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.
Ninjababy: Directed by Yngvild Sve Flikke
SYNOPSIS: When Rakel (23) finds out she’s 6 months pregnant, after a not so romantic one-night-stand, her world changes completely. At the same time a ninja baby climbs out of her diary to tell her what a horrible person she is.
A funny, emotional and heartbreaking film all combined in this comedy about a girl who doesn’t know she’s pregnant. Creative storytelling coupled with nice performances and interesting writing. Kristine Thorp is fabulous in the film giving a heartbreaking performance. The other thing that worked very well was moving between real life and creative illustrations. That aspect kept this film fresh and inventive. This is a hard watch at times but very rewarding when you reach the conclusion.
Clerk: Directed by Malcolm Ingram
SYNOPSIS: A look at Kevin Smith’s 25-year career including his feature films, television, animation, comics, hosting, and philanthropy projects.
Clerk is a documentary that transcends just the filmmaking of Kevin Smith. It is a technical master that covers everything from movies to his personal life to the legacy that he will leave behind through others. The quality of the interviews and the examination of how Kevin has impacted so many people’s lives is admirable and something you don’t usually see in a documentary. This is a crowd pleaser of the festival so far and a documentary that everyone interested in film should watch.
Recovery: Directed by Mallory Everton and Stephen Meek
SYNOPSIS: Two directionless sisters brave a cross-country road trip to rescue their grandmother from a COVID outbreak at her nursing home.
This film is an absolute blast. We have had so many films that revolve around the pandemic, but this one just absolutely takes the cake. Not only is this sub genre very hard to tackle and make authentic, but making a comedy of it is ten times harder. I can safely say that they nailed it in every way, shape and form. The performances from Everton and Call are absolutely powerhouses and the script is both relatable and hilarious. This is my favorite film of the festival so far and one that everyone needs to see ASAP.
Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free: Directed by Mary Wharton
SYNOPSIS: 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.
I was never exposed to much Tom Petty music in my life, but after this documentary I am instantly intrigued to check out some more. The thing that works about this is the use of the music. In a documentary revolving around an artist or a piece of music, it should be the star of the show. Using the music as a sort of transitional tool between the making of each song was a genius idea. It lags at times and the pace is definitely felt, but I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy the ride.
I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking): Directed by Angelique Molina and Kelley Kali
SYNOPSIS: 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.
This is a tough watch and probably one of the best representations of struggle during this global pandemic. The film feels the most real or authentic in the serious side of the pandemic which is something that I had yet to really find. The thing that holds the film back is some of the writing. A lot of the emotion wasn’t due to the writing. It is an emotional film, but it comes from the situations that have already been established and in turn is more consequential than anything else. The pace is also an issue as the beginning of the film lags significantly. Even with the downsides, the film is tough and making this type of film around the pandemic is something so hard to do and they execute it well.