Initial Film & Performance Lineups Announced for SXSW EDU 2024

Storytelling is a way to educate through reflection and connection. At SXSW EDU, Festival programming showcases these stories and brings them to life, serving as an essential part of the experience. Today, we are thrilled to announce the SXSW EDU 2024 film and performance programs.

Portraying the importance of access to education, financial literacy, cultural celebration, and more, the nine films selected for the initial lineup showcase challenges and achievements faced in communities around the world. After each screening, the directors and producers of the films will join the stage for thought-provoking audience Q&As.

Selected from PanelPicker® and taking a variety of formats ranging from musical theater to open mic, the initial performance lineup highlights students, poets, musicians, and artists tackling mental well-being, expression, education, and identity.

Plus, explore the full schedule, now available with dates and times, and build your personalized schedule today.

Explore this year’s robust festival lineup:


Butterfly in the Sky

Directors: Bradford Thomason & Brett Whitcomb

Butterfly in the Sky tells the story of the beloved PBS children’s series "Reading Rainbow," its iconic host LeVar Burton, and the challenges its creators faced in cultivating a love of reading through television. Two seconds into the bubbling synth sounds of its theme song will have a child of the 1980s or ‘90s exclaiming “Reading Rainbow!” Such is the beloved nature of the classic children’s literary television show that introduced millions of kids to the wonder of books.

Como Vivimos (How We Live)

Director: Aggie Ebrahimi Bazaz

Each year, hundreds of Latinx children across California are made to vacate their homes and miss months of school. That’s because they live with their families in one of the state’s farmworker housing centers, subsidized apartment complexes which close at the end of the harvest season and require families to relocate at least 50 miles away. Como Vivimos spends a year in one such community to reveal how the cycles of displacement, lost learning, and unaffordable housing impede economic opportunity.

Farming While Black

Director: Mark Decena

Farming While Black examines the historical plight of Black farmers in the U.S. and the rising generation reclaiming their rightful ownership to land and reconnecting with their ancestral roots. As the co-founder of Soul Fire Farm, Leah Penniman finds strength in African agrarianism – agricultural practices that can heal people and the planet. Influenced and inspired by Karen Washington, a pioneer in urban community gardens in NYC, and fellow farmer and organizer Blain Snipstal, Leah galvanizes around farming as the basis of revolutionary justice.

Harlem Rising

Director: Rayner Ramirez

Using archival video footage filmed by Black and Brown youth from the '80s, '90s, and early 2000s, Harlem Rising traces the history of the Harlem Children’s Zone through the individual narratives of the children, parents, and community members impacted by its work. This story as told by its founder Geoffrey Canada and current CEO Kwame Owusu-Kesse, captures the transformation of New York City's Harlem through the unique lens of three generations who grew up with the Harlem Children's Zone.

Join or Die

Directors: Rebecca Davis & Pete Davis

Join or Die is a film about why you should join a club — and why the fate of America depends on it. In this feature documentary, follow the half-century story of America's civic unraveling through the journey of legendary social scientist Robert Putnam, whose groundbreaking "Bowling Alone" research into America's decades-long decline in community connections could hold the answers to our democracy's present crisis. Flanked by influential fans and scholars — from Hillary Clinton, Pete Buttigieg, and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to Eddie Glaude Jr., Raj Chetty, and Priya Parker — as well as inspiring groups building community in neighborhoods across the country, join Bob as he explores three urgent civic questions: What makes democracy work? Why is American democracy in crisis? And, most importantly... What can we do about it?

She Creates Change

Director: Martha Adams

She Creates Change is a groundbreaking anthology series about six young girls who use life skills such as empathy and perseverance to overcome obstacles and transform their lives. The series is designed to help adolescent girls around the world develop the skills they need to create positive change in their own lives, and in their communities. The series promotes gender equality and demonstrates the positive change that occurs when girls are provided the support they need to stay in school.

Show Her The Money

Director: Ky Dickens

This is a story that’s never been told.

The film addresses women getting less than 2% of venture capital and demystifies what venture capital is. Featuring rock-star female investors who invest in diverse women entrepreneurs with innovations that will change the world, Show Her The Money reminds us that money is power and women need it to achieve true equality.

The Truth About Reading

Director: Nick Nanton

The Truth About Reading looks at the illiteracy problem in America, highlighting people who learned to read as adults, and sharing proposed solutions for working towards a future where every child learns to read proficiently. While the film illustrates the painful reality of life for individuals impacted by illiteracy, it also reminds viewers that the issue is not one that affects just a few struggling readers, but one that affects countless children and adults and weakens the very fabric of our society. Filled with powerful emotion, a deep sense of urgency, and an overarching spirit of hope, The Truth About Reading brings light to a hidden crisis and compels audiences to take action to end illiteracy once and for all.

We Are Columbine

Director: Laura Farber

We Are Columbine is the first film to offer insider access behind and beyond the headlines of Columbine. The documentary highlights the stories of four freshmen students who survived one of the deadliest school shootings in United States history at Columbine High School in 1999. Director Laura Farber, who was also a freshman during the shootings, sensitively captures her classmates' unique perspectives during an unprecedented walk-through of the school itself, shedding light on the issues mass shootings represent to those affected and how to address them. When we can't change the violence in America, we can change how it affects us.

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Bigger Than Hip Hop: Why Folks Say it Controls Your Brain

Bigger Than Hip Hop: Why Folks Say it Controls Your Brain

There have been dramatic shifts in education since schools first opened in the USA in 1647. From educational priorities to classroom sizes to demographics to technology, schoolhouses look wildly different than Horace Mann’s original design. While innovation catapulted schools into the 21st century, it has minimized the importance of learning connected to the arts, critical thinking, social emotional learning, and civics, causing our youth and communities to suffer. It’s time for a new approach to education. And it all boils down to just two words: Hip Hop. This workshop will take participants through an evidence based hip hop inspired approach to teaching youth, followed by a performance by well respected hip hop artists.

James Miles – Assistant Professor, Seattle University
Dr. Jason Rawls – Associate Professor, The Ohio State University
John Robinson – CEO, John Robinson Music
Vinson Johnson – Musician & Artist, Wordsworth Production LLC

Changing the Future of STEM Education with STEMusic!

Changing the Future of STEM Education with STEMusic!

The STEMusic performance is a high-energy presentation that shares Roy Moye III’s journey through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Roy takes his audience through a journey that covers his path to becoming an aerospace engineer while also showcasing how he created STEMusic to address the lack of black and brown professionals in the STEM Industry. Roy shares the tools he uses to introduce STEM to the next generation and provides live musical examples for educational professionals to partake in so they leave empowered to share STEM with their students in a relatable and memorable way.

Roy Moye III – Founder & CEO, STEMusic, LLC

Knowledge of Self: Poetry Workshop & Open Mic

Knowledge of Self Poetry Workshop & Open Mic

Infused with the energy of an open mic, this session will be enacted as a performance space. Through creative performances and co-construction of knowledge between audience and artist, this high-energy format is designed to disrupt conventions that pressure educators and students to adhere to respectability politics. Internationally acclaimed poets will open the session. Writing prompts and discussion will facilitate a dialogue on the necessity of collaboration and knowledge of self as tools of social responsibility. The audience will be invited to share their work on the mic!

Crystal Endsley Taylor – Poet & Associate Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Justis Lopez – Founder & CEO, Just Experience, LLC
Toby Jenkins – Professor & Interim Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, The Graduate School, University of South Carolina
Tony Keith, Jr. – CEO, Ed Emcee Academy

Ranked - A Musical of Identity, Pressure & Self-Worth

Ranked - A Musical of Identity, Pressure & Self-Worth

What are you worth? Who decides? And what do you do when it all comes crashing down? Heralded as the musical "that predicted the college admission scandal" (NPR's Morning Edition) and became the subject of the 2022 HBO documentary "My So-Called High School Rank," RANKED, A MUSICAL explores the intense and brutal costs of being a "successful" student in today's schools. In this session, audiences will watch a live performance of scenes and songs from RANKED, followed by a roundtable conversation on students' mental and emotional health and the power of art in amplifying student voices.

David Taylor Gomes – Composer, Pianist, Actor, Musical Director, Educator, Owner/Co-Owner, David Taylor Gomes Music
Denise Pope – Sr. Lecturer and Co-Founder & Strategic Advisor, Stanford & Challenge Success
Kyle Holmes – Co-Founder & Director of Licensing & Education, Peytoven Productions

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Don’t Miss Out On SXSW EDU 2024

Register and book your hotel today to break new ground in education through compelling sessions, in-depth workshops, mentorship, film screenings, trailblazing competitions, a dynamic expo, networking opportunities, and so much more at SXSW EDU from March 4-7, 2024.

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SXSW EDU 2024 Film stills and performance photos courtesy of the participants.

By Auva Saghafi