SXSW Sets ‘Demi Lovato: Dancing With The Devil’ As Film Festival Opener; Unveils Program Highlights

Dino-Ray Ramos
·4 min read

As Austin-based South by Southwest shifts online this year, the SXSW Film Festival isn’t slowing down when it comes to bringing progressive, exciting, envelope-pushing — and sometimes delightfully bizarre cinema from all over the world. The film festival will kick off with the World Premiere of YouTube Originals docuseries Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil as its Opening Night Headliner. SXSW Online kicks off on March 16 and continues through March 20.

Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil explores every aspect that led to Lovato’s nearly fatal overdose in 2018, and her awakenings in the aftermath. Director Michael D. Ratner was granted unprecedented access to the superstar’s personal and musical journey during the most trying time of her life as she unearthed her prior traumas and discovered the importance of her physical, emotional, and mental health. Far deeper than an inside look beyond the celebrity surface, the docuseries is an intimate portrait of addiction, and the process of healing and empowerment.

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“It’s impressive and rare to see a pop superstar tell their story so authentically and without pretense,” said Janet Pierson, Director of Film. “We’re privileged to present this intimate journey told with such vulnerability. Demi Lovato’s profound interest in mental health awareness is helping change the landscape of a crucial issue in this year of national and international trauma and loss.”

SXSW has also revealed a taste of their full program which will be announced on February 10. The 2021 online platform with the schedule will launch on February 15.

Pierson added, “We are excited to share a handful of films from various sections of the festival (Headliners, Episodic Premieres, Doc and Narrative Spotlight, Midnighters, Global, 24 Beats Per Second, 2020 Spotlight) to give you a taste of the talent, risk-taking, passion, and achievements that we will be announcing in early February and share together online in March.”

Read highlights from the 2021 SXSW Film Festival below.

Confronting A Serial Killer
Director: Joe Berlinger, Showrunner: Po Kutchins
Joe Berlinger’s newest docuseries Confronting a Serial Killer follows reporter Jillian Lauren who lures the most prolific serial killer in American history — Sam Little. The series will follow their unsettling and unlikely relationship. (World Premiere) (Episodic Premiere)

Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil
Director/Screenwriter: Michael D. Ratner
Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil is a powerful YouTube Originals documentary event, exploring every aspect that led to Lovato’s nearly fatal overdose in 2018, and her awakenings in the aftermath. (World Premiere) (Headliners)

The Hunt for Planet B
Director: Nathaniel Kahn
The Hunt for Planet B follows a diverse group of scientists on a quest to find another Earth among the stars. From the hi-bays of NASA to the edge of the universe and the bottom of the sea, the film offers a way to see our own planet with new eyes. (World Premiere) (Documentary Spotlight)

Hysterical
Director: Andrea Nevins
Hysterical is an honest and hilarious backstage pass into the lives of some of stand-up comedy’s most boundary-breaking women, exploring the hard-fought journey to become the voices of their generation and their gender. (World Premiere) (Documentary Spotlight)

Jakob’s Wife
Director: Travis Stevens, Screenwriters: Travis Stevens, Kathy Charles, Mark Steenland
The disappearance of a young woman threatens to change the beige and banal lives of Anne Fedder (Barbara Crampton) and her pastor husband Jakob Fedder (Larry Fessenden) forever. Cast List: Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Bonnie Aarons, Mark Kelly, Sarah Lind, Robert Rusler, Nyisha Bell, Phil Brooks (World Premiere) (Midnighters)

Luchadoras (Germany)
Directors: Paola Calvo, Patrick Jasim, Screenwriters: Patrick Jasim, Paola Calvo, Phillip Kaminiak
Luchadoras portrays the courageous female wrestlers of Ciudad Juárez, a city known for its high murder rate against women — who fight in the ring and in their daily lives to redefine the image of what it means to be a woman in Mexico. (World Premiere) (Global)

Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché
Director: Paul Sng, Celeste Bell, Screenwriters: Celeste Bell, Zoë Howe
The death of punk icon and X-Ray Spex frontwoman Poly Styrene sends her daughter on a journey across the world and through her mother’s archives to reconcile their fraught relationship. (North American Premiere) (24 Beats)

Recovery
Director: Mallory Everton, Stephen Meek, Screenwriters: Whitney Call, Mallory Everton
Two directionless sisters brave a cross-country road trip to rescue their grandmother from a COVID outbreak at her nursing home. Cast: Whitney Call, Mallory Everton, Anne Sward Hansen, Julia Jolley, Baylee Thornock, Jessica Drolet, Stephen Meek, Tyler Andrew Jones, Tori Pence, Dora McDonald (World Premiere) (Narrative Spotlight)

Violet
Director/Screenwriter: Justine Bateman
A film development executive realizes that the “guiding voice” inside her head has been lying to her about everything. Cast List: Olivia Munn, Luke Bracey, Justin Theroux (World Premiere) (2020 Spotlight)

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