SXSW Film Festival: Day One Recap

SXSW is happening virtually this year due to the pandemic and I have the opportunity to take part in the film festival. Each day I will be recapping and shortly reviewing every film, big and small, that I see during the festival.

Kid Candidate: Directed by Jasmine Stodel

SYNOPSIS: Kid Candidate tells the story of Hayden Pedigo, an 24-year old experimental musician and his unlikely run for Amarillo city council after his Harmony Korine inspired spoof campaign video went viral.

This is a riveting documentary revolving around a very interesting topic in local government. I love our main character and think that the things he did were very interesting. Some nice interviews coupled with awesome direction and access make this a very fun and entertaining look into what can usually be a very boring topic in America.


Women is Losers: Directed by Lissette Feliciano

SYNOPSIS: In 1960s San Francisco, bright and talented catholic school girl Celina Guerrera survives a difficult home life by following the rules. That is until an indiscretion creates a series of devastating consequences. As Celina faces the compounded obstacles of being young and alone, she sets out to rise above the oppression of poverty and invest in a future that sets new precedents for the time.

Women is Losers is a solid film that is back by fantastic performances, some really good heart and a compelling story. At times it may be too on the nose, but the heart and emotions push past those elements. The film tackles very hard themes but explains them in a way that makes it easy for the audience to understand. The standout of the entire film is the performance from Lorenza Izzo and that performance will carry weight for a long time.


Soak: Directed by Hannah Bang

SYNOPSIS: 16 year old tries to convince her runaway mother to return home.

A very interesting short film about the deterioration of a family and how one decision can have a domino effect on other people’s lives. I think it’s acting is good enough and the story is alright. I had some trouble understanding the ending and that probably has to do with the short runtime.


Potato Dreams of America: Directed by Wes Hurley

SYNOPSIS: 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.

I understand what the writer and director was going for but it never really stuck with me. The film quickly transitions from dark comedy to serious drama in a very jarring fashion. Some jokes hit but others felt out of place. The performances are good enough and I liked some of the themes that are tackled. The only major problem is the sudden shifts in tone that continued to take me out of the film.


Bruiser: Directed by Miles Warren

SYNOPSIS: After his father gets into a fight at a bowling alley, Darious begins to investigate the limitations of his own manhood.

Kids are the worst and in this short it really shows. The themes cut deep and the performances show that. Legacy is a big underlying theme here and it bites on a level that is absolutely crazy. The runtime flew and the writing kicked butt.


Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil: Directed by Michael D. Ratner

SYNOPSIS: Demi Lovato holds nothing back in this powerful four part documentary series exploring every aspect that led to her nearly fatal overdose in 2018, and her awakenings in the aftermath. Director Michael D. Ratner is granted unprecedented access to the superstar’s personal and musical journey during the most trying time of her life as she unearths her prior traumas and discovers the importance of her physical, emotional, and mental health. Far deeper than an inside look beyond the celebrity surface, this is an intimate portrait of addiction, and the process of healing and empowerment.

This is the most real documentary involving a celebrity that I have ever seen. Nothing was left off the table. The doc covers absolutely everything and blocks no punches. That is the thing that I respect so much about this certain documentary. The other thing that worked well was the access, photos and videos that were edited together to be able to tell this tragic story in a very cohesive way. That along with the actual editing made it both intriguing but also appealing. This is not a story to praise Demi Lovato, it is a story of addiction, perseverance and working to make your life better. An absolutely brilliant and raw documentary that doesn’t miss anything.


That concludes day one of the SXSW Film Festival. Come back tomorrow to see what I checked out in day two of the festival.

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