The short films selected by the programming team in 2020 once more reflect the distinct SXSW vibe that we have all come to love, and part of what enables that is the festival’s very liberal premiere policy. As as we embark on our week of SXSW Shorts coverage which will see us debut individual of reviews of films we love from the program, today we are happy to kick things off with this playlist of eight short films that have been selected to the 2020 edition of SXSW and are already available online. Enjoy! 



Dir: Kevin Staake

Already available on S/W, Kevin Staake’s documentary Dieorama is a portrait doc unlike any other. The subject, Abigail Goldman, is not only a fascinating character—investigator for a public defender’s office by day and crime scene diorama artist by night—but Staake also manages to reconcile the two identities by immersing us in Abigail’s world in a visually lush way.


Affurmative Action

Dir: Travis Wood

In this subversively funny visual essay, Travis Wood explores the lack of diversity in advertising companies. The premise sounds tired, but his angle is ingenious and cringe-inducing. By exploring the “meet the team” pages on the websites of various companies, he comes across a very disturbing fact.

Betye Saar: Taking Care of Business

Dir: Christine Turner

After its Sundance selection, Christine Turner’s documentary premiered online as a New York Times Op-Doc. Her profile allows us to discover a more intimate side of legendary artist Betye Saar. At 93, her presence on screen is extremely charming, and of course her art speaks for itself.

Broken Orchestra

Dir: Charlie Tyrell

A two-time alum of the site (My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes was awarded our Best Documentary award at the 2019 S/W Awards and I Thought I Told You To Shut Up!), Tyrell’s new documentary was also selected at Sundance. Once more he showcases his clever and original storytelling with this film that shines a light on The Symphony for a Broken Orchestra project in Philadelphia. At its core a talking-head issue documentary, you nevertheless have to see Tyrell’s visual approach to the film which is one of the freshest in years. 


Dir: Caitlin McCarthy

In today’s climate, this extremely short animated short might be triggering to some experiencing germ-related anxiety. The title warns you of that, but doesn’t prepare you for the wild, colorful, fast-paced, and entertaining ride that this film takes you on. 

Deep Clean

Dir: David Wilson

No words can do this film justice! Music video legend David Wilson (Arcade Fire, Tame Impala) presents this short piece that was selected in the midnight section of the program. A quote from Wilson best sums up its subversive edge “After having queer concepts in my scripts rejected time after time, our main drive behind Deep Clean was to look square into the face of that appropriation, put a stake in the ground, and say ‘appropriate THIS’.”  Saying anything more would spoil it, I will only add that Harry Clayton-Wright’s performance will never leave you, and that it is very NSFW. 

I’m Happy, I Promise

Dir: Mimi Cave

Mimi Cave’s film is also a film that screams SXSW in the most pleasant, WTF and fun way. With a very specific sense of humor, this odd and weird vignette comedy shows great craft while capturing relatable emotions with a completely absurd narrative.

No, I Don’t Want to Dance!

Dir: Andrea Vinciguerra

A very short stop-motion animated short that was also at Sundance, this piece reminds us of how awkward dancing can be, and how being asked to dance is a situation every human being will encounter in their lives…Vinciguerra empowers us to say “No, I don’t want to dance”.


This post is an entry in SXSW Shorts Week, which seeks to celebrate the selected short films of the SXSW 2020 program in the wake of the festival’s cancellation. Follow along on our site, on YouTube, and on social media via the hashtag #sxswshorts.