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.
The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson: Directed by Leah Purcell
SYNOPSIS: In 1893, heavily pregnant Molly Johnson and her children struggled in isolation to survive the harsh Australian landscape after her husband left to go droving sheep in the high country. One day, she finds a shackled Aboriginal fugitive named Yakada wounded on her property. As an unlikely bond begins to form between them he reveals secrets about her true identity. Realizing Molly’s husband is actually missing, new town lawman Nate Clintoff starts being suspicious and sends his constable to investigate. The deadly encounters between Molly, the constable and Yakada results in a tragic chain of events with Molly becoming a symbol of feminism and anti-racism.
A beautiful score and fantastic performance from Leah Purcell are the high notes of this film. But it’s long. There’s lots of things that could have been cut but I understand what they were going for. I like some of the themes that they were attempting to hit, and in some instances they did. It’s not terrible but it’s not fantastic.
Hysterical: Directed by Andrea Blaugrund Nevins
SYNOPSIS: 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.
The sheer amount of amazing women they were able to interview was amazing. This documentary covers so many topics in a short time and it doesn’t feel rushed. I wasn’t the fan of all of the transitional pieces but I did love seeing so many different stand up jokes. The editing of this film is the powerhouse coupled with the fantastic interviews. This is an important topic and I think it was given the justice it deserved.
Violet: Directed by Justine Bateman
SYNOPSIS: VIOLET follows “Violet Morton,” a 32 year-old film executive who is living her life listening to this “Voice,” resulting in fear-based decisions. She has made these decisions to avoid potential “worst-case scenarios” in her romantic life, her family life, and her professional life, and they have taken her away from who she really is. She has grown accustomed to this, to not being quite “herself,” and sees nothing amiss, until a friend’s comment makes her realize that The Voice has been lying to her. Her entire life.
An inventive, unique and refreshing look at the internal thoughts of a person and breaking down barriers you’ve set for yourself. Munn is fantastic and the voice, played by Justin Theroux is such a convincing villain. This movie really pushed the limits of storytelling.
The Fallout: Directed by Megan Park
SYNOPSIS: 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.
Absolutely heartbreaking in so many different ways. The opening sequence made me sick in so many ways.This is a fantastic directorial debut with so many brilliant performances. A few moments I felt weren’t needed and added to the runtime. This was a film that followed so many important themes about grief and post-traumatic stress. But no doubt this left an impact on my life.
The Sparks Brothers: Directed by Edgar Wright
SYNOPSIS: How can one rock band be successful, underrated, hugely influential, and criminally overlooked all at the same time? Take a musical odyssey through five weird and wonderful decades with brothers Ron & Russell Mael, celebrating the inspiring legacy of Sparks: your favorite band’s favorite band.
This film was an absolute joy on all levels. An epic of a documentary about a subject I had no knowledge of. The Sparks are fascinating. I think Edgar Wright did a fantastic job giving them justice. This is why having a fan make something about a topic they love turns out so good. Is it too long? Maybe. But I enjoyed it nonetheless.
The Unlikely Fan: Directed by Sai Selvarajan and Jeff Bednarz
SYNOPSIS: 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.
Absolutely adorable. I love everything about this short. The big thing I have wrong is the fact that I wanted even more. This is probably my favorite short film of the festival solely based on enjoyment.
The Last Cruise: Directed by Hannah Olson
SYNOPSIS: Using intimate footage recorded by passengers and crew, The Last Cruise is a first-person account of the nightmare that transpired aboard the ill-fated Diamond Princess cruise ship, which set sail from Japan on the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oh how far we’ve come. This film really brought back some memories I don’t want to relive. I like the use of found footage to tell the story. Maybe a little too long but I’d say a well done job from HBO.
How it Ends: Directed by Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein
SYNOPSIS: 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.
This film was good enough. That’s really what I’ll say about it. It was a nice little comedy with some nice performances and direction. I like some of the themes revolving around self worth and loving yourself. The cameos were a bit overkill at times, heavily relying on that star power, but at times they were also very welcome. It’s really a good enough film.
Lily Topples the World: Directed by Jeremy Workman
SYNOPSIS: Lily Topples The World follows 20-year-old Lily Hevesh — the world’s greatest domino toppler and the only woman in her field — in a coming-of-age story of artistry, passion, and unlikely triumph.
The best way to finish off this festival. I never thought I’d get emotional over dominos. As someone who’s been doing YouTube for awhile, this was such an interesting insight into the space and a niche I never knew about. Lily is also a national treasure and should be protected like one. Great job to everyone involved. The biggest take away from this festival is that the documentaries won the week.