Doc films about Demi Lovato, Tom Petty headline SXSW 2021

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This combination photo shows Demi Lovato performing at the o2 in east London, on June 25, 2018, left, and Tom Petty performing during the Vegoose music festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 28, 2006. Documentaries about Lovato and Petty are among the films set to premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival this year. (AP Photo)

Documentaries about Demi Lovato, Tom Petty, Selma Blair and Charli XCX are among the films set to premiere at next month's South by Southwest Film Festival. Organizers on Wednesday announced the lineup for the 28th edition, which will be virtual.

The festival will kick off on March 16 with “Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil,” which will explore Lovato’s 2018 near fatal overdose and the aftermath. The Tom Petty documentary, “Somewhere You Feel Free” will be a centerpiece film, featuring newly discovered 16mm film of the late rocker at work on his 1994 album “Wildflowers.”

It closes with “Alone Together,” about pop star Charli XCX making an album in 40 days in quarantine.

It’s not the only film that deals with the pandemic in some way, there is also the documentary “The Last Cruise,” about the first major outbreak outside of China, “Twyla Moves,” about Twyla Tharp, “The End of Us,” about exes who must stay together after the stay at home order and “Recovery,” about sisters who go on a cross country road trip to get their grandmother out of a COVID 19-besieged nursing home, among others.

“We ended up with a three-week submission period that was much shorter than usual. But we were really delighted with the quality of the work,” said Janet Pierson, the festival's director of film. “And we had even harder decisions than usual because we pared down the program considerably.”

Instead of the normal 135 premieres, the 2021 festival has 75 features debuts. There won’t be individual tickets for films, like at Sundance. At SXSW they will all be available for passholders. Some will have capacity limits but many do not.

“I think about the opening night and the closing night films and there’s a real intimate vulnerability on display in a very, very powerful way and people dropping pretense and talking to people and looking for connection in a way that makes perfect sense this year,” Pierson said.

“Introducing, Selma Blair,” is expected to be similarly powerful in its portrait of the actor living with multiple sclerosis.