The Austin Chronicle

Darren Aronofsky Speaking at SXSW

By Richard Whittaker, October 10, 2017, 10:00am, SXSW

No film has baffled, befuddled, and split audiences this year quite like Mother!, but love it or hate it, there's no doubt it secured Darren Aronofsky's reputation as one of the great directors of this era. Now he adds another accolade: SXSW 2018 Keynote speaker.

With critically lauded and commercially successful projects like The Wrestler and Black Swan filling up his IMDb page, few filmmakers have so successfully welded arthouse and multiplex. Even his most divisive projects like The Fountain and Noah have sparked debate and discussion like few of his peers. Calling him "a provocative, and virtuoso filmmaker,” SXSW director of film Janet Pierson said, “He’s been an original since his first independent work, and we know it will be a blast for our passionate SXSW audiences to hear his story.”

However, Aronofsky is not the only immediately recognizable name on today's list: in the country-strong spirit of last year's music keynote, Garth Brooks, now multiplatinum singer-songwriter Keith Urban joins the speaker list. The New Zealand-born, Nashville-dwelling musician is fresh off the success of last year's Ripcord, which was nominated for just about every best country album under the sun.

The country king and the adventurous filmmaker are just the latest additions to a lineup that already saw the opening announcement of Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, plus a second wave headed up by journalists Ta-Nehisi Coates and Charlie Rose. Plus, for console and online players out there, SXSW Gaming has also announced its headliners, including Turner Sports' vice president of Esports Christina Alejandre.

They're also only two names on a long list of speakers added today, with a heavy emphasis on tech and society. However, with 10 days of panels across 24 tracks to be announced, this blast is still only scratching the surface.

Brands & Marketing

Brian Solis, principal analyst and futurist at Altimeter, and author of X: The Experience When Business Meets Design and What’s the Future of Business?


Tristan Harris, former design ethicist for Google, now with technology nonprofit Time Well Spent
Yiying Lu, award-winning artist, design consultant for start-ups, and creator of the Twitter Fail Whale
Bruce Mau, designer, conceptual architect, and co-founder of Massive Change Network


Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker staff writer and Pulitzer-winning author of The Looming Tower

Intelligent Future

Hugh Herr, expert in biomechatronics, in conversation with Aimee Mullins (the first amputee to compete in the NCAA) and professor Hans Georg Näder of German orthopedic device firm Otto Bock Group
David Marcushe, vice president of messaging products at Facebook

News & Journalism

Ira Glass, host and creator of NPR's This American Life

Social Impact

Luvvie Ajayi, author and writer of the Awesome Luvvie blog
W. Kamau Bell, comedian and host of the Emmy-winning United Shades of America With W. Kamau Bell
Ana Marie Cox, founder of Wonkette and host of the With Friends Like These podcast, in conversation with community organizer and social activist Bree Newsome

Startup & Tech Sectors

Steve Ballmer, co-founder of investment firm the Ballmer Group, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, and former CEO of Microsoft
Sandy Carter, vice president of enterprise workloads at Amazon Web Services, and author of Extreme Innovation

Sync, Stream & License

Stefan Blom, chief content officer for Spotify, in conversation with TechCrunch editor-at-large Josh Constine


Daniel H. Pink, management and behavioral science theorist, and author of Drive, To Sell Is Human, and A Whole New Mind
Roy Spence chairman and co-founder of the advertising agency GSD&M and author of The Amazing Faith of Texas

SXSW 2018 runs Fri., March 9, to Sun., March 18, 2018. For badges and info, visit

Keep checking back for more announcements over the next few months, and here is a reminder of a few other important dates coming up:

Oct. 20: Final date for Film Festival submissions for features, shorts, episodics, music video, and virtual cinema. Also final date for artist direct applications of the Music Festival.

Dec. 15: Final date for Film Festival submissions for Texas High School shorts and title sequences.

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