Reflection on SXSW 2020 Shorts

A wealth of online resources have been made available for free during this time of growing pandemic, from Zoom, Marvel Comics, and now we have SXSW Shorts. For those of you who aren’t familiar, SXSW Film Festival (or SxSW, as it stands for South by Southwest) is one of the most prestigious film festivals in the United States, having served as regular launching platforms for filmmakers such as Richard Linklater and Lena Dunham, and is also an Academy Award-qualifying festival, meaning that you are eligible to submit your film for Oscar nomination if you’ve made it into one of these festivals.

Now over 60 short films (as of this writing) from the canceled 2020 festival, ranging from narrative, documentary, animation to experimental work, have been made available to watch online for free and without the need for signing up here.

If you are a film enthusiast or filmmaker with a few minutes to kill at home and close-to-stable internet connection, what better way to spend it than to watch some of the best short films circulating around the world’s top film festivals right now. They may be short but the good ones pack as much impact as the best films you’d find at any theater or streaming platform.

To help you get started, we’ve curated some of our favorites from the lineup. Feel free to watch them in this order (we have arranged them for optimal viewing pleasure) or simply use it as a portal to start your own movie-watching adventure.


Writer/Director: Ashley Eakin

A girl born with one arm gets set-up to go on a blind date with a guy who has one hand, and she is pissed!

Our rating: 4.5/5

Genre: Comedy / Romance

Our Reflection: This charming and progressive crowdpleaser can teach us a thing or two about how to treat a person with disability; with empathy, and not sympathy. It is also a perfect introduction to the wide range of films that you will find in the festival lineup, as cinema is, first and foremost, a tool of empathy. If you only see what you want to see, then you are bound to miss all the good parts.

Watch it here


Writer/Director/Editor: Santiago Menghini

Following the death of his father, a man must survive the manifestations of his inner demons over the course of a dreary night.

Our rating: 5/5

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Olivier Gossot

Genre: Horror/Thriller

Our Reflection: A film about regret called REGRET may not seem like it has much in the way of surprises, but not only does this nightmarish tale manages to surprise us, shock us, and scare us, it also does a pretty good job at piercing through our hearts (get the joke?). High-concept premise takes a backseat in favor of the character’s complex humanity in this haunting allegory about the price that we have to pay for silencing our feelings.

Watch it here


Director/Co-Editor: Carol Nguyen

Filmmaker Carol Nguyen interviews her family to craft a portrait of love, grief and intergenerational trauma.
Our rating: 5/5

Genre: Documentary/Drama

Our Reflection: 21-year-old director Carol Nguyen won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary for this deeply moving account of the classic Asian family struggle: conveying grief. In a society where familial harmony trump over most other needs (I’m looking at you Indonesia), discord often get silenced. But sometimes it is within those same discord that we also find our silenced humanity.

Watch it here.


Writer/Director: Ennio Ruschetti

Two Politicians shake hands. The situation escalates.
Our rating: 4/5

Genre: Dark Comedy/Horror

Our Reflection: A classic political satire with a little bit of gore and a hybrid monster thrown in. This short film may not have the same breadth of emotion as some of the best work you’ll find in the lineup, but it definitely proves that good films, like revolutionary movements, are variations of the same story told over and over again.

Watch it here.


Writer/Director/Cinematographer/Editor: Kira Dane & Katelyn Rebelo

In Japan there is a special way to grieve after having an abortion. Inspired by these Buddhist rituals, Mizuko is an intimate look of how a half-Japanese American woman reevaluates drawing ‘the line’ in abortion ethics when she becomes pregnant.
Our rating: 4/5

Genre: Documentary / Drama / Animation / Experimental

Our Reflection: A powerful narrative that utilizes the seldom tapped possibilities of the film medium to convey a moving story about grief, pain and longing using a combination of hand-drawn animation, stop motion photography and grainy celluloid footage. Largely made by two people, this film is probably one of the most impressive technical achievements in the lineup, although we found that the overly constructed narrative and symbolism also kill off some of its own sense of immediacy and rawness.

Watch it here.


Writer / Editor / Lead Actor: Parker Seaman
Director: Mimi Cave

A series of phone calls between Parker and his friends narrate Parker’s mission to find true happiness through superficial obsessions.
Our rating: 4.5/5

Genre: Comedy / Drama

Our Reflection: A thought-provoking anecdote that makes us wonder about just what some of the most happy-go-lucky individuals we know could possibly hide.

Watch it here.


Writer / Director / Lead Actress: Ingrid Haas

Gertie and her on-and-off boyfriend, Sam, face a major life decision only to realize that even when they know what they want, life has other plans.
Our rating: 4.5/5

Genre: Comedy

Our Reflection: A fast-moving and witty dramedy done in the best tradition of the mumblecore, this entertaining indie will melt your heart with all of its seeming effortlessness, while also reminding you to be just a little bit more grateful that you are alive.

Watch it here.


Writer / Director / Editor: Rachel Harrison Gordon

A biracial girl caught between two worlds prepares for her Bar Mitzvah and adulthood.
Our rating: 5/5

Genre: Drama

Our Reflection: The simple premise, coupled with its low-key filming style, makes this short appear deceptively simple at first, but the director’s sensitivity and understanding of what makes our childhood memories special, injects each dreamlike imagery with the kind of emotional weight and authenticity that remind us of just how important it is to look back and honor those memories. There are many things we lose on our way to become adults, and this poignant slice-of-life story reminds us that some of them are worth remembering

Watch it here.


Writer / Director: Janina Gavankar & Russo Schelling

While hanging a piece of art in her new home, a woman knocks a hole in her wall, revealing what might be another room. Her mind races and unravels as she wonders what could be on the other side.
Our rating: 4.5/5

Genre: Horror

Our Reflection: A psychologically dark and visually disturbing allegory about the dangers of giving in to one’s fear, this slow-burning but inescapable horror-thriller will suck you in and keep you glued to the edge of your seat. Just be careful not to stay there for too long.

Watch it here.


Co-Writer / Director: Nadja Andrasev

A betrayed wife starts to investigate her husband’s mistresses. Her jealousy is gradually replaced by curiosity.
Our rating: 4.5/5

Genre: Animation / Drama

Our Reflection: One of the most psychologically complex film we find on the lineup. A woman seemingly finds a cure to her insecurities by spying on her husband’s many affairs. Why she does it is left unexplained, but there are many possibilities; perhaps she learned to project her own repressed fantasies through him, perhaps she is an actress who dreams of playing other people and this is the closest she could get to that. Inspiring, mind-boggling, and worthy of reflection, this is the kind of film that will float back into your mind long after you watch it.

Watch it here.

Our Takeaway: What a year to be alive (quite literally)! We don’t have enough energy to review all of the films in the lineup, but we hope to have at least aroused your curiosity to keep digging. There is no shortage of innovation, thrill, and intimacy in the films that you’ll find here, from challenging new voices, tributes to classical storytelling, and everything else in between. Don’t take them for granted as these films have been made available online for a limited time only, so watch them while you can. Stay curious, stay critical, and stay until the movie ends.


COUP D’ETAT MATH: a series of animated collages assembled from refugees’ first-hand account of their most traumatic experiences.

DIRTY: an intimate high school romance about what the lack of sexual education can do to those who feel denied of their own sexuality.

REMINISCENCES OF THE GREEN REVOLUTION: a nostalgic critique of human revolutionary movements in Southeast Asia that are mostly initiated by the rich on behalf of the poor.

SOFT: a realistic portrayal of how anxiety and over-cautiousness seep into the daily lives of children who have been the victims of sexual abuse and slowly destroy them from within.THE VOICE IN YOUR HEAD: a Stranger Than Fiction-style comedy about the complex relationship we have with our inner demons.

Film pendek SXSW 2020 pilihan Jakarta Cinema Club ditulis oleh Yusgunawan Marto, @yusgunawan

Yusgunawan adalah seorang sutradara, sinematografer dan penulis.