A guide to SXSW 2016 film categories

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
  • South By Southwest might be best known for its music scene, but its film festival is no joke. The 2016 SXSW Film Festival features a huge roster of narrative films, documentaries and shorts screened from Friday, March 11 to Saturday, March 19. Below is a list of film categories and descriptions to help you decide which are right for you.
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  • Headliners
  • If you’re looking for big names and big premieres, Headliner films are for you. Richard Linklater will debut his 1980s college comedy “Everybody Wants Some,” and “Demolition” will bring serious star power with its lead, Jake Gyllenhaal. Other big pictures include Jeff Nichols’ sci-fi thriller “Midnight Special” and the sequel to the first “Pee-wee” film, “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.”
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  • Narrative Feature Competition and Narrative Spotlight
  • Ten narrative films were selected out of 1,442 submissions to premiere at the Narrative Feature Competition. Each of these movies tell uniquely fascinating stories about uniquely engrossing characters. From “The Other Half,” a romance about two damaged souls, to “A Stray,” a glimpse into the life of a wayward Somali immigrant, the Narrative Feature Competition boasts some rich cinematic offerings.
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  • Documentary Feature Competition and Documentary Spotlight
  • The 10 films of the Documentary Feature Competition explore real stories around the world. Among the submissions are the inspiring “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America,” which chronicles a black musician’s journey to befriend and understand members of the KKK, and the grim “TOWER,” an account of Charles Whitman’s deadly shooting spree at the University of Texas in 1966.
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  • Visions
  • For those who value the bold and the innovative, Visions has just what you want. Narrative films and documentaries earn their place in this category by taking risks and forging new paths. The documentary “Under the Sun” will give viewers an unprecedented look into one family’s life in North Korea, while “Spaceship” delivers a complexly-woven tale about a father’s quest to find his vanished daughter.
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  • Midnighters
  • Comedy, horror and sex dominate the Midnighters category, where intrigue is the name of the game. The films of this category premiere at midnight. Stay up late to check out “I Am a Hero,” a Japanese zombie flick, or “Hush,” a chilling movie about a deaf woman being stalked in her own home by a psychotic killer.
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  • Episodic
  • Netflix withdrawal won’t be a problem if you attend the Episodic screenings, which focus on the latest exciting TV productions. The Episodic offerings include the supernatural “Outcast,” based on a comic about a man struggling with demonic possession, and the comedic “You Me Her,” which delves into the farce of a three-way affair, will premiere.
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  • 24 Beats Per Second
  • The musically inclined will definitely feel at home watching the narrative films and documentaries in this category, which emphasize the impact of music on popular culture. Documentaries include “Hired Gun,” a picture that sheds light on the lives of backup musicians, and “We Are X,” the story of Japanese hard rock band X Japan. Among the narrative features is “Miles Ahead,” Don Cheadle’s biopic about jazz revolutionary Miles Davis.
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  • SXGlobal
  • You don’t have to fly international to see the world — SXGlobal will save you money on plane tickets with pictures such as “Dead Slow Ahead,” a documentary about the disappearing trade of sailing, and “Papagajka,” an unsettling home invasion thriller set in Sarajevo, Bosnia. 
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  • Festival Favorites
  • Catch up on acclaimed films that have already premiered at other festivals around the world. SXSW co-founder Louis Black’s very own documentary, “Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny,” will screen, as well as New Zealand adventure film “Hunt For the Wilderpeople.”
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  • Special Events
  • If you’re a cinephile but in the mood for something more than a screening, then don’t miss the Special Events, one-off occasions that will satisfy your thirst. Catch a screening of “Smokey and the Bandit” introduced by star Burt Reynolds, or attend a stand-up comedy routine performed by Judd Apatow and friends.
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  • Shorts and Music Videos
  • The short films at the SXSW Film Festival will deliver narrative and documentary stories in concise, distinctive ways.
  • The narrative shorts, some of which are animated, will span a variety of genres, from fantasy in “Ernestine & Kit” to comedy in “Greener Grass.” The documentary shorts will cover issues such as voting in “The Black Belt” and small moments in lengthy lives in “Bacon & God’s Wrath.” 
  • The Texas Shorts will have special emphasis on the Lone Star state, and the Texas High School Shorts will give a budding generation of filmmakers a chance to show off their work. 
  • Music videos from artists such as Childish Gambino and Vance Joy will also screen at the film festival.