The 2020 SXSW Film Festival and Amazon Prime Video have unveiled a 39-title lineup, including three documentary features, that will participate in their joint virtual film festival slated to launch on April 27.
As previously announced, filmmakers selected to the official 2020 SXSW Film Festival lineup were invited to opt in to take part in the digital festival. Of the 135 feature films originally invited to SXSW 2020, only 5% across the narrative, documentary features, short films and episodic categories have opted to join the virtual event, titled “Prime Video presents the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection.”
Selected documentary titles include Karen Bernstein’s I’m Gonna Make You Love Me (pictured), about the life of Brian Belovitch, who in the 1980s, as a transgendered woman named Tish, was one of New York’s most famous downtown divas; Matt Riddlehoover’s My Darling Vivian, charting the story of Johnny Cash’s first wife and the mother of his four daughters, Vivian Liberto; and Alex Lee Moyer’s TFW NO GF, which charts the lost boys who came of age on the Internet and how they find camaraderie in despair.
Also included is Jay Cheel’s five-part docuseries Cursed Films, which explores the myths and legends behind some of Hollywood’s notoriously “cursed” horror film productions.
“SXSW has always championed creators forging their own paths to success, often with just the right mix of passion, vision and radical experimentation to make their dreams happen,” said Janet Pierson, director of film at SXSW, in a statement. “There is no one-size-fits-all, especially in these uncertain times, and we knew this opportunity would be of interest to those filmmakers who wanted to be in front of a large audience now. We believe people will be captivated by this selection of intriguing work that would have been shown at our 2020 event.”
“We understand every film has its own strategy and we know this opportunity may not make sense for every filmmaker. However, for those who want to share their stories right now and with as many people as possible, we’re excited to provide them this platform,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios. “Until we are able to be together in person again, we hope this program allows these wonderful stories to virtually reach film lovers everywhere in the country.”
The one-time event will additionally feature online pre-recorded panels and Q&As produced by SXSW. The festival will also collaborate with filmmaker Alma Har’el’s non-profit organization, Free the Work, to organize hosted panels featuring films and filmmakers from the lineup.
Prime Video presents the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection will stream free to Amazon account holders in the U.S. from April 27 through to May 6.
The documentary lineup follows below, with descriptions provided by SXSW:
I’m Gonna Make You Love Me / U.S. (Director and Producer: Karen Bernstein, Co-Producer: Nevie Owens) — Fellini meets Motown in I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, the tragi-comedic tale of one man’s search for self-acceptance, a journey that included tabloid celebrity, Tupperware parties, and two coming-outs — first as a straight woman, then as the gay man he was born to be. Cast: Brian Belovitch aka “Tish,” Gloria Walker, Michael Musto
My Darling Vivian / U.S. (Director: Matt Riddlehoover, Producers: Dustin Tittle, Matt Riddlehoover) — The story of Vivian Liberto, Johnny Cash’s first wife and the mother of his four daughters. Includes never-before-seen footage and photographs of Johnny Cash and Rosanne Cash, as well as footage featuring Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix, Tim Robbins, Whoopi Goldberg, John C. Reilly and many more.
TFW NO GF / U.S. (Director and screenwriter: Alex Lee Moyer, Producers: Adam Bhala Lough, Cody Wilson, Ariel Pink, Alex Lee Moyer, Michael Reich, John Eisenman, Matt Ornstein, Claire Bargout, Deagan White, Barrett Avner) — Born from the Internet, the phrase “TFW NO GF” was originally used online to describe a lack of romantic companionship. Since then, it has evolved to symbolize a greater state of existence defined by isolation, rejection and alienation. The meme’s protagonist, “WOJAK,” has become the mascot to a vast online community consisting of self-described “hyper-anonymous twenty somethings” and “guys who slipped between the cracks.” TFW NO GF asks: How has the zeitgeist come to bear down on a generation alienated by the ‘real world’? Meet the lost boys who came of age on the Internet in places like 4chan and Twitter, where they find camaraderie in despair.
Cursed Films / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Jay Cheel, Producers: Andrew Nicholas McCann Smith, Laura Perlmutter, Brian Robertson, Jay Cheel) — Cursed Films is a five-part documentary series from Shudder exploring the myths and legends behind some of Hollywood’s notoriously “cursed” horror film productions. From plane accidents and bombings during the making of The Omen, to the rumoured use of human skeletons on the set of Poltergeist, these stories are legendary amongst film fans and filmmakers alike. But where does the truth lie?
Affurmative Action / U.S. (Director: Travis Wood) — An exploration of workplace diversity through “meet the team” pages.
Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business / U.S. (Director and screenwriter: Christine Turner, Producer: Erin Wright) — At 93, there’s no stopping when it comes to the legendary artist Betye Saar.
Broken Orchestra / U.S., Canada (Director: Charlie Tyrell, Screenwriter: Josef Beeby, Producer: Julie Baldassi) — A documentary short about the Symphony for a Broken Orchestra,, which collected hundreds of broken instruments from the Philadelphia public school system, fixed them and then returned them into the hands of students.
Call Center Blues / U.S. (Director: Geeta Gandbhir, Producer: Jessica Devaney) — Call Center Blues is a lyrical portrait of an unlikely community of U.S. deportees and their loved ones struggling to rebuild their lives in Tijuana, Mexico.
Dieorama / U.S. (Director: Kevin Staake, Producer: Ryen Bartlett) — Abigail Goldman spends her work days as an investigator for a public defender’s office in Washington state, helping people who are seriously in trouble—which can mean hours of staring at grisly pictures of crime scenes, visiting morgues, even observing autopsies. By night, she dreams up gruesome events, which she then turns into tiny, precise dioramas. Rife with scenes of imminent death and brutal dismemberment, the fruits of Goldman’s painstaking labor would be adorable … if they weren’t so disturbing. In this new documentary short, we follow along as Goldman brings her miniature worlds of murder and mayhem to life with tweezers, paint, and resin, and meet the people who just can’t get enough of her twisted visions—where the final touch is always, in the artist’s words, “two or three brushstrokes of red paint.”
Hiplet: Because We Can / U.S. (Director and producer: Addison Wright) — Created with the intention to inspire young Black women, this film brings the Hiplet™ [hip-lay] ballerinas to center stage. With elements of a Short Film, Music Video, and Documentary, this artistic work showcases not only the talent of the Hiplet ballerinas, it also gives them a platform to discuss the challenges they have faced with giving traditional ballet a hip new twist. Cast: Homer Hans Bryant, Jayda Perry, Nia Parker
Lions in the Corner / U.S. (Director: Paul Hairston, Producer: Jake Ewald) — In Virginia, Scarface started Streetbeefs in his backyard to combat gun and knife violence in the area. Soon it turned into something much more for the men involved. Cast: Chris Wilmore
Mizuko (Water Child) / U.S. (Directors: Katelyn Rebelo, Kira Dane, Screenwriter: Kira Dane, Producer: Amy Hobby for Tribeca Film Institute) — In Japan, there is a special way to grieve after having an abortion. This Buddhist ritual, called the water children memorial, allows people to metaphorically return their lost children to the sea. Told through the Japanese American filmmaker’s personal story of abortion in the U.S., Mizuko (Water Child) is a partially animated, intimate reckoning with the impact of this cultural context.
Modern Whore / Canada (Director and screenwriter: Nicole Bazuin, Producer: Lisa Baylin) — Former escort Andrea Werhun shares the ins and outs of escort review board culture, exposing the complexities of sexual power and social stigma in a post-#MeToo world. Cast: Andrea Werhun, Chester Brown, Michael Cuddy
No Crying at the Dinner Table / Canada (Director: Carol Nguyen, Producers: Carol Nguyen, Aziz Zoromba) — Filmmaker Carol Nguyen interviews her own family to craft an emotionally complex and meticulously composed portrait of intergenerational trauma, grief, and secrets in this cathartic documentary about things left unsaid.
Quilt Fever / U.S. (Director and screenwriter: Olivia Loomis Merrion) — Every year, thousands of quilters descend upon Paducah, Kentucky for its annual quilt competition, doubling the town’s population. “The Academy Awards of quilting” is a weeklong spectacle in which quilters from all over the world vie for the coveted Best of Show award. Beyond the competition, the film weaves through stories of individual quilters to reveal deeper motivations behind the art.