Cinema & New Media Arts Faculty Visit SXSW Festival

The News Magazine of HCU

Submitted by the CNME Faculty

This spring, for the third straight year, faculty from HBU’s Cinema & New Media Arts program attended the South by Southwest Film Festival, Texas’ largest media conference held annually in Austin. For seven days, the faculty joined the other 72,869 festival goers in attending film screenings, panel discussions, and talks by prominent film directors, actors and public intellectuals. Although large in scale and scope, the conference aims to create an environment in which dialogue between attendees, speakers and artists is both encouraged and feasible.

Reflecting on HBU’s presence at the conference, Joshua Sikora, director of the Cinema & New Media Arts program, said, “It gives our faculty unprecedented opportunities to network with local professionals, learn about the latest trends in technology and media, and ultimately be a part of steering the cultural conversations that are born in this unique, creative space.” This year’s conference, which featured 139 films from 37 countries, highlighted work by established directors like Steven Spielberg and Wes Anderson, while also introducing audiences to emerging talent like Chris Caldwell and Zeek Earl, whose first film, “Prospect,” had the festival buzzing. “The festival lets us see where cinema – really all media – is headed,” said Bearden Coleman, associate professor of Cinema, Media Arts and Writing. “And this is essential for us in order to do our jobs in the classroom. After all, we are training the next generation of media makers. You spend a week attending screenings, talks, and panels, and you can’t help but see common threads —
aesthetically, politically, spiritually — running through it all.” The chance for faculty to be a part of that dialogue is part of what makes the conference so special.

One of the most valuable parts of the experience is when HBU faculty take part in the Q&As after screenings and keynote talks. Sikora said, “In that context, it’s been amazing speaking with filmmakers like Darren Aronofsky or Terrence Malick about the way faith and morality have shaped their work, and bringing that into focus for a larger audience.” Coleman observed that themes of faith and artistic practice were prominent at this year’s conference. “I was surprised and encouraged by the number of panels that looked at the intersection of faith and the arts. There were panels on faith and film, faith and gaming, and more.” He said it was also apparent from the films he attended that filmmakers outside of the Christian-film industry are addressing spiritual life in more direct ways. “In films like A.J. Edward’s ‘Friday’s Child,’ and Eugene Richards’s, ‘Thy Kingdom Come,’ you’re seeing artists wrestle with the grace and redemption needed to make sense of this fallen world.”

Ultimately, the faculty brought back new insights that will help shape the next developments in HBU’s Cinematic Arts, Mass Media Arts, and Interactive Media majors. Sikora explains, “We work in a constantly changing industry where it’s critical for student success that our faculty understand the current landscape and emerging trends. But the most encouraging reminder when we’re at South by Southwest, is that there are deeper narrative truths about our humanity and our need for God that will never grow old, and that audiences will always find compelling.”

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