I regret that I was unable to get through all of the shorts available at SXSW 2021 Film Festival. They spanned the genres and even the mediums, offering audiences a wide variety of choices. My favorites ended up offering a mix of social, comedic, and dramatic commentary buried in these fun films that were less than 20 minutes long. Bruiser, Puss, and the Other Morgan are just a few of my faves from the festival. I wish I could tell you about them all.
Bruiser follows Darious (Noble B. Whitted) as he tries to navigate the world of masculinity. This comes after witnessing his father Malcolm (J.D. Williams) get into a fight at the bowling alley. As young boys do, he tries to be tough like his father, despite the man’s words to the contrary. Darious does get himself into a scary situation near the end and realizes that he is not as strong as dad. Meanwhile, Malcolm has the burden of the legal system on his shoulders as he tries to reclaim his life after incarceration.
The narrative highlights the influence fathers have over their sons. It also explores the beginning of a boy’s idea of masculinity. He gets it from his father. Bruiser shows that no matter what a father’s flaws are, he can still control the image of masculinity that he projects for his son. This is especially difficult for Black fathers who are entangled in our unfair criminal justice system. This story also illustrates another way that the prison industrial complex damages Black families.
Bruiser played at SXSW.
Rating 4 of 5.
The Other Morgan
One short embodied the complexities of dysfunctional family life. The Other Morgan is a story that follows Morgan (Allison Rich) as she goes about her day as a happy-go-lucky exterminator. She meets an old, school-mate turned pop star the same day that her father dies. That’s when things get dark for this annoyingly perky woman. She finds out that her father has another family and she has a sister…named Morgan (Mary Holland).
Of course, these women do NOT get along. Morgan 1 is just finding all this out while Morgan 2 has known about her sister all her life. Morgan 1 sees her sister as the more organized and put-together version of her. Morgan 2 even has a family and some amazing skills. She makes Morgan 1 feel as though her father had the second to make up for her disappointing life. However, once these sisters truly talk, they begin to see just how much they needed one another, and how their father may have been the catalysts to make one neurotically driven and the other a hopeless dreamer. Their family dysfunction only begins to heal when the person who created the sisters is no longer standing between them.
The Other Morgan played at SXSW.
Sex and dating are hard enough in a normal environment. In COVID lockdown, however, filling that need becomes quite a challenge. In Puss, Samantha (Sarah Ellen Stephens) is a woman trapped alone indoors due to coronavirus lockdown.
She is also a woman with a sex drive that is NOT being satisfied. Her “toys” are not it. She needs human interaction and will try to get it wherever she can. Even if that means sexually harassing the food delivery guy.
Soon, her libido gets so out of hand that she begins seeing things. Even the mice cohabitating within her walls have something to say about Samanta’s sex life. Yet, nothing is helping. It’s only getting creepier.
Puss is a comedy that explores the important topic of mental health and sexual health during the pandemic. Samantha’s desperate conversations with herself and things in her apartment are funny but also important.
Puss played at SXSW.
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