SXSW 2021 Awards

Jenna Ortega and Maddie Ziegler in Megan Park’s The Fallout (2021)

Short but sweet, this year’s virtual SXSW Film Festival wrapped over the weekend with the presentation of the awards. We’re going to concentrate here on what critics have been saying about the winners of the main competitions, but we should note that a lot of prizes are handed out each year in Austin. SXSW showcases not only features and short films but also virtual reality projects, music videos, and episodic narratives as well as spotlighting title and poster design. You’ll find a full list of every single award winner accompanied by statements from the various juries right here.

Narrative Feature Competition

The top winner here is The Fallout, the debut feature of Megan Park, who began acting in her teens and is probably best known as Grace Bowman, the ex-cheerleader who appeared in all five seasons of the ABC Family series The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Now in her mid-thirties, Park began making short films and music videos a few years ago, most notably for Billie Eilish, which is undoubtedly how she met Eilish’s brother and producer, Finneas O’Connell, who has composed his first score for The Fallout.

The story is sparked by a shooting at a high school in California, but the focus is on the aftermath. Sixteen-year-old Vada (Jenna Ortega) is in the girl’s restroom with Mia (Maddie Ziegler), an Instagram influencer in the making, when shots ring out. Seeking safety in a stall, they’re soon joined by Quinton (Niles Fitch), whose clothes have been smeared with his brother’s blood. Park’s “aesthetic, a compelling blend of strong compositions (Park and cinematographer Kristen Correll show particular skill at overhead shots) and a social media-slick presentation, matches well with the tough material,” finds Kate Erbland at IndieWire. “Mostly, though, it captures the energy of the teenage experience—not just by way of on-screen texting (a lot of it, and most of it necessary and natural) or through sequences that often feel a touch too close to music video-issued idealism, but through Park’s obvious investment in the emotional life of her characters.”

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