BitchWatch: 13 SXSW Films Directed by Women

Alice (Natalia Dyer) in Yes, God, Yes (Photo credit: Endeavor Content, Maiden Voyage, and RT Features)

What started as an Austin music festival in 1987 has become a film, interactive media, and music conglomerate, highlighting innovative culture-making from around the world. SXSW’s film presentations provide a venue for emerging filmmakers to showcase their work behind and in front of the camera. These 13 movies directed by women (some of which aren’t yet released) are bold, provocative, and give a peek into the future of film and women’s stories onscreen.


1. Being Impossible

Lucía Bedoya as Ariel in Being Impossible

Lucía Bedoya as Ariel in Being Impossible (Photo credit: Antorcha Films and Mandragora Films)

Director: Patricia Ortega

For a young woman named Ariel (Lucia Bedoya), having sex for the first time is awful. Left with questions about her body, the young, religious dressmaker discovers that she was born intersex and unknowingly subjected to surgeries as a child. Armed with self-determination and the truth, Ariel embraces the freedom to decide how she wants to live her life. 


2. Body at Brighton Rock

Body At Brighton Rock - Official Trailer

Director: Roxanne Benjamin

Roxanne Benjamin, the filmmaker responsible for a segment of the all-woman-directed horror anthology XX, has a new nightmare. After taking a wrong turn, Wendy (Karina Fontes) stumbles upon what she fears is a crime scene at her state-park summer job. Stuck in the backcountry and without a radio, Wendy is under orders to guard the site and wait out the night—alone.


3. Booksmart

BOOKSMART | Official Restricted Trailer

Director: Olivia Wilde

The first film directed by House’s Olivia Wilde asks: How do you make up for years of wasted time? Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) have always played by the rules, but on the eve of their high-school graduation, they realize that might have been a terrible and boring mistake. With one night to go before their window for high-school escapades shuts, Amy and Molly decide to go all in.


4. Go Back to China

Go Back to China - Trailer

Director: Emily Ting

When rich girl Sasha Li (Anna Akana) blows through her trust fund, she has no choice but to go back to work for her family’s toy business in China. Go Back to China is a bittersweet tale of a prodigal daughter finding connection and passion where she least expects it.


5. Greener Grass

Greener Grass

A scene from Greener Grass (Photo credit: Gulp Splash)

Director: Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe

In a demented suburbia, every adult wears braces, couples always wear coordinated outfits, and everything looks greener on the other side. This absurdist American dream from Upright Citizens Brigade comedians–turned–independent filmmakers poses the question: Is there really always room for improvement?

6. Jezebel

Jezebel Tease SXSW

Director: Numa Perrier

Tiffany’s (Tiffany Tenille) mother is dying. Still a teenager but needing to make ends meet, Tiffany moves in with family in Las Vegas, where her older sister (director Numa Perrier) introduces her to internet fetish cams. Tiffany quickly becomes popular on a new adult site, and dynamics between the two sisters quickly become explosive. Perrier described the film, based on a true story, as a tale of “Black Womanhood.”


7. Mickey and the Bear

Camila Morrone as Mickey in Mickey and the Bear 

Camila Morrone as Mickey in Mickey and the Bear 

Director: Annabelle Attanasio

Mickey Peck (Camila Morrone) is doing what she can to help her aging veteran father, Hank (James Badge Dale), but she’s also eager to get out of her small Montana town. When she has the opportunity to leave everything behind, she has to choose between family ties and her own west-coast dreams.


8. Mother’s Little Helpers

MOTHER'S LITTLE HELPERS | Official HD SXSW Trailer (2019) | DRAMA | Film Threat Trailers

Director: Kestrin Pantera

Joy Pride (Melanie Hutsell, formerly of Saturday Night Live) has only weeks to live, but when the former flower child’s estranged children come home to say goodbye, things aren’t exactly a lovefest. Kestrin Pantera, who both directed and stars in the ensemble film, made the decision to share co-writing credits with her cast when she realized how much of their own tragicomic family stories informed the film.


9. Qualified

Janet Guthrie in a scene from Qualified

Janet Guthrie in a scene from Qualified

Director: Jenna Ricker

In 1977, Janet Guthrie was at the top of American motorsports, the first woman to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. But by the next year, her career had inexplicably stalled. Qualified is a showcase of the fierce determination and skill of a groundbreaking woman, bringing to life a story that might otherwise have fallen to the margins of history.


10. Romantic Comedy

Romantic Comedy Trailer

Director: Elizabeth Sankey

From meet-cutes to kisses in the rain, romantic comedies have shaped the way we think of love, but because they’re so often dismissively relegated to the bin of “guilty pleasures,” they’ve largely escaped careful critical analysis. With the help of a chorus of critics, actors, and filmmakers, director Elizabeth Sankey asks us to rethink romance and take the genre seriously as a cultural force. 

11. We Are the Radical Monarchs

We Are The Radical Monarchs - TRAILER

Director: Linda Goldstein Knowlton

When Anayvette Martinez couldn’t find the kind of scouting troop she wanted for her daughter in Oakland, she created one of her own. Martinez and Marilyn Hollinquest formed the Radical Monarchs, a group of young girls of color who wear brown berets, earn badges for “Radical Beauty” and “Radical Coding,” and emphasize social justice in everything they do. We Are the Radical Monarchs follows the first-ever troop through the 2016 election and into the future.


12. The Weekend

Zadie (Sasheer Zamata) in The Weekend

Zadie (Sasheer Zamata) in The Weekend (Photo credit: Homegrown Pictures and Marada Pictures)

Director: Stella Meghie

Zadie (Sasheer Zamata) is, as she puts it, “extremely single.” The stand-up comedian is in such dire romantic straits that she goes on a weekend getaway with a group of friends that includes her ex-boyfriend and his girlfriend. Zamata’s sharp wit, honed on Saturday Night Live, spares no one.


13. Yes, God, Yes

Alice (Natalia Dyer) in Yes, God, Yes

Alice (Natalia Dyer) in Yes, God, Yes (Photo credit: Endeavor Content, Maiden Voyage, and RT Features)

Director: Karen Maine

In the midwest in the early ’00s, AOL chats introduced thousands of teenagers to masturbation and dirty talk, and Alice (Natalia Dyer) is just one. Trapped between her Catholic upbringing and her real desires on a faith retreat, Alice finally comes to terms with herself.


by Dahlia Balcazar
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Dahlia Balcazar was a senior editor at Bitch Media, the co-host of the podcast Backtalk, and the host of the live show Feminist Snack Break. She’s passionate about horror films, ’90s music, girl gangs, and Shirley Jackson. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.