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Experience South by Southwest Fest from home

by TYLER WILSON/Coeur Voice contributor
| March 13, 2021 1:00 AM

After last year’s abrupt cancellation, the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) returns this year with a plethora of at-home viewing options.

The festival, which includes narrative and documentary films, shorts, comedy, music, conferences and speakers from a wide variety of industries, typically takes place in Austin, Texas, and has grown exponentially in recent years. This year’s programming will be entirely online, opening up the opportunity for those outside of Austin to attend.

The event runs March 16-20, and you can register for events by visiting SXSW.com.

Featured speakers this year include a keynote from Willie Nelson, as well as presentations by former president George W. Bush, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, Chance the Rapper, transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg, author Charles Yu, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and many, many more.

The feature-length narrative and documentary films announced for this year’s SXSW are a mix of high profile premieres and eclectic independent work from all over the world. Highlights include:

-”How It Ends” (Part of the “Festival Favorites” category)- A comedy about a woman encountering friends and strangers in L.A. on the day before the world ends. Cast includes: Zoe Lister-Jones (who also co-wrote and directed the film), Olivia Wilde, Helen Hunt, Bradley Whitford and more familiar faces.

-”The Sparks Brothers” (“Festival Favorites”) - A documentary from acclaimed narrative director Edgar Wright about one of the most influential rock bands of all time.

- “The Spine of Night” (“Midnighters” category) - A bloody fantasy epic starring the likes of Richard E. Grant, Patton Oswalt and Lucy Lawless.

- “Violet” (“Spotlight” category) - Directed by Justine Bateman, this film follows a film exec (Olivia Munn) combating a “guiding voice” in her head.

- “Kid Candidate” - A documentary about an unlikely election for a small town city council race.

- “Clerk” (“Spotlight” category) - A documentary on the rise of filmmaker Kevin Smith.

- “Sasquatch” (“Episodic premieres”) - A true crime doc series about a 25-year-old murder that was rumored to be blamed on a certain mythical creature.

Films screening in the narrative competition segment of the festival include:

- “I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)” - A recently widowed mother convinces her 8-year-old daughter they are only camping for fun while she searches for work and shelter.

- “Here Before” - Andrea Riseborough stars as a bereaved mother who begins to question reality after the arrival of new neighbors.

- “The Fallout” - A high schooler deals with the aftermath of a school tragedy. With Jenna Ortega, Julie Bowen and Shailene Woodley.

The opening headline film is the documentary “Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil.” Other headliners are the closing night doc, “Alone Together” featuring musician Charli XCX, and “Tom Petty, Somewhere You Feel Free,” featuring recently unearthed archival footage filmed around the making of the 1994 album, “Wildflowers.”

All told, the SXSW film program will include 75 features and many more shorts and special events. The overall SXSW will offer more than 600 hours of programming.

Go to SXSW.com to register for a festival or educational pass, and check back often for updates and individual screening opportunities for speakers, music and more.

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Tyler Wilson has been writing about movies for Inland Northwest publications since 2000. He is the co-host of the podcast, “Old Millennials Remember Movies,” now celebrating 100 episodes. He can be reached at twilson@cdapress.com.