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The South-by-Southwest Conference and Festival

Austin is unlike the rest of Texas. For one thing, one of its mottoes is: "Keep Austin Weird” which is something the rest of the conservative state would never embrace.

Another thing that make it unique for the state, is that it encourages drinking, and the fact that it’s the home of hundreds of bars (The Live Music Capital of the World) is right there on the city’s official stationary. Weird art and weird culture are what make the Texas capitol tick, and one of the ways this is celebrated is the South-by-Southwest Conference and Festival (SxSW), which is held every March.

The concept goes back to 1986, when somebody in the city government noticed that once one of the local bands got the least bit famous, they’d go off to Nashville or Los Angeles and often never come back, so it was decided to have an annual convention for country music and rock musicians. The event was an immediate hit, and the three days of music and debauchery have been become one of the key events of the year -- not just in Austin but worldwide.

Not content with just musicians, the SxSW people decided to add film on the agenda in 1994, and now the SxSW Film Festival is  the biggest film festival in the South. But then again, everything’s supposed to be big in Texas. Last year, they screened 250 films, including 54 world premieres.

In 2007, the SxSW Interactive conference -- which is mostly about videogames and such -- was added to this. Each section is autonomous, and one ticket doesn’t get you into everywhere, that is if you don’t have the bucks.

Platinum (everything) and Gold (two out of three) tickets are expensive, and if you only are participating in one section, you can get tickets for individual performances and films. Plus there is a trade show, which is open to all three groups.

When not going to films, playing video games or listening to bands, there are panels and parties, which, unlike everywhere else, are the core of the event, rather than a sideshow. This is especially true of the annual block party, where those with passes can get free food and drink, or at least that’s what I heard.

A number of the films being shown this year have already debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, including the Duplass Bros.' Cyrus and Floria Sigismondi’s The Runaways, both of which are quite good, but not great. As to the rest, I haven’t seen them and can’t really comment.

This is going to be my first SxSW, and never having been to Austin, I don’t really know what to expect.

What I do know, is that the Film and Interactive sections of the event take place from March 12th to the 20th this year (2010) and that most of the events for these are at the Convention Center (500 E Cesar Chavez St.). How to get to the movie theaters and whether or not there are press screenings is still a bit of a mystery.

The SxSW website isn’t all that informative on mass transit, and I don’t know when the bus system shuts down for the night. The interactive stuff is mostly during the day the films are mostly at night.

So if the bus system works at night, the whole thing might be as good as advertised.

South-by-Southwest Conference and Festival (SxSW)
March 12 - 20, 2010
The Austin Convention Center

500 E Cesar Chavez St.
Austin, TX

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