And now, for some good news. Among the many victims of SXSW's last-minute cancellation was the loss of its 10-day film festival, a cinema celebration ranging from Hollywood blockbusters to sleeper indies to Academy Award-winning documentaries. (Seriously, if you still haven't seen For Sama, put it on your confinement must-watch list.)

SXSW Film is part of a small but important network of festivals that help artists find distributors and get onto screens. Its loss means the end of a years-long dream for some filmmakers and deprives audiences of their work.

But now, thanks to a new partnership between SXSW and Amazon Prime, these films will be screened for audiences across the country for the first time ever.

The Austin-based festival and the tech giant have announced the creation of a one-time online film festival where filmmakers slated to debut their work at SXSW 2020 can do so on Amazon's streaming platform. Running the length of SXSW itself, the fest will stream for 10 days in the U.S. and is available for free, with or without an Amazon Prime membership.

“We’re honored to be able to provide a space for the SXSW filmmakers to share their hard work and passion with audiences for the first time," said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, in a release.

Though the dates are to be determined, the release says it could begin by late April. The exact lineup is also still unknown, but filmmakers slated to appear at SXSW have been given details on how to take part, and they will receive a screening fee for the 10 days of the festival.

“I’m thrilled that these two great champions of indie film ... are teaming up to resurrect this year’s canceled film festival,” said Jay Duplass, independent filmmaker and SXSW alum, in a release. “These are unprecedented times, and it’s going to take unprecedented solutions to carry on and celebrate these great films and the people who worked so hard to make them.”

On March 24, SXSW Film announced the 2020 Jury and Special Award winners of what would have been the 27th festival.

Photo courtesy of MD Anderson Cancer Center

Heroic Houston Nobel Prize winner featured in notable new film at SXSW

allison's road

For most of his career, James Allison has been a cancer research wildcatter fighting an oftentimes lonely battle for the advancement of immunotherapy. The medical community has historically been skeptical of the science, but nonetheless Allison dedicated his life to developing a better treatment to the disease that has claimed so many lives — including his mother's.

Last year, Allison, chairman of the Immunology Department and executive director of the Immunotherapy Platform at MD Anderson, won the 2018 Nobel Prize in medicine, and Breakthrough, a film about Allison's progression from early researcher to Nobel Prize recipient, premiered on March 9 at the 2019 SXSW Interactive festival.

Breakthrough tells the story of Allison’s quest to find a cure for cancer, which killed his mother. Narrated by Woody Harrelson, and featuring music by Willie Nelson, Mickey Raphael, and scored by Mark Orton, Breakthrough tells Allison’s story in a way that is "inspiring, informative, and highly entertaining," according to press materials.

But despite the Nobel Prize and the new film both validating the science to the public, Allison says there's a lot more work to be done in immunotherapy. Allison, his colleague, Padmanee Sharma, and the filmmaker for Breakthrough, Bill Haney, hosted a discussion at SXSW about the future of immunotherapy.

"It's a time of considerable optimism — and we're just at the beginning," says Allison.

The film focuses on the man behind the science — a 70-year-old, harmonica-playing researcher from small-town Alice, Texas. It's both an ode to Allison's career and a thought-provoking take on all the work left to be done in the industry.

Immunotherapy is the process of targeting one's immune system's T-cells, infection-fighting white blood cells, to attack cancer cells. Sharma, a fellow MD Anderson oncology expert and clinician, says their work has received clinical approvals for treating Melanoma, kidney cancer, lung cancer, and bladder cancer. The scientists are now focused on expanding that treatment to other cancer types and building upon the established platform they've created, while also making sure nothing comes in the way of the facts of the science.

"It really requires that we dedicate ourselves to the basic science, understanding it and educating people about it, so we don't allow the facts and science get muddied by things that are political or nonfactual," Sharma says.

In a lot of ways, this is what Breakthrough has been able to do — communicate the facts on a platform where anyone can understand the science.


Continue reading this story on InnovationMap.

Nobel Prize winner James Allison of MD Anderson is the subject of a new film.

Photo courtesy of MD Anderson Cancer Center
Nobel Prize winner James Allison of MD Anderson is the subject of a new film.

SXSW sounds off with celebrity-filled 2019 keynote and speaker lineup

SXSWho have we got here?

A few short weeks after SXSW dropped the first details of its 2019 programming, the homegrown festival made their second keynote announcement and added even more notable names to their featured speaker lineup.

On October 9, SXSW revealed Joseph Lubin will join SXSW Interactive as a keynote speaker. According to a release, Lubin is the founder of ConsenSys and "co-founder of blockchain platform Ethereum, a decentralized application platform incorporating a virtual machine that executes peer-to-peer contracts based on cryptocurrency micropayments." (Got that? Sure. We did, too.)

“Lubin is one of the foremost visionaries shaping the rapidly developing blockchain industry, and as such we’re excited to have him as the first-ever Keynote complementing the Blockchain & Cryptocurrency track in the second half of SXSWeek,” said Hugh Forrest, SXSW's chief programming officer.

Lubin joins the previously announced Chrvches frontwoman Lauren Mayberry; writer, producer, and director Marti Noxon; Garbage singer Shirley Manson; and Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom as next year's keynote speakers.

Leading this round of featured speakers is comedian and actor Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project, Suicide Squad); VP of Amazon Web Services Sandy Carter; musician Wyclef Jean; and famed French chef Dominque Crenn.

Additional speakers include:

  • Cannabis rights activist Steve DeAngelo
  • Actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson
  • Senior Advisor to the Obama Foundation and author Valerie Jarrett
  • Director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the MIT Media Lab Neha Narula
  • Author and entrepreneur Neil Pasricha
  • Former Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz
  • Actress and entrepreneur Zoe Saldana
  • Award-winning journalist and author Maria Shriver
  • EU Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager
  • Author Frank Warren
  • Author and Kiip co-founder and CEO Brian Wong
  • Actress and comedian Sasheer Zamata
  • CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker

"The speakers announced today run the gamut of conference content," continued Forrest, "exemplifying our standing as the foremost destination for creative people to gain the skills, knowledge, and inspiration to achieve their goals."

SXSW returns to Austin March 8-17, 2019. Badges for all portions, including Interactive, Music, and Film, are available now.

Courtesy photo

The coolest, weirdest, most Instagrammable events coming to SXSW 2018

Pic or it didn't happen

It's the time of year when our fair city is taken over by bespectacled tech folks in badges, giant Doritos, and Chevy Express vans packed with gear. It's also the time of year where Austin turns into a soundstage for what brands call "activations."

Over the past few years, these buzzworthy events have become a hallmark of SXSW, and this year is no different. From a garden of deadly tulips to Hugh Jackman's cafe, SXSW 2018 will play host to some of the weirdest, coolest, most Instagrammable events imaginable.

A Colossal Wave — March 9-17
Taking over the first through third floors of the Austin Convention Center is A Colossal Wave, "an interactive sub-aquatic virtual world." As a participant, you can drop a bowling ball on the third floor, creating a virtual reality tidal wave that crashes into brilliant colors, or put on a pair of VR goggles and watch as your fellow attendees' singing unleashes "voice fruits." Though beautiful, this official 2018 Art Program Installation is a thoughtful examination of an individual's impact on the environment. SXSW badges only.

Hermèsmatic —March 9-18
It's fitting that Hermès is hosting a complimentary experience in the former home of Uncommon Objects. Pop in throughout the festival to hand dip and dye your own vintage Hermès scarfs in colors such as denim blue, fuschia pink, or intense violet. Don't have a scarf? (Or simply can't bear to part with your classic design?) Hermès will also have pieces from its one-of-a-kind, dip dyed collection on hand. No RSVP required, runs 10 am-7 pm daily.

Westworld — March 9-11
​By now you've probably heard that Westworld is building a real-life, interactive Sweetwater just outside the city. While reservations were snatched up weeks ago, it's still possible to take part: either con someone with an extra reservation, or try your luck with Lyft. Unlock a secret code, and the ride-hailing service will offer you a free ride to the park as well as entry. Reservations required.

FOX Sports House— March 9-12
The Olympics are so February 2018. This year, FOX Sports is kicking off (ha!) its celebration of the World Cup by taking over Hangar Lounge. Friday's launch party promises tattoo artists, interactive photography, music, tacos, Moscow Mules (the World Cup is in Russia — get it?) and a selection of international beers. Programming will continue throughout the week with panels, discussions, and meet and greets with network hosts. Open to all SXSW participants and registration is available here.

Bravo's InstaConMarch 10-11
Part of its Imposters activation, Bravo is building three professional photo sets in a parking lot of Fourth and Colorado streets to help "con" your friends into believing you're on a private jet, a high-end yacht, or in a luxurious ice hotel. Participants will get two photos to post on social media, and we get the smug satisfaction of knowing that Bravo is renting out a parking lot on the corner of Fourth and Colorado for what we can assume is quite a large sum. Open to the public, runs noon-8 pm daily.

Great Big Story March 10-11
Great Big Story is taking over 311 Colorado St. for an epic two-day event. Guests can traipse through a garden of deadly tulips, take a look at Japan’s Dekotora culture (which are basically insanely colorful, decked-out trucks), and escape a larger-than-life claw machine. A staff of professional photographers will be on-hand to guarantee Insta-worthy shots. Pre-registration is no longer available, runs 11 am-7 pm daily.

The Ultimate Roseanne Experience — March 10-12
Ahead of ABC's March 27 reboot of Roseanne, the producers are recreating Lanford, Illinois right here in Austin, Texas. Inside the Volcom Garden at 1209 E. Sixth St., fans can hang out in the Conner's living room (complete with the family couch and iconic crochet blanket), kitchen, and Dan's garage. Meanwhile, the Lanford Lunch Box will be serving up diner fare like sandwiches, pie, and, of course, Canoga Beer (though this version will be root beer). Swag includes collectible koozies, T-shirts with classic Roseanne quotes, custom needlepoint-inspired totes, pins, and more. Uber fans should note that Lecy Goranson, Michael Fishman, and Emma Kenney will be popping in for meet-and-greets on Saturday and Sunday. No RSVP required, runs from 11 am-6 pm daily.

Hugh Jackman's Laughing Man Cafe at AustraliaHouse — March 11-16
Taking over Lucille at 77 Rainey St. is the AustraliaHouse, a space dedicated to our friends down under. Programming includes TED-style talks on innovation, music, and film, as well as a happy hour with chef and Take Home Chef star Curtis Stone. Hugh Jackman's Laughing Man Cafe will be open through the duration of the fest, and the Hollywood star is slated to appear on a March 12 panel. SXSW badges only. Hours for the house vary by day, but a full schedule is available here.

Max Richter's Sleep at SXSW 2018 — March 12
This isn't so much an activation as a really cool, kinda weird, probably once-in-a-lifetime event. Composer Max Richter brings his eight-hour opus to Bass Concert for one (entire) night only. Attendees are invited to tuck in for the night on a Beautyrest mattress while Richter's performs piano, strings, electronics, and vocals intended to lull the audience to sleep. Come dressed for comfort, and sleep well knowing that after your mattress will be donated to an Austin-based charity following the performance. SXSW Platinum and Music badges only, runs from midnight-8:30 am.

Eden East presents A Night with The Herbal Chef — March 14-15
Explore the burgeoning hemp industry at Eden East with a special five-course, prix-fixe hemp dinner. Hosted by Eden East chef Sonya Cote, Christopher Sayegh of Las Vegas' The Herbal Chef, Natalie Gazaui of Eberly, and Mineral Health, this $85 dinner will also feature surprise snacks and fermented delicacies that promise to leave diners feeling "blissful." Guests will be treated to a live performance by Todd Roth, too. Reservations required and can be made here. Seatings begin at 7 pm.

Hello Kitty Cafe Truck — March 17
Hello Kitty fanatics will want to ditch downtown on March 17 for a special, one-day only appearance of the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck at 11410 Century Oaks Blvd. in the Domain. The outrageous van will offer limited edition treats and collectibles, including petit fours boxes, macaron sets, limited edition T-shirts, and signature bow headbands. The van is only bringing what it can fit, so fans are urged to come early. No RSVP required, runs from 10 am-8 pm.


SXSW Music releases first round of bands for 2018 festival


SXSW season will be here before you know it. The celebrated Austin festival has announced the first wave of more than 200 music acts set to perform in March 2018.

Highlights this year include German R&B singer and H&M designer Ace Tee, Japanese indie rockers DYGL, Las Vegas electro-pop artist Shamir, Baltimore three piece Snail Mail, Indonesian rapper and comedian Rich Chigga, and post-punk legends The Wedding Present.

As always, Austin is well represented with psychedelic trio Night Beats, singer-songwriter David Ramirez, family hip-hop act The Bishops, electronic breakout Dylan Cameron, Latin funk ensemble Cilantro Boombox, and garage rockers Leather Girls on the schedule. Other Austin acts include Curved Light, Charlie Faye & the Fayettes, William Harries Graham, Greenbeard, Warren Hood, Oliver Rajamani, Adam Torres, VVV, and World Music Unleashed from the School of Indian Percussion and Music.

SXSW 2018 takes place March 9-18. The music portion of the festival runs March 12–18. Following last year's change, badge access to the festival will remain expanded, allowing non-Platinum badge holders secondary access to events from other parts of the festival (for instance, a Music badge would get secondary access to Film events).

Badges are currently on sale at a discounted rate of $925 for Interactive, Film, and Music and $1,250 for Platinum. That price will go up after October 20.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Houston Independent School District cancels classes again due to city-wide boil notice

school's out

With the issues surrounding the city-wide boil notice still unresolved, Houston Independent School District has announced all its campuses and facilities will be closed on Tuesday, November 29. This comes after classes were canceled on Monday, November 28.

"This decision has been made due to the logistical challenges caused by the notice," district staff notes in an email. "Those challenges prevent the district from being able to provide meals for its students and ensure safe water is available for students and staff."

The email goes on to add that all HISD employees will be working remotely unless otherwise instructed by the chief of their business area.

While most kids will no doubt enjoy yet another day off, HISD encourages students to "engage with digital academic resources that are available 24/7 online.

This closure announcement comes as other districts and colleges closed campuses on Monday. As CultureMap previously reported, the city was put on a boil notice after water pressure dropped below the City of Houston's required minimum of 20 PSI due to a power outage at the East Water Purification Plan around 10:30 am Sunday, November 27.

Under city guidelines and those set in part by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, city water pressure must be at least 20 DPI to ensure contaminants do not enter the flow. Notably, according to the director of Houston Water, Yvonne Williams Forrest, the city's water pressure never dropped to zero — but did fall below the regulatory limit.

Additionally, Forrest says the city boil notice could last until the early hours of Tuesday, November 29.

As reported by CultureMap news partner ABC13, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner provided a timeline for the outage on Sunday:

  • 10:30 am: East water purification plants 1 and 2 lose power
  • Plant 3 loses power, 14 sensors below 20 PSI for less than 2 minutes, 2 sensors below 20 PSI for 30 minutes, 5 sensors never fell below 20 PSI
  • 12:15 pm: Power restored to plants 1 and 2
  • 12:30 pm: Power restored to plant 3
  • 3:30 pm: All sensors back to 35 PSI

Residents expressed outrage on social media that they weren't notified of the boil notice until late Sunday night. In response that same night, several school districts — including Houston ISD — announced they would close on Monday, November 28. Parents should watch their school districts' social media for updates regarding classes resuming.

Concerned residents who are unsure if the boil notice affects their neighborhood can view this map that displays the entire affected.

Early Monday, the City of Houston announced on Twitter that the aforementioned Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved a plan by the Houston Public Works department to sample water and send to labs for testing.

Boil notices are nothing new to the Gulf Coast and Greater Houston areas, given the propensity for storms and flooding. But as longtime Houstonians know, there are few key things to remember when under a boil notice. These tips include:

  • Boiling all water used for food, drinking, and brushing teeth
  • Boiling the water for at least 2 to 3 minutes — even for making coffee
  • Avoiding chilled water lines from on the refrigerators
  • Avoiding ice from an automated ice machines

    The City of Houston also reminds residents to call 3-1-1 for any boil-notice-related questions.

    Beloved Houston local art showcase decks the walls for 25th anniversary with can't-miss events

    silver showecase

    Local shoppers on the hunt for that perfect gift or art loves looking to expand their collections want to be at the annual Art on the Avenue event at Winter Street Studios in the Heights on December 3.

    The noted auction features more than 500 works of art by more than 250 local artists. Celebrating its 25th year, the event celebrates the creative process and encourages collecting works created here in the Houston area.

    Fittingly for the nation's most charitable city, Art on the Avenue is also an important fundraiser for Avenue, a Houston nonprofit dedicated to developing affordable homes.

    Among the many local artists displaying works in the auction is Paperbag, who got his name from painting paper bags on people's faces. His artwork encourages others not to judge a book by its cover, and invites individuals to celebrate their unique personalities and stories. In addition to his art, Paperbag — née Dominique Silva — is also an ardent mental health supporter.

    Blossom by Paperbag Look for works such as "Blossom" by local artist Paperbag.Photo courtesy of Paperbag

    Art on the Avenue kicks off on Thursday, December 1 with a VIP preview party. A $150 ticket gives attendees an exclusive first look at the available works and the opportunity to bid on them prior to the main auction and party on Saturday, December 3. Art-inspired bites, cocktails, and entertainment by Two Star Symphony are also part of the evening's festivities.

    On Saturday, December 3, from 10 am to 1 pm, guests to see these incredible works of art for themselves and enjoy free admission.

    The auction proper begins at 6 pm, where a $35 ticket allows guests entry to the gallery space, bidding opportunities, and entertainment from vinyl enthusiast Losty Los of The Waxaholics, who will spin tunes.

    Art on the Avenue Sketches, paintings, sculptures, and more will be up for auction. Photo courtesy of Art on the Avenue

    Guests looking for a chance to dress up are encouraged to deck out in silver in honor the event's 25th anniversary.


    Art on the Avenue runs Thursday, December 1 through Saturday, December 3 at Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter St. For tickets and information, visit Art on the Avenue.

    'Burn you twice' hot chicken chain spices up Houston with fifth fiery location

    flying into spring

    A rapidly growing chicken tender restaurant will soon arrive in Spring. Urban Bird Hot Chicken will open its fifth Houston-area store next year in January.

    Located in the former B.Good space at 2162 Spring Stuebner Rd., Urban Bird will be part of The Market, a Kroger-anchored shopping center within the the larger City Place mixed-use development. Other nearby tenants include Torchy’s Tacos, Jinya Ramen Bar, and Beard Papa’s, the Japan-based cream puff bakery.

    First opened in 2020, Urban Bird is a chicken tenders concept with different spice blends that deliver increasing levels of heat. The six options range from "country" up to "Nashville hot" and "Fire in the Hole" — which the restaurant says “will burn you twice. Available as baskets, sandwiches, or chopped up over fries, the restaurant touts that its batter went through 60 iterations prior to opening.

    Diners may pair their tenders with dipping sauces such as ranch, barbecue, or the signature Bird Sauce. Sides include fries (both potato and sweet potato), Hot Cheetos mac and cheese, street corn, and a kale salad with a dressing that includes maple syrup. Shakes and frozen custard help ease the burn.

    Urban Bird currently has locations in Katy, north Houston, Fulshear, and near Rice Village. In addition to Spring, the restaurant will soon add outposts in Webster and the Summerwood neighborhood near Lake Houston.

    “We’re thrilled to welcome this fast-growing concept to The Market and feel that it will resonate well with people who live in the area, as well as employees from City Place businesses and major office campuses,” Rip Reynolds, senior leasing agent for real estate developer Regency Centers, said in a statement. “The Urban Bird Hot Chicken team were drawn to this prime site based on its high levels of traffic, the desire for proximity to an anchor and the immediate availability of a second-generation space, the latter of which was only recently vacated.”