The 2017 SXSW Conference and Film Festival included a robust mix of ethnically diverse films and TV show screenings amid its massive movie line up. Here are a few that stood out.
G-Funk Chronicles the story of the creation of the 90s popular musical style of the same name which incorporated smooth funk samples over hip hop beats. Chock full of interviews from some of the historic figures from the west coast gangster rap era including Snoop Dog, Ice T, Dr. Dre and of course the creator of the style Warren G, the film plays like a well-produced mix tape both in soundtrack and storyline. We are led through the stories of the humble beginnings of high school friends Warren G, Snoop Dog, Nate Dog and their rise to success amid the timely turmoil of late 80s, early 90s Los Angeles. An insightful Q&A followed the screening where Warren G and the director and writer, Karam Gill, discussed how the film was made.
Gill, 22, who had been working with Warren G at the time, came up with the idea of creating a documentary based on all the profound stories Warren told about his past. Gill proposed the idea to producers who became enthusiastic about the project and the rest is history.
Madre is a psychological thriller about an upwardly mobile Argentinean family with an autistic child who becomes newly responsive to a Filipino woman who claims she can heal him – the catch being she will only teach the child to speak in her language. Madre is the 2nd feature to be screened at SXSW directed by Aaron Burns – the first being Blacktino a comedy about an overweight black and Mexican teenager and his world. Since the screening, the film has been picked up exclusively by Netflix and will be available by the end of 2017. During the Q&A Burns discussed his interest in the horror genre of filmmaking and shared some back stories of scenes in the film.
Dear White People (TV series) expands upon the story line of the original film of the same name, which screened previously at SXSW. The series takes place on the fictitious and overwhelmingly white Winchester University where black students congregate within the context of their ‘black’ organizations and cope with existing in a subset of the campus population at large.
With more intricate character portrayals and more time to get in the minds of the many protagonists from the movie storyline, the series delves deeper into classism, gender politics, social roles, gay issues, and of course racism. SXSW hosted a screening of the first 2 episodes in the Netflix series as well as a talk back with the director, Houston’s own, Justin Simien, the cast, and co-writer Yvette Lee Bowser who previously worked on A Different World and Living Single. The show won the SXSW Audience Award for a television series. It airs April 21 on Netflix.
Legendary actor/film director Giancarlo Esposito appeared at SXSW with his new indie film This is Your Death about the rise of a game show which allows would be participants to commit suicide on live television for a large cash amount collectively submitted by the audience to be given to the need or charity of the participants’ choice. Giancarlo plays a down trodden family man who gets closer and closer to becoming a ‘guest’ on the show. At a post-film Q&A, Esposito admitted to considering suicide in recent years and made the film to address the sensationalism of reality TV and where it all could head in the near future.
The documentary Stranger Fruit which delves deeper into the Michael Brown killing far beyond the media portrayal provided an enlightened observation of the case which rocked America to become one of the signature catalysts for the Black Lives Matter movement. Activist, filmmaker Jason Pollock went to Ferguson, befriended Brown’s family and started the journey of re-analyzing the facts around the case. He immediately discovered the flaws in the evidence and created a very emotional and thoroughly compelling film discussing his findings. The main discovery from his research was the emergence of unseen footage of Brown visiting the convenience store the night before his shooting which shows Brown clearly not robbing the store but leaving the Cigarillos at the counter. The 2nd video, which was exhibited on national TV as Brown robbing the store, was actually him going back to retrieve his package. The highlight from the post-film Q&A was of Polluck and Michael Brown’s father giving context to the atmosphere of Ferguson during the time of the tragedy.
Photo Highlights from2017 SXSW Film Screenings Q&A Sessions
Photo gallery credit: Marc Furi Newsome