Jamie Broadnax is the creator of the online publication and…
The SXSW Film and TV Festival is right around the corner, and BGN has a list of shows and movies you need to check out while you’re hanging in Austin. Do not leave the festival without seeing these titles!
In the narrative spotlight category at SXSW is the Taika Watiti-produced film Frybread Face and Me. The quirky story set in the 1990s Midwest features a Native American boy named Benny (Kier Tallman), who is a pretty unique kid. With an affinity for dolls who he refers to as action figures, he undergoes a dramatic shift when he has to spend the summer at his grandmother’s ranch. The sheep farm in Arizona is managed by Dawn (Charley Hogan), who is referred to by the local townsfolk in the area as “Frybread Face.” Hogan delivers a commanding performance as the assertive tomboy who takes Benny under her wing. As he is fully indoctrinated in both the Navajo culture and the language, Benny is curious to learn more about his heritage and identity vicariously through Dawn and comes to terms with his past. The film also stars Martin Sensmeier, Kahara Hodges, and Sarah Natani. Billy Luther (Navajo, Hopi and Laguna Pueblo) is both writer and director. Billy Luther is the director/producer of the award-winning documentary Miss Navajo, which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and aired nationally on PBS’ Independent Lens that same year. He is a writer and director for the AMC series Dark Winds. If you’re into diverse storytelling and films like Fancy Dance, which played at Sundance earlier this year, this flick is right up your alley.
Becky (Lulu Wilson) has been through a lot. Her parents were violently attacked and she narrowly escaped death. This happens yet again when she tries to rebuild her life after meeting an elderly woman named Elena (Denise Burse) and she undergoes another vicious attack yet again. When an extremist group called the “Noble Men” break into their home and wreck Becky’s peace, she’s now had enough. She seeks revenge on the men that destroyed one last bit of hope she had left. Directed and written by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote, this zany revenge fantasy thriller contains all of the exciting blood, guts, and gore of what good horror movies are made of. This horror flick is the sequel to the 2020 film Becky. The film also stars Seann William Scott, Jill Larson, Courtney Gains, Michael Sirow, Aaron Dalla Villa, Matt Angel, and Kate Siegel. If you’re into stories where the protagonist is dead set on vengeance and retribution for crimes committed against them, look no further than The Wrath of Becky. She’s no ordinary Becky.
Creating a huge buzz at Sundance and making its Texas premiere at SXSW is Laurel Parmet’s The Starling Girl, a film about an insular fundamentalist Christian community. Living in rural Kentucky, 17-year-old Jem Starling (Eliza Scanlen) is making her peace with God and doing her best to please her family. However, as Jem is slowly blossoming into the young woman she’s about to become, she leans a bit more into her sexuality, which becomes the ultimate cause of contention between her pastor father (Jimi Simpson) and her strict conservative mother (Wrenn Schmidt). The Starling Girl centers on Jem’s agency as Scanlen and a gruffly charismatic Lewis Pullman generate a palpable chemistry, even as the film steadily reaffirms Jem’s youthful naivete and Owen’s position of authority. By the way, Simpson gives an impeccable performance as a man of the cloth struggling with drug addiction. If you’re into stories offering complex ideas about identity, love, and faith or if you’re a big Jimi Simpson fan, this is a film worth checking out!
Indigenous stories matter. One of the most delightful films to come out of Sundance this year was the film Fancy Dance directed by Erica Tremblay. Jax (Lily Gladstone) takes her niece Roki (Isabel Deroy-Olson) away from her white grandparents after the recent disappearance of her sister. The film shares cultural insight that Roki has been missing someone living in a colonized space. The film is beautifully shot and acted, and there is an exquisite and rich story behind the characters represented in the film. If you’re into artful narratives about family, community and culture, this is worth your time.
If there is one dark comedy with a revenge-thriller angle that is the one to watch at SXSW, then it is Netflix’s Beef. I honestly can’t begin to tell you how much I enjoyed watching this series from beginning to end. Danny Cho (Steven Yeun) and Amy Lau (Ali Wong) are two strangers who collide in a road rage incident that goes haywire. As each one tries to outdo the other in the worst ways of getting complete vengeance, the relationship between Danny and Amy grows more complicated and it also impacts the people around them. With an almost exclusive AAPI cast, it was a refreshing series to watch, and the script offers a complex, nuanced, and substantive story. This is likely a series that will generate a ton of buzz and conversation online. If you’re a fan of dark comedies and stories about super complicated relationships, Beef should be on your list.
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster
One thing you gotta love SXSW for is its selection of horror films. In Bomani J. Story’s feature length directorial debut comes The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster. CBS’ The Equalizer star Laya DeLeon Hayes plays Vicaria, a girl who believes that death is not a finality, but simply a symptom of a disease. Her theory is that if death is a disease, then it can be cured. This Black Girl Nerd is not only the head of her class, acing all of her tests and grades, but at night she’s a scientist and body snatcher trying to find a way to resurrect her late brother, who was tragically murdered, and bring him back to life. Director Bomani J. Story wrote Rock Steady Row which went on to win the Best Narrative Feature, and the Audience Award at 2018 Slamdance Film Festival. The film also stars Denzel Whitaker, Chad L. Coleman, Reilly Brooke Stith, and Keith Holliday. If you’re a horror movie geek and love it when the genre is completely turned on its ear, this is a film you don’t want to miss!
They say fandoms can be toxic, but what happens when they turn out to be deadly? In this upcoming horror TV series from Donald Glover (Atlanta), Adamma Ebo (Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul) and showrunner Janine Nabers (Atlanta) is a groundbreaking story about a young woman who has her sights set on a pop star, and the lengths that she’s willing to go through to get next to her is unthinkable. Starring actor Dominique Fishback as Dre, and co-starring Chloe Bailey as Marissa, Dre’s sister, this fantastical tale of obsession and jealousy will shock you to your core. And although this is a fictional representation of Beyonce’s bey hive, you may not look at them quite the same after watching this. Swarm will premiere on Prime Video March 17th.
From Selah and the Spades director Tayarisha Poe comes the whimsical avant garde comedy The Young Wife. Filled with a colorful cast of offbeat quirky characters, this narrative stars Kiersey Clemons as Celestina, a woman who is coming to terms with new experiences including an impending wedding. She’s still figuring out her identity in this world and is shrouded by family and friends with expectations that exceed her own. If you’re into eccentric storytelling with an idiosyncratic style The Young Wife may be right up your alley.
Every young Black girl has a story around playing with dolls — particularly white dolls and not seeing themselves reflected in the toys they played with as children. In Lagueria Davis’ groundbreaking documentary film Black Barbie: A Documentary, she unveils the story behind the first Black Barbie doll and its significant cultural impact on the African-American community. This poigant doc runs through a timeline of the history of Mattel and the Black designers and creators behind the brand who were instrumental in crafting together America’s first Black Barbie doll. The whimsical production design with pink hues and vivid designs straight from a dollhouse gives this doc an aesthetic that is perfect for a narrative about toys. The doc doesn’t shy away from criticizing how Mattel marketed these dolls and how the company is currently positioning the their latest Black doll, Brooklyn, today. The film features commentary from Beulah Mae Mitchell, Kitty Black Perkins, Stacey McBride-Irby, Ashley Blaine-Featherson Jenkins, Gabourey Sidibe and Julissa Calderon.
Multi-hyphenate Zoe Lister-Jones writes, directs, and stars in the Roku original series Slip. Mae (Zoe Lister-Jones) is not very happy in her 13-year marriage to Elijah (Whitmer Thomas) and manages to “slip” into infidelity with another man during a one night stand. Mae now questions not only her vows but what she really wants in this journey she’s on now that this slip has happened. The series also stars Tymika Tafari, Amar Chadha-Patel, and Emily Hampshire.
After Kadir (Asante Blackk) loses his younger brother who suffered from cerebral palsy, he leaves his home compounded by this tragic loss. He explores the life of graffiti art and expresses his grief through it. The other kids he meets in his Bronx neighborhood are artistic and criminal as Kadir gets himself entangled in a complicated weave of expression and acceptance. In a robbery attempt to join a gang, Kadir robs an MTA employee named Luis (Luis Guzman) at gunpoint, and in twist of fate both of their lives change forever. Asante Blackk delivers one of the most compelling performances of his career in this complicated story of love and loss. The cast also stars Alex Hibbert, Melvin Gregg, Coral Peña, Cassandra Freeman, and Hassan Johnson. The film is also executive produced by Luis Guzman and Jamie Foxx.
The SXSW Film & TV Festival runs Friday Mar 10, 2023 – Sunday Mar 19, 2023. Happy viewing!
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Jamie Broadnax is the creator of the online publication and multimedia space for Black women called Black Girl Nerds. Jamie has appeared on MSNBC's The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and The Grio's Top 100. Her Twitter personality has been recognized by Shonda Rhimes as one of her favorites to follow. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association and executive producer of the Black Girl Nerds Podcast.