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SXSW 2017: your guide to the best music, films and TV

Premieres from Terrence Malick and Edgar Wright will pull in the crowds, but theres an impressive list of talks, TV showcases and music to investigate

This year, South by Southwest (SXSW) has had to weather a storm in the buildup to the annual week-long festival in Austin. Artist outrage and an open letter concerning a clause in contracts that seemed to suggest collusion between organizers and immigration officials has seen the festival promise to make a change for 2018. It has overshadowed a year that looks like one of the strongest yet, with the film element snagging premieres from the likes of Terrence Malick and Edgar Wright, and a list of featured speakers that offers looks into the topical issues of surveillance and virtual reality. The TV coverage continues to become an increasingly important part of the festival, with first looks at the highly anticipated Neil Gaiman adaptation American Gods and the film to TV transformation of Dear White People. Music is its usual sprawling mix of on-site showcases and offerings off the beaten path. Heres our pick of the must-see moments this year.


One of the most anticipated talks this year sees the Gawker founder, Nick Denton, discuss what has happened to first amendment rights in the internet era after his battle with Hulk Hogan in Life After Gawker (12 March, 11am, Austin Convention Center). You can also hear from one of the founders of the internet at Vint Cerf: An Internet For And By The People (12 March, 11am, JW Marriott). Hell be talking about an initiative to help connect the 3 billion people who still dont have access to the web.

Are Biometrics the New Face of Surveillance? (10 March, 5pm, Hilton Austin) will discuss the increasingly intrusive techniques used to track us wherever we go, from iris scans to palm prints. What this means for privacy and other questions will be answered there. Another menace of the digital age is fake news, brought to the fore in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. A Post-Truth World? Nope We Can Fight Fake News (13 March, 11am, Hyatt Regency Austin) discusses how to ensure the truth wins out. In Virtual Lifes a Drag: Queering in VR (13 March, 3.30pm, Hilton Austin), artists and scholars will explore how virtual environments can be used to create empathy for others. Later that day the much-criticized FBI director James Comey was supposed to be in conversation with Jeffrey Herbst, CEO of the Newseum, but he dropped out and will be replaced by the FBI general counsel, James Baker, (13 March, 5pm, Hilton Austin), who will talk about terrorist threats at home and abroad.


SXSWs opening film is bit of a coup: the world premiere of Song to Song (10 March, 6.30pm, Paramount Theatre), the new film from local boy Terrence Malick, with an extremely impressive cast of acting heavyweights: Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman and Cate Blanchett. Known for being media-shy, Malick always plays his cards close to his chest, but its emerged that much of this modern love story set against the Austin music scene was filmed in the city itself, with scenes shot at the Austin City Limits and Fun Fun Fun festivals. Good old-fashioned sci-fi horror is the premise for SXSWs closing film, Life (18 March, 8pm, Zach Theatre): a team of astronauts on the International Space Station discover to their consternation that the extraterrestrial organism they are carrying home has turned nasty and may wipe out the planet. Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds star; Child 44s Daniel Espinosa directs.

Another high-profile world premiere for SXSW: this is Edgar Wrights crime yarn, Baby Driver (11 March, 9pm, Paramount Theatre), which he rolled on to after parting ways with Marvels Ant-Man. Apparently inspired by a music video Wright made for Mint Royale and described as the ultimate rocknroll car chase film, this features Ansel Elgort as a music-obsessed getaway driver (called Baby) forced to work against his will by a crime boss played by Kevin Spacey. On the Road (16 March, 7pm, Paramount Theatre, among other showtimes) is another music-inflected film, which suits SXSWs style: this is nothing to do with Jack Kerouac but is instead a creative merger of documentary and drama by the 24 Hour Party People director, Michael Winterbottom. Its mostly a straight study of the British indie act Wolf Alice as they tour the UKs big cities; the twist is that two of the backroom people a roadie and a photographer are actors, and Winterbottom films their romantic relationship alongside the real stuff. A Judd Apatow world premiere is definitely an event: here the prolific producer-director has co-directed a documentary about the folk-rockers the Avett Brothers with Michael Bonfiglio. May It Last (15 March, 7pm, Paramount Theatre) follows the Avetts (Scott and Seth) in the studio for two years as they work on their 2016 album True Sadness.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/mar/09/sxsw-2017-guide-best-music-films-tv-music-interactive

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