Due to the unfortunate circumstances the world is currently facing in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, SXSW had to cancel its film festival for the first time in 34 years. Solutions were quickly found to stream some of the films that would’ve played at the festival online. Oscilloscope Laboratories and the company Mailchimp have provided the majority of SXSW’s short films for free. Prime Video also introduced its “SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection.” This limited-time, virtual film festival showcased 39 films from SXSW, many of which were narrative and documentary shorts. In an effort to showcase some of the great films to come out of SXSW, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best shorts still streaming online.
Directed by Nicole Bazuin, Modern Whore tells the story of Andrea Werhun, college student by day and escort by night. Andrea, who goes by the name “Mary Ann” with her clients, recounts some of the stories behind the online reviews left about her. Most often these stories of her sexual performance clash with her actual experiences. Shot like a documentary with elements of fantastical reenactments, Modern Whore gives the sex worker the power to tell her own story.
This film written and directed by Rachel Harrison Gordon is about a biracial, Jewish girl named Birdie. The film takes place during one day in Birdie’s life as she prepares for her Bat Mitzvah and shares an afternoon with her estranged father. Birdie’s decision to invite him to come back into her life by attending her Bat Mitzvah sets her on her journey into adulthood. A journey where she decides to embrace every part of who she is.
The Voice in Your Head
The Voice in Your Head is a literal manifestation of what it’s like to feel our own insecurities constantly invading our every thought. Dan spends every moment of his life being pushed by that voice until an unexpected event gives him the opportunity to free himself of it. Graham Parkes’ The Voice in Your Head is as heartbreaking as it is funny. A story that most of us can relate to.
Broken Orchestra is the documentary about the educators and musicians who started Symphony for a Broken Orchestra, the music and art project created in response to the continual loss of funding for the music education programs of the Philadelphia public school system. This project helps repair old and broken instruments in order to get them back into the hands of the students who would benefit the most from music education. Interviews of those involved in the project appeared on old TV screens as the camera moves through an entire school in the district. This use of creativity paired with an incredibly impactful story made Broken Orchestra one of the best documentary shorts to come out of SXSW this year.
Dirty is Matthew Puccini’s coming-of-age story of two queer teens figuring out what intimacy means to them. This story of first love and first sexual encounter told through a queer lens gives so much visibility to those who have never felt like their stories were valued. Queer teenage angst and awkwardness deserve space too.
Ashley Eakin’s Single, the short film that received Special Jury Recognition, is one of the most compelling stories about dating with a disability. Kim is a woman living with one arm that gets set up on a blind date with a man who’s missing a hand. The rest of the night follows the pair as they discuss how their differences are so often used to other them and treat them as less than human. The first scene of the film demonstrates all the small moments of frustration Kim and anyone living with a disability has to deal with on a daily basis, being stared at and being offered help she did not ask for.