Even if you’ve gone to South By Southwest (SXSW) before, the 10-day film, interactive and music festival in Austin, Texas can feel overwhelming. There’s literally hundreds of events going on each day, so we’ve picked five must-attend events from each part of the festival to help lovers of LGBTQ culture navigate the buffet.
And if 15 queer events aren’t nearly enough, you can also check out our complete schedule of all of SXSW 2017’s LGBTQ events and more.
Hear firsthand from Nick Denton, the gay CEO of Gawker (the news site sued out of existence by gay, ultra-rich vampire Richard Thiel), as he discusses first-amendments rights, the future of media, and the forces seeking to undermine them all (basically, the likes of Trump and Thiel). Sunday, Mar. 12, 2017, 11:00 a.m. – noon
Last year, a handful of queer creatives came together to present the first-ever queer fashion panel at SXSW. Some of them will return this year to discuss how LGBTQ fashion designers can market their work in a way that challenges oppressive systems and supports the queer community. Expect a spirited and frank convo with spilled tea. Sunday, Mar. 12, 2017, 11:00 a.m. – noon
Watch a bunch of arty, queer tech nerds discuss how virtual reality can help present queer perspectives that “destabilize what is taken for granted” and “emphasize the performed and experienced rather than what is ‘objectively real.’” If that all sounds too heady, come anyway and enjoy the queer, virtual memoir and the VR exhibit of drag queens — fun! Monday, Mar. 13, 2017, 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Any fan of queer media knows the importance of LGBTQ storytelling, but how can LGBTQ filmmakers ensure that their viewpoints get represented “in front of and behind the camera”? A group of LGBTQ filmmakers engage this topic and explore the importance of making stories where sexuality and gender identity aren’t merely incidental but reflective of the inequalities and violence we actually experience. Monday, Mar. 13, 2017, 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Since its founding in 2010, Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project has been the source of much praise and problematic platitudes. Savage has recently teamed up with Lisa Kudrow’s creative team to present a modern iteration of “It Gets Better” for the digital streaming age — come hear how they made it happen and its potential benefits. Tuesday, Mar. 14, 2017, 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
After growing up black and gay in a small Texas town with his difficult mother, Todrick Hall became a triple-threat with a series of viral musical dance videos, a national tour and a full-scale original musical entitled Straight Outta Oz. Learn how he surpassed his hard-bitten upbringing to navigate the competitive world of showbiz in this documentary about one of the most celebrated gay muses of our time.
Everyone knows Amistead Maupin as the guy who wrote Tales of the City, the long-running and much beloved queer novels about life in San Francisco. But there’s so much more to Maupin, as his friends Sir Ian McKellen, Neil Gaiman, Olympia Dukakis and Amy Tan can attest. His personal journey “from the jungles of Vietnam to the bathhouses of ’70s San Francisco to the front line of the American culture war” form the heart of this funny and surprising doc.
In 2011, directors Lauren Wolkstein and Christopher Radcliff unveiled a 15-minute suspense/horror short about two vagabond brothers who startle a woman working at a wayside motel. The sex and violence bubbling underneath made it one of the most talked about shorts from Sundance and Outfest that year. Now they’ve expanded it into a feature length film. Oh shit, it’s gonna be good.
While American drag lovers stay bedazzled by the hijinks of RuPaul’s Drag Race, they shouldn’t lose sight of eight cross-dressing Brazilian artists who performed in a transgressive “Divine Divas” stage show at the height of Brazil’s military dictatorship in the ‘60s. This documentary recounts their legacy through interviews and archival footage and show their lasting impact on Brazil’s queer culture and human rights struggles then and now.
You probably know Wes Hurley as the director of Capitol Hill the comic web-series starring BenDeLaCreme, Waxie Moon, and Jinkx Monsoon. Hurley’s short film, “Little Potato”, tells an autobiographical tale of growing gay up in the Soviet Union and moving to the U.S. when his mom became a mail-order bride.
The 25-year-old rapper known as Cakes Da Killa is best known for his unapologetically raunchy lyrics and charming flocabulary. He’s droppin his new album Hedonism on October 21, but you can hear some fresh tracks as well as his other hypocrite-crushing rhymes at his late night show. Wednesday, Mar. 15, 2017, 11:45 p.m. — 12:15 a.m.
False Witness (a.k.a. is audio-visual artist Marco Gomez) remixes global club music through a provocative queer sensibility that emphasizes urban vibes while rocking with a relentless, hard-hitting beat. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard, but you can definitely vogue to it — prepare to sweat. Thursday, Mar. 16, 2017 11:30 p.m. – 12:20 a.m.
Outside of the Pulse nightclub tragedy in Orlando, LGBTQ musicians and music lovers have long felt unsafe and unwelcome in other venues including ones that refuse trans access to bathrooms and festivals that ignore sexual assault. A group of LGBTQ artists and activists confronts the problems together in a panel discussion on how to keep venues safe without further oppressing the most marginalized among us. Friday, Mar. 17, 2017, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Last year, The Spook School played our private party during their SXSW debut. This year the plucky queer punks from the U.K. have returned with an upbeat array of songs like “Burn Masculinity”, “Binary” and “I Want to Kiss You”. Their charming, multi-layered tunes make great listening for “anyone who’s ever been frustrated by the grievances of identity and growing up.” Plus, they’re super earnest and friendly. Friday, Mar. 17, 2017, 7:45 p.m. – 8:25 p.m.
Don’t be afraid of Michael Blume’s unabashedly personal a cappella lyrics or his soulful backing band; his live performances of electronic R&B and hip-hop jazz have transported New York audiences into very real and transcendent spaces as he croons emotionally about materialism, race and identity. Friday, Mar. 17, 2017, 9:10 p.m. — 9:30 p.m.
(Featured image, clockwise from top left: Todrick Hall, queer fashionistas, The Spook School, False Witness, a still from Divine Divas, Nick Denton)