Nine productions of special interest to C&I readers will be unveiled during the March 10-18 SXSW Film & TV Festival in Austin.
This Friday deep in the heart of Texas — specifically, in the capital city of Austin — the SXSW Film & TV Festival kicks off a ten-day cavalcade of movie and television offerings, ranging from mainstream comedies to enlightening documentaries, music videos to immersive exhibitions.
The best films of the bunch likely will be available in theatrical and/or digital release in the months ahead. But if you don't want to wait, take note: Tickets are still available at the SXSW website.
Here are nine titles (including dramatic features and documentaries) that have caught our interest, with details culled from the SXSW website.
Frybread Face and Me
It’s 1990. Benny is a Native American boy growing up in San Diego who plays with dolls and listens to Fleetwood Mac. Everything Benny thinks he knows about himself and his family is turned upside down when his parents force him to spend the summer at his Grandma Lorraine’s sheep ranch on the reservation in Arizona. There he meets his cousin Dawn — AKA Frybread Face, a pudgy 11-year-old vagabond, tough-as-nails tomboy. Benny has never met anyone like her, and he is equally intimidated and impressed by her knowledge of Navajo language and tradition. Benny is introduced to Navajo life on the Rez, and his unruly uncle Marvin. Together, Benny and Fry create a memorable summer. (Dramatic Feature, pictured above)
Since her sister’s disappearance, Jax (Lily Gladstone) has cared for her niece Roki (Isabel Deroy-Olson) by scraping by on the Seneca-Cayuga Reservation in Oklahoma. Every spare minute goes into finding her missing sister while also helping Roki prepare for an upcoming powwow. At the risk of losing custody to Jax’s father, Frank (Shea Whigham), the pair hit the road and scour the backcountry to track down Roki’s mother in time for the powwow. What begins as a search gradually turns into a far deeper investigation into the complexities and contradictions of Indigenous women moving through a colonized world and at the mercy of a failed justice system. (Dramatic Feature)
War Pony follows the interlocking stories of two young Oglala Lakota men growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation. At 23, Bill just wants to make something of himself. Whether it’s delivering goods or breeding Poodles, he is determined to hustle his way to the “American Dream.” Meanwhile, 12-year-old Matho can’t wait to become a man. Desperate for approval from his young father, a series of impulsive decisions turns Matho’s life upside down and he finds himself unequipped to deal with the harsh realities of the adult world. Bound by their shared search for belonging, each of the boys grapple with identity, family, and loss, as they navigate their unique paths to manhood. (Dramatic Feature)
Going Varsity in Mariachi
In the competitive world of high school mariachi, the musicians from the South Texas borderlands reign supreme. Under the guidance of Coach Abel Acuña, the teenage captains of Edinburg North High School’s acclaimed team must turn a shoestring budget and diverse crew of inexperienced musicians into state champions. (Documentary)
Food and Country
Ruth Reichl — trailblazing NY Times food critic, groundbreaking Gourmet Magazine editor, best-selling memoirist, and for decades one of the most influential figures shaping American food culture — grows concerned about the fate of small farmers, ranchers, and chefs as they wrestle with both immediate and systemic challenges as the pandemic takes hold. Reichl reaches across political and social divides to discover innovators who are risking it all to survive on the front lines. As one person leads her to the next, she follows the unfolding stories of ranchers in Kansas and Georgia, farmers in Nebraska, Ohio, and the Bronx, a New England fisherman, and maverick chefs on both coasts. As she witnesses them navigate intractable circumstances, Reichl shares pieces of her own life, and in doing so, begins to take stock of the path she has traveled and the ideals she left behind. Through her eyes, we get to know the humanity and struggle behind the food we eat. As Reichl says: “How we grow and make our food shows us our values — as a nation and as human beings.” (Documentary)
The Long Game
When JB Peña moves to the small town of Del Rio, TX to take over as the school district’s superintendent, his dreams of joining the prestigious, all-white Del Rio Country Club are immediately squashed. However, soon he meets a group of high schoolers who happen to caddy at the club — even though they, too, are prohibited from playing the same course because of the color of their skin. So JB and them band together, at first with the aim of winning tournaments and making it to State, but quickly learn that there's a lot more to aim for — and a lot more on the line — when a team of Mexican-American teens competes and wins in this exclusive world. Jay Hernandez, Dennis Quaid, and Cheech Marin star in this drama based on Mustang Miracle by Humberto G. Garcia. (Dramatic Feature)
The Houston Herricanes were a part of the first women’s full tackle football league in the 1970s. Their unknown story is one of commitment, courage, and strength. Despite adversity and hardship, they fielded a team purely for the love of the game. What they started is a movement that is still in motion today. (Documentary)
Riders on the Storm
Riders on the Storm captures a pivotal moment in Afghan history and offers a rare and visceral look at a ruthless sports culture where champions become marked men. As US forces leave Afghanistan, ending the longest war in American history, the Taliban is gaining ground. Young horseman Khaiber Akbarzada quickly rises to become one of the best players of buzkashi — the ancient sport where riders battle for control of a headless goat — but soon learns that fame is both a gift and a curse. To avoid the same fate as his uncle, a legendary buzkashi star who was assassinated during the civil war, he goes into hiding and must ultimately make a choice that will alter the course of his life. (Documentary)
Dylan (Charlie Plummer of Lean On Pete) lives an isolated life of routine in rural New Mexico, working odd construction jobs to help support his little brother and alcoholic mother. He accepts a gig working at the House of Splendor, a homestead built by a community of queer rodeo performers and ranchers, and soon the indefinable magic of an untamed America unfolds before him. Finding space to explore and discover himself, he becomes entwined in the life of Sky (Eve Lindley), a talented barrel racer and free spirit. While working together in the breathtaking expanse of the Southwest, they contend with the undeniable forces of nature, family, and love. (Dramatic Feature)
Photography: SXSW Film Festival