By Miv Evans
When Corvid-19 stepped in, Amazon stepped up. They offered the filmmakers that had been selected by the SXSW Festival the chance to have their films screened on their Prime Video Platform. Many filmmakers took them up on the offer and 39 films were screened on www.amazon.com/sxsw.
The event lasted 10 days, from April 27th through May 6th 2020. It was free to audiences all over the country. Prime membership was not required; a free Amazon account was all that was needed.
“Ever since SXSW was canceled by the City of Austin, we’ve been focused on how we could help the incredible films and filmmakers in the SXSW 2020 Film Festival lineup,” said Janet Pierson, Director of Film. “We were delighted when Amazon Prime Video offered to host an online film festival, and jumped at the opportunity to connect their audiences to our filmmakers. We’re inspired by the adaptability and resilience of the film community as it searches for creative solutions in this unprecedented crisis.”
Jay Duplass, an independent filmmaker and SXSW alum, added, “I’m thrilled that these two great champions of indie film are teaming up to resurrect this year’s canceled film festival. These are unprecedented times, and it’s going to take unprecedented solutions to carry on and celebrate these great films and the people who worked so hard to make them.”
Panels were hosted by Alma Har’el from FREE THE WORK, a non-profit initiative dedicated to identifying inequalities in film, television, advertising, and media.
Summer Hit (Germany)
Director/Screenwriter: Berthold Wahjudi; Producers: Melissa Byrne, Philipp Link
Laia from Spain and Emil from Iceland are Erasmus students in Munich. After having sex for a couple of times, Emil professes his love to Laia — but she panics and runs away. Now the two have to figure out whether they are more than just a summer fling.
Cast: Martina Roura, Atli Benedikt, Katrin Filzen
Vert (United Kingdom)
Director/Screenwriter: Kate Cox; Producers: Nick Rowell, Sophie Reynolds, Gabriele Lo Giudice
Emelia (BAFTA Nominee Nikki Amuka-Bird) and Jeff (Nick Frost) are an open-minded couple celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary by venturing into the Virtual world of “Vert” together. They experience a re-awakening which unearths Jeff’s secret.
Cast: Nikki Amuka-Bird, Nick Frost, Olivia Vinall
Father of the Bride (United Kingdom)
Director/Screenwriter: Rhys Marc Jones; Producer: Alex Polunin
The best man attempts to keep face and deliver his speech at his brother’s wedding, following an advance in the hotel bathroom by the father of the bride.
Cast: Jay Lycurgo, Dominic Mafham, Marcus Rutherford, Isabelle Connolly
Figurant (France, Czech Republic)
Director/Screenwriter: Jan Vejnar; Producers: Origine Films / Silk Films
A man follows a group of workers coming for daywork in an industrial area. Soon, he’s stripped from his clothes and identity, dressed in a military uniform and armed.
Cast: Denis Lavant
Waffle (United States)
Director: Carlyn Hudson; Screenwriters/Producers: Katie Marovitch, Kerry Barker; Co-Producers: Pamela Robison, Bridgett Greenberg
Kerry is at a sleepover with the socially awkward, mysteriously orphaned heiress Katie. Friendship. Kerry learns the hard way that Katie always gets what she wants.
Cast: Katie Marovitch, Kerry Barker, Raphael Chestang
Basic (United States)
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: Chelsea Devantez; Co-Producer: Kevin Walsh
Basic is a very, very, very short film about a dumb lil’ ho doing lil’ ho things. Starring Nelson Franklin (Veep, Abby’s, Blackish), Georgia Mischak (Arrested Development, Love), and Chelsea Devantez (Bless This Mess, Abby’s), who also wrote and directed.
The Voice in Your Head (United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Graham Parkes; Producer: Brendan Garrett
A surreal comedy about an office worker who has resigned himself to spending every waking hour tortured by the negative voice in head.
Cast: Lewis Pullman, Mat Wright, Trian Longsmith
Blocks (United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Bridget Moloney; Producers: Kate Chamuris, Kristin Slaysman, Valerie Steinberg
An existential comedy about the mother of two young children who begins to spontaneously vomit toy blocks.
Cast: Claire Coffee, Mark Webber, Ruha Taslimi
Still Wylde (Canada, United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Ingrid Haas; Producers: Devin Lawrence, Katie White
Gertie and her sometimes boyfriend, Sam, are faced with a major life decision only to realize that even when they know what they want, life has other plans.
Cast: Ingrid Haas, Barry Rothbart, Sabrina Jalees
Broken Bird (United States)
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: Rachel Harrison Gordon
Birdie, a biracial girl raised by her Jewish mom in a New Jersey suburb, spends a rare day with her father while preparing for her Bat Mitzvah. She overcomes her doubts and steps into adulthood on her own terms.
Cast: Indigo Hubbard-Salk, Chad L. Coleman
Daddio (United States)
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: Casey Wilson; Co-Writer: Laura Kindred; Co-Producers: Ursula Camack, Laura Kindred, Adam Silver
Daddio is a comedy about death. A year after the sudden passing of their beloved wife and mother, a dad and daughter grapple with life after loss. Cast: Michael McKean, Casey Wilson, June Diane Raphael, Adam Pally
Soft (United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Daniel Antebi; Producers: Casey Bader, Reid Hannaford, Nicole Quintero Ochoa
Sam — 16, queer, and falling in love — struggles to untangle himself from his abusive martial arts coach.
Cast: Josh Lerner, Benicio Franqui, Alex Kramer
Dirty (United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Matthew Puccini; Producers: Cecilia Delgado, Jeremy Truong, Matthew Puccini
Marco cuts class to spend the afternoon with his boyfriend. Things do not go as planned.
Cast: Morgan Sullivan, Manny Dunn
Face to Face Time (United States)
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: Izzy Shill
Claire takes the bold step of initiating a FaceTime call, only to discover Danny’s flaccid enthusiasm for her.
Cast: Izzy Shill, Sean Patrick McGowan
Reminiscences of the Green Revolution (Philippines, United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Dean Colin Marcial; Producer: Armi Rae Cacanindin
A ghost story about love and eco-terrorism in the Philippines.
Cast: Annicka Dolonius, Sid Lucero, Abner Delina Jr.
Runon (United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Daniel Newell Kaufman; Producer: Lizzie Shaprio
All Luke and his mom have are two tickets out of town on the midnight Greyhound. Luke has to figure out the why they’re running.
Cast: Erin Markey, Luke Visiage, Mike Alonzo
Single (United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Ashley Eakin; Producer: Connie Jo Sechrist
A girl born with one arm goes on a blind date with a guy who has one hand…and she is pissed! Cast: Delaney Feener, Jordan Wiseley
A Period Piece (France, United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Shuchi Talati; Producer: Esra Saydam; Co-Producer: Claire Chassagne
Geetha, a control and order loving Indian-American woman, finally has sex with Vehd one afternoon but things quickly turn messy, causing a fight to erupt mid-coitus.
Cast: Sonal Aggarwal, Nardeep Khurmi
Modern Whore (Canada)
Director/Screenwriter: Nicole Bazuin; Producer: Lisa Baylin
Former escort Andrea Werhun shares the ins and outs of escort review board culture in a post-#MeToo world.
Cast: Andrea Werhun, Chester Brown, Michael Cuddy
No Crying at the Dinner Table (Canada)
Director: Carol Nguyen; Producers: Carol Nguyen, Aziz Zoromba
Filmmaker Carol Nguyen interviews her own family to craft an emotionally complex and meticulously composed portrait of intergenerational trauma, grief, and secrets in this cathartic documentary about things left unsaid.
Broken Orchestra (United States, Canada)
Director: Charlie Tyrell; Screenwriter: Josef Beeby; Producer: Julie Baldassi
A documentary short about the Symphony for a Broken Orchestra, which collected hundreds of broken instruments from the Philadelphia public school system, fixed them and then returned them into the hands of students.
Affurmative Action (United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Travis Wood
An exploration of workplace diversity through “meet the team” pages.
Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business (United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Christine Turner; Producer: Erin Wright
At 93, there’s no stopping when it comes to the legendary artist Betye Saar.
Call Center Blues (United States)
Director: Geeta Gandbhir; Producer: Jessica Devaney
Call Center Blues is a lyrical portrait of an unlikely community of US deportees and their loved ones struggling to rebuild their lives in Tijuana, Mexico.
Dieorama (United States)
Director: Kevin Staake; Producer: Ryen Bartlett
Abigail Goldman spends her work days as an investigator for a public defender’s office in Washington state, helping people who are seriously in trouble.
Hiplet: Because We Can (United States)
Director/Producer: Addison Wright
Created with the intention to inspire young Black women, this film brings the Hiplet™ [hip-lay] ballerinas to center stage.
Cast: Homer Hans Bryant, Jayda Perry, Nia Parker
Lions in the Corner (United States)
Director: Paul Hairston; Producer: Jake Ewald
In Virginia, Scarface started Streetbeefs in his backyard to combat gun and knife violence in the area. Soon it turned into something much more for the men involved. Cast: Chris Wilmore
Mizuko (Water Child) (United States)
Directors: Katelyn Rebelo, Kira Dane; Screenwriter: Kira Dane; Producer: Amy Hobby for Tribeca Film Institute
In Japan, there is a special way to grieve after having an abortion. Told through the Japanese American filmmaker’s personal story of abortion in the US, Mizuko (Water Child) is a partially animated, intimate reckoning with the impact of this cultural context.
Quilt Fever (United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Olivia Loomis Merrion
Every year, thousands of quilters descend upon Paducah, Kentucky for its annual quilt competition, doubling the town’s population. Beyond the competition, the film weaves through stories to reveal deeper motivations behind the art.
Cursed Films (Canada)
Director/Screenwriter: Jay Cheel; Producers: Andrew Nicholas McCann Smith, Laura Perlmutter, Brian Robertson, Jay Cheel
Cursed Films is a five-part documentary series from Shudder exploring the myths and legends behind some of Hollywood’s notoriously “cursed” horror film productions.
Tales from the Loop (United States, Canada)
Director: Mark Romanek
Creator/Writer: Nathaniel Halpern; Director: Mark Romanek; Executive Producers: Nathaniel Halpern, Matt Reeves, Mark Romanek, Adam Kassan, Rafi Crohn, Mattias Montero, Samanthan Taylor Pickett, Adam Berg and Simon Stålenhag
Based on the acclaimed art of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag, Tales from the Loop explores the town and people who live above “The Loop,” a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe.
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Paul Schneider, Daniel Zolghadri, Duncan Joiner, Jonathan Pryce
Motherland: Fort Salem (United States)
Showrunner/Screenwriter: Eliot Laurence
Set in an alternate America where witches ended their persecution by cutting a deal with the government to fight for the country, Motherland: Fort Salem follows three young women from training to deployment, as they fight terrorist threats with supernatural tactics.
Cat in the Wall (Bulgaria, United Kingdom, France)
Directors/Screenwriters/Producers: Mina Mileva, Vesela Kazakova
This heart-warming tale, shot in a documentary style, is this year’s equivalent of director Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake.
Cast: Irina Atanosova, Angel Genov, Gilda Waugh
Gunpowder Heart (Guatemala, Spain)
Director/Screenwriter: Camila Urrutia; Producer: Inés Nofuentes
Claudia and in the city of Guatemala, a city full of stories related to abuse, unforgiving police officers, and charming secret corners.
Cast: Andrea Henry, Vanessa Hernández
Le Choc du Futur (France)
Director/Screenwriter: Marc Collin; Co-Writer: Elina Gakou-Gomba; Producers: Marc Collin, Nicolas Jourdier, Gaelle Ruffier
In the Paris of 1978, old formulas do not charm listeners anymore and new music must arise. In a male-dominated industry
Cast: Alma Jodorowsky, Philippe Rebbot, Clara Luciani
Directors: Tristan Aurouet, Thomas Bidegain, Marc Fitoussi, Cyril Gelblat, Vianney Lebasque;
Algorithms, Technophobics, Dating App addicts, Vloggers, cloud security breach… each one of us can relate to the wired madness happening on screen.
Cast: Blanche Gardin, Manu Payet, Elsa Zylberstein
I’m Gonna Make You Love Me (United States)
Director/Producer: Karen Bernstein; Co-Producer: Nevie Owens
Fellini meets Motown, the tragi-comedic tale of one man’s search for self-acceptance, a journey that included tabloid celebrity.
Cast: Brian Belovitch aka “Tish,” Gloria Walker, Michael Musto
My Darling Vivian (United States)
Director: Matt Riddlehoover; Producers: Dustin Tittle, Matt Riddlehoover
The story of Vivian Liberto, Johnny Cash’s first wife and the mother of his four daughters. Featuring Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix, Tim Robbins, Whoopi Goldberg, John C. Reilly, and many more.
TFW NO GF (United States)
Director/Screenwriter: Alex Lee Moyer; Producers: Adam Bhala Lough, Cody Wilson, Ariel Pink, Alex Lee Moyer, Michael Reich, John Eisenman, Matt Ornstein, Claire Bargout, Deagan White, Barrett Avner
A generation of disaffected young men searches for meaning in the dark corners of the internet.