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Tom Petty, Charli XCX docs coming to SXSW Film 2021: see the full lineup

Eric Webb
Austin 360
Tom Petty in the recording studio with Rick Rubin, from the documentary "Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free."

Demi Lovato won’t be the only musician making a splash in this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival. 

Programmers for the annual Austin event — going online this year from March 16-20 because of the coronavirus pandemic — on Wednesday announced the full 2021 film slate. Joining previously announced opening docuseries “Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil” as headliners are the world premieres of two other music documentaries: closing night film “Alone Together,” about the making of indie-pop artist Charli XCX’s quarantine album “How I’m Feeling Now,” and centerpiece film “Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free,” described as an “intimate view” of the late rocker working on 1994 record “Wildflowers.” “Alone Together” is directed by Bradley Bell and Pablo Jones-Soler; “Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free” is directed by Mary Wharton. 

Also on tap: an opening night Q&A with Lovato and the team behind the YouTube Originals docuseries, as well as a closing night Q&A with Charli XCX and the “Alone Together” filmmakers that's followed by a “virtual rave dance party.” 

The full SXSW Film schedule includes 75 features, 84 shorts and several episodic entries, according to the fest, with many premieres and international entries among the titles. 

"Alone Together" charts the making of pop artist Charli XCX's "How I'm Feeling Now" during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been a year unlike any we’ve experienced, first marked by the cancellation of SXSW 2020,” said Janet Pierson, director of film for SXSW, in a statement. “We feel privileged to have been able to pivot to SXSW Online and present a fantastic treasure trove of programming, including a pared down and wonderful selection of films that we know will delight, entertain and move our attendees. SXSW Online will bring attendees a multifaceted event that speaks to so many areas of creativity in one five-day experience that everyone can access on their laptops, phones and TVs. While we won’t have the wonderful in-person SXSW that we know and love, we can gather together to be inspired by the work.” 

You can see the full film schedule at sxsw.com. Highlights include: 

“Broadcast Signal Intrusion,” a world-premiere midnighter directed by Jacob Gentry about a video archivist discovering sinister pirate broadcasts; Harry Shum Jr. stars. 

“Chad,” an episodic world premiere from “Saturday Night Live” star Nasim Pedrad; she also will appear in conversation during the fest. 

“Clerk,” a world-premiere documentary directed by Malcolm Ingram about director Kevin Smith; Smith and Ingram also will participate in a conversation during the fest. 

“Hysterical,” a world-premiere documentary directed by Andrea Nevins about women in the comedy world, including Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Kathy Griffin and Sherri Shepherd. 

“Introducing Selma Blair,” a world-premiere documentary directed by Rachel Fleit about the “Cruel Intentions” actress’ journey after her multiple sclerosis diagnosis. 

“Kid Candidate,” a world-premiere documentary directed by Jasmine Stodel about a 24-year-old's unlikely run for city council in Amarillo. 

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“Language Lessons,” a North American-premiere feature directed by and starring Natalie Morales about a Spanish teacher’s friendship with a student; Mark Duplass co-writes and co-stars with Morales, and the two also will appear in conversation during the fest. 

“Lily Topples the World,” a world-premiere documentary directed by Jeremy Workman (and executive produced by “Star Wars” star Kelly Marie Tran) about an acclaimed domino toppler. 

“Made for Love,” an episodic world premiere based on the novel of the same name and starring Cristin Milioti and Billy Magnussen; a discussion with the stars and producers also is on the schedule. 

“Potato Dreams of America," a world-premiere feature directed by Wes Hurley about a gay boy growing up in the U.S.S.R. 

“Recovery,” a world-premiere feature directed by Mallory Everton and Stephen Meek about sisters rescuing their grandma from a COVID-19 outbreak at her nursing home. 

“The Spine of Night,” a world-premiere midnighter directed by Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King about an ancient evil and the time-spanning heroes who fight it; Richard E. Grant, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt, Betty Gabriel and Joe Manganiello star. 

“Swan Song,” a world-premiere feature directed by Todd Stephens about an aging hairdresser (Udo Kier) on a quest to style a dead woman’s hair for her funeral; it also stars Jennifer Coolidge, Linda Evans and Michael Urie. 

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“Them,” an episodic world premiere from Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television about a Black family who moves to an all-white neighborhood in 1953; a conversation with the cast and creative team of “Them” also is on the schedule. 

“Through the Plexi-Glass: The Last Days of the San Jose,” a world-premiere documentary from Austin hospitality mogul Liz Lambert about “the gentrification of Austin’s hippest neighborhood.” 

“Twyla Moves,” a world-premiere documentary directed by Stephen Cantor about choreographer Twyla Tharp during the coronavirus pandemic; Tharp also will participate in a dance lesson during the fest. 

“United States vs. Reality Winner,” a world-premiere documentary directed by Sonia Kennebeck about the 25-year-old who disclosed government information about Russian election interference. 

“Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America,” a world-premiere documentary directed by Emily and Sarah Kunstler centering ACLU lawyer Jeffrey Robinson’s talk on anti-Black racism. 

“Without Getting Killed or Caught,” a world-premiere documentary directed by Tamara Saviano and Paul Whitfield about Texas songwriter Guy Clark. 

A scene from the documentary "Introducing Selma Blair."

The SXSW schedule also includes a handful of favorites that have previously screened at other festivals, including “How It Ends,” which recently screened in Austin as part of Sundance Film Festival’s drive-in shows with Austin Film Society. Highlights of other event programming include a Q&A with the cast and showrunners of Showtime’s “Black Monday”;  a discussion with the stars and creators of “Blindspotting; and  a table read of “Solar Opposites."

SXSW has released more details for the logistical side of the 28th film fest, too. Seven movies will launch at a time in two-hour increments from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., mostly during the first three days of the event. Films will be available to view on demand until they hit audience capacity, or until the event ends. “Many films do not have a capacity limit and will be available for the duration of the event,” according to the festival. Additionally, screenings will be able to be viewed through a variety of web, mobile and TV platforms, including apps for Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Android TV and Samsung TV. 

This year will mark a return to robust film programming after last year’s SXSW was canceled in March. The fest and Amazon Prime Video later teamed up in 2020 to screen a limited number of films through an online showcase. Some films also screened independently at venues in town before the pandemic locked the city down. 

For more information, go to sxsw.com

More:SXSW has dropped the names of the first 100 music acts coming to the 2021 festival. See the lineup here.