Best of SXSW 2021.

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From properly good Covid comedies to an epic folk-horror doc and an Indigenous feminist Western, the Letterboxd Festiville team reveals their ten best of SXSW Online.

We dug out old lanyards to wear around the house, and imagined ourselves queuing up the block from The Ritz (RIP). We dialled into screenings and panels, and did our level best to channel that manic “South By” energy from our living rooms.

The SXSW festival atmosphere was muted, and that’s to be expected. But the films themselves? Gems, so many gems, whether shot in a fortnight on the smell of an oily stimulus check, or painstakingly rotoscoped over seven years.

When we asked SXSW Film director Janet Pierson what she and her team were looking for this year, she told us: “We’re always looking for films that do a lot with little, that are ingenious, and pure talent, and discovery, and being surprised. We’re just looking for really good stories with good emotional resonance.” If there was one common denominator we noticed across this year’s SXSW picks, it was a smart, tender injection of comedy into stories about trauma, grief, unwanted pregnancy, chronic health conditions, homelessness, homophobia and, yes, Covid.

It’s hard to pick favorites, but we settled on ten SXSW features and two short films we haven’t stopped thinking about, in no particular order: Recovery; The Spine of Night; The Drover's Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson; Swan Song; Islands; Ninjababy; The Fallout; Ludi; Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror; Introducing, Selma Blair; Femme; Play it Safe.

Read more on the Festiville team’s thoughts and Letterboxd member reactions to these films on our blog.