2021 SXSW Online Film and Music Festival Set For Mid-March


(Courtesy Aaron Rogosin)

By Heather Graham, Assistant Copy Chief, Arts Writer


South By Southwest announced the 2021 lineup for its annual film and music festival on Feb. 10. This year, after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 event, the festival will take place across several virtual platforms including web, mobile and premium TV viewing. 

The digital experience from Mar. 16 – 20, 2021 promises, in addition to film screenings: keynotes, conference sessions, music showcases and comedy acts, as well as opportunities for networking, mentor sessions, professional development and more, all in a digital setting. Information about the festival as well as a full lineup can be found here.

The festival will launch films every two hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT and they will remain available on-demand until the film hits its audience capacity or the event ends. Certain films will have access restricted to viewers in the United States because of rights and filmmaker or distributor discretion.

According to the SXSW lineup, film audiences will experience 75 features including 57 World Premieres, three International Premieres, four North American premieres, one U.S. Premiere, eight Texas Premieres and 53 films from first-time filmmakers. The festival will also include many short films including music videos, episodic premiers and pilots, virtual cinema projects, title design entries and special events comprising conversations, table readings and other unique one-off events.

Film Headliners

Opening night headliner “Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil, ” directed by Michael D. Ratner, is a YouTube Originals documentary exploring Lovato’s near-fatal overdose in 2018, the aspects that led to it and the aftermath.

The closing night film “Alone Together,” directed by Bradley Bell and Pablo Jones-Soler focuses on pop singer Charlie XCX’s 40-day journey to record an album during the COVID-19 quarantine.

“Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free,” directed by Mary Wharton is an intimate portrait of rock artist Tom Petty at work on his 1994 album “Wildflowers,” created from newly found 16mm archives.

Music, Conversation and Comedy

Music content is curated in collaboration with record labels, booking agencies, management and PR firms and other industry players. Showcasing artists for the 2021 festival include Indigo Sparke, A Place to Bury Strangers, Francisca Valenzuela, Squid, Grrrl Gang, Darkoo, Samantha Sanchez, Holy F—, Astrid Sonne, NAYANA IZ, Jealous and more. SXSW will announce more artists closer to the event.

Conversation and keynote speakers announced for 2021 include DJ Steve Aoki, actresses Elizabeth Banks and Mayim Bialik, recording artist Mary J. Blige, director James Cameron, YouTube personality David Dobrik and politician and activist Stacey Abrams. 

SXSW Comedy content will be announced closer to the event.

This festival has had a long history, and SXSW Online makes the festival more accessible for those outside of the Austin, Texas area where the festival is regularly held, allowing for an even greater audience and a unique experience. 

Event passes are now available, and currently, enrolled students may apply to purchase an SXSW Online Pass at a special discounted rate.


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