Austin-based film, TV, and musical festival SXSW wrapped up on Mach 19, and despite taking place in Texas where LGBTQ rights are often under attack, the genre-driven fest was filled with queer movies to amplify LGBTQ voices and to let the state and the world know that the community will not dim their shine.
Tünde Skovrán’s Who I Am Not made its premiere at the fest, exploring the often overlooked intersex community via the lives of two very different people. Sharon-Rose Khumalo, a beauty queen with male genetics who struggles with gender dysphoria and Dimakatso Sebidi, a male-presenting intersex activist who turns out to be her complete opposite. The two find each other and help navigate the world together as the documentary gives two very different, intimate looks at the struggle of living in a male-female world, when you are both or neither.
In addition to Who I Am Not, queer documentaries were in abundance at SXSW with Sundance films like Little Richard: I Am Everything and the Indigo Girls doc It’s Only Life After All screening at the fest. In addition, queer filmmakers had the opportunity to showcase their work at their festival. Lagueria Davis debuted Black Barbie: A Documentary at SXSW, which is a deep dive into the history of Black Barbie and how it blazed the trail for inclusion and representation.
In addition, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the premiere of the HBO documentary Being Mary Tyler Moore directed by James Adolphus. From Lena Waithe and Rishi Rajani’s Hillman Grad banner, the puts a spotlight on the trailblazing TV legend.
In Amanda Mustard and Rachel Beth Anderson’s eight-year cinematic journey Great Photo, Lovely Life, we follow Mustard as she returns home to Pennsylvania where she investigates the sexual abuse crimes committed by her grandfather.
The hyperrelvant Queendom from documentarian Agniia Galdanova made quite an impression with its story about Gena, an ahead-of-her-time otherworldly, alien-like queer artist living in the a small, rural town of Russia where she is often misunderstood – specifically by her grandparents, who continue to misunderstand her. At 21, she uses her art as activism during a pandemic and while Russia invades Ukraine.
The riveting docu bolsters Gena’s voice, which she hopes change people’s perception of beauty and queerness and bring attention to the harassment of the LGBTQ+ community – specifically in her hometown.
On the narrative side, a diverse array of queer stories were told including the absurdist fight club comedy Bottoms starring The Bear’s Ayo Edebiri as well as Shiva Baby’s Rachel Sennott, who co-wrote the script with Emma Seligman. Luke Gilford’s drama National Anthem starring Charlie Plummer (who is giving major River Phoenix energy) and Eve Lindley is as much of a beautiful vibe of acceptance as it is as moving story about queer rodeo performers and ranchers.
Hannah Pearl Utt’s Cora Bora stars Hacks breakout Megan Stalter as a struggling musician navigating her open relationship with her partner (Jojo T. Gibbs) as she tries to figure out where she is going in life. And in Billy Luther’s feature Frybread Face and Me, we follow the journey of a young Native American boy Benny (Keir Tallman) obsessed with dolls and Fleetwood Mac as he and his cousin Dawn (Charley Hogan) spend the summer together on a reservation in Arizona. The heartfelt story gives a youthful perspective on gender identity and roles with an indigenous lens.
The raunchy comedy Joy Ride directed by Adele Lim and starring Sherry Cola, Sabrina Wu, Ashley Park and Oscar-nominated actress Stephanie Hsu was a big banner title that had a strong premiere at SXSW as it gives the world a taste of the Lionsgate feature set to premiere on July 7.
Queer films and filmmakers won big at SXSW during the awards ceremony. Filmmaker Paris Zarcilla won the Grand Jury Award for Narrative Feature for his film Raging Grace, a horror that confronts racial and class divides through the eyes of a Filipino house cleaner and her daughter.
Another queer film that won big at the fest was the narrative feature Ek Jagah Apni, which took home the Global Audience Award. Directed by a group of filmmakers known as the Ektara Collective and written by Rinchin and Maheen Mirza.
The film follows Laila and Roshni, two transwomen in India, who are looking for a house after they are evicted. Laila is torn between being true to herself and preserving her relationship with her biological family, and Roshni treads a fine line between concealing her identity and living the life that she wants, despite its dangers. Their search for a home is also their ongoing search for a place in society that is welcoming.
Other queer-centric films making an appearance at SXSW included Only The Good Survive, Bloody Hell, Brooklyn 45, and I Used To Be Funny.
On the SXSW TV side, there was no shortage of LGBTQ representation. In the quirky Amsterdam-set Marvin?, showrunners Anton van der Linden and George Gottl tell the story of two friends who are struggling with success, their queerness and substance addictions — until Marvin shows up. The thing is, Marvin is a magical manifesting being that gives them everything they want.
Julio Torres’s Problemista bowed at the fest as well as Janine Nabers and Donald Glover‘s buzzy series Swarm which definitely has some queer coding baked in its wild faux-Beyoncé fandom narrative. Other indie TV series that premiered include A Guide To Not Dying Completely Alone, Metal Man, and Slip.