The American Film Institute announced today the AFI DOCS 2016 Audience Award winners, concluding the five-day festival in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD. This year’s Audience Award fo…



Today, the American Film Institute (AFI) announced the AFI DOCS 2016 Filmmaker Forum program and Impact Lab participants. The four-day Filmmaker Forum will take place June 23–26 at the AFI DOCS Fe…




Best Short Goes to SNAILS

Festival Connects International Filmmakers with U.S. and Global Leaders


Judd Apatow, Werner Herzog, Norman Lear,
Members of Congress and More Join Industry’s

Top Documentarians for 14th Edition of AFI DOCS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — JUNE 27, 2016, WASHINGTON, DCThe American Film Institute announced today the AFI DOCS 2016 Audience Award winners, concluding the five-day festival in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD.  This year’s Audience Award for Best Feature went to MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE, directed by Rita Coburn Whack and Bob Hercules (U.S.).  This year’s Audience Award for Best Short went to SNAILS, directed by Grzegorz Szczepaniak (Poland).  With 93 films from 30 countries, the festival brought together filmmakers, industry, national policy and opinion leaders.


The 2016 festival provided unique opportunities for audiences, filmmakers and policymakers to meet in our nation’s capital as news unfolded.  U.S. Representatives Jim Himes and Nita Lowey addressed the NEWTOWN Spotlight Screening audience at the Newseum just hours after Democrats concluded their sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives.  AFI DOCS filmmakers convened with policymakers at the White House, while AFI DOCS Impact Lab-participating filmmakers met with U.S. Representatives Ted Lieu, Jim McGovern and David Price.


As part of AFI DOCS 2016, the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands and the U.S. State Department conducted a gathering and roundtable of international filmmakers from Pakistan.  The meeting focused on how international filmmakers can make the leap into the established western film community, along with private conversations on how to handle issues such as funding, distribution and censorship.  This is the third year AFI DOCS and the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands have partnered to organize programs to advance the art and impact of documentary film.


This year’s AFI DOCS attendees included renowned filmmakers Judd Apatow, Ramin Bahrani, Heidi Ewing, Alex Gibney, Rachel Grady, Werner Herzog (this year’s AFI DOCS Charles Guggenheim Symposium honoree) and Barbara Kopple, along with acclaimed singer Sharon Jones and television icon Norman Lear.  Global, national and local leaders in attendance included U.S. Representatives Jim Himes and Nita Lowey and German Ambassador Peter Wittig.


Joining the opinion leaders were distinguished journalists:  PBS NewsHour’s Chief Arts Correspondent Jeffrey Brown and Political Director Lisa Desjardins; The Undefeated’s Editor-in-Chief Kevin Merida and Culture Writer Soraya Nadia McDonald; and The Washington Post’s Chief Film Critic Ann Hornaday, Editor Josh Freedom du Lac and Opinion Writer Alyssa Rosenberg.





Co-directors Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack present a lovingly crafted and comprehensive portrait of the esteemed Dr. Maya Angelou.  The story is told by Angelou herself, along with a cast of contemporaries from her careers as actress, writer, poet and activist.  In chronicling Angelou’s life from her youth in the Depression-era South through her rise to international prominence, the film is a vital document about the importance of grace, dignity and the quest for peace.



Best friends with a shared goal of becoming millionaires believe they’ve found the answer to their dreams in an unlikely profession: snail farming.


AT&T is the presenting sponsor of AFI DOCS 2016.  AFI’s official airline, American Airlines, returned as an Official Sponsor of the festival.  Official Sponsors included the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NBCUniversal and VIZIO.  Major Sponsors included The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, BRICKTOWN, Catapult Film Fund, CrossCurrents Foundation, CYM Media & Entertainment, DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment, the Fledgling Fund, Google, Harbers Studios and the Maryland Film Office.


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AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival in the Washington, DC area.  Presenting the year’s best documentaries, AFI DOCS is the premier festival in the U.S. dedicated to screenings and events that connect audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders in the seat of our nation’s government.  The AFI DOCS advisory board includes Ken Burns, Davis Guggenheim, Chris Hegedus, Werner Herzog, Rory Kennedy, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson, D A Pennebaker, Agnès Varda and Frederick Wiseman.  Now in its 14th year, the festival will be held June 22­–26, 2016 in landmark Washington, DC venues and the historic AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD.  Visit and connect on, and


About the American Film Institute

AFI is America’s promise to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers.  AFI programs include the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and the AFI Archive, which preserve film heritage for future generations; the AFI Life Achievement Award, the highest honor for a career in film; AFI AWARDS, honoring the most outstanding movies and TV series of the year; AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies television events and movie reference lists, which have introduced and reintroduced classic American movies to millions of film lovers; year-round and special event exhibition through AFI FEST presented by Audi, AFI DOCS and the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center; and educating the next generation of storytellers at the world-renowned AFI Conservatory.  For more information about AFI, visit or connect with AFI at,, and


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Gabrielle Flamand, AFI DOCS PR, 202.339.9598 or

Liza Ameen, American Film Institute, 323.856.7885 or

The AFI DOCS Interview: TRAIN SURFERS Director Adrien Cothier

June 21, 2016

In Adrien Cothier’s short film TRAIN SURFERS, thrill-seeking young men tempt fate doing stunts on Mumbai’s high-speed trains. AFI spoke to director Adrien Cothier ahead of the film’s AFI DOCS premiere. He is a New York-based filmmaker who cut his teeth working on the set of Wes Anderson’s FANTASTIC MR. FOX.


Adrien Cothier on Twitter: “Very proud to have TRAIN SURFERS premiere at this year’s @AFIDOCS festival. <3;


What led you to documentary filmmaking?

My background is in narrative filmmaking and advertising. In both, I always try to recreate a certain reality whereas in documentaries, you have to use reality in order to create a narrative. This organic creative process led me to docs. There is definitely something pure about a documentary. The goal with TRAIN SURFERS was not to make a commercial film, clearly, but rather, to expose a certain truth about the world we live in.

What inspired you to tell this story?

I was finishing my first semester of grad school and had decided that I needed to get out of my comfort zone and explore a part of the world I had never seen. India seemed like a perfect mix of spiritual and adventurous journey. While I was researching where to go, I ended up on a viral video of a “train surfer” in Mumbai. I had never seen anything like it. It was a strange mix of absolute beauty and danger. I instantly called my friend and producer. I told him that if there’s a chance we can meet somebody like this, we had to document it, no matter the cost. That’s how it all started.

How did you find your subjects?

It wasn’t as hard as I expected it to be. I started researching local news stories of teenagers getting arrested for train-surfing. The more I accumulated information, the closer I came to understanding that this phenomenon happened in a few specific areas of Mumbai. Then, I hired a local translator in order to get in touch with the surfers in case we encountered them. After two days of waiting in train stations, we saw a teenager on the roof of a speeding train. We chased him down and convinced him to let us meet him again with his friends. The next day we went to visit him in his home.

What was a particular obstacle you faced while making the film?

Filming on the trains or outside the tracks is completely forbidden in India. I think this phobia came from the terrorist attacks in south Mumbai in 2008. Since then the police have been extremely weary, especially with tourists like myself. We had to hide the camera as much as we could and shoot without any permits. At the end, I think that our gorilla approach gave us incredible footage in which the audience can really feel taken on a forbidden ride in the world of the kids.

What do you want audiences to walk away with after screening your film?

I’d like them to realize that all around world, the exact same human dynamics are happening but under very different social circumstances. Whether in the rugged outskirts of Mumbai, these kids are in many ways behaving in the same way that New York kids would. In this way it’s a story about friendship and I’d like people to feel it. But I cannot deny that it’s also a story about how being trapped in a life of poverty with very few chances of changing your life and how this will impact the decisions you make as a young person.

Why do you think Washington, DC, is a valuable location to screen your film?

This doc is definitely not political but its intrinsic message deals with the notions of freedom, poverty and the pursuit of happiness, which to me are clear American values emanating from the declaration of independence displayed in DC.

TRAIN SURFERS plays before the feature film VISITOR’S DAY on Thursday, June 23 and Sunday, June 26. Buy tickets here.

(Source: American Film Institute Magazine/AFI Blog)