The Wild South by Southwest

Oscar Flores, Copy Editor

Another month has passed and with it, another SXSW for the books.  SXSW 2017 lasted from March 10-19 with film screenings, music concerts, playable games, and a variety Q&A panels throughout the week.  Founded in 1987, the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival is dedicated to merging and celebrating different branches of the entertainment and business industry such as interactive media, film, and music through a variety of events.  


South by Southwest is divided into three subsections: Film, Music, and Interactive.  Other events are held throughout the week but they are smaller scale events. Multiple announcements and showcases were made so it is time to break it down.


At the SXSW film festival, various films from various genres were showcased to attendees.  Headline films shown consisted of Baby Driver, Atomic Blonde, The Disaster Artist, Life, Song to Song, On the Road, T2 Trainspotting, and Free Fire.  Most films released to critical praise while some lacked in that respect.  


Among the premier screenings of new films, special screenings were arranged for SXSW 2017.  15 minutes of Ridley Scott’s newest entry in the Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant, were shown as well as the original Ghost in the Shell film directed by Mamoru Oshii.  Cartoon Network had their own panel releasing new content from their current lineup of shows (The Amazing World of Gumball, We Bare Bears, Teen Titans Go!, etc.) along with a sneak peek at their new show, OK K.O.! Let’s be Heroes.


In order to spice things up, a couple of pilots from upcoming shows were shown at the SXSW Film Festival.  American Gods — adapted from Neil Gaiman’s novel — screened its first episode followed by a Q&A with members of the cast (Ian McShane, Emily Browning, Gillian Anderson, Ricky Whittle, etc.) and showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green.  A trailer for the show later made its way into YouTube for the general audience to see.  Along with American Gods, the follow up to the 2014 film of the same, Dear White People, screened the pilot episode directed by the showrunner Justin Simien; the series is set to make its way into Netflix sometime this year.  Shows such as Nobodies, I’m Dying up Here, The Son, and I Love Bekka & Lucy were screened followed by a Q&A with their respective showrunners.


Aside from the heavy load of films shown, a steady stream of music performances created a different option for those who attended.  


The SXSW 2017 music festival gave some limelight to 244 artists/bands from Austin such as Sweet Spirit, Edison Chair, Alex Napping, and Adam Torres.  About 2,000 artists representing a wide spectrum of the music industry were invited to the music festival to hold keynotes and perform.  Musicians from all over the world performed such as Sick Morrison from Monterrey, Mexico and Spinning Coin from Glasgow, Scotland.


Moving on to the interactive subsection of SXSW, many of the presentations this year focused on artificial intelligence’s effect on the consumer market and plans to add new and emerging technology to cities.  Sherri Greenberg, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin, hosted a panel discussing how new technology can improve current problems in multiple cities while Pamela Pavliscak, a digital anthropologist, spoke of the advancements in artificial intelligence.


Closing out the event was SXSW Gaming, a small expo festival open to anyone attending SXSW.  The expo opened up with a cosplay contest hosted by YouTuber and Twitch streamer KittyPlays along with special hosts Lyndie Greenwood (from Sleepy Hollow on FOX) and Alex Corea (from The Attack on Twitch).  From March 16 – 18, esports made a splash at South by Southwest with Fighters Underground; a Street Fighter V esports fighting tournament with a prize pool of $20,000.  


Not all the limelight went to all these big-scale events.  Telltale hosted its first crowd play of their upcoming Marvel game, Guardians of the Galaxy: A Telltale Series.  Screenshots of the game were released on Twitter by the official SXSW Gaming page.  Transitioning from comics to speed, SEGA hosted a behind closed doors events showcasing Sonic Mania, a 2D classic game, and the newly titled Sonic Forces, a modern entry in the franchise featuring two different gameplay styles.


Ending the festival were the SXSW Gaming Awards hosted by OMGitsfirefoxx (Twitch streamer) and Xavier Woods (WWE Superstar).  Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End walked out triumphantly scoring 5 awards; two of which were Game of the Year and Excellence in Animation.  Blizzard Entertainment did not walk away empty-handed though – Overwatch earned Excellence in Multiplayer, Most Promising New Intellectual Property, Trending Game of the Year, and Esports Game of the Year.  Other notable wins came from Pokemon Go (Mobile Game of the Year), Firewatch (Excellence in Art), Dishonored 2 (Excellence in Design), and Battlefield 1 (Excellence in SFX).
The South by Southwest festival was built to shine a light on talented musicians in Austin but has now grown to merge artists from different mediums and celebrate their creations.  The event continues to expand although no new additions have been made ever since they added SXSW Gaming.  As of now, South by Southwest 2018 is set for March 9-18 with registration information coming later this summer.  Full-length videos of featured speaker sessions are now available at SXSW’s YouTube page.