SXSW 2021: Asian Talent Spotlight

Like most highly anticipated in-person events of the past year, SXSW 2020 was unfortunately cancelled. Based in Austin, Texas, South by Southwest – also known as “South by” – is one of the largest tech and pop culture events of the Spring. SXSW made an exciting comeback this year by presenting their entire event lineup online making SXSW 2021 accessible via their very innovative and interactive app. Here are some of the film and TV highlights that you won’t want to miss once they’re released wide this year:

Asians on-screen

Did you know that SXSW made history for featuring three Filipino-led films in its film festival lineup this year? 😱 That’s almost unheard of for an American fest! Thank you, South by!! 😀

*There are about two missed films on this list (featuring asian leads) from the festival because the rsvp list piled up quickly 😦

Islands (feature film, drama)

Islands tells the somber tale of a middle-aged Filipino immigrant in Canada who is a caregiver to his elderly parents.

Learning Tagalog with Kayla (short)

Kayla teaches you how to speak Tagalog. And it’s not at all what you’d expect.

The Fabulous Filipino Brothers (feature film, comedy)

Photos courtesy of SXSW

Four Filipino brothers tell the adventurous stories of their lives in a series of mini vignettes. Starring the Basco Brothers and their families, it’s refreshing to see an all-Filipino-American cast in a feature film.

Broadcast Signal Intrusion (feature film, horror)

If you’re a fan of horror and crime – or maybe even just Harry Shum Jr. – this one’s for you. *P.S. This one’s not for the faint-hearted.*


Asians Behind the Screen

Femme (short)

Starring I May Destroy You‘s Paapa Essiedu and directed by Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping, Femme is the story of a man who gets in a world of trouble after getting in a car with a flirty drug-dealer.

The Box (documentary short)

In this powerful documentary short film, director Shal Ngo tackles the very harrowing real life experiences of those in solitary confinement.


Opera (animated short)

This Oscar-nominated Short film is e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. How do you even begin to summarize this for those who haven’t seen it? How do you articulate that you’ve just watched an intricate visualization of society, humanity, and existence? Director Erick Oh captures centuries and eons of life and encapsulates aaalllll of that in a continuous 9-minute animated loop. Its 2021 Oscar nomination is definitely well-deserved and you’d just have to watch this one for yourself. Be on the lookout for this short film out this Spring!


Asians on TV

As many of us know, Asian (women) leads on American TV are still very few and far between in 2021. That is why it’s refreshing to see two Asian American women take the reins in telling their own stories – their own way – in writing these two brand new series.

Parked in America (pilot, episodic series, drama & comedy) – based on the real life experiences of Korean American showrunner, Kayla Yumi Lewis

Chad (episodic series, comedy) – originally premiered on April 6th and airs Tuesdays at 10:30/9:30 central on TBS; starring SNL alum Nasim Pedrad as 14-year-old Chad


Which of these are you most looking forward to watching? Let us know in the comments below!

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