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SXSW and Amazon on Tuesday unveiled a slate of 39 projects including seven feature films for their virtual festival that will launch Monday.
The Austin film festival and the streaming giant teamed on April 2 to offer a platform for the titles that had been slated to bow at the March 13-22 event, which was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Over the following 19 days, Amazon and SXSW worked to entice filmmakers to take part in the online fest, which is set to run through May 6. But it wasn’t an easy task, considering that a number of filmmakers expressed unease with allowing their movies to play exclusively on the platform in the U.S. for a 10-day period and were fearful that it could impact future sales prospects.
All told, only five percent of the 135 feature films that were invited decided to opt in for the virtual event. Films with distribution, like Netflix’s The Lovebirds and Neon’s She Dies Tomorrow, were expected to turn down Amazon’s offer, but the vast majority still looking for a buyer decided to opt out, as well.
“This is really an unprecedented time. People are waiting for the new normal. And others are waiting for the return to normal,” SXSW director of film Janet Pierson told The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re just trying to make best of a complicated situation. And this was a concrete and exciting offer from Amazon to give a wider swath of filmmakers an opportunity to get in front a huge audience who otherwise wouldn’t have had access to that.”
An Amazon source said the number of films that decided to opt in met its expectations.
“We understand every film has its own strategy and we know this opportunity may not make sense for every filmmaker,” said Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke. “However, for those who want to share their stories right now and with as many people as possible, we’re excited to provide them this platform. Until we are able to be together in person again, we hope this program allows these wonderful stories to virtually reach film lovers everywhere in the country.”
The 39 titles are composed of narrative and documentary features, including the French-language Selfie and Karen Bernstein’s I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, as well as short films and episodic titles that had been selected for the fest. The one-time event will be available in front of the Prime Video paywall and free to all U.S. audiences.
The festival will feature online prerecorded panels and Q&As produced by SXSW. Pierson watched one on Monday and said, “There’s an intimacy when you watch someone in their living room.”
In addition, the nonprofit Free the Work is collaborating with Prime Video to promote and raise awareness for its program, which works to identify systemic inequalities in film, TV, advertising and the media and expand access for underrepresented creators. Founded by Honey Boy director Alma Har’el, Free the Work is organizing hosted panels that will run in conjunction with content from the lineup.
“Amazon’s SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection is giving a platform to work that would have been celebrated at this year’s festival,” Har’el said. “We’re excited to help celebrate, spotlight and provide a platform for the voices of these talented filmmakers.”
The following titles will stream on Prime Video during the festival’s run:
Cat in the Wall / Bulgaria, U.K., France (Directors, screenwriters and producers: Mina Mileva, Vesela Kazakova) — This terri?c comedy-drama is set on a southeast London council estate, which is riven by social and economic divisions and threatened by the all-consuming force of gentri?cation. Irina, a Bulgarian woman, lives there with her small son and her brother. The lift serves as a toilet, the multi-cultural residents exchange shouts rather than pleasantries and an expensive refurbishment is undesired but must be paid for. And in the midst of this: An apparently ownerless cat which has had enough of the heated atmosphere barricades itself ‘in the wall,’ requiring the residents to collaborate. Cat in the Wall is an arresting critique of society, a whirlpool of emotions from despair to joie de vivre conveyed by strongly delineated characters. 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 (Director and screenwriter: Camila Urrutia, Producer: Inés Nofuentes) — Claudia and Maria have fallen in love. They live in the city of Guatemala, a city full of stories related to abuse, unforgiving police officers and charming secret corners. Everything changes one night when they are attacked by three men. They manage to escape but they now have to choose if they want revenge. Cast: Andrea Henry, Vanessa Hernández
Le Choc du Futur / France (Director and 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, Ana uses her electronic gadgets to make herself heard, creating a new sound that will mark the decades to come: the music of the future. Cast: Alma Jodorowsky, Philippe Rebbot, Clara Luciani
Selfie / France (Directors: Tristan Aurouet, Thomas Bidegain, Marc Fitoussi, Cyril Gelblat, Vianney Lebasque, Screenwriters: Giulio Callegari, Noé Debré, Hélène Lombard, Julien Sibony, Bertrand Soulier, Producers: Mandoline Films, Chez Georges Productions) — Algorithms, Technophobics, Dating App addicts, Vloggers, cloud security breach … each one of us can relate to the wired madness happening onscreen. In five subversive and hilarious Black Mirror-like tales, Selfie takes on our digital shortcomings and shows how the new 2.0 era is driving all of us nuts! Cast: Blanche Gardin, Manu Payet, Elsa Zylberstein
I’m Gonna Make You Love Me / U.S. (Director and Producer: Karen Bernstein, Co-Producer: Nevie Owens) — Fellini meets Motown in I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, the tragi-comedic tale of one man’s search for self-acceptance, a journey that included tabloid celebrity, Tupperware parties, and two coming-outs — first as a straight woman, then as the gay man he was born to be. Cast: Brian Belovitch aka “Tish,” Gloria Walker, Michael Musto
My Darling Vivian / U.S. (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. Includes never-before-seen footage and photographs of Johnny Cash and Rosanne Cash, as well as footage featuring Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix, Tim Robbins, Whoopi Goldberg, John C. Reilly and many more.
TFW NO GF / U.S. (Director and 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) — Born from the internet, the phrase “TFW NO GF” was originally used online to describe a lack of romantic companionship. Since then, it has evolved to symbolize a greater state of existence defined by isolation, rejection and alienation. The meme’s protagonist, “WOJAK,” has become the mascot to a vast online community consisting of self-described “hyper-anonymous twenty somethings” and “guys who slipped between the cracks.” TFW NO GF asks: How has the zeitgeist come to bear down on a generation alienated by the ‘real world’? Meet the lost boys who came of age on the internet in places like 4chan and Twitter, where they find camaraderie in despair.
A Period Piece / U.S., France (Director and 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
Basic / U.S. (Director, screenwriter and 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, Blackish), Georgia Mischak (Arrested Development, Love) and Chelsea Devantez (Bless This Mess, Abby’s), who also wrote and directed, it’s a darkish comedy exploring the insecure lil’ ho in all of us.
Blocks / U.S. (Director and 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
Broken Bird / U.S. (Director, screenwriter and 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 decides to risk inviting him back into her life. Birdie confronts what independence means as she steps into adulthood on her own terms. Cast: Indigo Hubbard-Salk, Chad L. Coleman
Daddio / U.S. (Director, screenwriter, and 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. Grief looks very different on both of them. Paul, played by Michael McKean (Better Call Saul, Spinal Tap), is manic. He gets a perm and begs neighbors to hot tub with him. Abby, played by Casey Wilson (Saturday Night Live, Happy Endings) is depressed. She sleeps in her closet and uses a shopping cart for a laundry basket. At its heart, Daddio is a love story between a father and daughter after the unimaginable has happened. Based on real death events. Cast: Michael McKean, Casey Wilson, June Diane Raphael, Adam Pally
Dirty / U.S. (Director: 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 / U.S. (Director, screenwriter and 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
Father of the Bride / U.K. (Director and 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 and 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. His determination not to fall behind the others is then tested by a series of unsettling events. Cast: Denis Lavant
Reminiscences of the Green Revolution / Phillipines, U.S. (Director and 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 / U.S. (Director and screenwriter: Daniel Newell Kaufman, Producer: Lizzie Shaprio) — All Luke and his mom have are two garbage bags full of clothes, and two tickets out of town on the midnight Greyhound. Like he’s assembling a puzzle, Luke has to figure out the why of it — all before the person they’re running from puts together the pieces. Cast: Erin Markey, Luke Visiage, Mike Alonzo
Single / U.S. (Director and 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
SOFT / U.S. (Director and 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
Still Wylde / U.S., Canada (Director and 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
Summer Hit / Germany (Director and 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
The Voice in Your Head / U.S. (Director and 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, until a concerned co-worker decides to take action. Cast: Lewis Pullman, Mat Wright, Trian Longsmith
Vert / U.K. (Director and 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. Vert presents them with a character that is their ‘ideal self’ and what is supposed to be a reawakening for them as a couple becomes the unearthing of Jeff’s secret. Cast: Nikki Amuka-Bird, Nick Frost, Olivia Vinall
Waffle / U.S. (Director: Carlyn Hudson, Screenwriters and 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 — in a society that grows ever isolating — is explored as Kerry learns the hard way that Katie always gets what she wants. Cast: Katie Marovitch, Kerry Barker, Raphael Chestang
Affurmative Action / U.S. (Director: Travis Wood) — An exploration of workplace diversity through “meet the team” pages.
Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business / U.S. (Director and screenwriter: Christine Turner, Producer: Erin Wright) — At 93, there’s no stopping when it comes to the legendary artist Betye Saar.
Broken Orchestra / U.S., 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.
Call Center Blues / U.S. (Director: Geeta Gandbhir, Producer: Jessica Devaney) — Call Center Blues is a lyrical portrait of an unlikely community of U.S. deportees and their loved ones struggling to rebuild their lives in Tijuana, Mexico.
Dieorama / U.S. (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 — which can mean hours of staring at grisly pictures of crime scenes, visiting morgues, even observing autopsies. By night, she dreams up gruesome events, which she then turns into tiny, precise dioramas. Rife with scenes of imminent death and brutal dismemberment, the fruits of Goldman’s painstaking labor would be adorable … if they weren’t so disturbing. In this new documentary short, we follow along as Goldman brings her miniature worlds of murder and mayhem to life with tweezers, paint and resin, and meet the people who just can’t get enough of her twisted visions — where the final touch is always, in the artist’s words, “two or three brushstrokes of red paint.”
Hiplet: Because We Can / U.S. (Director and producer: Addison Wright) — Created with the intention to inspire young black women, this film brings the Hiplet™ [hip-lay] ballerinas to center stage. With elements of a short film, music video and documentary, this artistic work showcases not only the talent of the Hiplet ballerinas, it also gives them a platform to discuss the challenges they have faced with giving traditional ballet a hip new twist. Cast: Homer Hans Bryant, Jayda Perry, Nia Parker
Lions in the Corner / U.S. (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) / U.S. (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. This Buddhist ritual, called the water children memorial, allows people to metaphorically return their lost children to the sea. Told through the Japanese American filmmaker’s personal story of abortion in the U.S., Mizuko (Water Child) is a partially animated, intimate reckoning with the impact of this cultural context.
Modern Whore / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Nicole Bazuin, Producer: Lisa Baylin) — Former escort Andrea Werhun shares the ins and outs of escort review board culture, exposing the complexities of sexual power and social stigma 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.
Quilt Fever / U.S. (Director and screenwriter: Olivia Loomis Merrion) — Every year, thousands of quilters descend upon Paducah, Kentucky, for its annual quilt competition, doubling the town’s population. “The Academy Awards of quilting” is a weeklong spectacle in which quilters from all over the world vie for the coveted Best of Show award. Beyond the competition, the film weaves through stories of individual quilters to reveal deeper motivations behind the art.
Cursed Films / Canada (Director and 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. From plane accidents and bombings during the making of The Omen, to the rumored use of human skeletons on the set of Poltergeist, these stories are legendary amongst film fans and filmmakers alike. But where does the truth lie?
Motherland: Fort Salem / U.S. (Creator: 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.
Tales From the Loop / U.S., Canada (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. In this fantastical, mysterious town poignant human tales are told that bare universal emotional experiences while drawing on the intrigue of genre storytelling. Cast: Rebecca Hall, Paul Schneider, Daniel Zolghadri, Duncan Joiner, Jonathan Pryce
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