SXSW 2023: THIS WORLD IS NOT MY OWN – An Artist Discovered Late in Life

This World Is Not My Own, a documentary film by Opendox (Petter Ringbom & Marquise Stillwell), had the World Premiere at the 2023 SXSW Film & Television Festival. The film is about self-taught artist Nellie Mae Rowe born on July 4, 1900. An African American artist from Georgia, the daughter of a sharecropper and formerly enslaved person, Nellie made art from whatever she could find, mainly in obscurity. She created drawings, sculptures, and dolls (and collected objects), which she used to display and exhibit her home, called the “playhouse.” She was relatively unknown until six years before she died in 1982, a wealthy gallerist, Judith Alexander, “discovered” and introduced her work to the art world.

Rowe’s home and yard were where she created and exhibited her art, made from recycled and discarded materials (including wood scraps and chewing gum). Some members of her community did not embrace her home and the exhibits of her artwork. She lived with the issue of her house being defaced or damaged. It made my heart sing when I learned and admired how she created art from items she had or found, then repurposed them into art with important themes to her.

This film is so interesting because of the artist and how it mixes traditional documentary techniques with animations and scripted scenes. Opendox created the movie sets that reimagine Nellie’s “Playhouse” and partnered with Kaktus Film to design and animate 3D characters in Nellie’s and Judith Alexander’s likenesses. The recorded voices and movements of actresses Uzo Aduba and Amy Warren, who perform the scripted scenes (based on Nellie Mae Rowe’s quotes), make the film stand out.

The film has continued on the festival circuit and has won the Best Cinematography award at this year’s Atlanta Film Festival. Southern Fried Film Festival. After international film festivals in May, the schedule shows it will be part of the Southern Fried Film Festival on June 10 in Huntsville, AL. For screening Inquires, email:

Directed by: Opendox (Petter Ringbom and Marquise Stillwell) and co-written by Ringbom and Ruchi Mital, Ringbom also is the cinematographer. The editing is by Princess A. Hairston, with original music by Matthew Head. 97 minutes / Not Rated / English / Documentary / 2023

Source: SXSW, Opendox

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