By Sean Boelman
On January 14, 2021, the South by Southwest film festival announced select titles that will be screening as part of the 2021 program ahead of the full program announcement on February 10, 2021. The festival, which will occur in an online-only fashion this year, will take place from March 16-20, 2021.
The most significant announcement made is that the opening night Headliner selection will be the YouTube Originals documentary series Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil. A highly personal documentary exploring both Lovato’s career and struggles with addiction, this is sure to be an interesting watch for the music fan database to which the festival frequently caters.
Also for music fans is the North American premiere of the documentary Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché, which will screen as a part of the 24 Beats Per Second section. Other documentary selections include Joe Berlinger’s Confronting a Serial Killer (Episodic Premieres), Nathaniel Kahn’s The Hunt for Planet B (Documentary Spotlight), Andrea Nevins’s Hysterical (Documentary Spotlight), and Paola Calvo and Patrick Jasim’s Luchadoras (Global).
In terms of narrative features, highlights include the newest film from SXSW alumnus Travis Stevens, Jakob’s Wife (Midnighters). Starring genre favorites Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessendsen, the film is sure to be a must-watch for anyone who frequents the iconic late-night portion of the festival.
Also slated to debut is Mallory Everton and Stephen Meek’s COVID-19 feature Recovery. Exploring an outbreak in a nursing home, the film will definitely dial into current anxiety about the pandemic. Other recent festivals have included films produced and set during the pandemic, so we can expect that to be the case for the near future.
The final film that was announced to be a part of this year’s lineup was Justine Bateman’s Violet. What makes this film so interesting is that it was also a part of the 2020 lineup during the cancelled festival. And while some of the finest films of last year’s selection went on to debut at other festivals or even get released in the meantime, there were still some films left displaced. The “2020 Spotlight” section of SXSW will provide a launching pad for those which have been holding out for a more favorable time to debut.
With the extraordinary nature of what is going on in the world, it is nice to see that the folks at SXSW are still planning a great festival for fans. And since the selection can be watched from hope, hopefully some of these great films and series will be able to reach new audiences and introduce them to a version of the festival experience.
The 2021 edition of SXSW runs online from March 16-20, 2021.
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