The annual South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival began its programming Friday, March 11 in Austin, TX. Thanks to a virtual option, I am able to cover it from the comfort of my couch here in San Diego, CA. Day 1 was an exciting opening day to say the least. From a couple of midnighters and an episodic to a documentary that’s been high on my list this year, the opening day (for me) proved to be the start of a very special festival. So, without further ado, here is a recap of Day 1 of SXSW 2022.
1) Deadstream | Directors: Vanessa Winter and Joseph Winter
Synopsis: After a public controversy left him disgraced and demonetized, a washed-up internet personality tries to win back his followers by livestreaming himself spending one night alone in an abandoned haunted house. When he accidentally pisses off a vengeful spirit, his big comeback event becomes a real-time fight for his life (and social relevance) as he faces off with the sinister spirit of the house and her own powerful following. Principal Cast: Joseph Winter and Melanie Stone
Review: Vanessa and Joseph Winter’s Deadstream is an overacted parody of the streaming world. What creativity the screenwriters had going for them is lost in their flimsy attempt to make a spoof out of two phenomena in pop culture (hunted houses and live-stream culture). This is certainly going to be a crowd pleaser among a very specific demographic. But for me, it was unsatisfying and a severe disappointment. Check out my full review here.
2) Chee$e | Director: Damian Marcano
Synopsis: In a remote village “behind God’s back” (“even God must have forgotten about it,” the locals crack), Skimma dreams of leaving the only place he’s known to explore the world. When Rebecca tells him she’s pregnant, Skimma is torn between leaving the island and the responsibilities that come with fatherhood. Principal Cast: Akil Gerard Williams, Lou Lyons, Ayanna Cezanne, Yidah Leonard, Binta Ford, Julio Prince, Trevison Pantin, Kevin Ash, Omar Jarra, Damian Marcano
Review: Damian Marcano’s hypnotic and beautifully shot Chee$e is an island dreamer’s delight. Though it’s a story about escaping an island to explore what the world has to offer, so much of the film’s beauty lies in the people and livelihoods within Trinidad and Tobago. Director Marcano’s visual eye is magnificent. He captures Black manhood with flair and responsibility with passion. I just hope there’s a continuation of this story because it desperately needs one.
3) They Call Me Magic | Director: Rick Famuyiwa
Synopsis: The four-part docuseries explores the remarkable accomplishments and global impact of Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s life, both on and off the court. From his humble beginnings in Lansing, Michigan to becoming a five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, he changed the conversation around HIV and transcended into a community activist and successful entrepreneur. Featuring never-before-seen footage and interviews with Magic, powerhouses from business and politics, and those in his inner circle, the series offers an unprecedented look at one of sport’s all-time greats.
Review: Rick Famuyiwa’s four-part docuseries is a basketball fan’s dream. Exploring the impact and accomplishments of basketball star Magic Johnson, the docuseries is exciting from beginning to end. From his early start at Michigan State to his activism around HIV, Magic has become an instrumental figure in popular culture. And some of the never-before-seen footage will be sure to become new favorites among basketball fans everywhere.
4) Fire of Love | Director: Sara Dosa
Synopsis: Fire of Love is an unexpected love story of two intrepid French scientists, Katia & Maurice Krafft, who died in a volcanic explosion doing the very thing that brought them together: seeking to understand the mystery of volcanoes by capturing the most spectacular imagery ever recorded.
Review: Sara Dosa’s documentary Fire of Love is a beautiful showcase of breathtaking footage from Katia and Maurice Krafft’s volcanic footage leading up to their early demise. Though it’s anxiety-inducing every step of the way, it’s equally mesmerizing with beautiful imagery. It’s absolutely frightening how the Kraffts’ curiosity drove their bravery, which in turn drove their persistence to the truth. But ultimately, this documentary shows how far their legacy reached and important their work was, as their dedication and research saved many lives. I could’ve definitely done without the weird music choices, though.
5) Sissy | Directors: Hannah Barlow and Kane Senes
Synopsis: Cecilia and Emma were tween-age BFFs who were going to grow old together and never let anything come between them, until Alex arrived on the scene. Twelve years later, Cecilia is a successful social media influencer living the dream of an independent, modern millennial woman… until she runs into Emma for the first time in over a decade. Emma invites Cecilia away on her bachelorette weekend at a remote cabin in the mountains, where Alex proceeds to make Cecilia’s weekend a living hell. Principal Cast: Aisha Dee, Hannah Barlow, Emily De Margheriti, Daniel Monks, Yerin Ha, Lucy Barrett, Shaun Martindale, Amelia Lule, April Blasdall, Camille Cumpston
Review: If there’s one thing I’d like to say about Senes and Barlow’s Sissy, it’s that it will stick with me for months to come. I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing though. This story dives deep into social media culture versus reality while simultaneously exploring bullying that ultimately leads to sociopathic behavior. In short, it’s a lot. I’m sure I just need a couple of days for this to digest, but something tells me that time will only enhance my disdain for a lot of aspects in this feature.
That’s it for the first virtual day of SXSW 2022. Here’s hoping Day 2 of knocking films off my Watchlist turns out to be a continual celebration of intricate storytelling collectively.