Emily Cohen Ibanez on FRUITS OF LABOR and Agricultural Child Labor (SXSW21) – Sarah Knight Adamson Interviews

The insightful film Fruits of Labor focuses on California Central Coast’s rich soil, the beautiful nature of the area, and the laborers who work the fields. Ashley, an energetic, vibrant teen, works in those fields to help provide for the family. Filmmaker Emily Cohen Ibanez met her when she was 15 years old—two years later, she filmed her senior year of High School, documenting her struggles of balancing school and her farm work.

Read more

BEST SUMMER EVER (SXSW21) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Best Summer Ever is a weird and delightful tossed screen-salad of Crip Camp and High School Musical, with a side of Grease, where no one mentions the disabilities, and there is truly authentic disability representation. Both realistic and aspirational, Best Summer Ever is the sort of movie that may be fun and frothy, but it’s also needed in order for bigger studio films to consider more inclusive casting.

Read more

Stacey Gregg and Andrea Riseborough on HERE BEFORE (SXSW 2021) – Leslie Combemale interviews

Stacey Gregg makes her narrative feature debut with Here Before, which takes place in a small town in Northern Ireland, and is about a grieving mother Laura (Andrea Riseborough) who finds in her neighbor’s daughter echoes of her own child Josie, who died in a car accident. Megan and Laura begin a complicated relationship filled with awkward, unsettling conversations and inappropriate attachments. All the characters in the film make questionable choices, for reasons that become clear as this slow burn story packs lots of surprises and keeps you in thrall to the last scene.

Read more

UNDER THE VOLCANO (SXSW21) – Review by Rachel West

Director Gracie Otto’s documentary Under The Volcano isn’t just a deep dive into famed music producer George Martin’s legacy through his groundbreaking AIR recording studio in the West Indies, it’s a love letter to the people of Montserrat. Bookended with present-day footage of Montserrat and AIR which was devastated by the 1995 volcanic eruption, Under The Volcano ends on a high note of resilience, love, and affection for not just the past, but the island’s future.

Read more

LANGUAGE LESSONS (SXSW 21) – Review by Jennifer Merin

Language Lessons is a fine example of pandemic moviemaking at its best. Its conceit is simple, believable and appealing. There is nothing gimmicky about the production. Almost all of the action takes place via the internet — so there’s no need for social distancing and any inherent concern about or danger of contagion is eliminated. The story, essentially a tale of two characters who meet serendipitously on the internet, begins with their first encounter and follows their developing relationship as they, from afar and via the internet, offer each other support during harrowingly emotional experiences.

Read more

OUR FATHER (SXSW 21) – Review by Ulkar Alakbarova

Bradley Grant Smith’s Our Father is an absolute treat from the SXSW Film Festival. We need stories like these to remind us of the familial connection we need at all stages of life. We can deny it’s existence but not run away from it. Indeed, Zelda and Beta lost their father to suicide. But will they follow the same path by killing the only thing they have left – their relationship?

Read more

Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina on I’M FINE (THANKS FOR ASKING) and Pandemic Production – Leslie Combemale interviews

At the height of the pandemic, and frustrated by inactivity, filmmaker Kelley Kali decided to make a film, and engaged USC film school buddies Angelique Molina, and Roma Kong to write and produce it, and Angelique to co-direct it. The dangers of Covid and a non-existent budget meant they also had to use crew members for the cast, and find locations that were free and worked for their plot. Of all the issues folks were and are facing, the threat of not being able to pay rent and become houseless hit home to the writing and production team, so I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) was born.

Read more

I’M FINE (THANKS FOR ASKING) (SXSW 21) – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the crux of the story in I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking), but it adds a relatable layer to this endearing feature about a single mom’s daylong hustle to earn cash for an apartment. A small story with large stakes for its main character, I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) reminds us there’s a lot going on in someone’s life, even when they insist all’s well. It’s an appeal for empathy with a lot of heart.

Read more

RECOVERY (SXSW 2021) – Review by Rachel West

Pandemic-set movies are quickly becoming a dime a dozen, but stars and writers Whitney Call and Mallory Everton bring chemistry and comedy to their COVID road trip Recovery in what is definitely one of the funniest takes in the sub-genre. Call and Everton are definitely a comedic duo we’d be lucky to see more from.

Read more

LUDI (SXSW 21) – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

Ludi immerses viewers in one day in the life of a weary immigrant working for her slice of the American dream. But like its exhausted protagonist, the narrative ultimately runs out of steam. Ludi’s struggles and weariness are relatable, and Mompremier is so likeable that when Ludi finally reaches her limits, we can’t help but feel sympathy. Ludi eventually learns that she needs to care for herself as well as others, but the film’s momentum unfortunately needs TLC.

Read more