The cancellation of South by Southwest (or SXSW), among many other film festivals, was a disappointment to the filmgoing community at large. In addition to hosting high profile premieres such as Get Out or Baby Driver, SXSW is seen as a gathering place for indie filmmakers looking to gain recognition. The cancellation of the event left many of these filmmakers devastated, but there have been alternative routes towards gaining publicity.
Amazon hosted a combined 39 narrative features and short films set to premiere at SXSW. Listed below are four short films I watched on the streaming website, plus one YouTube documentary about the cancellation itself.
Blocks: The first short I watched was probably the weakest, but still quite entertaining in its own right. This short focuses on a young mother with two children and how one day she begins to spontaneously vomit up tiny LEGO-style blocks. Through a mixture of crude comedy and existential themes, this becomes an amusing riff on motherhood in a Twilight Zone-style aesthetic. 7/10
Single: Delaney Feener plays Kim, a woman whose whole life is brokered around one unspoken philosophy: take no shit. She’s confident, intelligent, and will never mince words. Being an object of pity for so long in her life has made her hard, and unwilling to show sympathy. It only angers her even further when she learns that the man she’s been set up with only has one hand. What makes this film work is its depiction of Kim. She’s cynical, drinks heavily, and she’s quick to anger. In other words, she’s a human being rather than a role model. In 16 minutes, the story they spin here is incredibly charming! 8/10
Dieorama: “At face value, there is nothing funny about murder or death.” With those words, you know that the focus of Dieorama (spelled correctly) is going to be a treat. Abigail Goldman is a delightful woman from a normal suburban upbringing, is married to a loving husband, has an adorable daughter, and works as a social services advocate in a legal firm. In her spare time, she reconstructs grisly tableaus of murder scenes. Typically, her scenes are made with models and sets similar to those you would find on a model train set. Only, they have the addition of people who have been beheaded, chopped in half, shot, or suffered any other manner of gruesome death. Her husband posted pictures of recreations on Reddit, where she hit the front page and briefly became an Internet sensation. While Dieorama is a darkly humorous affair, it speaks to the greater need for catharsis. To relieve the stresses of the world, some run, some listen to music, and some build murder scenes. 8.5/10
Quilt Fever: Quilt Fever captures all the excitement of an early morning Antiques Roadshow episode. That is a compliment, by the way. The short documentary, focusing on the biggest quilting expo in the United States, is a work that will first have the viewer gently nodding their head in amusement. Before long they will find themselves caught up in the frenzy of quilting alongside the elderly women that populate this film. When you watch Quilt Fever, it becomes apparent that it’s not the quilting itself that hooks the viewer. It’s seeing the zeal that comes with any human being showing skill and devotion to a hobby. 8/10
The Rush: The last film I reviewed was a five-minute documentary short that’s actually on YouTube. Here, the narrative is focused on filmmakers who were left out of South by Southwest itself, and the disappointments they faced with its cancellation. One filmmaker mentions how she saw this as her opportunity to finally break out into the big leagues, only to have the opportunity yanked away from her at the last minute. “I’ve been waiting a long-ass time for my shot,” she says, “and I’m gonna cry for a few more days.” If anyone is looking to see how the cancellation of South by Southwest affects filmmakers, this is the first place to start. 8/10