SXSW Begins: Wikileaks, Texas, and Sleeplessness

Upon receipt of the festival guides, after curving through the maze of registrants looking for their badge, and having perused three volumes of programming (Interactive, Film, and Music) detailed in paperback books akin to college course catalogues – however with a whole lot of advertisements from major corporate sponsors – my head began to spin with confusion over just how a festival like this is capable of coming together to offer so much in so short of time. I am new to South by Southwest; this is my first year in attendance.

Last night, officially day one, I attended only one official festival event, the documentary film, Wikileaks: Secrets and Lies. As someone who was late to the party of Julian Assange, I found it educational. For those wikileak hipsters, this film offers a balanced perspective that however kind of clowns the new icon. The study focuses on the mega-load of information given to wikileaks by soldier, Bradley Manning, and how the information was released in stages. The story is told by leading reporters and executives from The New York Times and The Guardian, who broke the expose` side-by-side with Assange. Their mutual frustrations with each other ultimately led to Julian becoming the ostracized party, even within Wikileaks. The film leaves a lot to be desired however, such as strong details of his rape charges, house arrest, and the financial blockade against Wikileaks. But, as Director, Patrick Forbes said in the Q&A, it was his intention to tell the story of the big leaks, so be that as it may, he accomplished his intention.

And now, it is day two of this great festival and I’m just catching up, having slept until noon, to make up for 2 hours sleep in 36 hours. So much programming passes me by as I write this, having slept until noon, I wish each day was repeated exactly, because it is impossible to make all the events. I would have been happy to fully immerse myself in the festival from day one, but the drive across the nation was not so easy. Unseasonable cold and winds across the southwest seem to be in conjunction with record-breaking tornado activity in the Midwest. My ’86 Toyota Tercel championed through. I was stopped at New Mexico along with everyone, thanks to an I-10 closure. They told us it was due to winds. I found myself dealing with Border Patrol, one hundred miles within state lines of Texas. Trying to imagine Ron Paul or Rick Santorum being frisked by officers and sniffed by dogs is like imagining Cosby show up and wait for his spot on an open mic. My, how long it takes to drive across Texas, regardless of delays or weather. So, after nearly twenty hours of driving over two nights, I made it to Austin. Comedian, Kat Ramzinski, meets me at 6:45 AM in The Sandstone Apartments. The couch is my safe place and today, I am finally rested.

After the film, I cruised through downtown on foot, just a little ways, tired, watching in amazement at the intensity of partiers and noise on 6th Ave with so many happenings fueled by the influx of people in attendance of SXSW, and the music program hasn’t even begun! Kat was doing a set at “Dirty Laundry”, a weekly dirty comedy show at The Velveeta, a sort of comedy dive. Two corporate marketing girls in attendance to promote an Internet startup sat in the front row, heckling, making themselves part of the show, and the comedians who can’t resist, made them the brunt of their jokes. Eventually the pair was kicked out and the show came to a coughing end.

The Interactive and Film program at SXSW rolls on today and now it’s time to schedule myself in here and get moving. Please continue checking back everyday, where I’ll be telling my story and making nonsense of it all.

Sean Ongley

By Sean Ongley

Co-Founder of THRU Media. A background in non-profit, music, and radio preceded my ambitions here. Now, I aspire to produce new media and publish independent journalism at this site and beyond.

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