#SXSW Is Canceled, and I’m Worried for Black Filmmakers

The Coronavirus outbreak is serious, but what will happen to creatives of color and all their hard work?

Numa Perrier
ZORA
Published in
5 min readMar 10, 2020

--

A photo of a SXSW banner on a pole in Austin, Texas.
SXSW 2020 banners are seen in the Red River Cultural District on March 6, 2020 in Austin Texas. Photo: Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images

A sinking feeling seeped through me, followed by confusion and fear — a cocktail for hysteria.

#SXSWCancelled was trending on my TL.

I scrolled slowly, confronting my own fears of the coronavirus. Each day the numbers are climbing. Just today I read that 16 million people in northern Italy are on travel quarantine, and here in the United States, the State Department has advised against anyone going on any cruises. I’m reevaluating my own travel plans for work and everyone seems unsettled overall.

With SXSW being canceled I knew a line had been drawn, and a precedent would ripple through my filmmaking community.

I am a Black woman filmmaker. Just last year SXSW put my film Jezebel and my career on the map.

SXSW is Sundance’s edgy stepsister. She’s the one who stirs things up at the holiday dinner. She’s unconventional and plays by her own rules. SXSW is for us filmmakers who do work often on the fringe — challenging linear structures — surprising audiences with a more raw take on any genre. Its 400,000 attendees throughout the 10-day festival bring global community and awareness to work that takes years to complete.

Hospitality workers, service workers, and thousands in the freelance space will be hit hard as they map out their year’s income around the financial boost of SXSW.

To demystify the process a bit, here’s what happens when you’re selected to one of the top film festivals in the world.

You get an email that opens with:

“We are pleased to invite your work as a World Premiere at SXSW…”

When I first read these words, I slammed my laptop shut and paced in circles in denial saying to myself, “This isn’t real, this isn’t real, this isn’t real.” This went on for a good five minutes before I called the star of our film, Tiffany Tenille, and could barely tell her I was so stunned. When I finally got…

--

--