Posted by Larry Gleeson

World Premiere of Netflix’s and Higher Ground Production’s WE THE PEOPLE Kicks Off Inaugural DOCS Talks on June 24 

DOCS Industry Forum Topics Include Increasing Accessibility of Documentary Films,   Collaborations Between Public Media and Indie Filmmakers,  Investigative Journalism, and More 

June 9, 2021, WASHINGTON, DC — AFI DOCS — the American Film Institute’s documentary film festival — has announced its DOCS Talks and Industry Forum events for its 19th edition, June 22-27. The inaugural DOCS Talks section will feature the World Premiere of Netflix’s and Higher Ground Production’s WE THE PEOPLE, as well as “History Is Out of the Closet: Excavating Queer Stories for the Screen,” a live stream conversation celebrating LGBTQ+ pride. DOCS Talks events are free.


The AFI DOCS Industry Forum conversations and panels, streamed live, will explore building accessibility practices into all steps of the production process, demystifying investigative documentaries, the making of the hit series PHILLY D.A., how documentaries shape conversations on racial violence, a behind-the-scenes look at the Hindsight Project films and new collaborations between public media and indie filmmakers. This year’s Industry Forum programming will include closed captioning and American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation. The AFI DOCS Industry Forum is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. Attendees can participate in all events with an Industry Pass or purchase tickets to individual events. Passes and tickets are available at


Sarah Harris, Director of Programming, AFI Festivals

“One of the most unique parts of the festival, the AFI DOCS Industry Forum – and now the inaugural DOCS Talks events – connects attendees, filmmakers and industry leaders from across the nation in discussions concerning all aspects of documentary film and how the art form both shapes and is shaped by society,” said Sarah Harris, AFI Festivals Director of Programming. “We’re thrilled to welcome such an inspiring group of panelists and look forward to the thought-provoking conversations.”


In addition to the Industry Forum panels, AFI DOCS will host curated one-on-one meetings on June 22 and June 24 for AFI DOCS filmmakers and industry pass holders. Industry meetings provide an opportunity to connect with prominent industry professionals, funders and public media representatives from across the nation. Participants will include, but are not limited to, representatives from PBS, ITVS, Netflix, CNN Original Series, Imagine Documentaries, Catapult Film Fund and IDA.


Beyond these dynamic conversations, AFI DOCS will offer even more opportunities for filmmakers and attendees to engage and interact with the festival through the new Festival Hub and DOCS Connect platform, which will launch on opening day, June 22. The Hub will offer attendees access to everything the festival offers, including exclusive content, programmer picks, photobooth, links to special events and more. Attendees will also be able to access DOCS Connect through the Hub. This moderated message board provides an opportunity to interact and discuss AFI DOCS films, sharing insights, reactions and stories. DOCS Connect will also feature question and answer sessions in real time with select feature filmmakers on Friday, June 25, and Saturday, June 26.

DOCS Talks 


Created by Chris Nee and executive produced by Nee, Kenya Barris, and Barack and Michelle Obama, WE THE PEOPLE covers a range of basic U.S. civic lessons in not-so-basic ways. Set to original songs performed by Janelle Monáe, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Brandi Carlile, Cordae, Bebe Rexha, Kyle and inaugural National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, each episode showcases a groundbreaking mix of animated styles. WE THE PEOPLE promises to be a vibrant call to action for everyone to rethink civics as a living and breathing thing, and to reframe their understanding of what government and citizenship mean in a modern world.


In this special event, AFI DOCS will present a conversation about the expansion of nonfiction filmmaking form and the healing of a nation through a celebration of civics and cinema, moderated by The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart. Free event. Thursday, June 24, 8:00 p.m. EDT

History Is Out of the Closet: Excavating Queer Stories for the Screen  

Moderated by Madeleine Lim, Executive/Artistic Director of the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP), the livestream discussion will focus on the queer filmmakers of AFI DOCS 2021. With documentaries touching on eras from the 1920s and into the present, these filmmakers revisit and reframe LGBTQIA+ histories, incorporating a rich texture and diversity of experiences to celebrate fascinating subcommunities and wonderful lesser-known figures. Reclaiming histories that have been systematically erased and ignored, these films remind the world with pride that queer people have always been here. The panel will be moderated by Madeleine Lim, Executive/Artistic Director of the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project. Free event. Saturday, June 26, 1:00 p.m. EDT 

AFI DOCS 2021 Industry Forum 


Breaking the Silence: How Documentaries Can Shape Conversations on Racial Violence. 

Moderated by Sherry Simpson, ITVS’s Senior Director of Engagement and Impact Innovation, this eye-opening panel will discuss the Center for Media & Social Impact’s report “Breaking the Silence: How Documentaries Can Shape the Conversation on Racial Violence in America and Create New Communities.” The study, which focused on community screenings and conversations around the Independent Lens documentary ALWAYS IN SEASON, provided some key findings and insights that can be incorporated into filmmaker’s future projects. Tuesday, June 22, 4:00 p.m. EDT


Getting Serious About Series: New Collaborations Between Public Media Series and Indie Filmmakers 

Day two of the Forum begins with a discussion with leading executives from PBS and WORLD Channel flagship series including American Experience, NOVA, American Masters and WORLD’s America ReFramed and independent filmmakers. The panel, led by Black Public Media’s Executive Director Leslie Fields-Cruz, will explore the exciting new collaborations between legacy series and the independent film community to highlight diverse voices and original ideas. Wednesday, June 23, 2:00 p.m. EDT 


Looking to the Future With “Hindsight” 

Moderated by Sapana Sakya, the Talent Development and Special Projects Manager for the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), Looking to the Future With “Hindsight” brings together filmmakers from the Hindsight Project whose films will be making their world premieres in this year’s AFI DOCS, along with the key collaborators who made this effort possible, including Firelight Media, CAAM, Reel South and Southern public media stations. Wednesday, June 23, 4:30 p.m. EDT 

Inside Investigation: What Filmmakers Need to Know to Embark on Investigative Documentaries 

“Inside Investigation” aims to demystify and remove the intimidation factor from investigative documentaries, especially for filmmakers who do not necessarily have a background in journalism. Moderator Carrie Lozano, Director of the Sundance Documentary Film Program, and a panel of experts will discuss how to successfully embark on investigative projects, navigate obstacles and avoid potential pitfalls. Thursday, June 24, 2:00 p.m. EDT 


Making Films More Accessible to All Audiences

There is a strong push toward making films accessible to the widest array of audiences – through audio descriptions, live transcripts, captioning and other tools. In “Making Films More Accessible to All Audiences,” moderated by filmmaker and founding member of the nonprofit organization FWD-Doc Day Al-Mohamed, a panel of filmmakers, WGBH’s Media Access Group and other experts address what filmmakers need to know about accessibility needs, best practices and available resources as they work to build accessibility practices into all steps of the production process. Thursday, June 24, 4:00 p.m. EDT


PHILLY D.A. – The Making of the Landmark New Independent Lens Docuseries  

For the final day of Forum programming, AFI DOCS presents the special two-part panel “PHILLY D.A. – The Making of the Landmark New Independent Lens Docuseries,” with an in-depth, 360-degree exploration of the docuseries that has captivated audiences since its recent debut on INDEPENDENT LENS.

  • In Part 1, ITVS Vice President of Production Royd Chung leads the filmmakers and other key personnel through the evolution of the series and the major creative and practical challenges in telling this dynamic, multi-dimensional story. Friday, June 25, 12:00 p.m. EDT 
  • Part 2 will focus on the engagement and impact strategies employed on the series’ behalf, as ITVS Senior Director of Engagement and Innovation Sherry Simpson moderates an up-to-the-minute discussion with the film team. Friday, June 25, 2:30 p.m. EDT

Passes and tickets to AFI DOCS 2021 are now available at  

AFI Members receive exclusive discounts and benefits. To become an AFI member, visit


AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute’s annual documentary festival historically held in Washington, DC.  Presenting the year’s best documentaries, AFI DOCS is the only festival in the U.S. dedicated to screenings and events that connect audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders in the heart 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 and Frederick Wiseman. Now in its 19th year, the festival will be held June 22-27, 2021. Visit and connect on,, and 


About the American Film Institute (AFI)
Established in 1967, the American Film Institute is the nation’s nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring artists and audiences through initiatives that champion the past, present and future of the moving image. AFI’s pioneering programs include filmmaker training at the AFI Conservatory; year-round exhibition at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center and at AFI Festivals across the nation; workshops aimed at increasing diversity in the storytelling community; honoring today’s masters through the AFI Life Achievement Award and AFI AWARDS; and scholarly efforts such as the AFI Catalog of Feature Films that uphold film history for future generations. Read about all of these programs and more at and follow us on social media at,, and


About the Corporation for Public Broadcasting  

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,500 locally managed and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television and related online services. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @CPBmedia, Facebook and LinkedIn, and subscribe for email updates. 


About The Washington Post and Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership  

The Washington Post is an award-winning news leader whose mission is to connect, inform and enlighten local, national and global readers with trustworthy reporting, in-depth analysis and engaging opinions. It combines world-class journalism with the latest technology and tools so readers can interact with The Post anytime, anywhere.


The Press Freedom Partnership is a public service initiative from The Washington Post to promote press freedom and raise awareness of the rights of journalists who are in pursuit of the truth. Learn more at


About Meet the Press with Chuck Todd

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd is where newsmakers come to make news — setting the political agenda and spotlighting the impact Washington decision-making has on Americans across the country. It is the #1 most-watched Sunday public affairs show for the 2019-2020 season, reaching more than three million viewers every Sunday and millions more through social, digital and on-demand platforms. Meet the Press brings its authority and influencer interviews to MSNBC with MTP Daily weekdays at 1 p.m. ET, to the ongoing weekly podcast, The Chuck ToddCast, and to Meet the Press Reports, a 30-minute program on NBC News NOW and Peacock, focusing on a single topic explored through the Meet the Press lens. It’s the longest-running show in television history, recently expanding its brand to also include a political short-documentary film festival in collaboration with the American Film Institute. Chuck Todd is the political director of NBC News and the moderator of Meet the Press; John Reiss is the executive producer.



Elizabeth Ward, AFI DOCS PR,

American Film Institute: Stacy Adamski, 323.856.7759,

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