SXSW Diary Day Three Thursday, March 18, 2021

The online 2021 SXSW Festival is in full swing. The online programming makes SXSW more accessible to artists, entrepreneurs, and musicians unable to travel to Austin

‘I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking)’ is a timely story of a recently widowed mother (Kelley Kali, left) and her young daughter (Wesley Moss) experiencing homelessness. The indie drama premieres in the Narrative Feature Competition at the 2021 SXSW Online Festival.

The online 2021 SXSW Festival is in full swing. Instead of battling traffic in Austin, festival attendees are making full use of digital platforms, including a mobile app to stream films, keynote presentations, and panels, without having to wait in line. The online programming makes SXSW more accessible to artists, entrepreneurs, and musicians unable to travel to Austin. It’s inspiring to share ideas with the online SXSW attendees in the daily networking sessions. Looking ahead to 2022 and beyond, I’m convinced that SXSW will continue as a hybrid event balancing onsite programming with digital accessibility.

What I’m Watching:

I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking)

Premiering in the Narrative Feature Competition at the 2021 SXSW Online Festival, co-directors/co-writers Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina and co-writer Roma Kong share a timely story of homelessness impacting a recently widowed mother (Kelley Kali) and her young daughter (Wesley Moss). There are plenty of headline topics throughout ‘I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking)‘ from low-pay, gig economy jobs to transportation and the higher percentage of homeless in minority communities. Beyond the timely topics, Kali and Molina keep the storytelling compelling via a cinema vérite-inspired visual style, a real-time narrative, and natural performances. I’m incredibly impressed by Kali, who steps in front of the camera to play the film’s lead.

Pete Buttigieg, the 19th U.S. Secretary of Transportation, joins journalist Jonathan Capehart for an SXSW Keynote Presentation.

What I’m Learning:

Keynote: Sec. Pete Buttigieg in Conversation with Jonathan Capehart

Pete Buttigieg, the 19th U.S. Secretary of Transportation, returns to SXSW with a new cabinet position in President Biden’s administration and a once-in-a-century call to action.  Buttigieg wants to transform and upgrade America’s transportation infrastructure. Inspired by previous government initiatives like the first transcontinental railroad, the Miami and Erie Canal, and the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate Highways, Buttigieg shares core goals with interviewer Jonathan Capehart. Buttigieg wants to fix the existing infrastructure, upgrade national airspace, and provide green automobile choices and alternative options to car ownership. Building a passenger rail network worthy of the United States is a significant priority. Buttigieg packs plenty of inspiration and optimism into his keynote talk. Listening to Buttigieg talk about the roles of empathy and equity in transportation design, it’s impossible not to become an advocate for his work.

‘Transit deserts are opportunity deserts and poverty traps. We can’t allow people to be on the brink like that.’ – Pete Buttigieg, the 19th U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

What’s New:

Who needs crowding into brand houses and music venues when SXSW online platform makes networking and professional introductions seamless via a networking channel and special events? Chance encounters remain a design challenge for the SXSW networking channel. I believe that 2021 SXSW online networking will be stickier than onsite meetings from past festivals.

What’s the Same:

Long days and late nights are part of the SXSW schedule. The 2021 online edition is no exception, with plenty of panels, screenings, and special events to keep one busy from morning to late at night. For many, SXSW is also known for its non-stop party atmosphere. Online attendees may need to set up open bars next to their laptops to create the SXSW vibe.

Behind the Screens:

An online SXSW Festival does not change the need for directors and producers to be part of a vibrant marketplace and receive feedback supporting their films. I like how SXSW promotes interaction with festival artists across digital channels. It’s a reminder of the crucial roles advocacy and community building play at festivals like SXSW.

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