This year’s SXSW festival had to be unceremoniously canceled for the first time ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world. Amazon has picked a selection of (mostly short) films originally intended to screen at the festival to stream for free for all Prime Video customers through May 6. You only have a few days left to watch these films, so here are the ones we recommend you watch!
Written and directed by Camila Urrutia, this film tells the story of two lovers who, in the wake of a sexual assault, struggle with how to cope in the aftermath. Andrea Henry and Vanessa Hernández play Claudia and Maria, respectively, and they play their parts incredibly well. Although clearly made on a budget, Gunpowder Heart utilizes it to its maximum potential within a runtime of only 88 minutes. The time allotted is more than enough to draw the audience into the beautiful, sensual relationship that Claudia and Maria share, and the lengths they are willing to go to protect that relationship. The rawness of their relationship is portrayed wonderfully through Urrutia’s intensely-dramatic screenplay. This also has one of the best endings of any of the films at this year’s festival. Make time for this one, especially if you enjoyed films like Tangerine and The Florida Project.
Starring Alma Jodorowsky (granddaughter of great abstract filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky), Le Choc Du Futur tells the story of the arrival of electronic music in France in the late 1970s through twenty-four hours in the life of a young woman composer. As Ana, Alma delights, basking in the glow of her synthetic harmonies. Director/writer/composer Marc Collin clearly has a passion for this niche era of music. His which draws inspiration from the music the main composes. There are some flaws worth mentioning. The many montages of Ana going through the creative process can become tedious at times, and the film is not always consistent tonally. Other than that, Le Choc Du Futur is a film worth checking out if you’re into music with lots of drum machines and synthesizers.
This documentary tells the oft-neglected part of the story of Johnny Cash’s life: his first wife, Vivian Libierto. My Darling Vivian is directed by Matt Riddlehoover, and primarily uses Vivian’s four daughters to tell the story of her life and relationship with one of the world’s most famous country singers. Containing never-before-seen photographs and unreleased audio, this story has all the juicy and insightful details one would hope to find in a documentary of this nature. The sheer amount of archival and personal family footage that is used is incredible. Outside of the sparse moments where we see her daughters being interviews, that is most of what the audience sees. A commendable effort from the editor, who just so happens to also be the director.
The slow mental descent of this innocent woman and the effects that being Johnny Cash’s wife had on her is both interesting and sad to watch. There is no doubt, however, that Vivian was a determined and strong woman. The portrait painted of her is warm and thoughtful, yet altogether mysterious. The four daughters don’t all seem to tell the same story when it comes to specific events about Vivian and Johnny’s relationship, so even the viewer by the end still doesn’t feel like the “mystery” behind Vivian has been totally cleared up. The cloudiness of these details can hamper the experience of watching the film, but it doesn’t detract too much from what is ultimately one of the best films of the festival.
Weddings can be awkward affairs, that much is obvious. Father of the Bride takes this concept to the extreme. Aside from an ill-conceived fart joke in the film’s opening moments, there aren’t really any drawbacks to the viewing experience. This film quickly takes a turn that will leave you with a knot in your stomach until the credits roll. This is one of the best short films of the entire festival. Congratulations to director and writer Rhys Mark Jones, as well as the rest of the cast and crew for creating such a captivating short!
This Japanese/English hybrid short about a woman’s personal history with abortion is both captivating and heartbreaking. Its lo-fi presentation mixed with segments of watercolor animation is a sight to behold. It’s a lyrical tearjerker that’s bound to tug at your heartstrings. Directors Kira Dane and Katelyn Rebelo have created a masterpiece of short-form documentary storytelling. Mizuko is a status quo-breaking statement of intent from two powerful and creative women filmmakers. It is without a doubt the best film of the entire festival, short form or otherwise.
Through interviews with her own family, Carol Nguyen creates a deeply depressing look at the way emotion is suppressed amongst Southeast Asian cultures. No matter who you are, you will cry while watching this short. It tells a universal story of how often so much is left unsaid between members of a family. No Crying At the Dinner Table will make you want to hug your mom and dad, call your grandparents, all the cliches. But that’s only because it’s so, so good. A truly cathartic experience.
Written directed and edited by Daniel Antebi, Soft tells the story of two young men falling in love while one struggles to distance themselves from an abuser. This short film is intensely dramatic, incredibly well acted, and completely unique. The young actors all give great performances, reminiscent of the Losers Club in the newest incarnation of Stephen King’s IT.
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Amazon has picked a selection of (mostly short) films originally intended to screen at SXSW to stream for free through May 6.