Check out these 10 must-see short films

Add these SXSW shorts to your quarantine binge queue immediately.

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Illustration by Joshua Cheng | THE CHIMES

Lauren McBride and Kayla Santos

Austin-based film festival South by Southwest, also known as SXSW, was canceled this year because of the coronavirus epidemic—but that did not stop them from honoring their selections. In collaboration with Mailchimp, the festival has released more than 50 short films for viewers to watch online for free. Out of the dozens released, these 10 stand out.

Still Wylde

This beautifully produced short film will undoubtedly tug at viewers’ heart strings. “Still Wylde” tells the story of a young couple who experiences a miscarriage soon after they find out about the pregnancy. The filmmakers did not shy away from showing all of the gory details and heart-wrenching emotions that come with a miscarriage, making the story much more real and raw. In addition, the underlying message about the power that one person has to bring joy to another will cause viewers to smile through their tears.

Hiplet: Because We Can

In this classic rags-to-riches documentary, viewers learn about “Hiplet,” the combination of ballet and hip-hop into a unique style of dance. The Hiplet dance crew from Chicago expresses concern that there is a stigma against African American ballerinas, thus adding their own personal cultural twist to ballet. Their story about pursuing passions without fear of judgement is inspiring, the cinematography and visuals are stunning and the opening dance sequence feels like it was pulled straight from a musical.

Single

“Single” explores the fictional story of two different people who have disabilities. A mutual friend sets up a blind date between Kim, a woman with one arm, and Jake, a man with one hand, and Kim is not thrilled about it. The performances from these two actors are stellar as they portray different attitudes on life. Filled with witty humor and reflective moments, this short is nothing short of memorable. In addition, the surprise ending will have the viewer questioning whether or not there was any true character development at all.

The Voice In Your Head

“The Voice In Your Head” takes the stereotypical personification of a voice inside a person’s head and puts a surprising spin to it. During a normal, mundane day at work, the protagonist is shocked to realize that the voice inside his head is actually real and everybody can see him. This funny twist launches the character into what the audience believes is a newfound freedom with some lighthearted moments that evoke smiles. However, the story ends with yet another surprise, reclaiming the message that it is not always so easy to let go of that voice in your head.

I’m Happy, I Promise

This narrative short explores a topic that many people can relate to—hiding feelings. While many may not hide their true feelings to the same extent of the character in the story, the film utilizes phone calls to portray the character’s communication with different people at different points in his life. Though haunted by the deaths of family members, he distracts himself with activities such as self-care and roller skating, tricking the outside world into believing that he is fine. This gritty perspective into a common topic causes viewers to think and reflect.

Un diable dans la poche

A tale of betrayal, guilt and loyalty, the five-minute animated short—completely in French with English subtitles—follows a group of children who are forced into silence after witnessing a murder. As the youngest of the group contemplates confession, the rest brainstorm ways to keep him quiet. 

Regret

Viewers cannot help but jump, cover their eyes and stay at the edge of their seats while watching this horrific 15-minute short, which tells the story of a middle-aged man who refuses to attend his father’s funeral. Set in a dim, quiet and seemingly vacant hotel, the short captures the eerie plot perfectly. Plus, the haunting soundtrack—weighty, drawn out string chords—only adds to the suspense and horror. 

Heat

Director Thessa Meijer presents an interesting, unassuming story, set in an ice cream parlor called “Hitte.” The opening scene focuses on the young shop worker before giving viewers a glimpse of the eccentric ice cream flavors behind the glass—all neon-colored with odd toppings like iPods, cellphones and bracelets. A woman in a lilac tank top walks into the parlor but suddenly starts melting, the worker never once taking his eyes off of her. Viewers can only guess what happens next. 

Basic

The film opens with a young, blonde woman walking against a fluorescent wall that reads “cosmic love” before—snap. A selfie. The following scene jumps to a dim bedroom where another young woman—not the blonde one—narrates this blonde woman’s life while scrolling through her Instagram feed, labeling each of her posts as “basic.” It turns out photos of vanilla lattes, newly-bought pineapples and hikes with a significant other are the criteria for a basic person.

No Crying At The Dinner Table

The title of this short comes as no surprise, as viewers try to fight spilling tears throughout the film. Highlighting a grief-stricken Vietnamese family, the short vulnerably portrays the guilt and regret each family member faces as they reflect on their experiences with lost loved ones. A daughter ponders why she hardly embraced her parents growing up and a nephew remorses after leaving his uncle’s house a little too soon. Be sure to have a Kleenex box nearby for this one.

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