Hey everyone! Today begins the first day of the South by Southwest Film Festival of SXSW. This is my first year attending the festival and of course I attended virtually this year. Hopefully next year I can go down to Austin and attend in person (which is something I was planning to do last year before the world went nuts).
I have to say day 1 I am mostly underwhelmed by what I saw. Maybe I just picked poorly but there is only 1 out of 6 I really loved and only 2 I think I will go fresh on. Oh well!
Here are my quick thoughts on the films:
The documentary Kid Candidate tells the story of Hayden Pedigo who is the 24 year old who decides to run for city council in Amarillo Texas. Hayden seems like a nice enough kid but his lack of motivation to study the issues and become an educated candidate makes the whole thing feel like a publicity stunt or at best a youtube gimmick.
The director also fails to challenge him on his ideology. He appears at tea party and MAGA events but then doesn’t seem to share their beliefs (or he may and the filmmaker just doesn’t ask him about it). The parts where we get to know the Senegalese population and the way religious dogma is used by the other candidates is interesting but not enough to carry the whole film.
4 out of 10
Introducing Selma is only tangentially a celeb biopic. It briefly talks about Blair’s acting career and shows clips from Cruel Intentions and Legally Blonde but that’s about it. She could have had any job and the story would be compelling. It profiles her experiences with MS and her stem cell treatments in 2019 (and her time with the pandemic in 2020).
She is an inspiring, authentic person who struggles at times to speak and move. What could be cloying feels true and devastating. This was my favorite of the festival for the day.
8 out of 10
Islands is a story about a 50 year old Filipino man who must start caring for his aging Father after his Mother dies. This film has some sweet moments and if you like slice of life movies it may be worth a watch.
However, the acting feels mostly amateurish and when they have Josh fall in love it is with his cousin, which is a weird choice. It could have been a very sweet little love story if they weren’t related. This one isn’t awful but I can’t recommend it.
4 out of 10
Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil
If you are a big fan of Demi Lovato you will probably enjoy Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil. As someone who doesn’t know much about her I found the experience frustrating. First, it is a docu-series put into a movie format which I think made the editing kind of weird but I felt like this is a situation of a director wanting a certain narrative that the subject wouldn’t provide.
Particularly off is a section where she tries to argue for moderation instead of sobriety and it’s painted as an inspirational moment until other guests like Elton John strongly disagree with that approach. There’s interesting stuff in there and some shocking reveals of what Demi and her team have been through but it unfortunately wasn’t put together very well. Also there is a cheap tie-in to her new album at the end which adds to feeling of being manipulated.
4 out of 10
Hysterical is a documentary about female stand up comics. There are definitely key figures I wish they had interviews with like Amy Schumer and Ali Wong who are seen but not heard from. Also Ellen Degeneres is never even mentioned (Tiffany Haddish, Sarah Silverman?).
Regardless, the ladies they do talk with are funny and I enjoyed hearing their stories and talking about how the comedy scene could do better in including female voices. It wasn’t a piece to complain but to show their obvious talent. Most importantly it was funny.
7 out of 10
The Lost Sons
When I watch a documentary I always ask: ‘would I rather read an article on the topic?’ If so than the film didn’t do it’s job. The Lost Sons is such a film. It does have a compelling story of a man who finds out he was a replacement baby for his parents who had their son kidnapped at the hospital. The problem is so many key players had died or were unwilling to be filmed that there’s not enough meat on the bone for a feature film. This would be great as a short true crime podcast or newspiece but not as a feature.
The man in question Paul Fronczak does about 80% of the interviewing and I wish he had more charisma. A side of me felt like this whole thing was an attempt to buoy his failing acting career (multiple clips are shown). It seems like others enjoyed this more than I did but it’s made by the same people who did Three Identical Strangers, which was far more absorbing and effective with a very similar story.
Feels like a TV spot stretched out to a feature film. Just listen to the podcasts about it instead.
3.5 out of 10