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SXSW began as a music festival in 1987 and is now the world’s largest. In addition, it has grown into a festival of festivals, including film, technology, ecology, medicine, and education. The festivals feature educational, networking and promotional activities as well as relevant trade shows. If that sounds kind of serious, don’t worry, there are parties, gaming, COSPLAY, and things that cannot be categorized.

SXSW 2017 Preview: Movies, and Music, and Beers, Oh My!

At my monthly writer’s club meeting, I announced I would be absent next month because I was going to South by Southwest (SXSW). One of the other writers asked, “What is South by Southwest exactly?” That was a prompt for a 20-minute brain dump, but I started with, “It’s movies, and music, and beers, oh my!” It’s also an annual event, located in Austin, Texas, which produces a plethora of articles on Blogcritics, not only on the above subjects, but on politics, culture, books, science, gaming, maker-culture, and creativity.

SXSW
Rami Malek, who plays Elliot on Mr. Robot, at a session at SXSW 2016 on the making of the show

Besides my efforts at sharing this bucket list-worthy event, other Blogcritics writers, including “odd culture” maven Kurt Gardner, music master Tan (“Tan the Man”) Hoang, and novelist/poet Carole Di Tosti will contribute to this year’s coverage of SXSW, which will run from March 9-19.

It Started with the Music

SXSW began as a music festival in 1987 and is now the world’s largest. In addition, it has grown into a festival of festivals, including film, technology, ecology, medicine, and education. The festivals feature educational, networking and promotional activities as well as relevant trade shows. If that sounds kind of serious, don’t worry, there are parties, gaming, COSPLAY, and things that cannot be categorized.

Among the uncategorizable last year were a life-size recreation of the fun zone, complete with Ferris wheel, from Mr. Robot, the upside-down church from Preacher, the Game of Thrones iron throne, and a speech by President Obama.

SXSW
Burt Reynolds at the 2016 premiere of Bandit, a documentary about the making of Smokey and the Bandit

This year over 2,000 bands will converge on Bat City. (Austin has a lot of bats, so it has embraced them – well, not literally.) Much of the music is focused around 6th Street, and although Texas is in the South, country music plays only a small part in the festival. With bands arriving from all over the world, last year from 84 countries, you can hear techno, rock, Americana, world, funk, gospel, rap, bluegrass, and some things only Tan the Man will be able to explain.

Lights, Camera, Overload

I’ll be there for the movies. SXSW celebrates new talent, innovative work by veteran filmmakers, and often brings updated classics to fans. Over 100 feature films will play in nine days, along with hundreds of shorts and music videos, including a series from Texas high school students.

My list of must-see films includes world premieres of Atomic Blond, a graphic novel-inspired action-thriller starring Charlize Theron and James McAvoy, and Song to Song, a Terrence Malick-directed love story starring Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, and Cate Blanchett.

But, it’s not all about the stars. The list of films includes first productions and documentaries from both American and foreign filmmakers. Bill Nye: Science Guy will explore Nye’s transition from kid’s show host to climate change crusader. Kim Dotcom: Caught in the Web, produced in New Zealand, investigates the arrest of “the most wanted man on the web.”

By the way, in space, no one can hear you scream. But in Austin’s Paramount Theatre on March 10, you’ll be able to scream loudly at Ridley Scott’s Alien and see a special preview of his new film, Alien: Covenant that will open theatrically in May.

Talk Nerdy to Me

The conferences are hard to summarize in under 10,000 words. Topics include activism, artificial intelligence, branding, community building, creativity, design, leadership, storytelling, comedy, tech, virtual reality, and more. Speakers will include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, writer/producer/actor Bob Odenkirk, comedian and CEO of Nerdist Industries Chris Hardwick, and, literally, hundreds more.

SXSW
A robot at SXSW 2016 that was programmed to do stand-up comedy (She wouldn’t tell me her name)

Trade shows in the Austin Convention Center will highlight technology, convergence, gaming, art, music, and startups. All of these areas include meet-ups to swap ideas and network with other people smart and ambitious enough to come to SXSW.

Did I mention the free drinks? There are free Monster Energy Drinks and free beer. It’s only Bud Light, but I like it. See you in Austin. Or, read about it on Blogcritics.

Check this link for a summary and video of last year’s SXSW.

Featured photo by SXSW. Other photos by the author.

About Leo Sopicki

Writer, photographer, graphic artist and technologist. I focus my creative efforts on celebrating the American virtues of self-reliance, individual initiative, volunteerism, tolerance and a healthy suspicion of power and authority.

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