The film side of SXSW was kind of an added bonus for me. To be honest, if I could’ve at the time, I would’ve just bought a music and interactive ticket but that’s not an option.

And so, when I woke up on about Day 5 of SXSW just wanting to curl up and watch a film after the carnage of the night before, I remembered I could, kind of.

The best cinema I’ve ever been in

Off I trundled to the Alamo Drafthouse Theatre to see The Alchemist Cookbook, as recommended by a girl in my hostel dorm who was the producer on it. Stupidly, I arrived dead on the showing time (thinking, ‘oh the ads’, not so at a film festival) and it was full. Instead I was told I could see Under the Shadow, so in I went to bag my seat.

Alamo Drafthouse Theatre

This was the coolest cinema I’ve ever been in (stock photo, I like it). There was a whole menu I could choose from – water and yakisoba please – and they bought it to your seat. There was all sorts on the menu – classic cinema snacks, American diner food, a vegan menu. The seats were comfy and it looked awesome. I couldn’t wait.

I DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS A HORROR FILM.

I don’t do horror films. Ever since that clown film IT at my friend’s birthday when we were 13 I actively avoid them. My imagination is too good, and I spend too much time on my own, doing scary things (in Hostels / in Australia / in showers) to have those kind of stories in my head.

It was only when I spoke to the couple sat next to me I found out what I was letting myself in for. Apparently he didn’t like horror films either. So when I later whacked him in the arm after flailing about when the film made me jump, I didn’t feel quite so bad. Embarrassing when I screamed though…

Under the Shadow

“Under the Shadow is a 2016 Iranian-British horror film written and directed by Babak Anvari as his directorial debut, in which a mother and daughter are haunted by a mysterious evil in 1980s Tehran.”

– Under the Shadow on IMDb

This film was terrifying. Honestly, absolutely terrifying. I watched most of it with my scarf over my face and I could barely eat the yakisoba that had been so lovingly delivered.

Films with subtitles always draw me in more because I’m unable to drift off from the action, as I usually do. The tension and mental torture of this film have confirmed my vow to never, ever, ever watch another horror film again. But if that’s what you’re into, the freaky kids and goings on will be right up your street. Just beware of that bit, you’ll know when it comes for you…

Suntan

“On a hedonistic Greek island, a middle-aged doctor becomes obsessed with a young tourist when she lets him tag along with her group of hard partying friends.”

– Suntan on IMDb

I wasn’t going to see this as I thought it would just be another ‘old man bags stunning young girl’ kind of film produced by some guy going through a midlife crisis with a film budget at his fingertips to make his fantasy come true.

It kind of was, but in a more realistic, believable, desperate, sad, kind of way. And that ending, woah woah.

The Greek island looks stunning and the clash of young meets old is pretty sad for anyone who isn’t young, or beautiful, or hedonistic anymore, unless you’ve never desired those things of course. In which case… nah, I think you’ll still like it. But don’t watch it with your parents, or children… NSFW!

Orange Sunshine

SXSW Film Reviews

“Orange Sunshine is the never-before-told story of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love – a spiritual group of surfers and hippies in California, which became the largest suppliers of LSD during the 60s and 70s.”

– Orange Sunshine on IMDb

I’d never even heard of the ‘Brotherhood of Eternal Love’ (a cult who deemed it their destiny to spread LSD throughout the world) or ‘Orange Sunshine’ (the name for the LSD) but now I have, I’m going to move to 60s California and give it a try. Or I would, if I could. Just jokes.

This was an emotional film yet fascinating as well. Featuring jail breaks, awesome vintage footage of the fashions, cars, and fun of that period in time, and a behind the scenes look at how easy it was to smuggle millions of hits in the 60s and 70s – as in SIXTY MILLION TABS, even from Afghanistan to the US. Yikes.

From Nowhere

sxsw films

“Three undocumented Bronx teenagers are graduating from high school while navigating the treacherous waters of trying to get their papers to stay in the US.”

– Nowhere Home on IMDb

From Nowhere won the Audience Award – the SXSW audience loved it and I did too. It was the kind of film style I’m into: realist, a glimpse into real issues and real lives, portrayed in a believable way.

This was a tough film, showing you how difficult life is for so many people who have escaped their countries and technically don’t have the documentation to prove they’re from anywhere. This stops them getting jobs, houses, help, anything. I’ve never really thought about it before, but as it’s so topical now it was really insightful.

The Director, Matthew Newton, stuck around for a Director’s Interview afterwards and it was amazing. I’ve never been in one before and it was so interesting to hear how he talks to the actors before scenes, his rules for on set and his vision for the film having just watched it, gave me such a buzz. I think I want to be a film director one day…

Gleason

Steve Gleason, Michel Gleason, Rivers Gleason

“At the age of 34, Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS. Doctors gave the former NFL defensive back and New Orleans hero two to five years to live. So that is what Steve chose to do, LIVE: with purpose, for his newborn son, for his wife, and to help others with his disease.”

– Gleason on IMBd

This film. This film is the saddest, most heart wrenching film I’ve ever seen. Totally eclipsing The Fault in Our Stars (have you seen that?). I didn’t know of Steve Gleason before the film started, and seeing as it was another Audience Award winner, I hadn’t looked up the film before it started. At first I thought it was about American Football and was going to walk out…

Gleason shows the absolute pain, torture, expense and desperation someone diagnosed with ALS goes through, and their family. Just writing this reminds me of the heartbreaking scene he has with his dad where they discuss religion and whether his soul has been saved from both their different religious perspectives. It’s probably the rawest display of emotion I’ve ever seen on TV. This is what people with life changing illnesses like ALS have to go through.

Gleason goes on to start up a foundation and is the pioneer of the whole Ice Bucket Challenge. If you want to know more about ALS, or cry until you can’t breathe, see this.

Films at SXSW

SXSW Film Festival

Watching these films at SXSW has definitely reignited my interest for the cinema. I used to watch loads of interesting films, not just blockbusters, but since I split up with my ex in London who was into the latest releases and followed the film world, I haven’t actively sought anything that wasn’t shown at the cinema.

That will change!

There was just so much to do at SXSW I only managed to see these five, but don’t you think it’s amazing that two of them were world premieres (Orange Sunshine and Nowhere Home)? So cool that I was there for that.

Let me know if you have any cool recommendations for films you think I’d like.

All these films will be coming to the UK at some point this year, by the looks of it, on Netflix!

Me and the Sunday Gospel Service at St Augustine's Church, New Orleans
How Much Does SXSW Cost?
tagged in film, SXSW