SXSW2021: Film Award Winners in the Spotlight as Fest Wraps Up

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CHICAGO – The virtual/online 2021 SXSW Festival wrapped up on March 20th, after a compacted five day run. The Award Winners were announced on March 19th, and contained themes of redemption, joy, loneliness and reckoning.

The South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival, centered as usual in Austin, Texas, included the usual program of keynote/speeches, conference sessions, music festival showcases, film festival screenings, world-class networking, online exhibitions, and the unexpected discoveries, all taking place in a digital setting … as the pandemic hopefully wraps up as well.

’The Fallout,’ ‘Lily Topples the World’ and ‘Islands’
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StarFILMS OF SXSW: Capsule Reviews

All the films reviewed won Awards as indicated at SXSW2021. For a summary and all the award winners, click here Oscarman rating: 4.5/5.0
Rating: 4.5/5.0

The Fallout – This involves a school shooting, experienced off screen but somehow more effective that way. The story, written and directed by Megan Park, features 16-year-old Vada (Jenna Ortega) whose life changes after the shooting, which seems to be modeled after Parkland in Florida. From the moment it happens through the conclusion, her path is through the emotional and PTSD-oriented scarring point toward truth, much like a soldier who deals with death on a battlefield. Ortega’s performance is remarkable, considering the range of feelings she had to portray (including a somewhat comic take while on the drug Ecstasy), and the situations of those around her go into adolescent friendships, economics and insecurity issues, with just enough love to curtail the negative effects. This is a wonderfully fulfilled film on a topic that will never go away. BEST NARRATIVE FEATURE Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

Islands – A Canadian film about immigrants, as Filipinos living in the Great White North has carved a life for themselves, except for one lonely man. Joshua (Rogelio Balagtas) lives with his aging parents, and when his mother dies he only has his father left, and quits his job to care for him full time. Enter his cousin (Sheila Lotuaco) who volunteers her caregiving services to the duo. As the situation normalizes in the household, truths are revealed about Joshua’s life that he didn’t expect. The beauty of writer/director Martin Edralin’s story is that it never goes where expected, choosing to let subtle character studies drive the narrative. GRAND JURY RECOGNITIONBREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE for lead actor Balagtas. Oscarman rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

Lily Topples the World – What is truly admirable about this documentary – essentially about a 20-year-old woman, adopted by her U.S. parents from China, who has developed into the world authority on domino toppling (the building of elaborate domino blocks and allowing them to fall down in patterns and more) – is that it goes beyond its subject as a sort of short hand for America now. Her YouTube hits are into the billions, and she lives as a background celebrity as her domino work appears in film and television, and she makes a living setting them up and knocking them down. Director Jeremy Workman riffs for 90 minutes on fame, adoption, Asian identity, YouTube dominance and the world changing a million miles an hour. BEST DOCUMENTARY

SHORT FILMSBEST NARRATIVE short went to the extraordinary Play it Safe about a college level acting class with one black man among the sea of white. During an exercise in which the students have to act as animals, the performance of the creature that is assigned to that black man will challenge the atmosphere. 5/5. Written and directed by Mitch Kalisa. BEST DOCUMENTARY short was Águilas, directed by Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Maite Zubiaurre. This striking and surprisingly emotional portrait takes place in the Arizona desert, where a crew of men have a weekly assignment to find missing persons who have died trying to reach America … a snapshot that says so much. 3.5/5

A teaser trailer for “The Fallout” …

The virtual 2021 South by Southwest Festival will determine its audience awards on March 21st. For all the information on the 2021 Fest click on senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

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© 2021 Patrick McDonald,

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