SXSW and Amazon Announce Virtual Festival Lineup

Feature and shorts from 2020 fest going online for 10 days

"Affurmative Action," one of the 39 titles appearing on Amazon later this month for free as part of their selection of SXSW 2020 Film Festival titles

SXSW may not have happened IRL this year, but today the film festival released the lineup of films that will be part of its online streaming festival through Amazon Prime.

The festival and the streaming platform originally announced their collaboration on April 3, adding that they were reaching out to filmmakers to see who wanted to be involved. The selection, dubbed the Prime Video Presents the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection, will run for 10 days, starting April 27 on Amazon Prime in the U.S., and will be available to any American viewers with an Amazon account, for free.

The film selection features a total of 39 titles from the festival's 2020 roster. It includes four narrative features, including a double-bill of French productions (period musical drama Le Choc du Futur and technocomedy Selfie): Three documentaries, including a remarkable story of transition in I'm Gonna Make You Love Me; and three series that have already launched on other platforms, including Amazon's own Tales From the Loop, Freeform's alternate history drama Motherland: Fort Salem, and Shudder's filmmaking documentary series, Cursed Films. The rest of the lineup focuses on a roster of both narrative and documentary shorts.

When SXSW was forced to cancel, it was the first major event to shutter before the coronavirus pandemic really took hold. However, it didn't simply walk away from its 2020 filmmakers or their projects. The festival announced early that its laurels still count, and pushed ahead with the jury awards. Now the Amazon project will give filmmakers who opted in another burst of exposure.

In a statement announcing the lineup, SXSW Director of Film Janet Pierson said, “SXSW has always championed creators forging their own paths to success, often with just the right mix of passion, vision and radical experimentation to make their dreams happen. There is no one-size-fits-all, especially in these uncertain times, and we knew this opportunity would be of interest to those filmmakers who wanted to be in front of a large audience now. We believe people will be captivated by this selection of intriguing work that would have been shown at our 2020 event.”

Several festivals are looking at online options in lieu of outright cancellation. Yesterday, Austin's Indie Meme Film Festival, which specializes in movies from South Asia, announced it will do two weekends of streaming events in May. Oscilloscope Laboratories and MailChimp Studios have already provided a platform to dozens of short films, while Vimeo is hosting several titles from the SXSW Episodic Pilots competition. However, the SXSW/Amazon announcement was by far the biggest and most ambitious, although not without controversy. There has been much discussion within the film industry about how opening a title up for screening before a release, or before alternate festival screenings can be organized, will affect its future (especially with the constant risk of piracy).

In that context, today's selection makes a lot of sense. The episodic shows are already airing: shorts rarely have to worry (or even think) about acquisition deals; and both international and independent documentary titles have unique distribution cycles that often have little to do with theatrical (or, indeed, American) release cycles.

Jennifer Salke, Head of Amazon Studios, explained, “We understand every film has its own strategy and we know this opportunity may not make sense for every filmmaker. 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 virtual festival runs April 27-May 6 at www.amazon.com/adlp/sxsw. All titles will be free for the duration of the festival.


NARRATIVE FEATURES

Le Choc Du Futur

Cat in the Wall
Bulgaria, UK, France
Directors, screenwriters, and producers: Mina Mileva, Vesela Kazakova
Cast: Irina Atanosova, Angel Genov, Gilda Waugh
This terrific 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 gentrification. Irina, a Bulgarian woman lives there with her small son and her brother. The lift serves as a toilet, the multicultural 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 heartwarming tale, shot in a documentary style, is this year’s equivalent of director Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake.

Gunpowder Heart
Guatemala
Director and screenwriter: Camila Urrutia
Producer: Inés Nofuentes
Cast: Andrea Henry, Vanessa Hernández
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.

Le Choc du Futur
France
Director and screenwriter: Marc Collin
Co-Writer: Elina Gakou-Gomba
Producers: Marc Collin, Nicolas Jourdier, Gaelle Ruffier
Cast: Alma Jodorowsky, Philippe Rebbot, Clara Luciani
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.

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
Cast: Blanche Gardin, Manu Payet, Elsa Zylberstein
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!


DOCUMENTARY FEATURES

I'm Gonna Make You Love Me

I'm Gonna Make You Love Me
U.S.
Director and Producer: Karen Bernstein
Co-Producer: Nevie Owens
Cast: Brian Belovitch aka "Tish," Gloria Walker, Michael Musto
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.

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 twentysomethings" 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.


NARRATIVE SHORTS

"Vert"

"A Period Piece"
U.S., France
Director and screenwriter: Shuchi Talati
Producer: Esra Saydam
Co-Producer: Claire Chassagne
Cast: Sonal Aggarwal, Nardeep Khurmi
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 midcoitus.

"Basic"
U.S.
Director, screenwriter, and producer: Chelsea Devantez
Co-Producer: Kevin Walsh
"Basic" is a very, very, very short film about a dumb li’l ho doing li’l ho things. Starring Nelson Franklin (Veep, Abby's, 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 li’l ho in all of us.

"Blocks"
U.S.
Director and screenwriter: Bridget Moloney
Producers: Kate Chamuris, Kristin Slaysman, Valerie Steinberg
Cast: Claire Coffee, Mark Webber, Ruha Taslimi
An existential comedy about the mother of two young children who begins to spontaneously vomit toy blocks.

"Broken Bird"
U.S.
Director, screenwriter, and producer: Rachel Harrison Gordon
Cast: Indigo Hubbard-Salk, Chad L. Coleman
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.

"Daddio"
U.S.
Director, screenwriter, producer: Casey Wilson
Co-Writer: Laura Kindred
Co-Producers: Ursula Camack, Laura Kindred, Adam Silver
Cast: Michael McKean, Casey Wilson, June Diane Raphael
"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, This Is Spinal Tap), is manic. He gets a perm and begs neighbors to hot tub with him. Abby, played by Casey Wilson (SNL, Happy Endings, Black Monday) 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.

"Dirty"
U.S.
Director: Matthew Puccini
Producers: Cecilia Delgado, Jeremy Truong, Matthew Puccini
Cast: Morgan Sullivan, Manny Dunn
Marco cuts class to spend the afternoon with his boyfriend. Things do not go as planned.

"Face to Face Time"
U.S.
Director, screenwriter, and producer: Izzy Shill
Cast: Izzy Shill, Sean Patrick McGowan
Claire takes the bold step of initiating a FaceTime call, only to discover Danny’s flaccid enthusiasm for her.

"Father of the Bride"
U.K.
Director and screenwriter: Rhys Marc Jones
Producer: Alex Polunin
Cast: Jay Lycurgo, Dominic Mafham, Marcus Rutherford, Isabelle Connolly
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.

"Figurant"
France, Czech Republic
Director and screenwriter: Jan Vejnar
Producers: Origine Films / Silk Films
Cast: Denis Lavant
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.

"Reminiscences of the Green Revolution"
Phillipines, U.S.
Director and screenwriter: Dean Colin Marcial
Producer: Armi Rae Cacanindin
Cast: Annicka Dolonius, Sid Lucero, Abner Delina Jr.
A ghost story about love and ecoterrorism in the Philippines.

"Runo"
U.S.
Director and screenwriter: Daniel Newell Kaufman
Producer: Lizzie Shaprio
Cast: Erin Markey, Luke Visiage, Mike Alonzo
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.

"Single"
U.S.
Director and screenwriter: Ashley Eakin
Producer: Connie Jo Sechrist
Cast: Delaney Feener, Jordan Wiseley
A girl born with one arm goes on a blind date with a guy who has one hand … and she is pissed!

"SOFT"
U.S.
Director and screenwriter: Daniel Antebi
Producers: Casey Bader, Reid Hannaford, Nicole Quintero Ochoa
Cast: Josh Lerner, Benicio Franqui, Alex Kramer
Sam — 16, queer, and falling in love — struggles to untangle himself from his abusive martial arts coach.

"Still Wylde"
U.S., Canada
Director and screenwriter: Ingrid Haas
Producers: Devin Lawrence and Katie White
Cast: Ingrid Haas, Barry Rothbart, Sabrina Jalees
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.

"Summer Hit"
Germany
Director and screenwriter: Berthold Wahjudi
Producers: Melissa Byrne, Philipp Link
Cast: Martina Roura, Atli Benedikt, Katrin Filzen
Laia from Spain and Emil from Iceland are Erasmus students in Munich. After having sex 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.

"The Voice in Your Head"
U.S.
Director and screenwriter: Graham Parkes
Producer: Brendan Garrett
Cast: Lewis Pullman, Mat Wright, Trian Longsmith
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.

"Vert"
U.K.
Director and screenwriter: Kate Cox
Producers: Nick Rowell, Sophie Reynolds, Gabriele Lo Giudice
Cast: Nikki Amuka-Bird, Nick Frost, Olivia Vinall
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 reawakening for them as a couple becomes the unearthing of Jeff’s secret.

"Waffle"
U.S.
Director: Carlyn Hudson
Screenwriters and producers: Katie Marovitch & Kerry Barker
Co-Producers: Pamela Robison, Bridgett Greenberg
Cast: Katie Marovitch, Kerry Barker, Raphael Chestang
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.


DOCUMENTARY SHORTS

"Dieorama"

"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
Cast: Homer Hans Bryant, Jayda Perry, Nia Parker
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.

"Lions in the Corner"
U.S.
Director: Paul Hairston
Producer: Jake Ewald
Cast: Chris Wilmore
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.

"Mizuko" (Water Child)
U.S.
Directors: Katelyn Rebelo, Kira Dane
Writer: Kira Dane
Producers: 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
Cast: Andrea Werhun, Chester Brown, Michael Cuddy
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.

"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, Ky., 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.


EPISODIC

Motherland: Fort Salem

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
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Paul Schneider, Daniel Zolghadri, Duncan Joiner, Jonathan Pryce
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.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SXSW 2020, SXSW Film 2020, Amazon, Amazon Prime, Janet Pierson, Cursed Films, Motherland: Fort Salem, I'm Gonna Make You Love Me, Tales From the Loop, My Darling Vivian, Amazon Prime Video presents the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection

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