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SXSW 2022 day five: The films we're watching at the festival

To Leslie follows the redemption arc of a single money who wins the lottery and drinks the money away. (To Leslie)

SXSW brought out the big guns with a star-studded film lineup: Nicolas Cage, Channing Tatum, Anne Hathaway and Daniel Radcliffe all had a film showing at this year's festival. However, for every big studio production, there are a dozen independent films and even less time to watch them all.


There are hundreds of films to choose from at SXSW, from feature-length movies, to documentaries, to episodic content, to local short films, but here are a few we checked out this week.

Crows are White

Encircling the subject of religion and how it impacts our lives, director Ahsen Nadeem travels to Kyoto, Japan to meet with an ancient Buddhist sect of monks who complete acts of extreme physical endurance in the name of enlightenment. Hoping to find the answers to his own troubles as he struggles to tell his strict Muslim parents that he has married a woman outside his religion, Nadeem enters the monastery to a less-than-thrilled reception and is quickly put to the test. For a few days, Nadeem follows a monk named Kamahori on his daily walks and rituals until he is abruptly escorted out and asked not to return.

When Nadeem returns, hoping to masquerade as a tourist, he meets a monk named Ryushin, who would rather spend his days listening to heavy metal and searching the city for the best ice cream sundae. Ryushin agrees to visit with Nadeem in secret and the pair forms an unlikely friendship.

Over the course of five years, Ryushin and Nadeem watch each other through their ups and downs. Nadeem values Ryushin's comfort with himself, despite breaking the rules—a trait Nadeem wishes to foster in himself. "Crows are White" will take you over three continents, intertwining the director's own story with the monks', telling stories of two religions and Nadeem's personal reckoning.

"Crows are White" is playing twice more on March 16, with one showing at 12:30 p.m. and another at 1 p.m., at Violet Crown Cinema.

To Leslie

Following the brief rise and lengthy fall of Leslie, a single West Texas mother, after winning $190,000 in the lottery and quickly drinking it away. The film, directed by Michael Morris, begins years after her lottery win with Leslie—homeless, an alcoholic and down on her luck—waiting to be picked up by her now young adult son, James, who gives her a roof over her head and clothes on her back with one condition: no drinking.

After she breaks James' rule less than one day later, her son sends Leslie back to her hometown to confront the consequences of her actions and the people that she hurt in the process. After being kicked out of every place she was given to stay, motel clerk Sweeney takes a chance on Leslie and gives her a job.

Sweeney's influence leads Leslie to come face-to-face with herself and gives her the chance to turn things around. You may not feel sorry for Leslie but you'll root for her, share in her joys and sorrows, and hope she makes it through to the other side.

To Leslie is playing one last time on March 18 at 9:45 p.m. at Alamo Lamar A.

Clean

Who do you call to clean up the mess on the worst day of your life? Australians might call Sandra Pankhurst, a trauma cleaner who cleans spaces that nobody else would go near—hoarder homes, meth labs, crime scenes and shudder-worthy sights—with extreme kindness for the folks that live in them.

"Clean," directed by Lachlan McLeod, not only goes into the details of what it takes to be a trauma cleaner but tells the tale of how Pankhurst started the first trauma cleaning business in Melbourne. From an extremely traumatic background herself, Pankhurst was adopted and rejected by her new family at a young age, transitioned from male to female as a young adult, and went into prostitution all before starting the business.

You'll follow McLeod as he visits with clients to learn how the service has changed their life but you'll also bear witness to ongoing changes in Pankhurst's life, like living with a terminal lung illness from cleaning unprotected and getting in touch with her birth mother for the first time in her more than 70 years on Earth. "Clean" shows the fragility of life and gives hope of human connection.

"Clean" has one more screening on March 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Alamo Lamar A.

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