Spring is typically the time of year when major film festivals start kicking off and film critics around the world get to see more of the "indie" or "underground" movies of the year.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has canceled most, if not all, of these festivals this year.
Fortunately for us, however, is that for the first time ever, content from festivals such as the Cannes, Venice, Berlin and Toronto film festivals will be available to watch from home.
South by Southwest (SXSW) was the first of these to take the virtual plunge. Amazon Prime Video, whether you have a Prime membership or not, is streaming 39 movies, documentaries, shorts and shows from the festival for free until Wednesday.
I was really happy to see all these filmmakers get a chance to share their art. Sure, it wasn't the way they had hoped, but it gave all of us at home the opportunity to see content that normally isn't available.
Naturally, I took full advantage of the SXSW content. I've always wanted to attend these film festivals, so I imagined that I got an exclusive invite to stream all this content from home.
Even a huge movie fan like myself needs a little break from feature-length films, so I spent a lot of my time watching the narrative and documentary shorts. Squeezing in six different shorts in an hour, I loved seeing different directors and writers' styles.
So far, my favorite short has been "Hiplet: Because We Can" by Addison Wright. Shot in my hometown of Chicago, Hiplet, created in the 1990s, fuses classical pointe ballet technique with hip-hop and urban dance styles.
Like most little girls, I wanted to be a ballerina. But after seeing this insanely talented group of young black women strut their stuff, traditional ballet just doesn't do it for me anymore.
These women know how to dance, and they look like they're having the time of their life while they're doing it. This documentary short will put you in such a good mood, and maybe even inspire you to get up and dance while you're home.
Fans of the sci-fi anthology series "Black Mirror" might like "Vert." Director Kate Cox shows Emelia and Jeff celebrating their 20th anniversary. They decide to try something new and venture into the world of virtual reality. By wearing Geordi La Forge-looking glasses, they get to see their ideal selves, which comes as a surprise to one of them.
This short is only 13 minutes, but tackles love, acceptance and the "what now" of this couple's relationship really beautifully and tenderly. Even though there are definitely heavy sci-fi elements in it, this makes a great love story at the end of the day.
There are several other narrative and documentary shorts to explore, but other ones I enjoyed include "Basic," "Face to Face Time" and "Modern Whore."
One longer film I screened was the documentary "TFW No GF," which translates from internet lingo to "that feel when no girlfriend." As Alex Lee Moyer's film explains, the term and meme associated with it has become a symbol for young men who post about isolation, rejection and frustrations with society on online forums. The online bulletin board 4chan has been a place where they can vent about pretty much anything while staying anonymous.
The documentary made me quite uncomfortable and angry at times, mainly from what these men are posting online, but overall it was a good dive into this part of internet culture. It wasn't made for me, and I don't think I'll ever rewatch it, but I learned plenty from it — mainly to never check out 4chan.
If you miss out on SXSW, there will be plenty of festival content coming soon including the 10-day We Are One: A Global Film Festival. With programming curated from 20 film festivals including Sundance, Cannes, Tribeca and others in Venice, Tokyo, Berlin, Toronto and more, the content will be free from May 29 through June 7 on YouTube.
As far as what movies, shorts, documentaries and other content will be available, organizers are keeping their lips tight. But in recent years, films such as "Eighth Grade," "Hereditary," "Pain and Glory" and "Parasite," all ones that I love, have premiered at these festivals, which means I'm super excited for this year's potential. I have my popcorn and seat ready, and I hope you do, too.