SXSW 2020 Shorts

The animated “Symbiosis,” the documentary “No Crying at the Dinner Table,” along with films that include “Regret,” “Dirty” and the made-in-Texas “Just Hold On” are part of the short films that were to be shown at the canceled South by Southwest Film Festival. Mailchimp and Oscilloscope Laboratories have established a website showcasing 75 short films that would have been shown at the festival.

Each year, hundreds of filmmakers look forward to showcasing their latest work at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin. The five-day conference, which began in 1994 as an offshoot of the SXSW music festival, draws people from all the world and for many filmmakers, it’s a vital outlet to get noticed. Last year’s film festival drew 73,000 attendees with 155 world premieres and 425 screenings.

Like many events, SXSW was canceled this year because of COVID-19. For many filmmakers, it meant their visions would go unnoticed, especially those who submitted shorts, which don’t get exhibited in theaters and on digital platforms like many of the feature films. Short films thrive on festival exposure.

In a move to shed light at the end of the tunnel, Mailchimp and Oscilloscope Laboratories have established a website showcasing 75 extraordinary short films that would have been shown at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival.

But the news gets even better, you can view all the shorts for free.

The films are divided into six categories that include Animated, Documentary, Made in Texas, Midnight, Narrative and Texas High School. You can hit the shuffle option to mix up the categories to get a taste of all the genres. The website also points out which titles won Special Jury Recognition and the Grand Jury Prize. There is literally something for everyone from family friendly shorts to ones for mature audiences (which are clearly labeled).

Some of the award-winning short films include “Dirty” (Narrative), an LGBT film about high school students Marco and his boyfriend Graham who decide to spend the afternoon together. The realistic approach to teenage sex, which is awkward and embarrassing, was born out of Brooklyn-based filmmaker Matthew Puccini’s frustration with the lack of sex education in high school for LGBT couples. The short won Special Jury Recognition for actors Morgan Sullivan and Manny Dunn.

“No Crying at the Dinner Table” (Documentary) comes from 21-year-old Vietnamese Canadian filmmaker Carol Nguyen who interviews her mother, father and sister separately and then gathers the family around the table to listen to the interviews. It’s an emotional short to watch as the trio reveal secrets, regrets and grief.

In the Midnight category, Santiago Menghini’s “Regret” is a creepy short that will leave you with chills when a man spends an evening alone wrestling his inner demons after receiving the news that his father has passed away. There is a “Donnie Darko” vibe that permeates the short.

I also enjoyed the selection of Made in Texas films including the award-winning “Just Hold On” by filmmakers Sam Davis and Rayka Zehtabchi. Anyone who’s ever been to a rodeo in Texas is familiar with the term mutton bustin’, which is a children’s version of bull riding. Kids (usually 5-7 years old) ride a sheep while trying to hang on for six seconds. The short spotlight’s Marlie McDonald, a 6-year-old red-haired little dynamo from Houston who will capture your heart.

For animation fans, Nadja Andrasev’s “Symbiosis” features a lonely wife who is aware of her husband’s infidelity. But instead of confronting him, she begins studying his mistresses in the compelling short that mixes animation with other forms of art reminiscent of content found on Adult Swim.

There’s plenty of great cinema that comes to you in spurts available for free now thanks to Mailchimp and Oscilloscope Laboratories. Check out these great shorts and support these talented filmmakers.

Go to the website

Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate.

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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