SXSW Film Competition Going Digital in the Wake of Festival Cancellation

     March 13, 2020

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There is a silver lining for those films entered into competition at SXSW 2020 in the wake of the festival’s cancellation on March 6. Just one week after news of SXSW’s shuttering due to concerns over the growing coronavirus pandemic, we learning the film competitions for both feature-length and short films will be conducted digitally and with the use of screeners.

Thanks to The Hollywood Reporter, it looks like show will go on — sort of — as SXSW festival organizers announce the film competitions will go digital to minimize any public health risks normally posed by an in-person event. This means all juried competitions will go on as planned and will take place online, with jury members screening submissions through digital links. All of the feature films in competition will still be up for awards season consideration, namely the 2021 Independent Spirit Awards. All shorts (animated, documentary, narrative), will also be up for awards season consideration, namely the 2021 Oscars.

In a statement on the revived film competition, SXSW festival director Janet Pierson commented,

“This was going to a transformative event, and with the cancellation, the filmmakers were left stranded and scrambling. We had several Special Awards juries already in place via links, and since we are not able to present the event, we decided to continue and expand to all the juried competitions, if the majority of the filmmakers opted in and juries were available. We know it’s no substitute for the live SXSW event with its unique and fantastic audience, but at least it’s some way to get attention for these wonderful films.”

While it’s a relief to hear the films submitted and accepted into competition at SXSW 2020 will still be seen and considered for awards, it’s still a bummer for many, namely non-jury members, who were looking to seeing these films in person in Austin, Texas. We’re still not sure what the plan, if any, is for these films and any other title which hoped to screen at SXSW. Will screener links go out to those freelancers who were hoping to cover it at the festival? What kind of hit will the marketing campaigns take with the festival cancelled? We’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, the digital version of the SXSW 2020 film competition is expected to take place from March 13 to 21, with awards handed out on March 24.

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