A still of Michelle Buteau and Ilana Glazer in "Babes." Source: IMDb

2024 SXSW Dispatch 2: Documentaries, TV Premieres, and Accidental Pregnancies...Oh My!

Matthew Creith READ TIME: 6 MIN.

The second day of the 2024 South by Southwest Festival started off strong with an intriguing documentary about a legendary R&B singer named Jackie Shane. You're forgiven if you haven't heard of Shane and her plight as a pioneering trans performer in the 1960s Toronto music scene, but "Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story" ensures that every viewer knows Jackie's name. After a moderately successful career in Nashville, Tennessee she moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to escape the bigoted South of the time. Jackie made her mark before disappearing without a trace in 1971.

Directors Michael Mabbott and Lucah Rosenberg-Lee utilize a unique rotoscope animation to enhance scenes and archival footage of Jackie Shane herself during phone conversations discussing her life story. Interviews with relatives who discovered their relation to Jackie after her death and those who knew her further tell Jackie's rise from choir member to soul-singing sensation. A contributor to what was once known as the Toronto Sound, her 1963 single "Any Other Way" became her most-known work and resonated with the Toronto music scene for years.

Jackie Shane's chronicles are seeping with mystery, as many Toronto natives believed she was possibly deported, murdered, or died in a manner not reported in newspapers due to her trans identity. It wasn't until many years later that Jackie was found alive and well (despite an advanced age), and global understanding of her contributions to music was finally recognized. As a Black trans person living and performing in a country not her own, Jackie Shane became a symbol of rebellion in the LGBTQ+ culture of the time.

But it's Jackie's time between her disappearance from the streets of Toronto to her reappearance decades later that give light to who she was, what her journey was like, and why she stepped away from the microphone at a time of great cultural shifts for trans people. Discovering her Nashville roots and the decisions she made to leave her family and fully transition come into sharp focus, especially when revelations of her upbringing, romantic relationships, and family dynamics are explained.

"Another Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story" is a well-developed documentary highlighting the career and suspense surrounding an eccentric talent. A singer who dabbled in playing the drums and other instruments, Shane's legacy is cemented within this film using interviews with contemporaries and musical icons alike. Several fundraising efforts have been put into place since Shane's death in 2019 to honor her offerings to the world of music entertainment, including plaques and a mural on the famed Yonge Street in Toronto.

Still of "Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story."

From there, I made my way to the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas for the season three premiere of the Max comedy hit, "Hacks." (Click here for an interview with the cast and creators.) After a two-year break, the intergenerational comedy series about aging Las Vegas comedian Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) and her woke bisexual comedy writer Ava (Hannah Einbinder) returns to television screens this May. SXSW showcased the first two episodes of the upcoming season, and let's just say the ladies haven't lost their chemistry.

"Hacks" season three picks up a year after the events of season two when Deborah fired Ava to let the young writer obtain other jobs outside of Deborah's orbit. Deborah has become a sensation since working with Ava, honing her jokes and punchlines that carry her up the comedy ladder into what's become a second act for the legendary stand-up. Ava has found her own success by pursuing other writing endeavors back in Los Angeles.

Their fractured relationship is chock full of punches and quips at each other's expense, bordering on the toxic side, which makes for some seriously funny gags.

Unfortunately, that's all I can say about the new season at this time, but trust me, the Emmy-winning comedy is as good as ever. The season three premiere took place relatively early for a sold-out crowd of theater-goers. It's quite an experience watching a television series on a big screen that just the previous night presented the rugged world premiere of Jake Gyllenhaal's "Road House."

But, the Paramount Theater was filled with devoted fans of the show, eagerly awaiting what Deborah and Ava had in store for them. When Jean Smart entered the theater dressed to the nines, a round of applause for the 72-year-old television veteran erupted, followed by cheers that only made the talented actor blush. It was a wonderful sight for someone deserving of the attention that only a character like Deborah Vance could command.

by Matthew Creith

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