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Ten Must-Catch Talks and Panels That You Don't Want to Miss at the Inaugural SXSW Sydney

What does the executive producer of 'Bluey' think of horror movies? What's the future of Chinatown? How do you communicate the magic of music? All these and more will be answered at SXSW Sydney.
By Ben Hansen and Sarah Ward
October 09, 2023
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By Ben Hansen and Sarah Ward
October 09, 2023
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SXSW is taking over Sydney between Sunday, October 15–Sunday, October 22. It's the first time that the world-renowned music, film, tech and gaming conference has left the US — and it has a jam-packed eight-day program in store. Included on the lineup is a slate of over 700 speakers, who will be appearing on talks and panels during the festival's massive conference.

You can browse the full schedule at the SXSW Sydney website, but it's pretty overwhelming with plenty of not-to-be-missed sessions popping up each and every day. In order to help you plan out your fest, we've compiled our picks for the cream of the crop — ten absolute must-catch conference sessions at SXSW Sydney 2023. Our recommendations include looks at Australia's arts and culinary scenes, big-name creatives sitting down for exclusive chats, and even a panel that we've pulled together ourselves pondering the future of journalism and digital learning.

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APPETITE FOR DISTRACTION: YOUTH,  INFORMATION AND THE DIGITAL AGE

Gone are the days of "I read an article about". Gone are even the days of "actually, I just saw the headline". We're now well and truly in the age of "I watched a TikTok". The way that we absorb information is constantly changing, and right now video is ruling — especially among gen z and millennials. Concrete Playground's very own SXSW Sydney panel is looking at just this, pulling together a group of video-first creatives to discuss how young people are consuming info in the digital age.

The panel will feature Pedestrian.TV's Issy Phillips to discuss news and journalism in the era of short-form video; astrophysicist and scientific communicator Kirsten Banks to chat about the role of TikTok, Reels and YouTube in sparking people's love in all things space; and Concrete Playground's very own Ben Hansen to talk about how we're searching for recommendations and deciding how to fill our calendar in 2023.

Catch Appetite for Distraction: Youth Information and the Digital Age at 2pm on Wednesday, October 18 at Room E3.9, ICC Sydney.

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Anthony Quintano via Wikimedia Commons

50TH ANNIVERSARY OF HIP HOP FEATURING CHANCE THE RAPPER

"As we celebrate 50 years of hip hop in 2023, I'm reminded of the transformative power this culture has had, not just on the world stage, but on the streets of Chicago's South Side," said Chance The Rapper, announcing his SXSW Sydney appearance. The three-time Grammy winner is appearing on the event's lineup to discuss the global impact of the genre five decades after DJ Kool Herc first isolated percussion breaks, then repeated them — and made history.

"Chance The Rapper is renowned for both his chart topping and community advocacy. There's few out there like him, who take what they've made and use it to build the dreams of others," noted SXSW Sydney Managing Director Colin Daniels.

The conversation should be top of the must-see list for all hip hop heads and music lovers in general. It also stands as the marquee session in a program full of hip hop — including other panels like Hip Hop How a Generation Is Changing the World, films like OneFour: Against All Odds, and boundary-pushing sets from rappers Redveil, Barkaa, Zion Garcia and Flyanna Boss.

Catch 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop ft. Chance the Rapper at 1pm on Thursday, October 19 — check the website for venue details.

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Dan Boud

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY — MICHAEL CASSEL AM AND KIP WILLIAMS IN CONVERSATION

After selling out multiple Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland runs, and before it hits the UK's West End with an iteration starring Succession's Sarah Snook, Sydney Theatre Company's The Picture of Dorian Gray is being dissected at SXSW Sydney. Premiering in Sydney in 2020, this take on the tale uses video and theatre to get its star playing 26 characters. In the Australian runs, Eryn Jean Norvill has done the honours, and brilliantly, with Snook following in the actor's footsteps abroad.

Renowned producer Michael Cassel AM will sit down with Sydney Theatre Company's Artistic Director Kip Williams to discuss the imaginative, groundbreaking and thought-provoking stage show. Developed right here in Australia by a local creative team during the pandemic, the The Picture of Dorian Gray is a real success story for Australia's arts scene — and this is your chance to take a look under the hood and hear what's next for the production.

Catch The Picture of Dorian Gray — Michael Cassel AM and Kip Williams at 4pm on Tuesday, October 17 — check the website for venue details.

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Nine Perfect Strangers, Vince Valitutti/Hulu

A SPOTLIGHT ON BLOSSOM FILMS

In a late addition to the SXSW Sydney program, Australian icon Nicole Kidman is joining the event. Adding one of the nation's most famous acting names at home and in America to perhaps the biggest tech, innovation, screen, music, games and culture festival that Australia has ever seen is fitting.

2023 marks 40 years since Kidman starred in BMX Bandits, but that's not why she'll be taking to the SXSW Sydney stage as part of its massive speaker lineup. Instead, she'll be chatting with her producing partner Per Saari about her production company Blossom Films. On its resume: the Nickers-starring Big Little Lies, Nine Perfect Strangers, The Undoing and Rabbit Hole, as well as this year's Elizabeth Olsen (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness)-led Love & Death.

Catch A Spotlight on Blossom Films on at 11am on Thursday, October 19 — check the website for venue details.

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DERRICK GEE — HOW TO TALK MUSIC (ON THE INTERNET)

You may have come across the soothing tones of Derrick Gee's voice on your TikTok or Instagram feeds chatting about Erika De Casier, audio equipment or the international influence of yacht rock. If you haven't, this is your sign to get lost in his videos right now. Gee will be hitting the SXSW Sydney stage to discuss the wonders of discussing music on the world wide web.

Sometimes music feels like this indescribable thing, but other times genres feel like they've been talked to death; however, Gee has a distinct way of finding the story and the humanity in the music he chats about. This is a must-see session whether you're a band or promoter looking to change up how you communicate your music online, a lover of all things sound or just like Derrick Gee's videos.

Catch Derrick Gee — How to Talk Music (On the Internet) at 11.30am on Friday, October 20 at The Guthrie Theatre, UTS Building 6.

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INDIGENOUS COLLABORATION: MAKING FILMS THAT HEAL

Māoriland Film Festival, the world's largest Indigenous film festival, joins the SXSW Sydney lineup in conjunction with UNESCO Wellington City of Film with a panel featuring award-winning talent from across the film industry. The focus: discussing Indigenous collaboration, plus creating films that facilitate change, and help the audience and the filmmakers heal.

On the panel: writer and director Chantelle Murray (My Name is Mudju, Elvis, Thor: Love and Thunder); Chelsea Winstanley (Jojo Rabbit, What We Do in the Shadows, Moana Reo Māori, Talk to Me), the first Indigenous woman to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar; Māoriland Film Festival Director and producer Libby Hakaraia; and independent film and television producer, director, writer and presenter Tainui Stephens.

Catch Indigenous Collaboration: Making Films That Heal at 3.30pm on Monday, October 16 at Cinema Theatre, UTS Building 6.

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BETTER THAN YESTERDAY WITH OSHER GÜNSBERG

TV personality and author Osher Günsberg is bringing two live episodes of his podcast Better Than Yesterday to SXSW Sydney. The man of many talents — including the host of Australian Idol and The Bachelor, creator of the satirical news parody NTNNNN: Night Time News Network Nightly News and narrator of Bondi Rescue — will take to the stage for two long-form interviews about how we can work towards a brighter tomorrow.

The first, on Wednesday, October 18, will be with psychotherapist and holistic counsellor Diane Young. Günsberg and Young will discuss the ramifications of addiction — however, they'll do so with the hope of creating a constructive conversation that will leave the audience feeling "better than yesterday". The following day, Günsberg will sit down with activist, politician and Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett. The conversation will traverse Garrett's storied career and also see the musician announce a brand new musical project.

Catch Better Than Yesterday with Osher Günsberg at 10am on Wednesday, October 18 and 10am on Thursday, October 19 — check the website for venue details.

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Netflix

CHARLIE BROOKER IN CONVERSATION

If you're a bit wary of technology's ever-growing influence in humanity's daily lives — be it artificial intelligence, streaming algorithms, social media, drones, augmented reality or online dating, to name just a few examples — then Charlie Brooker and Black Mirror might be one of the reasons. Since 2011, they've been spinning dystopian nightmares about what might happen as tech evolves. In plenty of cases, they've been satirising and interrogating innovations we use today, and what their next step might be. Yes, that makes Brooker the perfect speaker to get chatting at SXSW Sydney.

"Black Mirror consistently leads the cultural conversation on what we face in the now or may confront in our future, offering a chance for reflection and change. Charlie embodies what attendees can expect from SXSW Sydney: creativity and innovation," says SXSW Sydney Managing Director Colin Daniels.

Catch Charlie Brooker in Conversation at 1pm on Wednesday, October 18 — check the website for venue details.

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Alana Dimou

WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF CHINATOWN?

Sydney's Chinatown finds itself in an interesting situation. In some ways, it's continuing to thrive, with the streets packed every Friday night and a fleet of new venues arriving post-lockdown. At the same time, urban sprawl, the cost of living and changing migration patterns have seen the city's Asian diaspora move out to the suburbs more and more.

Moderated by Soul of Chinatown's Eddie Ma, this panel will break down where Chinatown is now and what's to come for the bustling inner-city district. The roster of experts joining Ma includes acclaimed chef and Chinatown resident Dan Hong (Mr Wong, Ms. G's, MuMu), property developer and Chinatown advocate Brad Chan, and award-winning architect Qianyi Lim.

Catch What Is The Future of Chinatown? at 10am on Wednesday, October 18 at Theatrette, Powerhouse Museum.

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HORROR & AUDIENCE: WHY WE LOVE TO BE TERRIFIED

Whether you love them, hate them or love to hate them, people flock to horror movies — and thanks to studios like A24 and an exciting batch of homegrown horror filmmakers, the genre is having a real moment right now. This panel features four leading voices in horror movies, discussing why they find the genre enthralling, the art of horror storytelling and where the spookiest of films are heading.

Daley Pearson leads the lineup of speakers, bringing experience from his eclectic career to the stage, including executive producing Bluey, creating the concept for Danny and Michael Philippou's Talk to Me and playing Thor's roommate Darryl on Team Thor and Team Daryl. Joining Pearson will be Wyrmwood director Kiah Roache-Turner, filmmaker Natalie Erika James (Relic) and Causeway Films producer Samantha Jennings (Talk to Me, You Won't Be Alone, Of An Age).

Catch Horror & Audience: Why We Love to Be Terrified at 2pm on Thursday, October 19 at Cinema Theatre, UTS Building 6.

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SXSW Sydney runs from Sunday, October 15–Sunday, October 22 at various Sydney venues. Head to the SXSW Sydney website for further details.

Top image: Brittany Hallberg.

Published on October 09, 2023 by Ben Hansen
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