SXSW Festival Diary Day Five Saturday, March 20, 2021.

The SXSW Online 2021 Festival is coming to a close. Instead of battling traffic in Austin, Texas, festival attendees are streaming panels and performances.

‘Joe Buffalo’ filmmaker Amar Chebib tells the story of Joe Buffalo an Indigenous Canadian striving to become a professional skateboarder.

The 2021 SXSW Online Festival wraps its slimmed-down, five-day schedule and another value of the digital programming becomes clear to me. In previous years, many SXSW attendees would exit Austin after the opening half of the festival due to work budgets and schedules. Online attendees at SXSW Online enjoy a comprehensive experience streaming SXSW panels, performances, and screenings via digital and on-demand programming. It’s easy to sync your SXSW Online schedule with life and work demands. It’s a different festival experience from being onsite in Austin, Texas. Still, an online SXSW experience delivers a diverse and inclusive audience. I imagine future SXSW festivals will continue to offer a sizable online presence.

What I’m Watching:

Joe Buffalo

‘Joe Buffalo’ filmmaker Amar Chebib crafts childhood memories, beautiful landscape photography, and compelling narration into a beautiful short film. Chebib also receives an Audience Award in the Documentary Shorts Competition. Chebib tells the story of Joe Buffalo, an Indigenous Canadian striving to become a professional skateboarder. Actors Joe Quinton George and Gregory Bird Jr. provide strong support as the pre-teen and teenage portrayals of Buffalo. They capture the battles and childhood traumas from a separated family to growing alcohol and drug abuse. The storytelling revolves around Buffalo, now 43, owning past actions, honoring his First Nations heritage, and starting a new chapter as a skateboard mentor. By the time ‘Joe Buffalo’ wraps with a beautiful image of beachfront meditation, you want to experience more of Buffalo’s story. It’s the best compliment one can give a documentary short, the desire to see more of the story. 


Carolina Pluszczynski, Michigan Central Mobility Innovation District Development Director, Ford Motor Company, Komal Doshi, Director of Mobility Programs, Ann Arbor Spark, Heather Wilberger, Chief Information Officer, Bedrock Detroit, and Trevor Pawl, Chief Mobility Officer, State of Michigan, share an update on Michigan Central, a project transforming the City of Detroit into a tech hub.

What I’m Learning:

Building a Future Mobility Region

Michigan Central, a mobility innovation hub located at the long-dormant Central Station in Detroit, is one of the most inspiring civic tech projects in the United States. It’s inspiring to hear an update on the project and learn more about the unique partnership from Carolina Pluszczynski, Michigan Central Mobility Innovation District Development Director, Ford Motor Company, Komal Doshi, Director of Mobility Programs, Ann Arbor Spark, Heather Wilberger, Chief Information Officer, Bedrock Detroit, and Trevor Pawl, Chief Mobility Officer, State of Michigan. The Michigan Central project is transforming Detroit from the Motor City into the Mobility City. It’s also establishing Detroit as a connectivity tech hub.

‘Ford used to work in an insular manner. Our partnerships with Michigan Central and the collisions of agriculture, healthcare, and mobility force us to think faster and work differently.’ –  Carolina Pluszczynski, Michigan Central Mobility Innovation District Development Director, Ford Motor Company.

What’s New:

The 2021 SXSW Online Festival may officially wrap on March 20, but the inspiration continues via on-demand programming through April 18. It’s like SXSW week transforms into SXSW month.

What’s the Same:

It’s inspiring connecting with fellow attendees and festival presenters throughout the 2021 SXSW Online Festival. The festival’s digital platform exceeds expectations regarding connectivity and the community spirit that’s core to SXSW missions and values.

Behind the Screens:

Congrats to all the 2021 SXSW Film Festival Audience Award Winners, including director Mary Wharton for the Narrative Feature Competition film ‘The Fallout,’ a story of a high schooler dealing with the impact of a school strategy, and Documentary Feature Competition entry ‘Not Going Quietly,’ director Nicholas Bruckman’s story of Ada Barkan, a 32-year-old father who transforms his battles with ALS into healthcare activism.

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