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Need To Know the Black Films Playing at SXSW Film Festival? We Got You Covered!

Need To Know the Black Films Playing at SXSW Film Festival? We Got You Covered!

The 2021 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival lineup was announced, including an array of features, shorts, episodics, and more. This year the renowned festival got a jump on things, announcing its plans to go digital with the program far in advance. The 28th edition of SXSW Film Festival will roll out on SXSW Online from March 16-20, 2021. 

This year SXSW audiences will be able to experience 28 Black films that span across 15 categories, including Narrative, Documentary, Episodic, and Music Video. At least six of these films are directed by Black women. With Black talent in front and behind the camera, there’s a lot to explore and support. Check out the list of films below.

Narrative Feature Competition

I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) / U.S.A. (Directors: Kelley Kali, Angelique Molina; Screenwriters: Kelley Kali, Angelique Molina, Roma Kong; Producers: Roma Kong, Angelique Molina, Kelley Kali, Capella Fahoome) When a recently widowed mother becomes houseless, she convinces her 8-year-old daughter that they are only camping for fun while working to get them off the streets. Cast: Kelley Kali, Wesley Moss, Deon Cole, Brooklynn Marie, Steven Ira Scipio, Andrew Galvan, Lamar Usher, Brian Brooks II, Jacolyn Holmes, Xing-Mai Deng. (World Premiere)

Documentary Feature Competition

Subjects of Desire / Canada (Director/Screenwriter: Jennifer Holness, Producers: Jennifer Holness, Sudz Sutherland) A thought-provoking film that examines 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. (World Premiere)

Narrative Spotlight

Ludi / U.S.A. (Director: Edson Jean, Screenwriters: Edson Jean, Joshua Jean-Baptiste, Producers: Fabiola Rodriguez, Mark Pulaski) Ludi, a hardworking and exhausted nurse, battles coworkers, clients, and one impatient bus driver to learn her self-worth as she chases the American Dream in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood. Cast: Shein Mompremier, Alan Myles Heyman, Madelin Marchant, Success St. Fleur Jr., Kerline Alce, Plus Pierre, Patrice DeGraff Arenas, Farah Larrieux. (Texas Premiere)

Documentary Spotlight

Spring Valley / U.S.A. (Director: Garrett Zevgetis, Producers: Chico Colvard, Jeff Consiglio, Ariana Garfinkel) An explosive viral video shows a white policeman throwing a Black teenager from her school desk. One woman uproots her life to help the girl, face the officer, and dismantle the system behind the “Assault at Spring Valley.” (World Premiere)

When Claude Got Shot / U.S.A (Director: Brad Lichtenstein, Producer: Steven Cantor, Brad Lichtenstein, Jamie Schutz, Santana Wilson (co-producer)) Three strangers’ lives become inextricably entwined by a weekend of gun violence. (World Premiere)

Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America / U.S.A (Directors: Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler, Screenwriter: Jeffery Robinson, Producers: Jeffery Robinson, Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler) ACLU lawyer Jeffery Robinson’s shattering talk on the history of U.S. 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. (World Premiere)


Sound of Violence / Finland, U.S.A. (Director/Screenwriter: Alex Noyer, Producer: Hannu Aukia, Alex Noyer) A young girl recovers her hearing and gains synesthetic abilities during the brutal murder of her family. Finding solace in the sounds of bodily harm as an adult, she pursues a career in music composing her masterpiece through gruesome murders. Cast: Jasmin Savoy Brown, Lili Simmons, James Jagger, Tessa Munro. (World Premiere)

Festival Favorites

Ma Belle, My Beauty / U.S.A. (Director/Screenwriter: Marion Hill, Producers: Ben Matheny, Kelsey Scult, Marion Hill) A surprise reunion in southern France reignites passions and jealousies between two women who were formerly polyamorous lovers. Cast: Idella Johnson, Hannah Pepper, Lucien Guignard, Sivan Noam Shimon. (Texas Premiere)

R#J / U.S.A. (Director: Carey Williams, Screenwriters: Carey Williams, Rickie Castaneda, Producers: Timur Bekmambetov, Igor Tsay) A re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet, featuring a diverse cast in the classic Shakespearean roles. This modern-day take is told on mobile and is a mashup of Shakespearean dialogue with current social media communication. Cast: Camaron Engels, Francesca Noel, RJ Cyler, Diego Tinoco, Russell Hornsby, Siddiq Saunderson. (Texas Premiere)

24 Beats Per Second

I Went to the Dance/J’ai Été Au Bal / U.S.A. (Directors: Les Blank, Chris Strachwitz, Producer: Chris Strachwitz) Beautiful 5K restoration of the celebrated film on the history of Cajun and Creole/Zydeco music of SW Louisiana. Exhilarating performances by Clifton Chenier, Marc and Ann Savoy, BeauSoleil, and more. By Les Blank, Chris Strachwitz and Maureen Gosling. (World Premiere)

Soy Cubana / U.S.A. (Directors: Jeremy Ungar, Ivaylo Getov, Screenwriters: Agustín Rexach Martín, Ivaylo Getov, Jeremy Ungar, Producer: Robin Miller Ungar) When the Vocal Vidas, an all-female Cuban quartet, are invited to play their first show in the US, a simple concert becomes a journey across physical and ideological borders, affirming the connective power of music, even in the most uncertain times. (World Premiere)


Bantú Mama / Dominican Republic (Director: Ivan Herrera, Screenwriters: Clarisse Albrecht, Ivan Herrera, Producers: Ivan Herrera, Nicolas LaMadrid, Franmiris Lombert) An Afropean woman escapes after being arrested in the Dominican Republic. She is sheltered by a group of minors, in a dangerous district of Santo Domingo. By becoming their protégée and maternal figure, she will see her destiny change inexorably. Cast: Clarisse Albrecht, Scarlett Reyes, Arturo Perez, Euris Javiel, Donis Taveras, Jarold Santos. (World Premiere)

2020 Spotlight

Best Summer Ever / U.S.A. (Directors: Michael Parks Randa, Lauren Smitelli, Screenwriters: Michael Parks Randa, Will Halby, Terra Mackintosh, Andrew Pilkington, Lauren Smitelli, Producers: Andrew Pilkington, Katie White, Terra Mackintosh, Leah Romond, Jake Sharpless) A fresh and exhilarating take on the beloved teen musical genre featuring eight original songs and a fully integrated cast and crew of people with and without disabilities. Cast: Shannon DeVido, Rickey Wilson Jr., MuMu, Jacob Waltuck, Emily Kranking, Eileen Grubba, Holly Palmer, Ajani “AJ” Murray, Lawerence Carter-Long, Bradford Hayes. (Texas Premiere)

Executive Order / Brazil (Director: Lázaro Ramos, Screenwriters: Lusa Silvestre, Lázaro Ramos, Aldri Anunciação, Elísio Lopes Jr, Producers: Daniel Filho, Tania Rocha) In a dystopian near-future Brazil, an authoritarian government orders all citizens of African descent to move to Africa, creating chaos, protests, and an underground resistance movement that inspires the nation. Cast: Alfred Enoch, Taís Araújo, Seu Jorge, Adriana Esteves, Renata Sorrah, Mariana Xavier, Pablo Sanábio. (Texas Premiere)

Episodic Premieres

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Them / U.S.A. (Showrunner: Little Marvin) Set in 1953, this co-production from Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television centers on a Black family who moves from North Carolina to an all-white Los Angeles neighborhood. The family’s idyllic home becomes ground zero where malevolent forces, next door and otherworldly, threaten to taunt, ravage, and destroy them. Cast: Deborah Ayorinde, Ashley Thomas, Alison Pill, Melody Hurd, Shahadi Wright Joseph. (World Premiere)

Narrative Shorts Competition

Bruiser / U.S.A. (Director: Miles Warren, Screenwriters: Miles Warren, Ben Medina) After his father gets into a fight at a bowling alley, Darious begins to investigate the limitations of his own manhood. (Texas Premiere)

Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma / U.S.A. (Directors: Topaz Jones, rubberband., Screenwriters: Topaz Jones, Jason Sondock, Simon Davis) Topaz Jones debuts his second album, Don’t Go Telling Your Momma, as a reimagining of the ’70s Black ABCs: a view into his and America’s Black identity through 26 individual scenes, each representing a letter and a corresponding update to their meanings. (Texas Premiere)

Play It Safe / United Kingdom (Director/Screenwriter: Mitch Kalisa) Coaxed into playing a racial typecast in a fellow student’s play, Black drama student Jonathan is faced with an all-too-familiar decision: to challenge prejudice, or play it safe. (World Premiere)

Documentary Shorts Competition

The Beauty President / U.S.A. (Director: Whitney Skauge) In 1992, drag queen Joan Jett Blakk made a historic bid for the White House as an openly queer write-in candidate. Today, Terence Smith, the man behind the persona, reflects back on his place in gay rights history at the height of the AIDS crisis. (World Premiere)

I Ran from It and Was Still in It / U.S.A. (Director: Darol Olu Kae) A poetic meditation on familial loss and separation, and the love that endures against dispersion. (Texas Premiere)

Ten Leaves Dilated / U.S.A. (Directors: Kate E. Hinshaw, Ebony Blanding) A documentary that uses the make-believe world crafted by Cabbage Patch Kids to examine discourses surrounding childbirth in the American South. (World Premiere)

Midnight Shorts

Puss / U.S.A. (Director/Screenwriter: Leah Shore) Samantha desperately wants to get laid, but is finding it to be difficult for some reason. (World Premiere)

Run That Shit! / U.S.A. (Director: Tristan Kim, Screenwriters: Tristan Kim, Will Allyn Robinson) A Satanic cult lures a no-name rapper into stealing an enchanted chamber pot from his estranged friend and now superstar rapper, Big Tobacco. (Texas Premiere)

Texas Shorts

Doretha’s Blues / U.S.A. (Director/Screenwriter: Channing Godfrey Peoples) Doretha goes out for her evening drink at her local watering hole when a news story dredges up old memories. (World Premiere)

Summer Animals / U.S.A. (Director/Screenwriter: Haley Elizabeth Anderson) Living out of a motel, 15-year-old Tommy makes a drastic decision in order for her siblings to escape the heat before the summer’s over. (World Premiere)

Music Video Competition

FKA twigs – “sad day” / United Kingdom (Director: Hiro Murai)

Run The Jewels ft. Pharrell Williams and Zack de la Rocha – “JU$T” / United Kingdom (Director: Winston Hacking)

Witch Prophet – “Tesfay” / Canada (Director/Screenwriter: Leah Vlemmiks)

The 2021 SXSW film festival will run virtually online March 16–20, 2021.

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