Filmmaker In Focus: Barbecue, Easy Living, and Unrest

September brings a new wave of SXSW Film Festival alumni releases available for viewing. Many eye-opening experiences await, including a culinary journey around the world, a romantic comedy with a dark edge, and an investigation of the misunderstood phenomenon of chronic fatigue syndrome. Learn more about each film and read our short Q&A with the directors below.


2017 SXSW Film, Barbeque

Matthew Salleh is an Australian born, US and Australian based filmmaker who, with his partner Rose Tucker, have travelled to the corners of the globe to create his debut feature documentary Barbecue. His work focuses on capturing intimate portraits of unique and vibrant cultures as a pathway to understanding and appreciating the world we live in.

Q: Tell us a little about your film?

MS: My partner Rose Tucker and I travelled to twelve countries as a two person crew to capture portraits of how people cook meat over fire, and see how their interpretation of barbecue brings people together and is an indication of the cultural values they hold dear.

Q: What motivated you to tell this story?

MS: Having been fortunate to travel with previous projects, a constantly recurring theme was the pride people took in their version of barbecue. Everyone thought theirs was the best, and it ignited (pun intended) some pretty extreme passion. For me, ridiculously passionate people are the root of all good documentary storytelling.

Q: What do you want the audience to take away from this film?

MS: I hope people find a reaffirmed hope for humankind. It may sound silly, but when I started this film I was hoping that the global portrait we were creating would confirm my belief in the potential of humanity. And it was the everyday subjects of our film that gave me great inspiration – something that I hope the audience feels as well.

Easy Living

Adam Keleman's short, Going Black, premiered at SXSW in 2010. His work has shown work at a number of different film festivals around the country. As a film journalist and critic, he has written for Soma Magazine, AOL Moviefone, Slant, and Little Joe. Easy Living is Keleman's first feature.

Q: Tell us a little about your film?

AK: Easy Living is about a self-destructive makeup saleswoman trying to make amends with the past while also paving a path for a future on her own terms. The film interweaves improvised makeup selling moments with non-actors into the scripted narrative.

Q: What motivated you to tell this story?

AK: I was re-watching the Maysles's brothers film Salesman in 2010, and I thought about what a female version of that film might look like, and that was the first seed of the story. Easy Living is the third part in a triptych of films centered around female characters, exploring similar themes and locales of small town Americana.

Q: What do you want the audience to take away from this film?

AK:I hope they connect with the lead character despite all of her flaws, and appreciate the unconventional qualities of the film.


Jennifer Brea is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles. She has an AB from Princeton University and was a PhD student at Harvard until sudden illness left her bedridden. In the aftermath, she rediscovered her first love, film. Unrest is her film debut.

Q: Tell us a little about your film?

JB: I was a PhD student at Harvard, engaged to the love of my life, when I came down with a fever of 104 degrees. I got sicker and sicker, to the point that I couldn’t even sit in a wheelchair, couldn’t write my own name — but doctors told me my symptoms were "all in my head."

I began filming myself as a way to make sense of what I was going through, and eventually went online and found a hidden world of millions confined to their homes and bedrooms by ME, an illness commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome. Unrest follows my personal story as my husband Omar and I grapple with how to live with the new reality of my illness, and also follows the stories of four other ME patients as technology enables us to connect, bedridden, from across the world.

Q: What motivated you to tell this story?

JB: I began shooting on my iPhone at a point when I was so sick that I couldn’t read or write. I had been a writer my whole life, but when that outlet was no longer available to me, filming myself became a way to make sense of what I was going through and to reclaim a piece of myself. It was also a way for me to convey the severity of what I was experiencing to doctors, who often minimized or reduced my symptoms when I tried to describe them in words.

The idea to make a feature film came later, and that really evolved from a desire for social justice. As I began to learn the long history of my disease, and the way millions living with ME have been forgotten by medicine and ignored because of misogyny and stigma, I thought that if I could share the experience of this disease with the world, perhaps I could help to bring about change.

Q: What do you want the audience to take away from this film?

JB: I hope people learn from the film that ME is a serious disease with a long history of neglect due to sexism, ignorance, and bias; that those of us living with disabilities are complex and human and deserve to be seen; and that we all have the ability to find strength and resilience in ourselves.

Barbecue is currently available to stream on Netflix, Easy Living will play in select theaters on September 15, and Unrest opens in theaters on September 22.

Join Us For SXSW 2018

Grab your Film Badge today for primary access to all SXSW Film events including world premieres, roundtables, workshops, and parties. Register to attend by Friday, October 20 and save before prices go up in November. Make your hotel reservations through SXSW Housing & Travel for the best available rates. We hope to see you in March!

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and SXSW News for the latest SXSW coverage, announcements, application tips, and updates.

By Neha Aziz