Listen to Austin 360 Radio

What happened at SXSW 2021 on Day 4? Amy Klobuchar, film award winners and more

American-Statesman staff
Jenna Ortega as Vada and Maddie Ziegler as Mia in SXSW Online 2021 film "The Fallout."

Day 4 of South by Southwest was all about the big issues: representation and technology. There's still music and movies to catch up on Friday night, but here's what you missed during the day.

1. Keynote: Charles Yu

"Those who were killed were more than just victims," author Charles Yu said in an introduction to his Friday keynote. Those opening remarks were recorded just days ago, in light of a spree of attacks at Atlanta-area spas that left eight dead, mostly women of Asian descent. "They were individuals, human beings with lives and families," he said of those killed.

Yu's 2020 novel "Interior Chinatown" was a New York Times bestseller and won the National Book Award for Fiction. Over the course of a virtual SXSW conversation with journalist Lisa Ling, he unpacked his experience as an Asian American man and his path to becoming a celebrated writer. Though the keynote was recorded "a couple of weeks ago," Yu and Ling talked at length about the rise in violence against Asian Americans over the past year.

The idea that Asian Americans are "a homogenous monolith is not only wrong, it’s damaging," Yu said. One thing unifies the recent attacks, he said: The targets were all Asian, "whatever signals that," even though they've come from different cultural backgrounds in reality.

— Eric Webb, American-Statesman staff

Author Charles Yu and journalist Lisa Ling speak as part of a SXSW Online keynote on Friday, March 19, 2021.

2. Klobuchar on 'new rules' for tech

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said the time is now to increase regulation of big technology companies, and rewrite the relationship between tech giants and America.

"Our current social contract with big tech needs to be renegotiated," Klobuchar said during a session on Friday.

The Minnesota Democrat has been among lawmakers pushing for more oversight of technology companies. Klobuchar said she wants to improve privacy, antitrust and information laws, as well as work together with other countries to solve these issues.

"In the U.S., that means setting new expectations and putting new rules of the road in place on privacy and transparency, on political lands, on interoperability and on antitrust. That means updating our laws, and not just talking about it, but doing it," she said.

— Kara Carlson, American-Statesman staff

Bill Hader on 'SNL' anxiety:'I was so uptight and so afraid of doing wrong'

3. Ava DuVernay's startup

Lest you think the director of “Selma,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “When They See Us” and the upcoming DC Comics adaptation “The New Gods” doesn’t have enough on her plate, did you know she launched a nonprofit tech startup this year? (And it’s only March.)

In a chat Friday with the Black List founder and CEO Franklin Leonard, Ava DuVernay talked about ARRAY Crew, a new project launched in February that she said is “basically IMDb meets LinkedIn” with an eye toward getting more diverse crew members hired for entertainment projects.

ARRAY Crew is one way to counter imbalances in the systems, DuVernay said. She said that early in her career she fought hard against what she perceived as racism in the entertainment industry. Over time, she said, “I’ve come to the understanding it’s maybe ignorance and lack of understanding” on how to hire Black people and members of other underrepresented groups, which may require extra time and effort.

— Omar L. Gallaga, special to the American-Statesman

More:Filmmaker Ava DuVernay built a database she hopes will be obsolete in a decade

4. Ladies of late night

Samantha Bee and Amber Ruffin, two on-fire comedians reinventing late-night comedy in their likenesses, shared a split-screen to vent about the world. It was an intimate, therapeutic check-in about trying to be funny in a pandemic. Bee also revealed that she doesn't worry about keeping up with her male late-night TV counterparts and doesn't watch them. It seemed also to reveal an important gender dynamic in her business: Bee isn't a standup or a "hot take" machine, but instead a cutting writer who does better with some space to process traumatic world events. Ruffin, for her part, said she's turned to Bee for comedy guidance during the pandemic as she launched her own late-night series after leaving Seth Meyers' staff last year.

— Ramon Ramirez, special to the American-Statesman

More SXSW Film:Charli XCX's 'Alone Together' is a VIP pass into the Angel fan club

5. SXSW Film jury awards

The film festival announced the recipients of its jury awards on Friday. Check out sxsw.com for a full list, but here are the feature winners:

Narrative feature competition winner: "The Fallout" (director Megan Park)

Special jury recognition for multihyphenate storyteller: Directors Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina of "I'm Fine (Thanks for Asking)"

Special jury recognition for breakthrough performance: "Islands" (director Martin Edralin and actor Rogelio Balagtas)

Documentary feature competition winner: "Lily Topples the World" (director Jeremy Workman)

Special jury recognition for exceptional intimacy in storytelling: "Introducing, Selma Blair" (director Rachel Fleit)

Special jury recognition for humanity in social action: "Not Going Quietly" (director Nicholas Bruckman)

Audience awards will be announced early next week.

— E.W.

Our full coverage of SXSW is only possible thanks to Statesman subscribers. If you're not already a subscriber, become one today at statesman.com/subscribenow.