy Song, Jeff Lawless, Solomon Abell, Ella Baker-Smith, Judy Han, Jim Cairl, Lexi Perkel, MeeWha Alana Lee (World Premiere)

The Position
Director/Screenwriter: Matthew Lessner, Producers: Breeda Wool, Michael Kaleda, Matthew Lessner
The Position is a metaphysical comedy about two modern women’s unlikely partnership and subsequent misadventures in pursuit of a portal to the multiverse. Cast List: Breeda Wool, Remi Nicole (World Premiere)

Pretend Partners
Showrunners/Screenwriters/Producers: Kristin Erickson, Ron Najor, Director: Ron Najor
Two (not so good) friends realize they are better together than alone. Cast List: Kristin Erickson, Ron Najor, Kandis Fay, Dan J. Johnson (World Premiere)

Back to Top »

Special Events

Special Events for 2021 consist of conversations associated with projects in the 2021 Film Festival, table readings and other unique one-off events on our Live Channel 4.

Opening Night Special Event: YouTube Originals Docuseries Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil Special Event Q&A
Global superstar Demi Lovato, Director and Executive Producer Michael D. Ratner, YouTube’s Global Head of Original Content Susanne Daniels and moderator Jenelle Riley from Variety discuss the new documentary event exploring the traumas and every aspect that led to Lovato’s nearly fatal overdose in 2018, followed by her powerful awakenings in the aftermath.

Closing Night Film Special Event: Live Q&A with Charli XCX, a SICK moderator, and Directors Bradley & Pablo
Live Q&A Followed by a virtual rave dance party which will consist of: – A pre-recorded DJ set from Charli, shot in a big empty warehouse space with minimal, dark rave-y lighting. A true pandemic rave shot as a live performance.
– Different performers will be spotlighted on Zoom dancing to the set: Poison Oakland + other drag performers + fans featured in the film + lucky attendees!

7 Sounds
Filmmaker Sam Green and musician JD Samson ask you to step away from your computer and focus on the experience of listening in the present moment. 7 Sounds is an immersive, live-streamed audio-video work that explores the universal influence of sound. The piece weaves seven specific audio recordings into a meditation on the power of sound to bend time, cross borders, and profoundly shape our perception — opening new ways to hear our everyday world.

Art and Life Talk with Filmmakers Daryl Wein & Zoe Lister-Jones of Mister Lister Films
Dive into the filmmaking careers of husband-wife duo, Daryl Wein and Zoe Lister-Jones of such films as How It Ends (Sundance/SXSW 2021), The Craft (Sony), White Rabbit (Sundance/Gravitas), Band Aid (Sundance/IFC Films), Lola Versus (Fox Searchlight), and Breaking Upwards (IFC Films/SXSW).

Black Monday Q&A
Join the brilliant cast and showrunners of Black Monday as they come together virtually for an exclusive Q&A. This series never fails to surprise as it tells subversively modern stories against a backdrop of big hair and bigger fashions. Miraculously, Don Cheadle, Andrew Rannells, Paul Scheer, Yassir Lester, and Casey Wilson and showrunners David Caspe and Jordan Cahan are even more fun live. Hilarity guaranteed.

Clerk and Twerk with Kevin Smith and Malcolm Ingram
Clerk is an examination and celebration of the life of Kevin Smith – and an exploration on how one kid from Jersey completely transformed the cultural landscape. A journey which began 25 years ago at the Sundance Film festival where his DIY film Clerks, financed on credit cards took the film world by storm. Leading to a career as a filmmaker, podcaster, stand-up comedian, author, comic book writer, television producer – a veritable pop culture icon with a very large and loyal fanbase.

Confronting a Serial Killer Conversation
Discussion with the team behind Confronting a Serial Killer: director/EP Joe Berlinger, EP/showrunner Po Kutchins and Jillian Lauren. Premiering on STARZ this Spring, the five-episode series that tells the timely story of the unprecedented relationship between acclaimed author and journalist Jillian Lauren and the most prolific serial killer in American history, Sam Little, and her race against time to identify his victims before it’s too late.

Jada Pinkett Smith in Conversation with the Creator, Executive Producers, and Cast of the New Amazon Prime Video Terror Anthology, Them
Them creator and executive producer Little Marvin and executive producer Lena Waithe, will join cast, Deborah Ayorinde, Ashley Thomas, Alison Pill, Melody Hurd, and Shahadi Wright Joseph in a discussion moderated by Jada Pinkett Smith (Actress, Red Table Talk Host). In this candid conversation, executive producers and cast will unpack the first episode, set to World Premiere during this year’s SXSW Film Festival, as well as themes explored across the series. Them is a co-production from Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television.

A Conversation with the Filmmakers Behind Hulu’s WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn
Join Director Jed Rothstein and Producer Ross Dinerstein as they uncover the rise and fall of WeWork, the real estate startup whose CEO Adam Neumann blended spirituality, entrepreneurial hustle and free beer to convince investors that shared office space could change the world… until it entered near bankruptcy. The two will share a behind-the-scenes look at this captivating documentary while breaking down the personality that drove the company’s culture and its massive financial deals.

Cosmic Breakthrough: Women in The Hunt for Planet B
Are we alone? This dynamic panel of eminent scientists and engineers will discuss the search for life in the universe. With the discovery of thousands of exoplanets and the huge James Webb Space Telescope launching this year, a new golden age of astronomy is dawning—and these women are at the heart of it. With Natalie Batalha, Amy Lo, Sara Seager, Jill Tarter, and Maggie Turnbull; moderated by Nathaniel Kahn.

Cruel Summer Q&A
From Executive Producer Jessica Biel (The Sinner), Cruel Summer is a psychological thriller that follows two young women; Kate Wallis, the popular girl with a charmed life who one day goes missing, and Jeanette Turner, the nerdy wannabee who is accused of being connected to Kate’s disappearance. Please join us for an exciting panel with series stars Olivia Holt, Chiara Aurelia, and executive producers Tia Napolitano, Jessica Biel and Michelle Purple. The panel will be moderated by Jessica Radloff from Glamour Magazine.

HBO Max’s Made for Love: Panel with Stars and Executive Producers
Join stars Cristin Milioti, Billy Magnussen, Dan Bakkedahl, Noma Dumezweni, Caleb Foote and Ray Romano, and executive producers Christina Lee and Alissa Nutting for a conversation about HBO Max’s upcoming series Made for Love premiering this spring. The darkly absurd and cynically poignant story of love and divorce follows Hazel Green (Milioti), a thirty-something woman on the run after 10 years in a suffocating marriage to Byron Gogol (Magnussen), a controlling tech billionaire. Glamour‘s Samantha Barry moderates.

Homeroom with Nasim Pedrad, Creator of TBS’s New Comedy Series Chad
A conversation with Nasim Pedrad, the creator, star and executive producer of TBS’ upcoming series, Chad, and Glamour‘s Editor-in-Chief Samantha Barry.

Hysterical: Behind the Velvet Curtain with Stand-Up Comedy’s Boundary-Breaking Women
Stand-up comedy had always been a male domain. Join the cast and director of Hysterical, a feature documentary that explores female comics’ hard-fought journey to become the voices of their generation and gender, for an honest and hilarious Q&A. The all-female panel discusses their shared stories and struggles as some of the boundary-breaking women shattering comedy’s glass ceiling with perfectly timed punch lines. Hysterical, produced by Campfire, will be available on FX in 2021. Panelists include Fortune Feimster, Rachel Feinstein, Marina Franklin, Sherri Shepherd, Iliza Shlesinger, Jessica Kirson (who also serves as EP) and director/EP Andrea Nevins. Moderated by Melanie McFarland.

In Conversation with Mark Duplass and Natalie Morales
Language Lessons filmmakers Mark Duplass and Natalie Morales sit down to discuss the process of writing a bilingual movie, the complexities of platonic love, and filmmaking during a global pandemic.

Incorporating Choreography and Verse Into Blindspotting
A discussion with the Blindspotting series creators and writers Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, lead actress Jasmine Cephas Jones, director Aurora Guerrero, cinematographer Tarin Anderson, and renowned choreographers Lil Buck and Jon Boogz on incorporating choreography and verse into the new television series Blindspotting.

Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story: Scenes from the Rough Cut
See work-in-progress scenes from the rough cut of Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story. This documentary weaves together live performances and interviews from the 50th anniversary of the iconic festival, featuring some of the biggest names in music, along with a wealth of archival documentary footage from the past half century. Academy-award nominee Frank Marshall shares insights from behind the scenes.

The Making and Digital Restoration of I Went to the Dance
This virtual Q&A, hosted by journalist/author Joe Nick Patoski, will go behind the scenes of the making of the celebrated 1989 feature documentary on the roots of SW Louisiana’s Cajun & Creole/Zydeco music, I Went to the Dance. Featured are Co-Filmmaker/Producer, Chris Strachwitz, Co-Filmmaker/Editor Maureen Gosling and Associate Producer/Sound Recordist, Chris Simon. It will also delve into the challenges and magic behind the 2021 ground-breaking 5k digital restoration of a documentary, I Went to the Dance, by Harrod Blank and Anthony Matt. Blank, the son of the late Co-Filmmaker/Cinematographer Les Blank, took on the task to bring back to life this exuberant film which celebrates the most important and influential performers of the era.

On the Road(trip) to Recovery: Filmmakers Mallory Everton, Whitney Call and Stephen Meek Talk Their Feature Debut in the Midst of a Pandemic
For most people, quarantine looked a lot like baking bread and catching up on Tiger King, but for Utah-based sketch comics Mallory Everton, Whitney Call, and Stephen Meek, they saw a chance to do something different. The creative minds (and lifelong friends) behind JK Studios wrote, produced, directed, starred – and even gaffed – their first feature film with Recovery. In this SXSW-exclusive Q&A, the gang comes together to chat about their journey to creating their first feature…all from a safe social distance. The masks will come OFF as the filmmakers dive into what it really takes to make a movie with your quarantine family and the long road to a SXSW World Premiere. From Sorø Films and the whole family, we hope you’ll join us on the road to Recovery.

Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché: In Conversation with the Filmmakers
In this special Q&A event, directors Celeste Bell and Paul Sng will discuss their new documentary film Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché, about the late punk icon’s life, legacy, and relationship with Bell, her daughter. Featuring editor Xanna Ward Dixon and moderated by producer Matthew Silverman, this conversation will cover everything from Poly’s influence on the riot grrrl and Afropunk movements to the years-long filmmaking process that took place across three continents.

A Q&A with Kier-La Janisse of Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched
Join programmer Liane Cunje in conversation with Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched director Kier-La Janisse as they discuss the process behind the film – from its genesis as a short featurette to a comprehensive look at the folk horror phenomenon in film and television worldwide that became the House of Psychotic Women author’s first feature as a writer, director, and producer. They’ll discuss the myriad definitions and taxonomies of folk horror, its touchstone films and most vocal champions, and the many challenges of finishing a documentary in the midst of a global pandemic.

Solar Opposites Table Read & SHLORPION SILENT (AND ALONE) DISCO
The Solar Opposites are going to SXSW! Join Justin Roiland (“Korvo”), Thomas Middleditch (“Terry”), Sean Giambrone (“Yumyulack”), Mary Mack (“Jesse”), executive producer Mike McMahan, and more as they take it bigger, funnier, and more oppositer than ever before during a virtual table read. As Hulu’s most-watched original comedy premiere to date, Solar Opposites centers around a family of four aliens and their Pupa who are still stuck on earth in suburban America.

Scoring My First Feature Film: A Conversation with Finneas O’Connell
Join internationally acclaimed, multi GRAMMY-Award-winning artist and producer Finneas O’Connell and Variety contributor (Songs for Screens) Andrew Hampp for an exclusive and live discussion at SXSW, as O’Connell delves into the process and his experience when making his feature film-score debut; composing and performing for The Fallout, a powerful new film about the unseen faces of a tragedy.

Swipe Righteous
Lifted from the parchment and downloaded onto your smartphone, Swipe Righteous reimagines famous Bible stories through our screens. Watch as Adam swipes right on Eve, Cain blocks Abel, and God tweets out his Ten Commandments — all told through Screenlife format by Searching and Unfriended Timur Bekmambetov and the creators of Dead of Night and Phony Texts.

SXSW Film Fest Episodic Pitch-a-Thon Presented by SeriesFest
For the second year in a row at SXSW Film, independent content creators will have the opportunity to participate in the Episodic Pitch-A-Thon presented by SeriesFest in partnership with SXSW. SXSW 2021 filmmakers will participate in the virtual event where each Creator/Creative Team will have 5 minutes to pitch in front of an audience. An industry panel of experts including top television, news media, and digital execs, will then have 7 minutes to give their feedback on each project.

Til Death Do Us Part: *A Jakob’s Wife Discussion
Moderator Jordan Crucchiola leads an intimate conversation with genre legends Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden and writer/director Travis Stevens about reinventing yourself later in life, finding your own voice as an artist and how to have a happy marriage in a horror film.

Twyla Moves… You
Twyla Tharp teaches you her infamous and humorous Banjo dance and then talks about the experience of synopsizing her 55 year career into an 82 minute film experience.

Violet Q&A
Join Violet writer/director/producer Justine Bateman and special guests for a discussion of the film.

Weed, Murder & Bigfoot: A Conversation with the Team Behind Hulu’s Sasquatch
While visiting a pot farm in Northern California in 1993, investigative journalist David Holthouse heard a story that still haunts him: On a nearby farm three men were torn limb from limb in a savage Bigfoot attack. Hulu’s Sasquatch follows David as he revisits the Redwoods in search of any evidence that might lead to the truth of what happened that night. Join David Holthouse, director Joshua Rofé, and executive producer Mark Duplass as they break down the production of this wild murder mystery.

Back to Top »

Narrative Shorts Competition

A selection of original, well-crafted films that take advantage of the short form and exemplify distinctive and genuine storytelling.

Are You Still There?
Directors/Screenwriters: Rayka Zehtabchi, Sam Davis
Safa’s been through a lot. Now her car battery’s dead in a strip mall parking lot. (North American Premiere)

Bruiser
Director: Miles Warren, Screenwriters: Miles Warren, Ben Medina
After his father gets into a fight at a bowling alley, Darious begins to investigate the limitations of his own manhood. (Texas Premiere)

Chuj Boys of Summer (Guatemala, United States)
Director: Max Walker-Silverman, Screenwriters: Marcos Ordoñez Ixwalanhkej Mendoza, Max Walker-Silverman
Speaking only his native language, a Guatemalan teenager begins his new life in rural Colorado. (Texas Premiere)

The Criminals (Romania, Turkey)
Director/Screenwriter: Serhat Karaaslan
Late at night in a small Turkish town, a young couple tries to find a hotel room to spend the night together.

Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma
Directors: Topaz Jones, rubberband., Screenwriters: Topaz Jones, Jason Sondock, Simon Davis
Topaz Jones debuts his 2nd album, Don’t Go Telling Your Momma as a reimagining of the 70s Black ABCs; a view into his and America’s Black Identity through 26 individual scenes, each representing a letter and a corresponding update to their meanings. (Texas Premiere)

Femme (United Kingdom)
Directors/Screenwriters: Ng Choon Ping, Sam H. Freeman
When Jordan gets into the car of a flirtatious drug-dealer, his night takes a dangerous turn. (World Premiere)

The Journey (Canada)
Director/Screenwriter: Ève Saint-Louis
The Journey is the story of a father and daughter reunion. From Montreal’s airport, they will travel along a chaotic path, where their inability to find each other will unveil a complicated relationship and have them drift from their initial course. (World Premiere)

Like The Ones I Used To Know (Canada)
Director/Screenwriter: Annie St-Pierre
December 24, 1983, 10:50PM: Julie and her cousins ate too much sugar, Santa Claus is late and Denis, alone in his car, is anxious at the idea of setting foot in his ex-in-law’s house to pick up his children. An early quirky and poetic coming-of-age. (Texas Premiere)

Marvin’s Never Had Coffee Before
Director: Andrew Carter, Screenwriters: Andrew Carter, Kahlil Maskati
Marvin Wexler tries coffee for the first time and desperately tries to talk about it with anyone who will listen.

The Mohel (Canada)
Director/Screenwriter: Charles Wahl
After celebrating the birth of their first child, James and Lola are faced with family expectations and financial strain as they fly in a Mohel to perform their son’s Brit Milah – The circumcision ceremony. (World Premiere)

The Nipple Whisperer (Belgium)
Director/Screenwriter: Jan Van Dyck
Maurice Sanders has a gift. He’s a nipple whisperer. Once he was known as “Magic Sandy.” But that was years ago, before Doris, a famous model and Sander’s muse, fell ill. Now, after more than a decade, Doris wants to meet Maurice again. (World Premiere)

The Other Morgan
Director/Screenwriter: Alison Rich
When a dopey young exterminator discovers there’s another version of her out in the world, she begins to question her life choices. (Texas Premiere)

Plaisir
Director/Screenwriter: Molly Gillis
A lonely American faces unrequited love on a farm commune in the south of France. (World Premiere)

Play It Safe (United Kingdom)
Director/Screenwriter: Mitch Kalisa
Coaxed into playing a racial typecast in a fellow student’s play, Black drama student Jonathan is faced with all too familiar decision: to challenge prejudice, or play it safe. (World Premiere)

Sales Per Hour
Directors: Michelle Uranowitz, Daniel Jaffe, Screenwriter: Michelle Uranowitz
A young woman faces a moral dilemma when she witnesses a sexual encounter in a dressing room at the clothing store where she works. (World Premiere)

Sisters
Director/Screenwriter: Jess Brunetto
Hidden secrets cause tension when two estranged sisters are forced to confront each other while preparing for their ailing mother’s death. (World Premiere)

Soak
Director/Screenwriter: Hannah Bang
A 16 year old tries to convince her runaway mother to return home. (World Premiere)

Squeegee (Canada, United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Morgan Krantz
A high-powered female CEO meets her high-rise window-washer for an erotic rendezvous on opposite sides of a skyscraper window. (World Premiere)

Wiggle Room
Directors/Screenwriters: Sam Guest, Julia Baylis
Determined to save her wheelchair ramp from repossession, Daisy confronts the shady insurance agent who owes her money. (Texas Premiere)

Back to Top »

Documentary Shorts Competition

Slices of life from across the documentary spectrum.

Águilas
Directors: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Maite Zubiaurre, Screenwriters: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Maite Zubiaurre, Nico Sandi
Along the scorching desert border in Arizona, it is estimated that only one out of every five missing migrants are ever found. Águilas is the story of one group of searchers, the Águilas del Desierto. (World Premiere)

The Beauty President
Director: Whitney Skauge
In 1992, drag queen Joan Jett Blakk made a historic bid for the White House as an openly queer write-in candidate. Today, Terence Smith, the man behind the persona, reflects back on his place in gay rights history at the height of the AIDS crisis. (World Premiere)

The Box
Directors/Screenwriters: James Burns, Shal Ngo
The Box is a hybrid documentary that explores the effects of solitary confinement through three people’s harrowing true stories – they’ve spent a combined nine years in isolation, and one of them co-directed this film. (World Premiere)

I Ran from It and Was Still in It
Director: Darol Olu Kae
A poetic meditation on familial loss and separation, and the love that endures against dispersion. (Texas Premiere)

Joe Buffalo (Canada)
Director: Amar Chebib, Screenwriters: Joe Buffalo, Amar Chebib
Joe Buffalo, an Indigenous skateboard legend and Indian Residential School survivor, must face his inner demons to realize his dream of turning pro. (World Premiere)

The Last Cruise
Director: Hannah Olson
The Last Cruise chronicles the first major COVID-19 outbreak outside of China. Using footage recorded by passengers and crew aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, we watch class divisions emerge as the world misses its chance to contain the virus. (World Premiere)

Plant Heist
Directors: Chelsi de Cuba, Gabriel de Cuba
California’s fight to protect native succulents from an international poaching ring worth millions. (World Premiere)

Red Taxi
Director: Anonymous
As protests unfold in Hong Kong, Red Taxi shows a city in upheaval through the eyes of those who must traverse the streets day and night to make a living. Filmed by a local film crew, who remain anonymous due to ongoing safety concerns. (North American Premiere)

Sophie and The Baron
Director: Alexandria Jackson
Iconic photographer Baron Wolman and contemporary artist Sophie Kipner transcend eras and mediums in a collaboration that demonstrates the magic of just saying yes. (World Premiere)

Ten Leaves Dilated
Directors: Kate E. Hinshaw, Ebony Blanding
A documentary that uses the make-believe world crafted by Cabbage Patch Kids to examine discourses surrounding childbirth in the American South. (World Premiere)

Trade Center
Director: Adam Baran
The voices of five gay men who cruised for sex at the World Trade Center in the 1980s and 1990s haunt the sanitized, commerce-driven landscape that is the newly rebuilt Freedom Tower campus. (World Premiere)

Back to Top »

Animated Shorts Competition

An assortment of stories told using traditional animation, computer-generated effects, stop-motion, and everything in between.

The Expected (Sweden)
Director/Screenwriter: Carolina Sandvik
A father-to-be ends up in a feverish nightmare after a miscarriage, when a strange entity seems to be growing in the mother’s blood. (North American Premiere)

Hold me Tight (Belgium, France)
Director/Screenwriter: Mélanie Robert-Tourneur
In the middle of a dark forest, two silhouettes meet. In search of sexual desire, they start a dangerous and explosive parade. (International Premiere)

KKUM (Republic of Korea)
Director/Screenwriter: Kang Min Kim
My mother’s dreams have always been strong premonitions for important moments in my life. I rely on her dreams more than any religion. (Texas Premiere)

Love is Just a Death Away (Czechia)
Director/Screenwriter: Bára Anna Stejskalová
A tender story about finding love even amid utter decay. (U.S. Premiere)

My Fat Arse and I (Poland)
Director/Screenwriter: Yelyzaveta Pysmak
An amusing film about anorexia and butts. (North American Premiere)

Navozande, the Musician (France)
Director/Screenwriter: Reza Riahi
At the time of the attack of the Mongols, a young musician and the love of his life are separated from each other. Fifty years later, the musician is summoned to perform at the castle of the Mongols where his beloved is being held. (Texas Premiere)

Normal (France)
Director/Screenwriter: Julie Caty
Dany is a rich heir who faces existential emptiness. He meets Karl Marx who asks him to destroy capitalism in order to save humankind. Reluctantly, Dany accepts his request and turns into a superhero. But he is quickly overwhelmed by his task. (North American Premiere)

Nuevo Rico
Director: Kristian Mercado, Screenwriters: Kristian Mercado, Juan Arroyo
A brother and sister stumble upon a celestial secret that changes their lives forever and propels them into Reggaetón stardom, but they soon discover that their newfound fame comes at a deep price. (World Premiere)

Opera
Director: Erick Oh
Opera is a massive 8K size animation installation project which portrays our society and history, which is filled with beauty and absurdity. Erick enables viewers to experience the range of in-depth emotions through this epic reflection of human life. (Texas Premiere)

Our Bed Is Green
Director/Screenwriter: Maggie Brennan
A young woman seeks digital refuge from an overwhelming world and a bewildering obsession. (World Premiere)

Rendang of Death (Indonesia)
Director/Screenwriter: Percolate Galactic
In a quaint Padang restaurant, filled with people enjoying their lunch break, two bros put their friendship to the test when it turns out that there’s only a single plate of their favorite food left: the Rendang of Death.

Your Own Bullshit (Poland)
Director: Daria Kopiec, Screenwriters: Daria Kopiec, Agata Zyzniewska
There is nothing greater than having a dinner with the family. Although it resembles a looped scenario that repeats itself endlessly. Recited with flying colors for many long years. (North American Premiere)

Back to Top »

Midnight Shorts

Bite-sized bits for all of your sex, gore, and hilarity cravings.

Don’t Peek
Director/Screenwriter: Julian Terry
While playing a videogame, a young woman comes across a creepy character who wants to be let out.

Flex (Sweden)
Directors/Screenwriters: Josefin Malmén, David Strindberg
A semi-surreal comedy short that (literally) lets you under the skin of a bodybuilder and his ambivalent self-image – exploring the fine line between self-loathing and self-loving.

Flick
Director/Screenwriter: Ariel Zengotita
A reclusive college student is driven mad after picking a booger he can’t flick away.

Joanne Is Dead
Director/Screenwriter: Brian Sacca
It’s easy to dismiss the ramblings of the dementia-riddled elderly as nonsense. But what if there is a deadly truth behind those words? (World Premiere)

The Moogai (Australia)
Director/Screenwriter: Jon Bell
An Aboriginal psychological horror, The Moogai is the story of a family terrorized by a child-stealing spirit. (International Premiere)

A Puff Before Dying
Directors/Screenwriters: Michael Reich, Mike Pinkney
A wild night of drugs and drugged up driving ends in tragedy for three teenage girls that happen to be marionettes. (World Premiere)

Puss
Director/Screenwriter: Leah Shore
Samantha desperately wants to get laid, but is finding it to be difficult for some reason. (World Premiere)

Reklaw
Director/Screenwriter: Polaris Banks
A team of altruistic vigilantes destroy evidence to keep as many people from prison as possible, but when one of their crime scene clean-ups is revisited by the killer, the strength of their convictions is tested. (World Premiere)

Run That Shit!
Director: Tristan Kim, Screenwriters: Tristan Kim, Will Allyn Robinson
A Satanic cult lures a no-name rapper into stealing an enchanted chamber pot from his estranged friend and now superstar rapper, Big Tobacco. (Texas Premiere)

Significant Other
Director/Screenwriter: Quinn George
A couple struggles to see eye to eye when a mysterious red orb appears in their new home. (Texas Premiere)

Stuffed (United Kingdom)
Director: Theo Rhys, Screenwriters: Theo Rhys, Joss Holden-Rea
Stuffed is a short musical about a taxidermist who dreams of stuffing a human and the man she meets online, so afraid of aging he volunteers to be her specimen. An unexpected romantic spark between them complicates their plans. (North American Premiere)

A Tale Best Forgotten (Sweden)
Director/Screenwriter: Tomas Stark
In a house by a river that lamented as it ran, lived a father, and his daughter, and the dog-headed man… A murder ballad. (North American Premiere)

The Thing That Ate The Birds (United Kingdom)
Directors/Screenwriters: Sophie Mair, Dan Gitsham
On the North Yorkshire Moors, Abel, Head Gamekeeper, discovers the thing that is eating his grouse. (North American Premiere)

Back to Top »

Texas Shorts

An offshoot of our regular shorts program, composed of work shot in, about, or somehow relating to the Lone Star state.

Doretha’s Blues
Director/Screenwriter: Channing Godfrey Peoples
Doretha goes out for her evening drink at her local watering hole when a news story dredges up old memories. (World Premiere)

Learning Tagalog with Kayla
Director/Screenwriter: Kayla Abuda Galang
In this lesson, Kayla teaches you Tagalog, the language of her homeland. (World Premiere)

Malignant
Directors: Morgan Bond, Nickolas Grisham, Screenwriters: Nickolas Grisham, Curtis McOsker
Chynna travels to a West Texas health retreat to visit her terminally ill mother. As she learns more about the faith-based wellness preached in the commune, Chynna desperately attempts to convince her mother to leave. (World Premiere)

O Black Hole! (United Kingdom)
Director: Renee Zhan, Screenwriters: Renee Zhan, Vanessa Rose
A woman who can’t stand the passing of time turns herself into a black hole. A thousand unchanging years pass until one day, the Singularity wakes inside her. (Texas Premiere)

Summer Animals
Director/Screenwriter: Haley Elizabeth Anderson
Living out of a motel, 15-year-old Tommy makes a drastic decision in order for her siblings to escape the heat before the summer’s over. (World Premiere)

The Unlikely Fan
Directors: Sai Selvarajan, Jeff Bednarz, Screenwriter: Sai Selvarajan
She’s a Sri Lankan born, Dallas-based, retired teacher and mother. She’s also crazy about basketball. Meet “The Unlikely Fan” who knows a thing or two about hoops. (World Premiere)

Back to Top »

Texas High School Shorts

A preview of the next filmmaking generation, as Texas High Schoolers present shorts of five minutes or less.

Beyond the Model
Director: Jessica Lin
After the assaults and discrimination of Asians because of COVID-19, this film shines a light on what it is like be a “model minority” in an increasingly divided America. (World Premiere)

Comeuppance
Director/Screenwriter: Meredith Smith
A family vacation forces Aaron to spend time with his diabolical cousin, Richard. The family’s indifference to Richard’s relentless bullying proves tragic as Aaron is ultimately led to his destructive breaking point.

The Good Wife’s Guide
Director/Screenwriter: Chloe Merriman
The Good Wife’s Guide is a take on 1950s housewife culture based off of Housekeeping Monthly‘s article “The Good Wife’s Guide” published in 1955.

Holographic Dreams
Director: Satvik Shankar, Screenwriter: Jackson Coates
A teenage boy goes on an exploration of his own fears about death, religion, and sin. (Texas Premiere)

In Time
Director/Screenwriter: Gaelila McKaughan
In the still gaps of her loosely-bound routine, a girl confronts a strange figure.

Metamorphism
Director/Screenwriter: Kate Saltel
Under great pressure, humans undergo similar steps of metamorphism.

A Really Dark Comedy
Director: Manasi Ughadmathe, Screenwriter: Jackson Coates
In a frantic rush to ask his crush out to prom, Gus and his friend Elliot speed to her house, unbeknownst to the horrors that lie on the road. (World Premiere)

Wired Shut.
Director: Alex O. Martinez
A teenage boy breaks his jaw and has to have his mouth wired shut. (World Premiere)

Back to Top »

Music Video Competition

A range of classic, innovative, and stylish work showcasing the scope of music video culture.

The Avalanches – ‘Running Red Lights’ / Director: Greg Brunkalla

Bob Moses Featuring ZHU – ‘Desire’ / Director/Screenwriter: Owen Brown

C.Tangana – ‘Demasiadas Mujeres’ (Spain) / Director/Screenwriter: Santos Bacana

Dirty Projectors – ‘Overlord’ / Director: Dave Longstreth

FKA twigs – ‘sad day’ (United Kingdom) / Director: Hiro Murai

Hedgehog – ‘Bat’ (China) / Director: Haonan Wang, Screenwriters: Haonan Wang, Heran Wang

Jeremy Ivey – ‘Someone Else’s Problem’ / Director/Screenwriter: Kimberly Stuckwisch

Julia Stone – ‘Break’ (Australia)/ Director/Screenwriter: Jessie Hill

Kuricorder Quartet – ‘Southpaw’ (Japan) / Director/Screenwriter: Sawako Kabuki

Madame Gandhi – ‘Waiting for Me’ (India) / Director: Misha Ghose, Screenwriters: Madame Gandhi, Misha Ghose, Aastha Singh

Makeup and Vanity Set – ‘Algorithm’ (France) / Directors: Saman Kesh, Justin Daashuur Hopkins

Run The Jewels ft. Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha – ‘JU$T’ (United Kingdom) / Director: Winston Hacking

Wax Tailor – ‘Misery (ft. Rosemary Standley)’ (France) / Director/Screenwriter: Berkay Türk

Waze & Odyssey, George Michael, Mary J. Blige & Tommy Theo – ‘Always’ (United Kingdom, U.S.) / Director: Nelson de Castro

Witch Prophet – ‘Tesfay’ (Canada) / Director/Screenwriter: Leah Vlemmiks

Back to Top »

Excellence in Title Design

Inspired by an essential part of the theatrical experience, these are works of art in their own right. The 15 sequences selected represent the very best and most original selections.

The 100 Title Sequence / Company: Picturemill / Title Designers: Dustin Reno, Evan Jackson

Aleph Title Sequence (Turkey) / Company: Ugur Baltepe – Ethem Cem / Title Designers: Uǧur Baltepe, Ethem Cem

Birds Of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn Title Sequence / Company: Shine / Creative Director: Michael Riley

The Botanist Title Sequence / Company: Samplistic / Title Designer: Michael Rosen

Dichos Title Sequence / Company: Gwenaëlle Gobé Films / Title Designer: Gwenaëlle Gobé

Lust Title Sequence / Company: Ringling College of Art + Design / Title Designer: Rudy Schultz

Never Forget Tibet Title Sequence (United Kingdom) / Title Designer: Chris Caswell

The Queen’s Gambit Title Sequence / Title Designer: Saskia Marka

Saygı Title Sequence (Turkey) / Company: Ethem Cem – Uğur Baltepe / Title Designers: Ethem Cem, Uğur Baltepe

Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story Title Sequence (India) / Company: Applause Entertainment / Title Designer: Jishnu Chatterjee

Scoob! Title Sequence / Company: Aspect / Creative Directors: Jon Berkowitz, Brad Colwell

Sonic the Hedgehog Title Sequence / Company: Picturemill / Title Designers: William Lebeda, Cecilia De Jesus

Strangled Title Sequence (Hungary) / Company: FilmHungary, Studio-X / Creative Director: András Derzsy, Creative Producer: Sándor Takó

Swamp Thing Title Sequence / Company: Filmograph / Title Designer: Aaron Becker

Under the Influence Title Sequence / Company: Yacht Club Films / Title Designer: Nicco Quiñones

Back to Top »

Virtual Cinema

The immersive arts are finding new ways to enhance our ability to perceive the world that surrounds us, and in many instances they are redefining how we experience the world. The 20 projects presented in our Virtual Cinema Competition and Virtual Cinema Spotlight sections emphasize storytelling, ingenuity and also showcase how other industries are embracing this new medium.

Virtual Cinema Competition

World and International Premieres of exciting immersive work.

Biolum (France, United Kingdom)
Director: Abel Kohen, Screenwriter: Jon Rowe, Producers: Igal Kohen, Katharina Weser, Paul Kirsten
Biolum is an interactive, narrative VR sci-fi experience which immerses you in the mysterious beauty of deep sea life on a dive that takes a shocking turn for the worse. (World Premiere)

(Hi)story of a Painting (United Kingdom)
Directors: Gaëlle Mourre, Quentin Darras, Screenwriter: Gaëlle Mourre, Producers: Charlotte Mikkelborg, Gaëlle Mourre
(Hi)story of a Painting journeys into the story behind La Grande Jatte, an iconic painting by Georges Seurat that we all know but don’t actually truly know… until now. Follow us as we learn how Georges went from underdog to world-renowned artist. (World Premiere)

Of Hybrids and Strings (Australia, France, Germany)
Director: Lauren Moffatt, Producer: Fabbula
Of Hybrids and Strings is a fabulatory immersion into possible human and non-human connectedness. In a forest, at night, one becomes strangely entangled to plants and creatures. Until the forest starts to crystallize… (World Premiere)

The Passengers: Her & Him (Canada, France)
Director: Ziad Touma, Screenwriter: Nicolas Peufaillit, Producers: Ziad Touma, Oriane Hurard
Enter the thoughts of one of the Passengers, and help them face a pivotal moment in their lives. Welcome aboard an interactive VR experience, in which your gaze and voice influence the story. (International Premiere)

Poison (Republic of Korea)
Directors: Meesol Yi, Cooper Sanghyun Yoo, Screenwriter: Hyunsoo So, Producer: Wooyeol Jeon
Through Poison, an immersive VR experience, users are expected to feel the intelligence of the virus and its danger intuitively. Our primary goal is to let the people be alert, be aware of our enemies, and think about what we can do for our lives. (World Premiere)

A Promise Kept
Directors: Ken Winikur, Ariel Efron, Screenwriters: Susan Abrams, Ariel Efron, Kelley Szany, Ken Winikur, Producers: Susan Abrams, Kelley Szany
This gripping virtual reality experience takes you on a journey back to the notorious Auschwitz killing center with Holocaust Survivor, Fritzie Fritzshall as she fulfills her promise to the 599 women who helped save her life. (World Premiere)

Reeducated
Director: Sam Wolson, Producers: Ben Mauk, Sam Wolson, Nicholas Rubin, Matt Huynh
Reeducated takes viewers inside a “reeducation” camp in Xinjiang, China, guided by the recollections of three men who were caught in what is likely the largest mass-internment drive of ethnic and religious minorities since the Second World War. (World Premiere)

Samsara (Taiwan)
Director/Screenwriter: Huang Hsin-Chien, Producer: Tsau Saiau-Yue
Samsara Episode 1 VR explores the concept of the Embodied Cognition. In this experience, the audiences will be transformed into different beings’ bodies and experience the world from entirely new perspectives. (World Premiere)

Space Explorers: The ISS Experience Episode 2: Advance (Canada, United States)
Director: Félix Lajeunesse, Screenwriters: Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël, Producers: Felix & Paul Studios in association with TIME Studios
The largest production ever filmed in space, Space Explorers: The ISS Experience is an epic four-part immersive series that invites you to join eight astronauts on life-changing missions aboard the International Space Station. (World Premiere)

Virtual Cinema Spotlight

Shining a spotlight on acclaimed immersive works.

4 Feet High VR (Argentina, France)
Directors: Maria Belen Poncio, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, Damian Turkieh, Screenwriters: Greta Molas, Javier Correa Caceres, Elisa Gagliano, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, Maria Belen Poncio, Delphine Agut, Ivana Galdeano, Gabriela Vidal, Producers: Ezequiel Lenardon, Marie Blondiaux
Imagine your last year of High School in a wheelchair. Cast List: Marisol Agostina Irigoyen, Florencia Licera, Marcio Ramses, Natalia Di Cienzo, Francisca Spinotti (Texas Premiere)

Finding Pandora X
Director: Kiira Benzing, Screenwriter: Alyssa Landry, Producers: Kiira Benzing, Lara Bucarey, Chris Dawes, Alyssa Landry
With the passing of ages, the Gods of Mount Olympus have faded away until only two remain: Zeus and Hera. Now they are in danger of disappearing if they can’t recover the box of hope that Pandora removed. (North American Premiere)

Meet Mortaza (France)
Director: Joséphine Derobe, Screenwriters: Joséphine Derobe, Mortaza Jami, Producers: Oriane Hurard, Quentin Noirfalisse
An immersive experience telling the journey of an afghan refugee. (U.S. Premiere)

Namoo
Director/Screenwriter: Erick Oh, Producers: Larry Cutler, Eric Darnell, Maureen Fan, Kane Lee
A narrative poem brought to life as an animated VR film, and an ode to a grandfather’s passing, this story follows the journey of a budding artist – and his tree of life – from beginning to end. (Texas Premiere)

Odyssey 1.4.9 (France)
Director: François Vautier, Producer: Jeremy Sahel
A breathtaking VR journey into the visual heart of A Space Odyssey. A personal tribute unveiling the secrets of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece. (U.S. Premiere)

Once Upon a Sea (Canada)
Director: Adi Lavy, Screenwriter: Heidi Miller, Producers: Ina Fichman, Nimrod Shanit
Once Upon a Sea is a stunning, immersive trip to the Dead Sea region, the lowest place on earth – and it is our call to action. If nothing is done, the Dead Sea as we know it will be gone for good. (North American Premiere)

Paper Birds (Argentina)
Directors: German Heller, Federico Carlini, Screenwriter: German Heller, Producers: German Heller, Federico Carlini
Paper Birds is the story of a short sighted child with an exceptional talent for music. He must find his way through the world of darkness to bring back his sister, taken away by the shadows.

Potato Dreams
Director/Screenwriter: Wes Hurley, Producers: Mischa Jakupcak, Wes Hurley, Mara Auster, Jonathan Caso
Russian mother and son narrate this innovative 360 documentary which traces their nightmarish past in the USSR. (Texas Premiere)

Under the Skin (Brazil, China, Germany, Luxembourg, United States)
Director: João Inada, Screenwriters: Thamyra Thâmara, Andressa Núbia, Jon Thomaz, Rafael Cruz, Raull Santiago, João Inada, Producer: Diogo Dahl
Under the Skin is an interactive VR documentary that brings users to Complexo do Alemão — Rio de Janeiro’s most notorious favela complex—during a surprise police operation, meeting residents who face police abuse and structural racism. (North American Premiere)

WebbVR: The James Webb Space Telescope Virtual Experience
Director: Chad Smith
Join the James Webb Space Telescope in orbit beyond the Moon and explore the universe from its perspective. Planetary systems are born, galaxies form, and stars emerge from within colorful nebulas—all before your eyes

 

Short Films

A selection of original, well-crafted films that take advantage of the short form and exemplify distinctive and genuine storytelling.

Are You Still There?
Directors/Screenwriters: Rayka Zehtabchi, Sam Davis
Safa’s been through a lot. Now her car battery’s dead in a strip mall parking lot. (North American Premiere)

Bruiser
Director: Miles Warren, Screenwriters: Miles Warren, Ben Medina
After his father gets into a fight at a bowling alley, Darious begins to investigate the limitations of his own manhood. (Texas Premiere)

Chuj Boys of Summer (Guatemala, United States)
Director: Max Walker-Silverman, Screenwriters: Marcos Ordoñez Ixwalanhkej Mendoza, Max Walker-Silverman
Speaking only his native language, a Guatemalan teenager begins his new life in rural Colorado. (Texas Premiere)

The Criminals (Romania, Turkey)
Director/Screenwriter: Serhat Karaaslan
Late at night in a small Turkish town, a young couple tries to find a hotel room to spend the night together.

Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma
Directors: Topaz Jones, rubberband., Screenwriters: Topaz Jones, Jason Sondock, Simon Davis
Topaz Jones debuts his 2nd album, Don’t Go Telling Your Momma as a reimagining of the 70s Black ABCs; a view into his and America’s Black Identity through 26 individual scenes, each representing a letter and a corresponding update to their meanings. (Texas Premiere)

Femme (United Kingdom)
Directors/Screenwriters: Ng Choon Ping, Sam H. Freeman
When Jordan gets into the car of a flirtatious drug-dealer, his night takes a dangerous turn. (World Premiere)

The Journey (Canada)
Director/Screenwriter: Ève Saint-Louis
The Journey is the story of a father and daughter reunion. From Montreal’s airport, they will travel along a chaotic path, where their inability to find each other will unveil a complicated relationship and have them drift from their initial course. (World Premiere)

Like The Ones I Used To Know (Canada)
Director/Screenwriter: Annie St-Pierre
December 24, 1983, 10:50PM: Julie and her cousins ate too much sugar, Santa Claus is late and Denis, alone in his car, is anxious at the idea of setting foot in his ex-in-law’s house to pick up his children. An early quirky and poetic coming-of-age. (Texas Premiere)

Marvin’s Never Had Coffee Before
Director: Andrew Carter, Screenwriters: Andrew Carter, Kahlil Maskati
Marvin Wexler tries coffee for the first time and desperately tries to talk about it with anyone who will listen.

The Mohel (Canada)
Director/Screenwriter: Charles Wahl
After celebrating the birth of their first child, James and Lola are faced with family expectations and financial strain as they fly in a Mohel to perform their son’s Brit Milah – The circumcision ceremony. (World Premiere)

The Nipple Whisperer (Belgium)
Director/Screenwriter: Jan Van Dyck
Maurice Sanders has a gift. He’s a nipple whisperer. Once he was known as “Magic Sandy.” But that was years ago, before Doris, a famous model and Sander’s muse, fell ill. Now, after more than a decade, Doris wants to meet Maurice again. (World Premiere)

The Other Morgan
Director/Screenwriter: Alison Rich
When a dopey young exterminator discovers there’s another version of her out in the world, she begins to question her life choices. (Texas Premiere)

Plaisir
Director/Screenwriter: Molly Gillis
A lonely American faces unrequited love on a farm commune in the south of France. (World Premiere)

Play It Safe (United Kingdom)
Director/Screenwriter: Mitch Kalisa
Coaxed into playing a racial typecast in a fellow student’s play, Black drama student Jonathan is faced with all too familiar decision: to challenge prejudice, or play it safe. (World Premiere)

Sales Per Hour
Directors: Michelle Uranowitz, Daniel Jaffe, Screenwriter: Michelle Uranowitz
A young woman faces a moral dilemma when she witnesses a sexual encounter in a dressing room at the clothing store where she works. (World Premiere)

Sisters
Director/Screenwriter: Jess Brunetto
Hidden secrets cause tension when two estranged sisters are forced to confront each other while preparing for their ailing mother’s death. (World Premiere)

Soak
Director/Screenwriter: Hannah Bang
A 16 year old tries to convince her runaway mother to return home. (World Premiere)

Squeegee (Canada, United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Morgan Krantz
A high-powered female CEO meets her high-rise window-washer for an erotic rendezvous on opposite sides of a skyscraper window. (World Premiere)

Wiggle Room
Directors/Screenwriters: Sam Guest, Julia Baylis
Determined to save her wheelchair ramp from repossession, Daisy confronts the shady insurance agent who owes her money. (Texas Premiere)

 

Documentary Shorts Competition

Slices of life from across the documentary spectrum.

Águilas
Directors: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Maite Zubiaurre, Screenwriters: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Maite Zubiaurre, Nico Sandi
Along the scorching desert border in Arizona, it is estimated that only one out of every five missing migrants are ever found. Águilas is the story of one group of searchers, the Águilas del Desierto. (World Premiere)

The Beauty President
Director: Whitney Skauge
In 1992, drag queen Joan Jett Blakk made a historic bid for the White House as an openly queer write-in candidate. Today, Terence Smith, the man behind the persona, reflects back on his place in gay rights history at the height of the AIDS crisis. (World Premiere)

The Box
Directors/Screenwriters: James Burns, Shal Ngo
The Box is a hybrid documentary that explores the effects of solitary confinement through three people’s harrowing true stories – they’ve spent a combined nine years in isolation, and one of them co-directed this film. (World Premiere)

I Ran from It and Was Still in It
Director: Darol Olu Kae
A poetic meditation on familial loss and separation, and the love that endures against dispersion. (Texas Premiere)

Joe Buffalo (Canada)
Director: Amar Chebib, Screenwriters: Joe Buffalo, Amar Chebib
Joe Buffalo, an Indigenous skateboard legend and Indian Residential School survivor, must face his inner demons to realize his dream of turning pro. (World Premiere)

The Last Cruise
Director: Hannah Olson
The Last Cruise chronicles the first major COVID-19 outbreak outside of China. Using footage recorded by passengers and crew aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, we watch class divisions emerge as the world misses its chance to contain the virus. (World Premiere)

Plant Heist
Directors: Chelsi de Cuba, Gabriel de Cuba
California’s fight to protect native succulents from an international poaching ring worth millions. (World Premiere)

Red Taxi
Director: Anonymous
As protests unfold in Hong Kong, Red Taxi shows a city in upheaval through the eyes of those who must traverse the streets day and night to make a living. Filmed by a local film crew, who remain anonymous due to ongoing safety concerns. (North American Premiere)

Sophie and The Baron
Director: Alexandria Jackson
Iconic photographer Baron Wolman and contemporary artist Sophie Kipner transcend eras and mediums in a collaboration that demonstrates the magic of just saying yes. (World Premiere)

Ten Leaves Dilated
Directors: Kate E. Hinshaw, Ebony Blanding
A documentary that uses the make-believe world crafted by Cabbage Patch Kids to examine discourses surrounding childbirth in the American South. (World Premiere)

Trade Center
Director: Adam Baran
The voices of five gay men who cruised for sex at the World Trade Center in the 1980s and 1990s haunt the sanitized, commerce-driven landscape that is the newly rebuilt Freedom Tower campus. (World Premiere)

 

Animated Shorts Competition

An assortment of stories told using traditional animation, computer-generated effects, stop-motion, and everything in between.

The Expected (Sweden)
Director/Screenwriter: Carolina Sandvik
A father-to-be ends up in a feverish nightmare after a miscarriage, when a strange entity seems to be growing in the mother’s blood. (North American Premiere)

Hold me Tight (Belgium, France)
Director/Screenwriter: Mélanie Robert-Tourneur
In the middle of a dark forest, two silhouettes meet. In search of sexual desire, they start a dangerous and explosive parade. (International Premiere)

KKUM (Republic of Korea)
Director/Screenwriter: Kang Min Kim
My mother’s dreams have always been strong premonitions for important moments in my life. I rely on her dreams more than any religion. (Texas Premiere)

Love is Just a Death Away (Czechia)
Director/Screenwriter: Bára Anna Stejskalová
A tender story about finding love even amid utter decay. (U.S. Premiere)

My Fat Arse and I (Poland)
Director/Screenwriter: Yelyzaveta Pysmak
An amusing film about anorexia and butts. (North American Premiere)

Navozande, the Musician (France)
Director/Screenwriter: Reza Riahi
At the time of the attack of the Mongols, a young musician and the love of his life are separated from each other. Fifty years later, the musician is summoned to perform at the castle of the Mongols where his beloved is being held. (Texas Premiere)

Normal (France)
Director/Screenwriter: Julie Caty
Dany is a rich heir who faces existential emptiness. He meets Karl Marx who asks him to destroy capitalism in order to save humankind. Reluctantly, Dany accepts his request and turns into a superhero. But he is quickly overwhelmed by his task. (North American Premiere)

Nuevo Rico
Director: Kristian Mercado, Screenwriters: Kristian Mercado, Juan Arroyo
A brother and sister stumble upon a celestial secret that changes their lives forever and propels them into Reggaetón stardom, but they soon discover that their newfound fame comes at a deep price. (World Premiere)

Opera
Director: Erick Oh
Opera is a massive 8K size animation installation project which portrays our society and history, which is filled with beauty and absurdity. Erick enables viewers to experience the range of in-depth emotions through this epic reflection of human life. (Texas Premiere)

Our Bed Is Green
Director/Screenwriter: Maggie Brennan
A young woman seeks digital refuge from an overwhelming world and a bewildering obsession. (World Premiere)

Rendang of Death (Indonesia)
Director/Screenwriter: Percolate Galactic
In a quaint Padang restaurant, filled with people enjoying their lunch break, two bros put their friendship to the test when it turns out that there’s only a single plate of their favorite food left: the Rendang of Death.

Your Own Bullshit (Poland)
Director: Daria Kopiec, Screenwriters: Daria Kopiec, Agata Zyzniewska
There is nothing greater than having a dinner with the family. Although it resembles a looped scenario that repeats itself endlessly. Recited with flying colors for many long years. (North American Premiere)

 

Midnight Shorts

Bite-sized bits for all of your sex, gore, and hilarity cravings.

Don’t Peek
Director/Screenwriter: Julian Terry
While playing a videogame, a young woman comes across a creepy character who wants to be let out.

Flex (Sweden)
Directors/Screenwriters: Josefin Malmén, David Strindberg
A semi-surreal comedy short that (literally) lets you under the skin of a bodybuilder and his ambivalent self-image – exploring the fine line between self-loathing and self-loving.

Flick
Director/Screenwriter: Ariel Zengotita
A reclusive college student is driven mad after picking a booger he can’t flick away.

Joanne Is Dead
Director/Screenwriter: Brian Sacca
It’s easy to dismiss the ramblings of the dementia-riddled elderly as nonsense. But what if there is a deadly truth behind those words? (World Premiere)

The Moogai (Australia)
Director/Screenwriter: Jon Bell
An Aboriginal psychological horror, The Moogai is the story of a family terrorized by a child-stealing spirit. (International Premiere)

A Puff Before Dying
Directors/Screenwriters: Michael Reich, Mike Pinkney
A wild night of drugs and drugged up driving ends in tragedy for three teenage girls that happen to be marionettes. (World Premiere)

Puss
Director/Screenwriter: Leah Shore
Samantha desperately wants to get laid, but is finding it to be difficult for some reason. (World Premiere)

Reklaw
Director/Screenwriter: Polaris Banks
A team of altruistic vigilantes destroy evidence to keep as many people from prison as possible, but when one of their crime scene clean-ups is revisited by the killer, the strength of their convictions is tested. (World Premiere)

Run That Shit!
Director: Tristan Kim, Screenwriters: Tristan Kim, Will Allyn Robinson
A Satanic cult lures a no-name rapper into stealing an enchanted chamber pot from his estranged friend and now superstar rapper, Big Tobacco. (Texas Premiere)

Significant Other
Director/Screenwriter: Quinn George
A couple struggles to see eye to eye when a mysterious red orb appears in their new home. (Texas Premiere)

Stuffed (United Kingdom)
Director: Theo Rhys, Screenwriters: Theo Rhys, Joss Holden-Rea
Stuffed is a short musical about a taxidermist who dreams of stuffing a human and the man she meets online, so afraid of aging he volunteers to be her specimen. An unexpected romantic spark between them complicates their plans. (North American Premiere)

A Tale Best Forgotten (Sweden)
Director/Screenwriter: Tomas Stark
In a house by a river that lamented as it ran, lived a father, and his daughter, and the dog-headed man… A murder ballad. (North American Premiere)

The Thing That Ate The Birds (United Kingdom)
Directors/Screenwriters: Sophie Mair, Dan Gitsham
On the North Yorkshire Moors, Abel, Head Gamekeeper, discovers the thing that is eating his grouse. (North American Premiere)

 

Texas Shorts

An offshoot of our regular shorts program, composed of work shot in, about, or somehow relating to the Lone Star state.

Doretha’s Blues
Director/Screenwriter: Channing Godfrey Peoples
Doretha goes out for her evening drink at her local watering hole when a news story dredges up old memories. (World Premiere)

Learning Tagalog with Kayla
Director/Screenwriter: Kayla Abuda Galang
In this lesson, Kayla teaches you Tagalog, the language of her homeland. (World Premiere)

Malignant
Directors: Morgan Bond, Nickolas Grisham, Screenwriters: Nickolas Grisham, Curtis McOsker
Chynna travels to a West Texas health retreat to visit her terminally ill mother. As she learns more about the faith-based wellness preached in the commune, Chynna desperately attempts to convince her mother to leave. (World Premiere)

O Black Hole! (United Kingdom)
Director: Renee Zhan, Screenwriters: Renee Zhan, Vanessa Rose
A woman who can’t stand the passing of time turns herself into a black hole. A thousand unchanging years pass until one day, the Singularity wakes inside her. (Texas Premiere)

Summer Animals
Director/Screenwriter: Haley Elizabeth Anderson
Living out of a motel, 15-year-old Tommy makes a drastic decision in order for her siblings to escape the heat before the summer’s over. (World Premiere)

The Unlikely Fan
Directors: Sai Selvarajan, Jeff Bednarz, Screenwriter: Sai Selvarajan
She’s a Sri Lankan born, Dallas-based, retired teacher and mother. She’s also crazy about basketball. Meet “The Unlikely Fan” who knows a thing or two about hoops. (World Premiere)

 

Texas High School Shorts

A preview of the next filmmaking generation, as Texas High Schoolers present shorts of five minutes or less.

Beyond the Model
Director: Jessica Lin
After the assaults and discrimination of Asians because of COVID-19, this film shines a light on what it is like be a “model minority” in an increasingly divided America. (World Premiere)

Comeuppance
Director/Screenwriter: Meredith Smith
A family vacation forces Aaron to spend time with his diabolical cousin, Richard. The family’s indifference to Richard’s relentless bullying proves tragic as Aaron is ultimately led to his destructive breaking point.

The Good Wife’s Guide
Director/Screenwriter: Chloe Merriman
The Good Wife’s Guide is a take on 1950s housewife culture based off of Housekeeping Monthly‘s article “The Good Wife’s Guide” published in 1955.

Holographic Dreams
Director: Satvik Shankar, Screenwriter: Jackson Coates
A teenage boy goes on an exploration of his own fears about death, religion, and sin. (Texas Premiere)

In Time
Director/Screenwriter: Gaelila McKaughan
In the still gaps of her loosely-bound routine, a girl confronts a strange figure.

Metamorphism
Director/Screenwriter: Kate Saltel
Under great pressure, humans undergo similar steps of metamorphism.

A Really Dark Comedy
Director: Manasi Ughadmathe, Screenwriter: Jackson Coates
In a frantic rush to ask his crush out to prom, Gus and his friend Elliot speed to her house, unbeknownst to the horrors that lie on the road. (World Premiere)

Wired Shut.
Director: Alex O. Martinez
A teenage boy breaks his jaw and has to have his mouth wired shut. (World Premiere)

 

Music Video Competition

A range of classic, innovative, and stylish work showcasing the scope of music video culture.

The Avalanches – ‘Running Red Lights’ / Director: Greg Brunkalla

Bob Moses Featuring ZHU – ‘Desire’ / Director/Screenwriter: Owen Brown

C.Tangana – ‘Demasiadas Mujeres’ (Spain) / Director/Screenwriter: Santos Bacana

Dirty Projectors – ‘Overlord’ / Director: Dave Longstreth

FKA twigs – ‘sad day’ (United Kingdom) / Director: Hiro Murai

Hedgehog – ‘Bat’ (China) / Director: Haonan Wang, Screenwriters: Haonan Wang, Heran Wang

Jeremy Ivey – ‘Someone Else’s Problem’ / Director/Screenwriter: Kimberly Stuckwisch

Julia Stone – ‘Break’ (Australia)/ Director/Screenwriter: Jessie Hill

Kuricorder Quartet – ‘Southpaw’ (Japan) / Director/Screenwriter: Sawako Kabuki

Madame Gandhi – ‘Waiting for Me’ (India) / Director: Misha Ghose, Screenwriters: Madame Gandhi, Misha Ghose, Aastha Singh

Makeup and Vanity Set – ‘Algorithm’ (France) / Directors: Saman Kesh, Justin Daashuur Hopkins

Run The Jewels ft. Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha – ‘JU$T’ (United Kingdom) / Director: Winston Hacking

Wax Tailor – ‘Misery (ft. Rosemary Standley)’ (France) / Director/Screenwriter: Berkay Türk

Waze & Odyssey, George Michael, Mary J. Blige & Tommy Theo – ‘Always’ (United Kingdom, U.S.) / Director: Nelson de Castro

Witch Prophet – ‘Tesfay’ (Canada) / Director/Screenwriter: Leah Vlemmiks

 

Excellence in Title Design

Inspired by an essential part of the theatrical experience, these are works of art in their own right. The 15 sequences selected represent the very best and most original selections.

The 100 Title Sequence / Company: Picturemill / Title Designers: Dustin Reno, Evan Jackson

Aleph Title Sequence (Turkey) / Company: Ugur Baltepe – Ethem Cem / Title Designers: Uǧur Baltepe, Ethem Cem

Birds Of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn Title Sequence / Company: Shine / Creative Director: Michael Riley

The Botanist Title Sequence / Company: Samplistic / Title Designer: Michael Rosen

Dichos Title Sequence / Company: Gwenaëlle Gobé Films / Title Designer: Gwenaëlle Gobé

Lust Title Sequence / Company: Ringling College of Art + Design / Title Designer: Rudy Schultz

Never Forget Tibet Title Sequence (United Kingdom) / Title Designer: Chris Caswell

The Queen’s Gambit Title Sequence / Title Designer: Saskia Marka

Saygı Title Sequence (Turkey) / Company: Ethem Cem – Uğur Baltepe / Title Designers: Ethem Cem, Uğur Baltepe

Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story Title Sequence (India) / Company: Applause Entertainment / Title Designer: Jishnu Chatterjee

Scoob! Title Sequence / Company: Aspect / Creative Directors: Jon Berkowitz, Brad Colwell

Sonic the Hedgehog Title Sequence / Company: Picturemill / Title Designers: William Lebeda, Cecilia De Jesus

Strangled Title Sequence (Hungary) / Company: FilmHungary, Studio-X / Creative Director: András Derzsy, Creative Producer: Sándor Takó

Swamp Thing Title Sequence / Company: Filmograph / Title Designer: Aaron Becker

Under the Influence Title Sequence / Company: Yacht Club Films / Title Designer: Nicco Quiñones

 

Virtual Cinema

The immersive arts are finding new ways to enhance our ability to perceive the world that surrounds us, and in many instances they are redefining how we experience the world. The 20 projects presented in our Virtual Cinema Competition and Virtual Cinema Spotlight sections emphasize storytelling, ingenuity and also showcase how other industries are embracing this new medium.

Virtual Cinema Competition

World and International Premieres of exciting immersive work.

Biolum (France, United Kingdom)
Director: Abel Kohen, Screenwriter: Jon Rowe, Producers: Igal Kohen, Katharina Weser, Paul Kirsten
Biolum is an interactive, narrative VR sci-fi experience which immerses you in the mysterious beauty of deep sea life on a dive that takes a shocking turn for the worse. (World Premiere)

(Hi)story of a Painting (United Kingdom)
Directors: Gaëlle Mourre, Quentin Darras, Screenwriter: Gaëlle Mourre, Producers: Charlotte Mikkelborg, Gaëlle Mourre
(Hi)story of a Painting journeys into the story behind La Grande Jatte, an iconic painting by Georges Seurat that we all know but don’t actually truly know… until now. Follow us as we learn how Georges went from underdog to world-renowned artist. (World Premiere)

Of Hybrids and Strings (Australia, France, Germany)
Director: Lauren Moffatt, Producer: Fabbula
Of Hybrids and Strings is a fabulatory immersion into possible human and non-human connectedness. In a forest, at night, one becomes strangely entangled to plants and creatures. Until the forest starts to crystallize… (World Premiere)

The Passengers: Her & Him (Canada, France)
Director: Ziad Touma, Screenwriter: Nicolas Peufaillit, Producers: Ziad Touma, Oriane Hurard
Enter the thoughts of one of the Passengers, and help them face a pivotal moment in their lives. Welcome aboard an interactive VR experience, in which your gaze and voice influence the story. (International Premiere)

Poison (Republic of Korea)
Directors: Meesol Yi, Cooper Sanghyun Yoo, Screenwriter: Hyunsoo So, Producer: Wooyeol Jeon
Through Poison, an immersive VR experience, users are expected to feel the intelligence of the virus and its danger intuitively. Our primary goal is to let the people be alert, be aware of our enemies, and think about what we can do for our lives. (World Premiere)

A Promise Kept
Directors: Ken Winikur, Ariel Efron, Screenwriters: Susan Abrams, Ariel Efron, Kelley Szany, Ken Winikur, Producers: Susan Abrams, Kelley Szany
This gripping virtual reality experience takes you on a journey back to the notorious Auschwitz killing center with Holocaust Survivor, Fritzie Fritzshall as she fulfills her promise to the 599 women who helped save her life. (World Premiere)

Reeducated
Director: Sam Wolson, Producers: Ben Mauk, Sam Wolson, Nicholas Rubin, Matt Huynh
Reeducated takes viewers inside a “reeducation” camp in Xinjiang, China, guided by the recollections of three men who were caught in what is likely the largest mass-internment drive of ethnic and religious minorities since the Second World War. (World Premiere)

Samsara (Taiwan)
Director/Screenwriter: Huang Hsin-Chien, Producer: Tsau Saiau-Yue
Samsara Episode 1 VR explores the concept of the Embodied Cognition. In this experience, the audiences will be transformed into different beings’ bodies and experience the world from entirely new perspectives. (World Premiere)

Space Explorers: The ISS Experience Episode 2: Advance (Canada, United States)
Director: Félix Lajeunesse, Screenwriters: Félix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphaël, Producers: Felix & Paul Studios in association with TIME Studios
The largest production ever filmed in space, Space Explorers: The ISS Experience is an epic four-part immersive series that invites you to join eight astronauts on life-changing missions aboard the International Space Station. (World Premiere)

Virtual Cinema Spotlight

Shining a spotlight on acclaimed immersive works.

4 Feet High VR (Argentina, France)
Directors: Maria Belen Poncio, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, Damian Turkieh, Screenwriters: Greta Molas, Javier Correa Caceres, Elisa Gagliano, Rosario Perazolo Masjoan, Maria Belen Poncio, Delphine Agut, Ivana Galdeano, Gabriela Vidal, Producers: Ezequiel Lenardon, Marie Blondiaux
Imagine your last year of High School in a wheelchair. Cast List: Marisol Agostina Irigoyen, Florencia Licera, Marcio Ramses, Natalia Di Cienzo, Francisca Spinotti (Texas Premiere)

Finding Pandora X
Director: Kiira Benzing, Screenwriter: Alyssa Landry, Producers: Kiira Benzing, Lara Bucarey, Chris Dawes, Alyssa Landry
With the passing of ages, the Gods of Mount Olympus have faded away until only two remain: Zeus and Hera. Now they are in danger of disappearing if they can’t recover the box of hope that Pandora removed. (North American Premiere)

Meet Mortaza (France)
Director: Joséphine Derobe, Screenwriters: Joséphine Derobe, Mortaza Jami, Producers: Oriane Hurard, Quentin Noirfalisse
An immersive experience telling the journey of an afghan refugee. (U.S. Premiere)

Namoo
Director/Screenwriter: Erick Oh, Producers: Larry Cutler, Eric Darnell, Maureen Fan, Kane Lee
A narrative poem brought to life as an animated VR film, and an ode to a grandfather’s passing, this story follows the journey of a budding artist – and his tree of life – from beginning to end. (Texas Premiere)

Odyssey 1.4.9 (France)
Director: François Vautier, Producer: Jeremy Sahel
A breathtaking VR journey into the visual heart of A Space Odyssey. A personal tribute unveiling the secrets of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece. (U.S. Premiere)

Once Upon a Sea (Canada)
Director: Adi Lavy, Screenwriter: Heidi Miller, Producers: Ina Fichman, Nimrod Shanit
Once Upon a Sea is a stunning, immersive trip to the Dead Sea region, the lowest place on earth – and it is our call to action. If nothing is done, the Dead Sea as we know it will be gone for good. (North American Premiere)

Paper Birds (Argentina)
Directors: German Heller, Federico Carlini, Screenwriter: German Heller, Producers: German Heller, Federico Carlini
Paper Birds is the story of a short sighted child with an exceptional talent for music. He must find his way through the world of darkness to bring back his sister, taken away by the shadows.

Potato Dreams
Director/Screenwriter: Wes Hurley, Producers: Mischa Jakupcak, Wes Hurley, Mara Auster, Jonathan Caso
Russian mother and son narrate this innovative 360 documentary which traces their nightmarish past in the USSR. (Texas Premiere)

Under the Skin (Brazil, China, Germany, Luxembourg, United States)
Director: João Inada, Screenwriters: Thamyra Thâmara, Andressa Núbia, Jon Thomaz, Rafael Cruz, Raull Santiago, João Inada, Producer: Diogo Dahl
Under the Skin is an interactive VR documentary that brings users to Complexo do Alemão — Rio de Janeiro’s most notorious favela complex—during a surprise police operation, meeting residents who face police abuse and structural racism. (North American Premiere)

WebbVR: The James Webb Space Telescope Virtual Experience
Director: Chad Smith
Join the James Webb Space Telescope in orbit beyond the Moon and explore the universe from its perspective. Planetary systems are born, galaxies form, and stars emerge from within colorful nebulas—all before your eyes

Wild Indian

Posted by Larry Gleeson

After viewing Smoke Signals, the Audience Award and Filmmakers Trophy winner at the 1988 Sundance Film Festival, and the first feature film written, directed, and produced by Native Americans, I had an overwhelming desire to see more Indigenous filmmaking. Sundance Film Festival was organized around the guiding principle of giving Native American voices a platform. The 2021 Sundance Film Festival premiered a total of four Indigenous films, three short-form films, and one feature-length film, Wild Indian from Lyle Mitchell Corbine, Jr., (a member of the Northern Wisconsin Bad River Tribe of Lake Superior Chippewa).

Wild Indian opens with a metaphorical scene from possibly the 18th century depicting a Native-American in the woods shooting another Native-American in the distance. In a preceding scene, it is quickly revealed that Makwa, a young Anishinaabe boy, has a rough life. He’s bullied at school and doesn’t get along well at home with his young parents. He often appears with bruises he says he got falling down, but no one believes him.

As he is being questioned in the school’s administrative office a majestic piece of cinematography provides foreshadowing. Makwa has only one friend, Ted-O. Makwa and Ted-O like to escape by playing in the woods, until the day Makwa shockingly murders a schoolmate. After covering up the crime, Makwa runs away and the two boys go on to live very different lives.

Now, as adult men, they must face the truth of what they have done and what they have become. In what feels like going through a time and space continuum, Corbine takes the narrative to California where we are introduced to Michael, a senior-level corporate executive with authority over a Jesse Eisenberg character. In addition, Michael has a stylish home and a beautiful wife. With a strong and compelling visual style that evokes both fascination and dread, it quickly becomes clear Michael, portrayed by Michael Greyeyes,  has done terrible, unforgivable things.

Displaying sadomasochist tendencies, Michael is struggling to hold it all together. Meanwhile, a hard-looking adult Ted-O is being released from prison. Ted-O returns to the reservation, camping in the woods and making amends to the murdered boy’s mother with the truth of what happened to her son the day Makwa murdered him. Despite making his amends, Ted-O still suffers inner conflict and decides he must track down Makwa and complete the cycle of justice.

Unfortunately for Ted-O, Michael gains the upper hand and kills Ted-O to continue his life in California while covering up any links to the past. Michael still has to face the presiding District Attorney with jurisdiction over the reservation and the accusation from the murdered boy’s mother, Mrs. Wolf. In a diabolical manner, Michael manages to clear himself.

Wild Indian is a compelling look into the state of Native American life. And, Michael Greyeyes delivers a gripping, enigmatic performance as a modern Native American with a dark past. In addition, Kate Bosworth portrays Michael’s wife in California, with considerable depth and nuance. Jesse Eisenberg delivers a strong supporting performance and is credited as Executive Producer as well. Wild Indian was writer/director Corbine’s feature debut and is sure to become a touchstone in modern Indigenous cinema. Highly recommended.

Ma Belle, Ma Beauty

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Ma Belle, Ma Beauty, winner of the NEXT (the NEXT program provides a showcase for what the festival calls “Pure, bold works distinguished by an innovative, forward-thinking approach to story-telling.”) Audience Award, presented by Adobe at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, follows Bertie (Idella Johnson), Lane (Hannah Pepper), and Fred (Lucien Guignard) who had all three once shared a balanced, functional, polyamorous relationship in New Orleans. At its core, Ma Belle, Ma Beauty, is simply a complicated love story between Bertie and Lane. But it is also much more than that. The film’s director, Marion Hill, is a New Orleans-based director with roots in Vietnam, England, and France, and is known for her direction of the camera in the nuances of femme power, queer sensibilities, and radical sensuality across cultures. In her debut feature, Ma Belle, Ma Beauty, Hill touches eloquently on each aspect with respect and openness.

The mise-en-scene was scrumptious with some help from its employment of Hollywood-esque focusing and resultant eye-pleasing bokeh. The New Orleans-led, acoustic guitar soundtrack helped create tone while providing a much-needed respite from the COVID blues. In addition, a cast of beautiful actors giving powerful and intense performances amped up the narrative. In juxtaposition to the acting and music, and as equally important to the film’s narrative, was the on-location filming of open-air village markets, pristine waterways, and a country estate in the south of France providing a serenely magical quality to the film’s ethereal tone.

Ma Belle, Ma Beauty, opens with Bertie, who married Fred and settled into Fred’s hometown, in southern France continuing to pursue her singing despite, or in spite of, a nagging depression. Soon, however, Lane—their quirky ex who disappeared from their three-way relationship years ago shows up unexpectedly for a surprise visit, bringing new energy and some emotional baggage of her own. As the tensions of unresolved disputes, misaligned intentions, and jealousy surface, the sexual dynamics skyrocket when a lovely painter, Noa (Sivan Noam Shimon), fresh out of her service commitment to the Israeli Army, inserts herself into the mix. And, when the group of friends, including some attractive locals, venture down to the river for frolicking in the sun, Bertie begins experiencing feelings of liberation and the vague yet persistent reawakening of her past sexuality.

Posited as “an interracial, polyamorous, relationship-driven dive into the complexities of sexual fluidity and triangulation” with a promise to deliver a respite from the COVID blues, I felt Hill succeeded triumphantly. Having lived and worked in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath and reconstruction following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, my interest was piqued upon seeing where the director hailed from. In her “Meet the Artist” introductory video, Hill explained that the film was made with a lot of love as a small group of friends and collaborators from many different places came together in France to make the film.  And that all of the post-production and music, which features over twenty New Orleans musicians, was done in New Orleans.

In closing, Ma Belle, Ma Beauty was recently added to the upcoming SXSW (formerly known as South by Southwest) Film Festival slated to run March 16-20, 2021, as a Festival Favorite from acclaimed standouts and selected premieres from around the world. Ma Belle, Ma Beauty is a beautifully constructed film with exquisite mise-en-scene, gorgeous soundtrack, heady acting, and delightful direction. Highly recommended.

Ma Belle, Ma Beauty

 

 

Judas and The Black Messiah

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Judas and The Black Messiah, recipient of the recently awarded, American Film Institute’s Movie of the Year, made its World Premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival with fanfare. A late, Warner Brothers production, addition to the Premiere category starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, Judas and The Black Messiah was a richly told story of the leadership, revolutionary activism, and eventual assassination of Black Panther Fred Hampton, and powerful addition to the social revolution films of the 1960s and early 1970s.

With the film set in 1968, social unrest in the United States was at the highest it had been in close to 50 years. The New Left was emerging. The Anti-War Movement was underway. Fears and threats of Communism were still present. And Chicago was hosting the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy had been recently assassinated and as the Black Community looking for new leadership, the Chicago Chapter of the Black Panthers and its chairman, Fred Hampton, saw an opportunity to fill a void and unite the disenfranchised.

All eyes were on Chicago, as the United States continued to deal with the issues at home and abroad. J. Edgar Hoover, the founder and first director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation had turned the organization into a menacing, crime-fighting apparatus.  Richard Nixon was elected as the 37th President of the United States under the promise of law and order. Hoover and his FBI saw Hampton as a radical “Black Messiah” threat and managed to compromise a young black male, William O’Neal, portrayed by Stanfield, to infiltrate the Black Panthers and keep tabs on Fred Hampton and the Chicago Chapter. Hampton, portrayed to a tee by Kaluuya, was young, impressionable, and highly charismatic. He rose up in the ranks of the Black Panthers and rallied the New Left, the Anti-War Movement, and the young Communists with his war cry, “I am… a Revolutionary.”

Judas and The Black Messiah, directed by Shaka King, with a cast, led by Kaluuya and Stanfield, and supported by a strong performance from Dominique Fishback portraying Hampton’s life partner, Deborah Johnson, is exceptional as the production design, costuming, makeup and wardrobe move the film into a period piece. And, the writing pulls heavily from historical texts with Black Panther phrases such as “War is politics with blood. Politics is war without blood.” King also manages to pose questions about how to make progress as his characters address the concepts of reform and revolution.  While the film is set in 1968-69, these issues are still prevalent today.

Judas and The Black Messiah, an historical drama on par with Gore Vidal’s Lincoln, is an emotionally moving, and at times, riveting film. Seeing history brought to life in a viscerally real and emphatic manner, made the work very compelling to me. Fred Hampton was killed at the age of 21 on December 4th, 1969. The aggrieved parties would wait well over a decade for justice with a civil suit settlement of $1.85 million in 1982 after an initial coroner’s jury inquest in January of 1970 found Fred Hampton’s death justifiable homicide. Watch at your own peril.

 

 

 

LaKeith Stanfield, left, and Shaka King in Judas and the Black Messiah (Warner Brothers 2021)

 

(Warner Brothers 2021)

CODA

Posted by Larry Gleeson

CODA (Children of Deaf Adults) despite being somewhat formulaic pushed all the buttons – strong writing, superb acting, and solid production design. Imagine being the only family member who can hear and speak! Basically, that’s where our film’s lead actress finds herself. Actress Emilia Jones portrays seventeen-year-old, Ruby Rossi, a Peppermint Patty, and semi-typical teen in that she goes to high school, has a teenage crush, and feels awkward socially in her hometown of Gloucester, Massachusetts.

What’s not typical is that she engages in a commercial fishing operation with her family before school, signs to communicate with and for her father (Tony Kotsur), mother (Marlee Matlin), and brother (Daniel Durant), haggles with the local fishmonger and sings with a voice most nightingales would be envious of. Despite, all of this, the Director and Writer of CODA, Sian Heder, manages to thread the needle as most of the time it’s wholly plausible that this person is living this life.

CODA so pleased audiences at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, it walked away with more awards than any film in recent Sundance history. Most notably it took home both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for best drama. In addition, Apple TV splashed a record-smashing $25 million for the film rights. Until the last few years, no film had reached the $10 million mark. So don’t expect to see CODA out at any local film festivals.

At its most basic essence, CODA is heartwarming, endearing, and full of characters embodied by actors who truly understand the concept of emoting. In my opinion, next to Oscar-winner, Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God), Mexican actor/writer/director/producer, Eugenio Derbez, stands out as he delivers more than one show-stealing moment with his dead-pan presence and energetic delivery. Emilia Jones’s performance is exceptional as her character Rubi’s struggle is self-evident onscreen. Rubi is conflicted with going her own way or continuing to support her family. The issue comes to the forefront when she joins the school’s choir and finds herself attracted to her duet partner and her latent singing ability draws the attention of her tough-love choirmaster, portrayed by Derbez.

As the conflict mounts, Rubi learns to stand in her truth and Director Heder allows the audience to witness and experience the world from the deaf person’s perspective. But wait! There’s more. Heder illuminates the family in a subtle manner with the prime focus on Rubi. Despite their handicap of being deaf, they all engage in what is considered normal activities. There’s sibling rivalry, budding relationship angst, concerns about making a living and supporting a family. And, there’s some hilarious comic relief in the parents’ expressive love for one another.

Normally, I’m not so drawn to a dramedy. Yet, CODA, while predictable at times, pivoted at critical moments creating a most compelling narrative with its expressive, heartfelt acting, its naturalistic, on-location filming, and its strong writing. Not sure when CODA will be available for public viewing. But, I can definitely say. CODA is worth the price of admission. Highly recommended!

While we wait for the film’s release check out the Meet the Artist: Sian Heder on Coda video. You’ll be glad you did!

THE SHOW MUST GO ON! SBIFF Spins With Imagination

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) announced plans for an elaborate build-out of two beachside drive-in theatres for the 36th Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented by UGG®, occurring March 31 – April 10, 2021. The drive-in theatres will be presented by Toyota Mirai and be hosted at Santa Barbara City College. They will include 80+ film screenings, all offered for FREE. RSVPing prior to arriving will be required.  KEYT broke the story yesterday.

 

 

In addition to the drive-ins, SBIFF will offer a full-scale, ticketed virtual component, which will include online film screenings, filmmaker Q&As, industry panels and celebrity tributes. To date, announced tribute honorees include Bill Murray, Sacha Baron Cohen, Amanda Seyfried, Riz Ahmed, Maria Bakalova, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Andra Day, Sidney Flanigan, Vanessa Kirby, Tahar Rahim, Zendaya, and Delroy Lindo. The tributes and industry panels will be aired live, over the festival’s virtual platform.

 

 

SBIFF programming received a record number of film submissions this year and has assembled a line-up that includes over 100 films, many of them World and US premieres. The film lineup and schedule will be announced in early March.

Passes for the 2021 Festival are now on sale, as are tickets for the celebrity tributes. CLICK HERE to get yours.

In addition, Barbara Boros has designed the SBIFF poster each year for 18 years, this year highlighting Santa Barbara’s Alice Keck Park.

 

(Sourced from SBIFF news release)

Baz Poonpiriya’s “One For the Road” Will Leave You Wanting More

Posted by Larry Gleeson

When I viewed One For the Road, recipient of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Creative Vision, and directed by Baz Poonpiriya (the first Thai director to feature in Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition), my mind wandered as I became aware of a thought, “This film reminds me of Wong Kar Wai’s work, In the Mood for Love.” The film had a wonderful soundtrack with some Cat Stevens music along with several mainstream hits, a strong production design, and a lovely mise-en-scene with exquisite cinematography and a touch of colorization. One For the Road follows a young Thai man, who is dying from cancer and has decided to make his final amends by delivering a parting gift to those closest to him on the earthly plane. The narrative structure is non-linear as the director uses flashbacks to inform the viewer and add depth of meaning to the present.

Unfortunately for the film’s lead character, Aood, portrayed by Ice Natara, the only Thai runway model in South Korea, he doesn’t drive and doesn’t own a car. So, he calls on his best friend, Boss, portrayed by actor/singer/model Tor Thanapob, to drive him across Thailand beginning in the north and traversing the length of the country down to the south in order to bring closure with the people from Aood’s past. Only, Boss owns a bar in New York where he seems to be living the dream with an endless lineup of beautiful women that he entertains after hours.

Boss and his family had supported Aood over the years and the two were as close as two blood brothers until a falling out left them estranged. But when Aood tells Boss he is sick and needs Boss’s help to complete a final “to do” list, Boss comes to help. As the two rekindle their friendship,  Boss puts up with Aood’s idiosyncrasies and his overt intrusions into people’s lives with his parting gifts. Yet, when Aood tries to give Boss a gift, truths are revealed threatening their friendship while simultaneously offering an opportune moment for redemption.

One for the Road is full of nostalgia as multiple genres come together including romance, buddy film, as well as sex-positive melodrama. It’s very visual, very visceral, and one I was sad to see it end after 136 minutes. But end it did and as the credits began to roll, there it was – a title revealing “Produced by Wong Kar Wai” – “… a filmmaker who specializes in making the evanescent tangible, in capturing fleeting emotions in a style that is always poetic, often ravishing and, despite his films’ surface-level dreaminess, unerringly precise.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/26/movies/Wong-Kar-wai-romance-films.html) I’m a huge fan of Mr. Wong’s work so all I could do in that moment was sit and smile. What a wonderful gift. (Wong and Baz worked together on One For The Road for three years.)

Director Baz Poonpiriya, a strong storyteller who has come into his own, had previously helmed Bad Genius the 2017 Thai box-office smashing and the record-breaking winner of twelve categories at the 27th Suphannahong National Film Awards (the Thai Oscars), before embarking on One For The Road with Wong. If you’re a fan of Wong, this is a film you don’t want to miss. And, if you’re a fan of Thai film (Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s 2010 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives turned me on to Thai film), it’s a must-see! Lastly, if you simply enjoy exquisitely told films, I highly recommend you see Baz Poonpiriya’s One For The Road!

 

“Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir” Enthralls Pleasantly

HollywoodGlee inside the Sundance Film Festival Headquarters at the Park City Marriott on January 23, 2019, in Park City, Utah, the day before the opening of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo credit: Larry Gleeson/HollywoodGlee)

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The most pleasant surprise of my 2021 Sundance Film Festival screenings goes to Jamie Redford’s Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. I was deeply saddened upon hearing Redford passed away before the film’s screening. Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir was produced by Karen Pritzker and is a PBS American Masters Picture Production. Tan is most recognized for her Joy Luck Club work. The 1993 film, directed by Wayne Wang, spoke volumes to what was lost between generations illuminated through the onscreen conflict between Chinese-American daughters and their immigrant mothers. The film was based on Tan’s 1989 novel, The Joy Luck Club. To date, Tan has written two widely acclaimed novels, the aforementioned Joy Luck Club and the 1991 The Bonesetter’s Daughter, based on Tan’s own relationship with her mother and the stories of her grandmother. In addition, Tan has written and published two children’s books, six fiction novels, a few short stories, and several non-fiction books including The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings (2003) and the 2017 Where The Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir.

It’s one thing for me to simply reflect and write about Tan’s body of work. It’s entirely another issue for me to delve into Redford’s approach. Utilizing traditional documentary techniques of voice-over narration (in this case Tan’s), archival footage and photos, film clips, direct interviews, personal testimony, and the more recent animation technique, Redford reveals a writer’s life in all its fullness and in all its complexities. As consumers, we all often believe writers simply write and occasionally have to deal with the infamous and godforsaken “writer’s block.”

Furthermore, Tan’s openness in sharing her family’s history, especially the women’s side of it, her own personal process, and professional writing history, allowed Redford to provide a very intimate look into Tan’s impressive body of work and into her psyche. For example, Amy Tan began her career as a technical writer and she found it paid well yet unfulfilling from a humanistic viewpoint. So, in her pursuit of some sort of self-actualization, she became a fiction writer as she felt fiction would actually allow for a more expansive expression of the truth. I suspect, other than her mother, that anyone would have guessed the impact her writing The Joy Luck Club would have on her life, and on audiences here in America and around the world. It was a bonafide game-changer.

I found Redford’s work, Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir, inspiring and heartwarming. On a deeper personal level, I felt I understood how Tan had become one of our most beloved contemporary authors – she learned to listen! Simultaneously, I identified with Tan’s immense intellectual curiosity and her overwhelming desire to express her world experience. Facing racism, misogyny, and intergenerational conflict of growing up in a new world separate and distinct from her mother’s she managed to also write for truth. I was so enthralled after watching Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir, I ordered and purchased two of her books. Currently, Tan has embarked on painting artistry from her home base in the Bay Area of San Francisco, California. Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir, a fascinating portrait of a deeply beloved and deeply poetic American author. Highly recommended!

Until next time. I look forward to seeing you at the movies…

Rainbow Portal at Cabrillo Ballpark in Santa Barbara, Calif.

 

 

 

JOCKEY races through Sundance and into the arms of Sony Pictures

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Larry Gleeson at Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky.

Being a horseracing (often referred to as the “sport of kings”) fan, I felt compelled to see the premiere of 2021 Sundance Film Festival Dramatic Competition selection, Jockey, directed by Clint Bentley. And man, am I glad I did! Without much to go on besides the title, I settled in for what I imagined would be a similar storyline to one of my favorite horseracing films, Seabiscuit. 

Jockey centers around Jackson Silva, a successful, well-known racehorse rider (a jockey) seeking a final championship to end his rather illustrious career. Silva is portrayed by the chameleon-like, veteran actor Clifton Collins, Jr., (The Last Castle, Capote, Star Trek). And much like Seabiscuit’s jockey, Red Pollard, portrayed by Tobey Maguire, the often unseen human elements of jockeying are on full display in Jockey.

In Jockey (and a major issue for Red Pollard in Seabiscuit as well) Silva’s need for an optimal weight of 134 pounds and the challenges inherent in getting the targeted weight has serious complications. Over the years his loss of bone mass has decreased the protection for his skeletal structure and the exacerbated effects from the lack of caloric intake on his physical and mental energies are becoming more evident. The lack of skeletal protection comes to the forefront for an aging Jackson Silva as he already has suffered greatly with three broken back incidents from falls and is experiencing issues with his riding form from the early onset of ALS, a rapidly progressing neuromuscular disease affecting the limbs causing increasing weakness and muscle wasting.

Jockey’s storyline doesn’t sugarcoat and Bentley doesn’t whitewash the struggles of being a jockey, let alone a famous jockey like Jackson Silva on the horseracing circuit. With a stellar, nuanced performance from extremely talented Canadian Molly Parker as stable owner Ruth Wilkes, the narrative dives deeper into visceral emotionality and vulnerability as the male/female dynamic provides for a broader gamut of feelings between the characters. One of the film’s great lines comes from Wilkes addressing her concern for Silva’s insistent need to keep riding, “the critical difference between a racehorse and a jockey is a horse doesn’t know when to quit.” The appearance of Moises Arias’s character, Gabrielles Boullait, adds another dimension to the film’s humanity as Gabriel wants to be a jockey just like “his father” Jackson Silva. Silva takes the young man under his tutelage and begins training Gabriel in earnest.

I was pleasantly surprised with Jockey’s narrative as it did entwine some of the Seabiscuit narratives of the hardships of jockeying while also including seedier elements of what goes on when the race is over depicted in David Milch’s short-lived (10 episodes,) Dustin Hoffman led HBO series, Luck. Much of jockey was shot on location at the Surf Paradise Racetrack in Phoenix, Arizona. In my opinion, what separated Jockey from Seabiscuit is the depth Bentley gets from the actors and the writing is excellent. Bentley shares a writing credit with Greg Kwedar, whose self-claimed mission is to tell stories of human connection in difficult places. Mission accomplished as Jockey orbits around a series of multi-faceted relationships with some profound emotional depths. And what separated Jockey from Luck is the intimate focus on the jockey and less focus on stable shenanigans. Very highly recommended viewing!

Sony Pictures Classics announced the night before the premiere that they acquired all worldwide rights to the film, JOCKEY.