We continue our preview series of the festival, this time breaking down the most exciting documentaries of the festival. With some very big names in the mix, this year’s fest has a strong chance of hitting big with audiences. Let’s dive into the mix of exciting documentaries at SXSW 2023.

Wild Life – Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi & Jimmy Chin

The first of two films this year from Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi & Jimmy Chin, Wild Life marks a return to nature documentaries. Focusing on Doug and Kris Tompkins, conservationists who founded North Face clothing, we expect an extremely emotional and uplifting tale. Conservatively, Free Solo and Meru remain two of the best twenty documentaries in the past decade. Assume Vasarhelyi and Chin have something special in mind.

Citizen Sleuth- Directed by Chris Kasick

A true-crime podcaster in Appalachia investigates a small town crime. While true crime earnestly increased exposure to podcasts over the last two decades, recent years have seen some backlash. The moral and journalistic ethics involved in creating entertainment out of tragedy remain murkier than ever. It seems that is the direction taken by Director Chris Kasick and this moved the needle for us.

The Lady Bird Diaries – Directed by Dawn Porter

One of our most popular First Ladies gets the documentary treatment. The Lady Bird Diaries provides a look into Mrs. Claudia Johnson, wife to Lyndon B. and a political figure in her own right. The Highway Beautification Act remains one of the most important pieces of legislation ever spearheaded by a First Lady. Dawn Porter (John Lewis: Good Trouble, Gideon’s Army) directing is also quite exciting.

Another Body – Directed by Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn

How can we avoid deep fakes destroying the lives of women around the world? For one young adult, her worst fears come true. Someone has deep faked her into pornography. An emerging problem across the world, Another Body has the opportunity to change real policy in America.

Louder Than you Think SXSW 2023

Louder Than You Think – Directed by Jed I. Rosenberg

Drums please! If you like the band Pavement, you’ve likely heard of Gary Young. If not, you’ve been missing out. The original drummer for one of the iconic lo-fi bands, Young helped establish a new sound. Yet the controversy and chaos he created forced the band to push him out. It may not be Pete Best, but how do you reckon with barely missing fame and fortune? Louder Than You Think seeks an answer.

Satan Wants You – Directed by Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams

Satanic panics and conspiracies make for riveting explorations. Satan Wants You looks back at one of the books that truly influenced the panics of the 1980s. When Michelle Remembers was pushed mainstream, daytime talk shows spread the lurid story like wildfire. Sometimes to understand the present, you have to look backwards.

SXSW 2023 Confessions of a Good Samaritan

Confessions of a Good Samaritan – Directed by Penny Lane

Would you donate your kidney to someone you’ve never met? The idea of altruistic donation continues to boggle the minds of many. Yet the need is greater than ever. Director Penny Lane points the camera at herself as she goes through with the process. Along the way she examines the origins of donation, what’s next for these procedures, and questions her own intentions every step of the way.

Pay or Die – Directed by Rachael Dyer, Scott Alexander Ruderman

Another medical documentary, Pay or Die examines the struggles to regulate the cost of insulin for those with diabetes. As someone with friends and family suffering from this disease, the price remains astonishing. Directors Rachael Dyer & Scott Alexander Ruderman take aim at the issue with what should be a very moving film.

Periodical – Directed by Lina Lyte Plioplyte

Round 3 of the medical documentaries attempts to destigmatize a woman’s period. After all, this is a natural process for more than half the worlds population. Director Lina Lyte Plioplyte not only examines the history of menstrual devices, but lays bear the unique complications that are often pushed into the shadows.

SXSW 2023 Riders on the Storm

Riders on the Storm – Directed by Jason Motlagh, Mark Oltmanns

Celebrity comes from specific cultural forces. For athlete Khaiber Akbarzada, who plays buzkashi, his celebrity comes at great cost. As US forces evacuate Afganistan, the young horse rider is put in an impossible position. His uncle was once killed for his beliefs during the civil war. What must Akbarzada do to avoid the same fate?

Which documentaries are you excited for at SXSW 2023? Let us hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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