The South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festivals, held annually in Austin, Texas, sit at the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries. The 2018 SXSW Film Festival, which runs from March 9 to 18, announced its Jury and Special Award winners on Tuesday (March 13) with CalArts alumni taking home some of the top prizes.
In the Narrative Feature Competition, Thunder Road—about a police officer raising his young daughter while coping with the death of his mother—took home the Grand Jury Award. Written and directed by Jim Cummings, the film includes Natalie Metzger (Dance MFA 11) as one of its producers. Metzger has worked with Cummings on several other projects, producing his short films such as Hydrangea, The Robbery and It's All Right, It's Ok.
Metzger, also a filmmaker, has had her own films showcased in more than 60 festivals around the world.
Writer and director Nijla Mu’min (Film/Video, Creative Writing MFA 13) won the Special Jury Recognition for Writing award for her feature debut, Jinn. Inspired by Mu’min’s life growing up in the Bay Area, Jinn is a coming-of-age story centered around Summer (Zoe Renee), whose world turns inside out after her mother Jade (Simone Missick) converts to Islam.
The Undefeated, a sports and pop culture website owned and operated by ESPN, noted the importance and timeliness of Mu'min's film:
Her debut is meaningful for several reasons: She is a black female filmmaker working in an industry that often marginalizes black women behind the camera. She is also Muslim, and her film brings forth a nuanced and compelling look at Muslim families and communities at a time when the media often portrays followers of the faith as either one-dimensional villains or doesn’t portray them at all. She is also a filmmaker from Oakland, California, and 2018 has been a banner year for films released by directors from the Bay Area, including Boots Riley’s highly anticipated Sorry to Bother You, Daveed Diggs’ Blindspotting and, of course, Coogler’s Black Panther, which recently crossed the $1 billion box-office mark.
In 2017, Jinn was selected for the Independent Film Project's (IFP) Narrative Lab and received an SFFILM's Rainin Film Grant. The filmmaker was also selected to attend the 2017 Sundance Institute Sound and Music Design Lab at Skywalker Ranch and named one of 2017's "25 New Faces of Independent Film" by Filmmaker Magazine.
In the Animated Shorts category, the Special Jury Recognition prize was given to JEOM, written and directed by Kangmin Kim. The film, about a father and a son who have the same big birthmark on their butts, follows the son as he tries to scrub off his father’s birthmark to remove it (believing the two are connected)–but he just can’t get rid of it.
JEOM was also nominated for the Short Film Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival.