SXSW 2021: Documentary Overview

The 28th SXSW Film Festival

March 16-20

After being forced to cancel last year, this popular Austin event returns with an online festival showcasing approximately 80 new projects, nonfiction representing half that number.

Among the offerings:

Alien On Stage
Director: Danielle Kummer, Lucy Harvey
A British bus driver’s amateur stage show of Ridley Scott’s ALIEN accidentally makes it to a famous London theatre.

Director: Malcolm Ingram
The life and career of filmmaker Kevin Smith.

Delia Derbyshire: the Myths and the Legendary Tapes
Director: Caroline Catz
A portrait of electronic sound pioneer Delia Derbyshire, who realized the Dr Who Theme tune in 1963, exploring the idea that this extraordinary composer lived outside of time and space as other people experience it.

The Hunt for Planet B
Director: Nathaniel Kahn
A behind-the-scenes look at NASA’s high-stakes James Webb Space Telescope, following a pioneering group of scientists—many of them women—on their quest to find another Earth among the stars.

Introducing, Selma Blair
Director: Rachel Fleit
In a quest to take control of her personal health after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, actor Selma Blair adapts to new ways of living while pursuing an experimental medical procedure.

Lily Topples The World
Director: Jeremy Workman
20-year-old Lily Hevesh—the world’s greatest domino toppler and the only woman in her field—in a coming-of-age story of artistry, passion, and unlikely triumph.

The Lost Sons
Director: Ursula Macfarlane
In 1960s Chicago, a toddler is abandoned 15 months after a baby is kidnapped from a hospital –  two mysteries begin to unravel and dark family secrets are revealed.

Director: Paola Calvo, Patrick Jasim
A portrait of the courageous female wrestlers of Ciudad Juárez—a city known for its high murder rate against women—who in the ring and in their daily lives fight to redefine the image of what it means to be a woman in Mexico.

Director: Benji Bergmann, Jono Bergmann
The unlikely story of design visionary Bruce Mau and his ever-optimistic push for massive change.

Not Going Quietly
Director: Nicholas Bruckman
When a young father chances to meet a powerful senator on an airplane, their exchange goes viral, sparking one of the most unlikely political movements in a generation.

Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché
Director: Paul Sng, Celeste Bell
The death of punk icon and X-Ray Spex frontwoman Poly Styrene sends her daughter on a journey across the world and through her mother’s archives to reconcile their fraught relationship.

Showrunner/Director: Joshua Rofé
Investigative journalist David Holthouse attempts to solve a bizarre twenty-five year old triple homicide that was said to be the work of a mythical creature.

Spring Valley
Director: Garrett Zevgetis
After an explosive viral video shows a white policeman throwing a Black teenager from her school desk, a woman uproots her life to help the girl, face the officer, and dismantle the system behind the assault.

Subjects of Desire
Director: Jennifer Holness
An examination of  the cultural shift in beauty standards towards embracing (or appropriating) Black aesthetics and features, deconstructing what we understand about race and the power behind beauty.

Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free
Director: Mary Wharton
An intimate view of a musical icon, drawn from a newly discovered archive of 16mm film showing Tom Petty at work on his acclaimed 1994 album WILDFLOWERS.

Under the Volcano
Director: Gracie Otto
The story of George Martin’s AIR Studios Montserrat and the island that changed music forever.

United States vs Reality Winner
Director: Sonia Kennebeck
25-year-old Reality Winner disclosed a document about Russian election interference to the media and became the number one leak target of the Trump administration.

We Are As Gods
Directors: Jason Sussberg, David Alvarado
Stewart Brand, legendary pioneer of LSD, cyberspace, futurism, and modern environmentalism, now urges people to use our god-like powers to fight extinction by reviving lost species.

Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America
Directors: Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler
ACLU lawyer Jeffery Robinson’s shattering talk on the history of US anti-Black racism is interwoven with archival footage, interviews, and Robinson’s story, exploring the legacy of white supremacy and our collective responsibility to overcome it. 

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror
Director: Kier-La Janisse
An expansive history of folk horror, from the 1960s to today.

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

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