SXSW Online 2021 Rewrites Rules of Game

There’s a feeling about the SXSW experience that cannot be translated by online screenings or seminars. 

By Michael Bergeron

Yet circumstances make the alternative unwise if not downright unhealthy. Special circumstances require special ripostes and using the technology currently available SXSW Online 2021 marks a sweeping return to the convention arena.

Your online registration gives you front row access, which is otherwise known as a computer screen, to events covering the gamut of film, music, comedy, speeches and sessions targeting interactive and technical formats.

Starting Tuesday, March 16 and running through the week until Saturday March 20 attendees can take delight in a variety of happening events from keynote speeches featuring such superlative personalities as Willie Nelson (Wednesday) or Stacey Abrams (Tuesday) to livestream performances from accomplished musical acts like Kevin Galloway (Saturday).

My beat is film and the first movie I previewed left me wanting more.

“Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: The History of Folk Horror” was like a master class in film genres.

This amazing documentary, divided into six parts, starts with the holy trinity of folk horror films: “Witchfinder General,” “Wicker Man” and “Blood on Satan’s Claw.”

The majority of the film explores Anglocentric or American topics like the reemergence of old religion in the case of the UK and hidden metaphors in US theology like the use of Hoodoo in the 2005 “The Skeleton Key.”

Writers such as M. R. Jones or H. P. Lovecraft whose work has been appropriated for thematic similarity to the folk horror genre (if not responsible for inspiring same) pop up frequently.

A documentary on Otto Rahn (2001’s “The Secret Glory”) gets the coverage it deserves. Rahn was a homosexual member of the SS who was renowned for his theories on the Holy Grail (a topic that pops up in such films as Indiana Jones series) but was jettisoned for his lifestyle. His subsequent death after attempting to flee Germany still remains a mystery.

Despite running over three-hours the film never feels padded. In part five the filmmakers explore Folk Horror from Other Countries. All of a sudden you’re aware of films you’ve seen perhaps years ago like Peter Weir’s “The Last Wave” or Masaki Kobayashi’s “Kwaidan.”

This segment of the film compacts a world tour of cinema for over an hour and could literally be an acclaimed documentary in its own right.

I’ve rarely been so sorry to see a film end and I look forward to a second viewing.

SXSW Online 2021 Film Picks

  • “Luchadoras” – Documentary about lady wrestlers in Ciudad Juárez.
  • “Jakob’s Wife” – Horror film with Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden deserves a nod if only for the casting.
  • “Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free” – New doc on rocker Petty incorporates previously unseen 16mm footage shot during recording of “Wildflowers” LP.
  • “Without Getting Killed or Caught” – Music doc covers relation between Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt.
  • “Swan Song” – Feature starring Udo Kier as a hairdresser who bolts from his nursing home.
  • “The Sparks Brothers” – Edgar Wright helmed documentary about musical group Sparks.

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