Conference panels and short films might be online through April 18 but this year’s 2021 SXSW Film Festival ended on Saturday.
I knew going into this year’s film festival that chances were high for a non-productive fest. Would it have been the same if I were physically attending in person? I don’t know. What I can say for certain is that during an in-person fest, I’m not spending so much time on my phone or laptop. At least not on social media. This has been one of the main problems during the pandemic–my phone and laptop are right there should a film quickly lose an interest. The same cannot be said when you’re attending a film festival. Obviously, you have the choice to leave the theater. Even when I’m feeling ill (cough Sundance 2020 cough), I try to stay through the end. Even if it’s a film I don’t like, I still make the commitment.
Watching at home means there is nobody preventing you from just muting your television and falling asleep. I did this a few times during the virtual SXSW. But because I’m Jewish, my guilt runs high when this happens! Because depression has been so terrible for the past week, I’m not doing my traditional Solzy Awards for SXSW. The short films were short enough to keep my attention and write about them. That being said, I can tell you that Alison Rich‘s The Other Morgan was my favorite short film. It might very well take home the Solzy Award for Narrative Comedy Short when I announce them during Thanksgiving weekend in November.
On the feature film side of things, Malcolm Ingram’s Kevin Smith documentary, Clerk, is by far my favorite documentary of the festival. They are planning for a road show starting in November so please check their Twitter for updates. I expect that Introducing, Selma Blair will be an awards contender. Hysterical is fine as a feature but the subject content really works better as a documentary series.
Moving over to the narrative feature side of things, this year was not my strongest SXSW. I don’t know how many films will be getting a formal review outside of those already written. If there’s something I’ve learned about myself, I do not like pandemic-set narrative features. Not at all. If I had to choose a favorite of them during the fest, it’s Recovery. On the Chicago side of things, I want to give Our Father another watch when I’m not depressed.
Megan Park‘s The Fallout is emotionally heavy but is one of the best films at this year’s SXSW. Assuming the film gets a 2021 release, look for Megan Park to get nominations for Best First Feature. She captures a side of school shootings that we rarely see both in films and on the news. I spoke with Megan Park during the press day on Friday but I’ve yet to write about the film because I want to do so when I don’t have a depression flareup. The same goes for why I haven’t written about Justine Bateman’s Violet, which stars Olivia Munn. I get what Bateman is going for here and Munn delivers a career-best performance.
Violet became the last film of my festival and this is mostly because of self-care. It’s not the best film to watch during a major depression flareup. No press screeners were available to watch before the fest. Of course, I also kept putting off SXSW prep this year so who knows if I would have been able to watch without going through a depression spell. For self-care purposes, I should have turned off the film when I knew what direction it appeared to be going. Unfortunately, I didn’t and so after depression shopping for Pesach food, I immediately started watching The Mighty Ducks for the first time in many years. Let me tell you: nostalgia helps but only to an extent.
Filmmakers and publicists, I apologize for not giving SXSW films the attention and coverage they really deserve. Yes, this is my Jewish guilt kicking in because guilt runs in my blood!