SXSW 2018: Documentary Overview

The 25th SXSW Film Festival

March 9-18

Austin’s signature event celebrates a milestone anniversary for its film component, presenting more than 50 documentaries among its 132 feature offerings.


Unlike the past several editions, where at least one documentary was included in the fest’s high-profile Headliners section each year, none appears in this one. The most anticipated nonfiction is featured in the Documentary Feature Competition, where ten titles vie for recognition, including: Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher’s THE GOSPEL OF EUREKA, on a small Arkansas town famed for both a Passion Play and a gospel drag show; Jenny Murray’s ¡LAS SANDINISTAS!, about the female leaders of the 1979 Nicaraguan revolution; Hao Wu’s PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF DESIRE, a portrait of livestreaming Chinese millennials; Jeremy Workman’s THE WORLD BEFORE YOUR FEET, about a man’s mission to walk every single street in NYC; and Gene Graham’s THIS ONE’S FOR THE LADIES, an insider’s look at the world of black exotic dancing.


The majority of the festival’s remaining nonfiction is presented in the diverse Documentary Spotlight, which offers, among other titles: Tiller Russell’s entertaining OPERATION ODESSA, about an outrageous caper in the Miami drug underworld involving Soviet nuclear submarines and a Colombian drug cartel; Finlay Pretsell’s TIME TRIAL, an unusual intimate ridealong on a professional cyclist’s last race; Douglas Tirola’s BREWMASTER, an exploration of the appeal of the craft beer industry; Adam Bhala Lough’s ALT-RIGHT: AGE OF RAGE, an investigation of the rise of hate groups under the current presidential administration; Alison Klayman’s TAKE YOUR PILLS, a look at the increasing use of prescription stimulants in America; Robert S Bader’s ALI & CAVETT: THE TALE OF THE TAPES, which traces the development of Muhammad Ali through his appearances on THE DICK CAVETT SHOW; and Dana Adam Shapiro’s DAUGHTERS OF THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE DALLAS COWBOYS CHEERLEADERS, on the photogenic squad’s place in pop culture and gender politics.


Music docs are featured in 24 Beats Per Second, including: Thom Zimny’s ELVIS PRESLEY THE SEARCHER, an epic look back at the life and career of the music legend; Stephen Kijak’s IF I LEAVE HERE TOMORROW: A FILM ABOUT LYNYRD SKYNYRD, about the 1970s Southern rock band; Steve Sullivan’s BEING FRANK: THE CHRIS SIEVEY STORY, about the man behind the papier mâché-headed underground figure; and Ken Wardrop’s MAKING THE GRADE, a look at piano playing in Ireland.


Nonfiction appearing in remaining sections includes, in the innovative Visions strand, Tommy Pallotta and Femke Wolting’s MORE HUMAN THAN HUMAN, a singular exploration of the possibilities of AI, and Brett Hanover, Alanna Stewart, and Katherine Dohan’s hybrid RUKUS, a queer coming of ager involving furries, graphic novels, and filmmaking; in the internationally-focused Global section, Yuqi Kang’s A LITTLE WISDOM, a portrait of orphan monks in Nepal, and Lola Arias’ THEATRE OF WAR, about veterans still reckoning with the Malvinas/Falklands War; in Episodic, Evan Rosenfeld and Andrew Cohn’s WARRIORS OF LIBERTY CITY, which follows a youth football program founded by a member of 2 Live Crew; in Festival Favorites, Laura Collado and Jim Loomis’ CONSTRUCTING ALBERT, on chef Albert Adrià’s ambitious follow-ups to elBulli; and, in Special Events, the restoration of Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader, and Pierce Rafferty’s THE ATOMIC CAFÉ, the 1982 cult classic using US government propaganda to explore life in the Atomic Age.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Overviews, Recommendations

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