Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well and having a great weekend! Yesterday marked my first day attending the virtual edition of the SXSW film festival. I thought long and hard about attending the festival but with a New York trip already planned for March I didn’t feel like I could do it. Unfortunately that means I miss out on some of the films being screened but there are still many worthwhile films to watch.
For the first day I watched 3 documentaries and I’d actually recommend all 3. They are each very different from each other but found them all rewarding and worth watching.
Here are my quick thoughts:
Your Friend, Memphis
Like many indie documentaries I do think Your Friend, Memphis would be better as a short. It’s subject Memphis DiAngelis is compelling but the events of his life can drag in spots (as would be the case with most of our lives). Memphis has cerebral palsy but he doesn’t want that to define him. Film is his passion but his struggle to be taken seriously is often met with patronizing speeches if not outright
I appreciate Your Friend, Memphis avoids maudlin or inspirational disability weepie traps but some of the time spent on his crush with a singer named Seneca don’t go anywhere and could have been lessened or removed. Still I overall recommend Your Friend, Memphis and would be a good double-header with The Peanut Butter Falcon from 2019.
6 out of 10
Anyone who might have been tempted to say ‘skate like a girl’ as a term of derision will want to shut their mouths after seeing the new documentary Skate Dreams. In the film director Jessica Edwards chronicles the history of female skateboarding and it’s engaging interviews and great skating footage make for an entertaining watch.
For some this might be old news but I knew nothing about the start of this sport so I found the stories of early skaters to be very interesting. It was also honest about the challenges and blessings of increasing popularity including the recent addition of the sport to the Olympics.
If you like skateboarding at all Skate Dreams is a winner.
7 out of 10
Crows Are White
The final documentary of the day Crows Are White proved to be something special. Ahsen Nadeem’s film starts out as a simple story following the monks of Mt Hiei, Japan but then morphs into a personal story about his own faith journey and the acceptance he years for from his traditional parents.
While I do think the film drags on in sections (although even the slower parts can still be delightful like a whole scene with a monk going gaga over ice cream sundaes), when it works it really works. There is a scene where Nadeem finally is honest with his parents and you want so much for him to be accepted by them, so when he isn’t it’s quite devastating. I loved the dynamic between Nadeem and his wife and the ending is very fulfilling.
There are parts in Crows Are White that feel staged but never so much it took me out of the moment or made the story feel illegitimate. This is a moving, emotional story that is worth searching out and supporting.
8 out of 10
I’d say day 1 was a pretty good start to SXSW. Hopefully in day 2 I will get some narratives to recommend. If you saw any of these films let me know what you think!
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