Documentary Shorts Program 1

Slices of life from across the documentary spectrum.

Programming descriptions are generated by participants and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SXSW.

Program Includes:

It’s hard to make it in the film industry, and nobody can do it alone. Those who have made it have had a secret weapon, an ace in the whole. For Jim Jarmusch, his was Sara Driver. While trying to find funding to turn his short film, Stranger Than Rotterdam, into a feature film, Sara went above and beyond her call of duty as producer to find money for the feature. The short was invited to the famed Rotterdam Film Festival, the perfect shot at securing funding. The only problem: The festival only had the money to sponsor a flight and trip for the director, Jim. Jim was not a planner, he’s more of what you would call an “ideas-guy.” join him to talk to financiers at the festival. But how?

A Polish mother grieves when her only child leaves their home in the suburbs of Chicago to study in Poland. While her son is away, she finds a baby squirrel in her backyard and forges a unique and powerful bond with the animal, raising him as if he were her own child.

THE TRAILS BEFORE US follows 17-year-old Nigel James, a Diné mountain biker as he hosts the first Enduro race in the Navajo Nation. Through revitalizing livestock and wildlife trails on his grandparents’ land, Nigel and a new generation of riders honor the connection to their land, community, and culture.

A girl and her community prepare for her Ihuk, the once-dormant coming of age ceremony of the Karuk tribe of Northern California.

Backstage at the National Opera in Warsaw. Worn hands carve wooden props, bend sheets of metal, dye tonnes of silk. Not a word is spoken. The Kubrick-esque images of the craftspeople speak for themselves. "Backstage" is a tribute to the invisible labor of costume makers, upholsterers, dyers, metal workers, shoemakers, wig designers, carpenters, and all the other craftspeople who devote their lives to art but are almost always obscured by the incandescence of the stage.

Michael Thompson is the longest serving non-violent offender in Michigan history and this year he is finally up for clemency. In 1994, he was arrested for selling three pounds of cannabis to a close friend turned police informant. He was sentenced to 42 to 60 years in prison and remains there even after Michigan legalizes the recreational use and sale of cannabis. The film follows Michael’s daughter Rashawnda and his lawyer Kim during the fight for clemency and examines the harm the war on drugs has caused on communities and explores paths forward as national Cannabis legalization gets closer to becoming a reality.

In September 2021, artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg covered the National Mall in a blanket of white: one flag representing each life lost to COVID in the United States. Her goal was to both show the epic scale of COVID deaths in America, and to simultaneously express that behind each number was a real, living person. "not even for a moment do things stand still" provides an observational glimpse into this exhibit, dropping into intimate moments of people honoring their loved ones, and interrogating the role of mourning and closure during an unfolding tragedy.

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Screening Category:
101 mins