Docs

SXSW ’21: “Hysterical”, “WeWork” among documentary premieres

Andrea Nevins’ Hysterical and Jed Rothstein’s WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn are among the feature-length documentaries selected to screen at the 28th edition of the SXSW Film Festival.  A total of 75 ...
February 10, 2021

Andrea Nevins’ Hysterical and Jed Rothstein’s WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn are among the feature-length documentaries selected to screen at the 28th edition of the SXSW Film Festival. 

A total of 75 narrative and documentary features will be shown during SXSW Online, the five-day virtual event running from March 16 to 20. The line-up includes 53 films from first-time directors, as well as 57 world premieres, three international debuts and four North American premieres.

Also featured throughout the event will be 84 short films, including music videos; five episodic premieres, six episodic pilots, 20 virtual cinema projects, 14 title design entries and 30 special events.

“It’s been a year unlike any we’ve experienced, first marked by the cancellation of SXSW 2020,” said Janet Pierson, SXSW’s director of film, in a statement. “SXSW Online will bring attendees a multifaceted event that speaks to so many areas of creativity in one five-day experience that everyone can access on their laptops, phones and TVs. While we won’t have the wonderful in-person SXSW that we know and love, we can gather together to be inspired by the work.”

According to festival organizers, seven films at a time will be launched in two-hour increments from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT, with most of the films launching during the first three days of the event. Once a film is available, it will remain on-demand until it either hits its audience capacity or the event ends.

Certain films will be geo-locked to the U.S. due to rights and/or filmmaker or distributor discretion.

As previously announced, Ratner’s Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil will serve as the opening film to SXSW ’21. The YouTube Originals docuseries examines what led to the singer’s nearly fatal overdose in 2018, and the aftermath, offering a portrait of addiction and the process of healing and empowerment.

Rothstein’s WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn (pictured) examines the rise and ultimate fall of one of American commercial real estate company WeWork and its “hippie-messianic” leader Adam Neumann.

Produced by Campfire’s Ross Dinerstein, Hysterical from Andrea Nevins serves as an honest look into the lives of some of stand-up comedy’s most hilarious women and their hard-fought journey to get to where they are today. Featured throughout the film will be female comics including: Margaret Cho, Nikki Glaser, Judy Gold, Kathy Griffin, Sherri Shepherd and Iliza Shlesinger, among others.

The full documentary line-up, with descriptions provided by SXSW, follows below. For the full film slate, click here.

HEADLINERS 

Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil
Director: Michael D. Ratner
Producer: Marc Ambrose
Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil is a powerful YouTube Originals documentary event, exploring every aspect that led to Lovato’s nearly fatal overdose in 2018, and her awakenings in the aftermath. (World Premiere) (Opening Night Film)

Alone Together
Directors: Bradley Bell, Pablo Jones-Soler
Producers: Ross Levine, Emmie Lichtenberg, Brian Ferenchik
Charli XCX, a popstar in quarantine, embarks on a whirlwind creative and romantic journey while making an album in 40 days that unites a community around the world. (World Premiere) (Closing Night Film)

Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free
Director: Mary Wharton
Producer: Peter Afterman
Drawn from a newly discovered archive of 16mm film showing Tom Petty at work on his 1994 record Wildflowers, considered by many including Rolling Stone to be his greatest album ever, Somewhere You Feel Free is an intimate view of a musical icon. (World Premiere) (Centerpiece Film)

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE COMPETITION

Introducing, Selma Blair
Director: Rachel Fleit
Producers: Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon, Troy Nankin
Introducing, Selma Blair is a deeply intimate and raw portrait of the actress after she is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and makes a valiant, risky effort to try to slow the progression of her disease. For the acclaimed, yet often supporting actress, her starring role has finally arrived – she just had to show up and fully embrace herself. (World Premiere) 

Kid Candidate
Director: Jasmine Stodel
Producers: Jasmine Stodel, Chevis LaBelle, William Dorrien-Smith
Kid Candidate tells the story of Hayden Pedigo, an 24-year old experimental musician and his unlikely run for Amarillo city council after his Harmony Korine inspired spoof campaign video went viral. (World Premiere)

Lily Topples The World
Director: Jeremy Workman
Producers: Jeremy Workman, Robert J. Lyons
Lily Topples The World follows 20-year-old Lily Hevesh — the world’s most acclaimeddomino toppler and the only woman in her field — in a coming-of-age story of artistry, passion, and unlikely triumph. Executive produced by Kelly Marie Tran. (World Premiere)

Not Going Quietly
Director: Nicholas Bruckman, Screenwriters: Nicholas Bruckman, Amanda Roddy
Producer: Amanda Roddy
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. (World Premiere)

The Oxy Kingpins
Director: Brendan FitzGerald
Producers: Drea Bernardi, Brendan FitzGerald, Nick August-Perna
The Oxy Kingpins covers the untold story of how a network of pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, and retailers worked together to orchestrate and perpetuate the opioid crisis that has killed over half a million people in America. (World Premiere)

The Return: Life After ISIS (Spain, United Kingdom)
Director: Alba Sotorra Clua
Producers: Alba Sotorra Clua, Vesna Cudic
Shamima Begum (UK) and Hoda Muthana (US) made it into worldwide headlines when they left their countries as teenagers to join ISIS. Now they want to return but their countries don’t want them back. (World Premiere)

Subjects of Desire (Canada)
Director: Jennifer Holness
Producers: Jennifer Holness, Sudz Sutherland
Subjects of Desire is 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)

United States vs. Reality Winner
Director: Sonia Kennebeck
Producer: Ines Hofmann Kanna
A state of secrets and a ruthless hunt for whistleblowers – this is the story of 25-year-old Reality Winner who disclosed a document about Russian election interference to the media and became the number one leak target of the Trump administration. (World Premiere)

DOCUMENTARY SPOTLIGHT

Alien On Stage (United Kingdom)
Directors/Producers: Danielle Kummer, Lucy Harvey
British Bus driver’s amateur stage show of Ridley Scott’s Alien, accidentally makes it to a famous London theatre! With awkward acting and special effects requiring more luck than judgement, will their homemade homage be alright on the night? (International Premiere)

Fruits of Labor
Director/Producer: Emily Cohen Ibañez
A Mexican-American teenage farmworker dreams of graduating high school, when ICE raids in her community threaten to separate her family and force her to become her family’s breadwinner. (World Premiere)

The Hunt for Planet B
Director: Nathaniel Kahn
Producers: Bonnie Hlinomaz, Nathaniel Kahn
Taking us behind the scenes with NASA’s high-stakes James Webb Space Telescope, The Hunt for Planet B follows a pioneering group of scientists—many of them women—on their quest to find another Earth among the stars. (World Premiere)

Hysterical
Director: Andrea Nevins
Producers: Ross Dinerstein, Rebecca Evans, Carolina Groppa
Hysterical is an honest and hilarious backstage pass into the lives of some of stand-up comedy’s most boundary-breaking women, exploring the hard-fought journey to become the voices of their generation and their gender. Featuring Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Rachel Feinstein, Marina Franklin, Nikki Glaser, Judy Gold, Kathy Griffin, Jessica Kirson, Sherri Shepherd, Iliza Shlesinger and more. Available on FX in 2021. (World Premiere)

The Lost Sons
Director: Ursula Macfarlane
Producer: Gagan Rehill
1960s Chicago, a baby is kidnapped from a hospital. Fifteen months later, a toddler is abandoned. Could he be the same baby? In a tale of breathtaking twists and turns, two mysteries begin to unravel and dark family secrets are revealed. (World Premiere)

Mau (Austria, United States)
Directors: Benji Bergmann, Jono Bergmann
Producer: Karol Martesko-Fenster
Mau follows the unlikely story of design visionary Bruce Mau and his ever-optimistic push for massive change. (World Premiere)

Spring Valley
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)

WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn
Director: Jed Rothstein
Producer: Ross Dinerstein
WeWork: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn explores the rise and fall of one of the biggest corporate flameouts and venture capitalist bubbles in recent years – the story of WeWork, and its hippie-messianic leader Adam Neumann. (World Premiere)

When Claude Got Shot
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
Directors: Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler
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)

GLOBAL

Luchadoras (Germany/Mexico)
Directors: Paola Calvo, Patrick Jasim
Producer: Phillip Kaminiak
Luchadoras portrays 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. (World Premiere)

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.

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