13 Films Featuring People of Color Premiering at South by Southwest

You probably haven’t heard about them — but yes, they exist.

Story by Namrata Prakash

Imagine this: it is South by Southwest, and you’re a person of color wanting to watch a movie that depicts the demographics of this country. Unfortunately, the biggest movies of the festival do not reflect this sentiment. In fact, most of the featured movies have an all-white cast. However, after much digging, there seems to be a handful of narrative and documentary features created by and/or starring people of color premiering at the festival. These films might not only be some of the best ones to come out of the festival circuit this year, but they can also help festival-goers feel a little more at home.

Narrative Feature Films

“Us”

One of the most anticipated films this year is Jordan Peele’s newest horror story, starring Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke. The film follows the lives of a family who want a simple summer getaway, but are pitted against the last people they thought would haunt them: themselves. The horror flick is one of the headliners, so you should get there early: ridiculously early.

Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone

Photo courtesy of Rolling Stone

Screenings:

  • Paramount Theatre on Mar. 8 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

“Ms. White Light”

Roberta Colindrez plays Lex Cordova, a woman who has made a fulfilling career out of counseling terminally ill patients, but can’t seem to handle relationships outside of the treatment center. This dramedy follows Cordova as she balances her eccentric personal life and the emotional toll brought on by her newest (and most stubborn) client.

Screenings:

  • Stateside Theatre on Mar. 11 from 5:15-6:51 p.m.

  • Alamo South Lamar B on Mar. 12 from 12:00-1:36 p.m.

  • Alamo South Lamar B on Mar. 13 from 3:15-4:51 p.m.


“The Garden Left Behind”

This film, directed by Flavio Alves and starring Carlie Guevara as Tina, a Mexican trans woman, depicts a grandmother and granddaughter who begin to build a life in New York City. As Eliana longs to go back to Mexico, the two must deal with the hostile external factors of being undocumented as well as going through a transition. Throughout the film, the two women become each other’s stable forces. Notably, a trans woman stars in a movie about...an actual trans woman.

Screenings:

  • Alamo South Lamar B on Mar. 9 from 9:00-10:28 p.m.

  • Rollins Theatre on Mar. 10 from 7:15-8:43 p.m.

  • Alamo Lamar C on Mar. 13 from 12:00-1:28 p.m.

“Jezebel”

As her mother sits on her deathbed, 19-year-old Tiffany (played by Tiffany Tenille) moves to an apartment in Las Vegas to stay with her remaining family members. To pay the bills, her sister encourages her to become a fetish cam girl. This career opens up a way for the girls to form strong relationships, not only with the customers, but between themselves.

Photo courtesy of South by Southwest

Photo courtesy of South by Southwest

Screenings:

  • Alamo South Lamar C on Mar. 9 from 12:00-1:28 p.m.

  • Alamo Ritz 2 on Mar. 11 from 1:30-2:58 p.m.

  • Alamo Ritz on Mar. 15 from 7:15-8:43 p.m.

“Being Impossible”

This Venezuelan/Colombian film depicts a religious young woman who discovers that she was born intersexual, but raised as a girl through the choice of her family. Filmmaker Patricia Ortega follows the woman’s struggle to decide whether she wants openly identify as an intersexual person in a society that rejects people outside of the gender/sex binary.

Screenings:

  • Alamo Ritz 2 on Mar. 9 from 7:45-9:10 p.m.

  • Alamo Lamar C on Mar. 11 from 11:15-12:40 p.m.

  • Alamo Ritz 2 on Mar. 13 from 9:45-11:10 p.m.


“The Weekend”

Stella Meghie pens and directs the story of Sasheer Zamata’s Zadie, a stand-up comedian who is pushing 30 and dealing with the painfully awkward reality of being stuck at her mother’s hotel alongside her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend. Zadie manages to rope in innocent bystanders on her journey to test whether or not exes can truly be friends, all the while trying to make the weekend as normal as possible.

Screenings:

  • Alamo Lamar B on Mar. 10 from 8:15-9:41 p.m.

  • Stateside Theatre on Mar. 12 from 11:00-12:26 p.m.

  • Zach Theatre on Mar. 14 from 11:00-12:26 p.m.


“Vai”

This film has a whopping nine directors, all Polynesian women, and was filmed in seven different Pacific countries. The main character, Vai, is played by seven indigenous women from the countries of Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Kuki Airani (Cook Islands), Samoa, Niue and Aotearoa (New Zealand). Vai, which means water, navigates her life through the lenses of multiple cultures.

Screenings:

  • Alamo Ritz 2 on Mar. 8 from 6:00-7:30 p.m.

  • Alamo Lamar C on Mar. 10 from 3:30-5:00 p.m.

  • Alamo Ritz 2 on Mar. 13 from 4:45-6:15 p.m.


Documentary Feature Films

“For Sama”

Waad Al-Kateab tells her life story in Aleppo throughout five years of the Syrian uprising, documenting not only the political conflict and a war gendered against women, but her personal relationships as well. The film shares the tender moments of her life against the backdrop of a war that has stripped many Syrians of international agency.

Photo courtesy of South by Southwest

Photo courtesy of South by Southwest

Screenings:

  • Alamo Ritz 1 on Mar. 11 from 11:30-1:04 p.m.

  • Alamo Lamar A on Mar. 12 from 5:00-6:34 p.m.

  • Alamo Lamar B on Mar. 13 from 6:30-8:04 p.m.


“We Are the Radical Monarchs”

This documentary follows a group of young women of color in Oakland as they are guided by the Radical Monarchs organization to learn and participate in various social justice movements. Showcasing their journey in badge-collecting and leveling up as women who will grow up to face these challenges head on, they learn how to be cognizant of the issues of various minority groups.

Screenings:

  • Alamo Ritz 1 on Mar. 10 from 2:45-4:22 p.m.

  • Alamo Lamar D on Mar. 11 from 12:00-1:37 p.m.

  • Alamo Lamar A on Mar. 13 from 7:45-9:22 p.m.


“Building the American Dream”

An exposé on the exploitation in the construction industry, specifically on Latinx immigrants of color, comes in the form of Chelsea Hernandez’s documentary feature. Through the lens of three families, viewers will be able to see how easy and cheap labor is when it comes at the expense of vulnerable and targeted communities.

Screenings:

  • Zach Theatre on Mar. 10 from 11:30-12:45 p.m.

  • Rollins Theatre on Mar. 12 from 5:30-6:45 p.m.

  • AFS Cinema on Mar. 14 from 6:00-7:15 p.m.


“Cachada: The Opportunity”

Marlén Vinayo’s observational documentary centers around five Salvadorian women who have ambitions to become theatre actresses. Forming their own company, they write, direct, produce and star in the stories of their lives as single mothers, street vendors and working class women. All the while, they must come to terms with their situations and the violence they have grappled with their entire lives.

Photo courtesy of South by Southwest

Photo courtesy of South by Southwest

Screenings:

  • Alamo Ritz 2 on Mar. 10 from 4:15-5:37 p.m.

  • Alamo Lamar C on Mar. 12 from 9:00-10:22 p.m.

  • Alamo Lamar C on Mar. 15 from 11:00-12:22 p.m.

“The Infiltrators”

Directors Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera help recount the story of Dreamers from the National Immigrant Youth Alliance who attempt to break into a detention center and stop deportations from within the carceral state. Though they stage their own arrests, things start to go haywire, and through both actual footage and staged reenactments, viewers are able to see how truly inhumane the fight against undocumented immigration is.

Screenings:

  • Alamo Lamar D on Mar. 8 from 6:15-7:45 p.m.

  • Alamo Ritz 2 on Mar. 11 from 9:45-11:15 p.m.

  • Alamo Lamar E on Mar. 12 from 2:30-4:00 p.m.

“Pahokee”

For fans of coming-of-age films, “Pahokee” is a must-see recount of four high school students setting off on their final year. It is not completely romanticized, however — the students’ town is rife with financial toil and the pressures of living up to America’s version of success. “Pahokee” doesn’t sugarcoat, but humbly lets viewers watch the lives of the four kids as they go through challenges that are mature for their young ages.

Screenings:

  • Rollins Theatre on Mar. 8 from 8:30-10:22 p.m.

  • Alamo Ritz 2 on Mar. 10 from 11:00-12:52 p.m.

  • Alamo Lamar B on Mar. 13 from 11:30-1:22 p.m.

Whether or not you end up watching some (or any) of these features at all, it is nice to know that there are films that exist out there spotlighting people of color. However, most of these films are indies and/or directed by people of color, which says a lot about the studio films with all-white casts. If this turned into a call-out post, it is what studio films deserve.

Happy South by Southwest, and milk your badge, pass or ticket for all it is worth!