South by Southwest: Mega film, tech, and music festival

By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer

SXSW art
Wacky sights abound at SXSW, like Max Zorn’s tape artwork, which uses nothing more than brown packing tape and light to create amazing images.

South by Southwest, or SXSW, is the biggest festival-conference you’ve probably never heard of, unless you’re a super plugged-in geek like us. Taking place every spring in Austin, Texas, SXSW blends film, music, and technology into a mega sci-tech and entertainment concoction of innovation and fun.

This year’s celebrity guests include ex-USA spy Edward Snowden, who leaked the National Security Agency’s top secret surveillance programs, tough-as-nails Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and rapper 50 Cent. SXSW, which is formally split into SXSW Film, SXSW Music, and SXSW Interactive (their tech section), will be taking place this year from March 7-16.

SXSW Interactive will show off the future of virtual reality with Oculus Rift high-tech goggles, offer industry insiders informative presentations about the highly creative future of digital media, and includes a special NASA presentation about the need for programmers to save the world from asteroids. Nintendo’s also partnering with Pennzoil, who’s using the upcoming Mario Kart 8 release to promote PurePlus motor oil products.

As for high-tech keynote speakers, much of the focus was on protecting citizen data from government spying. Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt promised that Google users are safe from US intelligence agents, and that the company is working on major robotics programs. Snowden, meanwhile, hosted a talk via videoconference, since he’d be arrested upon setting foot in America. He addressed how the tech community can secure the data of its customers from the government’s prying eyes.

SXSW blend
SXSW explores the blending of art, tech, and entertainment.

WikiLeaks founder and super hacker Julian Assange, who’s been avoiding capture from the US government for over 650 days after giving up official secrets via his website, also appeared via video screen. On Saturday, during SXSW Interactive, he echoed the themes brought up by Schmidt and Snowden.

So, what’s showing at the SXSW Film festival? The big buzzmakers include a world premiere of the movie Chef, starring Jon Favreau, John Leguizamo, and Sofia Vergara, and an airing of Godzilla: The Japanese Original, along with special footage from the upcoming adaptation. The crowdfunded Veronica Mars movie also made a huge splash, as fans cheered for the beloved characters.

SXSW Music will feature the iTunes Festival this year, with major artists like Coldplay, Imagine Dragons, Kendrick Lamar, Pitbull, and Keith Urban making appearances. And… who better to deliver the big speech than pop queen Lady Gaga? The 27-year-old will be addressing fans on March 14, the morning after her first-ever SXSW performance.

On a more humorous note, SXSW Comedy will feature legendary comedian Bill Cosby, whose epic stand-up routine is brought to you by the hilarious Funny or Die website.

Featured image courtesy of Aaron Rogosin on SXSW. Image of artist Max Zorn courtesy of David Fox on SXSW.