SXSW ’16 reveals documentary line-up

Jesse Moss' The Bandit (pictured) and Marina Zenovich's Fantastic Lies are among the documentaries selected to screen in competition at this year's SXSW Film Festival.
February 3, 2016

Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle’s Ovarian Psycos, following an East LA feminist bicycle crew, and Cassie Hay’s The Liberators, a doc about a Texas town worth US$350 million in medieval treasures, are among the documentaries selected to screen in competition at this year’s SXSW Film Festival .

The nine-day event runs from March 11 to 19 in Austin, Texas, and will feature 139 features, with additional titles forthcoming, including 89 world premieres, 13 North American premieres and eight U.S. premieres.

Among the 10 documentaries screening in competition – selected from 1,013 feature doc titles – are Matt Ornstein’s Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race and America, documenting a man who befriends the Ku Klux Klan; Marco Del Fiol’s The Space in Between – Marina Abramovic and Brazil, about finding artistic inspiration through sacred Brazilian rituals; Keith Maitland’s Tower, an animated look at America’s first mass school shooting; and William A. Kirkley’s Orange Sunshine, on the story of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.

Other documentary films enjoying their world premieres at the festival include director Matthew Conboy’s Goodnight Brooklyn – The Story of Death by Audio, spotlighting a shuttered Brooklyn underground art and music venue; Susan Glatzer’s Alive and Kicking, looking into the current culture of swing dancing; Laura Dunn’s The Seer, a portrait on farmer and writer Wendell Berry; and Garrett Zevgetis’ Best and Most Beautiful Things, following the life of a young blind woman in search of love and freedom.

As previously reported, Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru – director Joe Berlinger‘s documentary about business strategist and motivational speaker Tony Robbins – will have its world premiere at the festival as the only documentary in the Headliners program.

Elsewhere, the festival’s “Documentary Spotlight” section features 17 documentaries receiving world, North American or U.S. premieres.

Among the selection is the latest from The Overnighters director Jesse MossThe Bandit (pictured), on the making of the 1977 film Smokey & the BanditThe Rep filmmaker Morgan White’s film The Slippers, on the story behind the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz; and Marina Zenovich’s Fantastic Lies, which revisits the Duke Lacrosse case ten years on, and will also air across ESPN this year.

The full list of selected films showing at this year’s festival can be viewed here. Below is a listing of the films screening as part of this year’s documentary feature competition, with descriptions provided by SXSW:


Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America (World Premiere)
Director: Matt Ornstein

Daryl Davis has an unusual hobby. As a musician he has played with legends like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, but in his spare time he likes to meet and befriend members of the Ku Klux Klan. Join Daryl on his personal quest to understand racism.

 Alive and Kicking (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Susan Glatzer

Alive and Kicking gives the audience an intimate, insider’s view into the culture of the current swing dance world while shedding light on issues facing modern American society.
* SXsports screening

Best and Most Beautiful Things  (World Premiere)
Director: Garrett Zevgetis

In a celebration of outcasts everywhere, a precocious young blind woman disappears into quirky obsessions and isolation. With humor and bold curiosity, she chases love and freedom in the most unexpected of places: a provocative fringe community.

Goodnight Brooklyn – The Story of Death By Audio (World Premiere)
Director: Matthew Conboy

Death By Audio, an underground art and music venue, is forced to close in 2014. The film focuses on the struggles of maintaining a community in the face of Brooklyn property development, hostile construction workers and a one billion-dollar company.

The Liberators (World Premiere)
Director: Cassie Hay

A tiny Texas town. $350 million worth of medieval treasure. The discovery is just the beginning.

Orange Sunshine 
(World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: William A. Kirkley

The never-before-told story of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love – a spiritual group of surfers and hippies in California who became the largest suppliers of LSD and Hash in the world during the 60s and 70s.

Ovarian Psycos (World Premiere)
Directors: Joanna Sokolowski, Kate Trumbull-LaValle

In East Los Angeles, three young misfit women find solace in an unapologetic, feminist bicycle crew. They call themselves the Ovarian Psycos Bicycle Brigade.

The Seer (World Premiere)
Director: Laura Dunn

The Seer is a cinematic portrait of farmer and writer Wendell Berry. Through his eyes, we see both the changing landscapes of rural America in the era of industrial agriculture and the redemptive beauty in taking the unworn path.
* SouthBites screening

The Space in Between – Marina Abramovic and Brazil (Brazil) (World Premiere)
Director: Marco Del Fiol Screenwriters: Marco Del Fiol, Marina Abramovic, Fabiana Werneck Barcinski

In search of personal healing and artistic inspiration, Marina Abramovic travels through Brazil experiencing sacred rituals and exploring the limits between art and spirituality. How far will she go to create another work of art? (World Premiere)

TOWER (World Premiere)
Director: Keith Maitland

An animated and action-packed look at America’s first mass school shooting, when the worst in one man brought out the best in so many others.


Asperger’s Are Us (World Premiere)
Director: Alex Lehmann

In this coming of age documentary, four friends on the autism spectrum whom have bonded through humor and performed as the comedy troupe Asperger’s Are Us will prepare for one final, ambitious show before going their separate ways.

The Bandit (World Premiere)
Director: Jesse Moss

The Bandit is a film about 70s superstar Burt Reynolds, his best friend, roommate and stunt-double Hal Needham, and the making of their unlikely smash-hit Smokey & The Bandit.

Beware the Slenderman (World Premiere)
Director: Irene Taylor Brodsky

Beware the Slenderman tells the story of a Boogeyman lurking on the internet and two 12-year-old girls who would kill for him. A horrifyingly modern tragedy, this film explores children’s accountability in the online age.

Chicken People (World Premiere)
Director: Nicole Lucas Haimes

In a high stakes world where a single broken feather can mean a shattered dream, Chicken People follows the trials and tribulations of those who breed exotic birds in the world of competitive poultry.
* SXsports screening

The Dwarvenaut (World Premiere)
Director: Josh Bishop

The Dwarvenaut is a dreamlike documentary chronicling Brooklyn-based artist Stefan Pokorny’s lifelong quest to inspire humanity through the one medium he knows best: Dungeons & Dragons.

Fantastic Lies (World Premiere)
Director: Marina Zenovich

Ten years after the Duke Lacrosse case exploded into the national media, we revisit the case which divided America and explore how it affected the lives of those involved.
* SXsports screening

Hit it Hard (World Premiere)
Directors: Gabe Spitzer, David Terry Fine

Hitting it hard is the only way John Daly knows. It’s how he plays golf. It’s how he lives life. After 25 years of extreme highs and devastating lows, this film explores why Daly has remained one of America’s most beloved athletes.
* SXsports screening

The Hollywood Shorties (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Ryan Steven Green

In 1980s Los Angeles, a professional dwarf basketball team composed of recognizable-but-typecast actors finds itself the unwitting vanguard of a revolution to represent little people as something other than objects of curiosity.
* SXsports screening

The Incomparable Rose Hartman (World Premiere)
Director: Otis Mass

With a career spanning decades Photographer Rose Hartman is known for her iconic photos from Studio 54 and the fashion world, her boisterous personality and ever presence capturing the New York social scene.
* SXstyle screening

Insatiable: The Homaro Cantu Story (World Premiere)
Director: Brett A. Schwartz

Chef and inventor Homaro Cantu helped put Chicago on the culinary map and wanted to change the world. Insatiable takes you on a dizzying and thrilling ride with Cantu, in a story that moves from redemption and inspiration to tragedy and back again.
* SouthBites screening

Learning To See (World Premiere)
Director: Jake Oelman

One man’s transformational journey to find the Amazon’s strangest creatures. (World Premiere)

Mr. Gaga (Israel) (North American Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Tomer Heymann

Mr. Gaga tells the story of Ohad Naharin, renowned choreographer and artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company, an artistic genius who redefined the language of modern dance.

Seven Songs for a Long Life (UK) (North American Premiere)
Director: Amy Hardie

The intimate story behind our changing relationship with death – with great songs!

Silicon Cowboys (World Premiere)
Director: Jason Cohen, Screenwriters: Steven Leckart, Jason Cohen

Three friends dream up a portable computer at a Texas diner in 1981, and soon battle IBM, the world’s most powerful tech company, for PC supremacy. Compaq Computer’s improbable journey altered the future of computing and shaped the world we now know.

The Slippers (Canada) (World Premiere)
Director: Morgan White, Screenwriters: Derek Lageunesse, Morgan White

The Slippers pulls back the Wizards curtain the unbelievable story of Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz, and their impact on popular culture, and the now multi-million dollar a year industry of Hollywood memorabilia collecting.

Starving the Beast: The Battle to Disrupt and Reform America’s Public Universities  (World Premiere)
Director/Screenwriter: Steve Mims

The story of money, power and politics and the well organized, yet little noticed, efforts to radically disrupt and reform America’s public universities.

Thank You Del: The Story of the Del Close Marathon (World Premiere)
Director: Todd Bieber

Fifteen years after Del Close’s death, thousands of comedians (both famous and unknown) gather to celebrate modern comedy’s most important person that no one knows.

About The Author
Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based writer into creativity, content, advertising, tech, comics, video games, film, TV, time and space travel.