The Best Films I Saw at SXSW 2019

SXSW took over Austin with glittering ferocity this month, bringing together the worlds of interactive, film, music, comedy, gaming and more. And as I scouted the gigantic festival for more powerful independent productions like our clients SADIE and Black Hat, I came across some truly unforgettable movies. They couldn’t be more different from each other, but the uniting thread is their burgeoning potential to blow audiences’ minds. Here are my picks for SXSW feature films you should keep an eye out for.

Jezebel by Numa Perrier

Somehow this tale about a phone sex operator helping her sister become a webcam model is both empowering of sex workers and a heartwarming story about family lifting each other up.


Daniel Isn't Real by Adam Egypt Mortimer

Take the best body horror F/X of Cronenberg & Carpenter, wrap it with the relatability of familial mental health issues and new-to-college-kid jitters, and amp it up with a hell of a soundtrack.

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The Peanut Butter Falcon, introducing Zack Gottsagen

A strong sweet Downs Syndrome man wants to become a pro wrestling hero so he escapes from his group residence in the South and teams up with Shia LaBeouf in a modern-day Mark Twain adventure.

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Sword of Trust by Lynn Shelton starring Marc Maron

A pawn shop owner, his dolt assistant, and two ladies with a mythic sword must "work" together to discover its origin. This movie was so hilarious I could barely finish my Alamo Drafthouse burger. I think this is Shelton's funniest film.

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The Garden Left Behind, introducing Carlie Guevara

This Audience Award winner centers around a trans-woman navigating gender transition while living as an undocumented immigrant in NYC. All trans characters were played by trans actors. This movie broke me open.

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Snatchers by Stephen Cedars and Benji Kleiman

Sure it's just a teen horror comedy to the tune of Edgar Wright and Barry Sonnenfeld, but it's perfectly written. It stars three women, glorifies female sexual independence, and I can't wait to show it to my friends.


Strange Negotiations about David Bazan and Pedro The Lion

This documentary was an incredible experience for me personally. I was a huge Pedro The Lion fan back in high school and there's a clip in this retrospective that I'm literally in, standing at the Showbox Market asking David Bazan, "How important is Jesus to you?" His reply from onstage: "Um, that's more of a private conversation." Bazan was at the screening and I got to remind him that we still need to have that conversation. Some day.

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Special mention - Music Video Jury Award Winner:

Hurray For The Riff Raff - 'Pa'lante'

Directed by Kristian Mercado Figueroa

This is a visually abundant and emotionally tender short film that serves as the music video to a passionate tune that means "Go forward." It's a brave new Puerto Rican director making a beautiful love letter to his hurricane-ravaged homeland. Watch it now: