Top Picks From SXSW 2017
Revisiting the best of the annual Austin fest's highlights, including emerging artists, films, technology, and more.
The annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festival celebrates the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. Held from March 10 – 19 in Austin, Texas, SXSW offered a plethora of lesbian-focused programming that drew celebrity performers, speakers, and attendees alike.
Panels and Speakers
The conference kicked off on Friday with The Business Case for LGBT Equality. The panel discussed recent measures in various states to repeal LGBT discrimination protections and the economic consequences. Speakers like Director Jill Soloway (Transparent) and the Lesbians Who Tech and LGBTQIA+ Gaymers and Geeks meet-ups also gave festivalgoers plenty to do and see.
Tuesday, March 14 brought the Sharing the Way to Global LGBTI Equality and It Got Better: Collaboration in LGBT Storytelling panels to the JW Marriott downtown, the de facto hub of queer-focused content.
Moderated by Maria Sjoedin, Deputy Executive Director of OutRight Action International, Sharing the Way to Global LGBTI Equality featured gay and trans speakers working to advance human rights around the world. Spotted in the crowd was Jen Richards (Nashville, Her Story), the transgender writer, actress, and producer perhaps best known for challenging Caitlyn Jenner’s political views on the Olympian-turned-reality TV star’s now-canceled documentary series, I am Cait.
Film and Interactive
Whether in the form of a Sapphic avatar in the latest videogame title, a dyke documentary, or the hottest lesbian stars of the silver screen, SXSW has it all. Highlights include film premieres of Signature Move, The Light of the Moon, and The Archer.
“Signature Move started out as a short. It was inspired by my relationship with my ex-girlfriend,” says one of the film’s writers and star Fawzia Mirza on the lucha libre-themed romantic comedy.
The film explores complex relationships between women against the backdrop of Mexican wrestling, through the eyes of a Muslim Pakistani immigration attorney.
“Nobody has this story,” says writer Lisa Donato. “It’s all these diverse women. It’s a colorful story. Women are put in a physical space while in the wrestling ring and that’s different. We were celebrating that piece of it and it became a political thing.”
The personal also becomes political as Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Stephanie Beatriz tackles the topic of sexual assault and rape culture in The Light of the Moon.
“I’m constantly trying to learn more about my craft and so I wanted something that was a more challenging, dramatic piece,” says the bisexual actress on stepping up to the emotionally charged role.
The Light of the Moon is the story of Bonnie, a Brooklyn architect, who is sexually assaulted and the fallout of the event as she navigates the (seemingly useless) legal system and attempts to rebuild her life and relationships. The film is a stark and gut-wrenching look at the realities of rape culture and Beatriz’s performance is outstanding.
Also premiering at the fest was The Archer. Loosely based on the true story of two Pennsylvania judges receiving kickbacks for sending children to for-profit juvenile detention facilities, the film features Bailey Noble (True Blood) as the bow and arrow-wielding Lauren.
Sent to the lockup for a trivial offense, she strikes up a friendship/romance with a fellow inmate and an escape plot is born.
Speaking of escape, for those seeking a break from the heat, there’s always the option to duck into the nearest bar for live music. The Tap Room at the Market was the place to be, hosting both Ocean Park Standoff and The Shondes toward the end of the week.
“Our EP came out a few weeks ago March third,” says Ocean Park Standoff guitarist, singer, keyboard player, and famous DJ extraordinaire Samantha Ronson. “We’ve got five songs out there now. It’s kind of a mixture of things that we like and love.”
The alternative pop three piece features Ronson, Ethan Thompson on vocals and keys and Pete Nappi on drums. They’ll spend the summer on tour with Third Eye Blind and Silversun Pickups for those looking to catch them on the road.
The Shondes were also on hand to dish about their new album Brighton while revealing a few of their songwriting secrets.
“There are new musicians in the lineup and they are incredible,” says lead singer, Louisa Rachel Solomon “Courtney [Robbins] is such a sick guitarist and bringing that in really elevated what we are doing, also having so many years of songwriting under our belts and trying to structure songs in a way that has the most emotional punch.”
In addition to Solomon and Robbins, The Shondes includes violinist Elijah Oberman and drummer Alex Smith.
For country music fans, there was the TuneIn Studios Big Machine Label Group Showcase. Out celebrity chef and country music lover Anne Burrell was spotted enjoying new music from Delta Rae, Midland, and A Thousand Horses at Easy Tiger Bake Shop and Beer Garden.
From the latest technological innovations and inspirational keynotes to the musicians and filmmakers of tomorrow, SXSW is always a great place to discover what’s new and what’s next. Just don’t forget to take a break and enjoy some delicious tacos or barbecue in the warm Austin sunshine. You never know whom you’ll meet in the crowd.
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