Category Archives: #AFIDOCS

AFI DOCS 2021 Award Winners

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Audience Award for Best Feature Goes to

STORM LAKE

Audience Award for Best Short Goes to SHELTER

Short Film Grand Jury Prize Goes to RED TAXI

Among the Participants in 19th Annual Festival of Documentary Film:

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Morgan Neville, Garrett Bradley, Dawn Porter

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JUNE 28, 2021, WASHINGTON, DC — The American Film Institute (AFI) has announced the AFI DOCS 2021 Award Winners, concluding the six-day festival, with screenings presented online and in-person at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center. The festival’s Audience Award for Best Feature went to STORM LAKE, directed by Jerry Risius and Beth Levison. The Audience Award for Best Short went toSHELTER, directed by Smriti Mundhra.

This year’s voting jury for the competitive Short Films slate was comprised of Mike Attie, award-winning filmmaker and professor of film at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia; Greta Hagen-Richardson, Director of Programming at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and Lead Features Programmer at the New Orleans Film Festival; and Yvonne Ashley Kouadjo, Associate Producer for The New York Times’ award-winning short documentary series Op-Docs.

The Grand Jury Prize for Short Films went to RED TAXI, directed byAnonymous. The jury said of RED TAXI: “For its creative and accessible approach to telling a story from the perspective of those living and working in a moment of political upheaval, we award the Shorts Grand Jury Prize to RED TAXI. The courage of the anonymous filmmaker struck us for their commitment to depicting the nuances of reality on the ground.” The Shorts Grand Jury Prize at AFI DOCS is a qualifying award for Academy Award® eligibility.

The jury also awarded the Special Jury Prize to two films: THE COMMUNION OF MY COUSIN ANDREA, directed by BrandánCerviño Abeledo, saying,

“For its ability to tell a reflexive story with levity and tenderness, we award a Special Jury Prize to THE COMMUNION OF MY COUSIN ANDREA”; and S P A C E S (M E Z E R Y), directed by Nora Štrbová, saying, “For its intelligent use of multi-dimensional media in telling a fraught, emotional story, we award a Special Jury Prize to S P A C E S (M E Z E R Y).”

The 19th edition of AFI DOCS presented a diverse slate of 78 films from 23 countries, shedding light on overlooked stories from the past, honoring champions of change and giving us glimpses into the everyday lives of subjects close to home and around the world. This year, 52% of AFI DOCS films were directed by women, 40% by BIPOC directors and 18% by LGBTQ directors.

Among the festival participants were filmmakers and notables including Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar; Academy Award®winners Morgan Neville, Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine and Mark Ronson; Academy Award®-nominated filmmakers Julie Cohen, Betsy West and Steve James; Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Art Cullen; award-winning filmmaker Dawn Porter; Emmy® Award winner Chris Nee; CNN political contributor and host Van Jones; author and The New Yorker contributor Jelani Cobb; filmmaker and actor Sonja Sohn; musician and filmmaker Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson; Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture Curator Dwandalyn Reece; President of the African American Film Critics Association Gil Robertson; Georgetown University Professor Dr. Janet Mann; rapper KYLE; and son of late comedian and activist Dick Gregory Christian Gregory.

The festival’s panels and discussions provided filmmakers, film subjects and audiences the opportunity to delve deeper into the films with conversations led by some of the nation’s top journalists, including: NBC News Correspondent Morgan Radford; NBC News’ Meet the Press Moderator and NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd; NBC News Correspondent Anne Thompson; MSNBC Correspondent Trymaine Lee; Variety’s Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis; Axios Justice and Race Reporter Russell Contreras; Senior Segment Producer of WGN Morning News and WGN’s Entertainment Producer Tyra Martin; entertainment journalist & TV producer KJ Matthews; CQ Roll Call Deputy Editor Jason Dick andHealth Care Editor Rebecca Adams; and The Washington Post’s Managing Editor for Diversity and Inclusion Krissah Thompson, Chief Film Critic Ann Hornaday, Global Opinions writer Jason Rezaian, National Security Editor Peter Finn, Religion Reporter Michelle Boorstein, and Host and Editor of Food Video Mary Beth Albright.

This year’s inaugural DOCS Talks programming included the World Premiere of Netflix’s and Higher Ground’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. The AFI DOCS Industry Forum explored 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 also included 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.

RED TAXI

DIR: Anonymous. As protests in Hong Kong escalate, taxi drivers experience a city in upheaval driving the streets day and night. Anonymously filmed by locals.

SHORT FILM SPECIAL JURY PRIZE

THE COMMUNION OF MY COUSIN ANDREA

DIR: Brandán Cerviño Abeledo. Andrea’s First Communion ceremony lacks glamour. For Andrea, things without sparkles are meaningless.

SHORT FILM SPECIAL JURY PRIZE

S P A C E S (M E Z E R Y)

DIR: Nora Štrbová. A multi-textured animated exploration of memory as a container of identity, based on the personal story of the filmmaker and her brother who was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

This year’s Premium Sponsor is Apple Original Films. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) returns as Official Sponsor of the festival. NBC News’ Meet the Press with Chuck Todd and The Washington Post return this year as Primary Media Partners. Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are this year’s Official Media Partners. The Wrap is an Affiliate Media Partner.Screen Sponsors include SHOWTIME® Documentary Films, Netflix, WarnerMedia and HBO Documentary Films. Participant, National Geographic, and Eventive serve as Major Sponsors. This year’s Contributing Sponsors are ESPN, the National Endowment for the Arts and the DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music, and Entertainment (OCTFME). Supporting Sponsors include the Maryland Film Office, Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce and Rev. The Embassy of Denmark in Washington, DC, and the Farhang Foundation are this year’s Cultural Sponsors. Generous individual support comes from Stephanie and Hunter Hunt.

 

About AFI DOCS

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 DOCS.AFI.com and connect onTwitter.com/AFIDOCSFacebook.com/AFIDOCSYouTube.com/AFIand Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

 

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 AFI.com and follow us on social media at Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstituteYouTube.com/AFITwitter.com/AmericanFilmand Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

 

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 www.cpb.org and follow us on Twitter @CPBmedia, Facebook and LinkedIn, and subscribefor 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 www.wapo.st/pressfreedom

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.

CONTACT:

Elizabeth Ward, AFI DOCS PR, elizabeth@prcollaborative.com

American Film Institute: Stacy Adamski, 323.856.7759,SAdamski@AFI.com

THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES SPONSORS FOR AFI DOCS 2021

THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE ANNOUNCES
SPONSORS FOR AFI DOCS 2021

Support Comes From Wide Range of Art and Cultural Institutions, Media Partners and Corporations

Apple Original Films Joins AFI DOCS as a Premium Sponsor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, June 18, 2021, WASHINGTON, DC — The American Film Institute (AFI) has announced the sponsors for AFI DOCS 2021. Support for the festival comes from both local organizations based in the DC-metro area and major corporations across the nation. The 19th edition of AFI DOCS will run June 22–27, with films available to view on DOCS.AFI.com as well as in-person screenings at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, MD.

“AFI DOCS reaches a nationwide audience with the support of our sponsors,” said Sarah Harris, AFI Festivals Director of Programming. “It is their generosity that amplifies the voices of today’s most vital storytellers, and we thank them on behalf of all who find inspiration in the arts.” 

In addition to supporting AFI DOCS film programming and events, sponsors provide services and exclusive experiences to filmmakers and audiences throughout the festival. Sponsor participation includes sponsoring specific film screenings, panels and events as well as national and local promotion of the festival.  

This year, AFI is proud to have Apple Original Films support AFI DOCS for the first time as a Premium Sponsor. Top festival sponsors will give audiences sneak peeks at exclusive upcoming trailers and content on the festival’s streaming platform and in the AFI DOCS Festival Hub. Media partners will also provide DOCS audiences with access to their digital issues during the week of the festival via a virtual newsstand.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) returns as Official Sponsor of the festival. CPB is Official Sponsor of the AFI DOCS Industry Forum and the Spotlight on the Hindsight Project, a special selection of short filmsthat chronicle the experiences of BIPOC communities in the American South and U.S. Territories during the unprecedented events of 2020.  

NBC News’ Meet the Press with Chuck Todd and The Washington Post return this year as Primary Media Partners. Meet the Press and The Washington Post, in conjunction with the Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership, will provide moderators for a number of films in this year’s festival. Highlights include Meet the Press Moderator and NBC Political Director Chuck Todd moderating LFG and NBC News Correspondent Morgan Radford moderating the discussion following the Opening Night World Premiere of NAOMI OSAKA. In addition to supporting post-screening discussions, Washington Post Live, The Post’s live journalism platform, will host a conversation with ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN filmmaker Morgan Neville. Post Managing Editor for Diversity and Inclusion Krissah Thompson will also moderate the World Premiere of WE THE PEOPLE in the inaugural DOCS Talks program.

Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are this year’s Official Media Partners. This year, Variety sponsors the Charles Guggenheim Symposium, which will feature a conversation between the 2021 Guggenheim honoree Dawn Porter and Variety’s Clayton Davis, and The Hollywood Reporter will be a media partner for the screening of SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED). 

The Wrap joins AFI DOCS as an Affiliate Media Partner this year and is a media partner for the screening of TOM PETTY: SOMEWHERE YOU FEEL FREE.

Screen Sponsors are SHOWTIME® Documentary Films, Netflix, WarnerMedia and HBO Documentary Films. SHOWTIME® Documentary Films will once again host a networking event for filmmakers and industry, adjusted to be virtual instead of the in-person event they have hosted in the past. SHOWTIME® willalso send a special, customized gift to the festival filmmakers as they celebrate AFI DOCS from home.

Participant returns as a Major Sponsor, along with new sponsors National Geographic and Eventive. 

This year’s Contributing Sponsors are ESPN, the National Endowment for the Arts and the DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music, and Entertainment (OCTFME). 

Supporting Sponsors include the Maryland Film Office, Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce and Rev. 

The Embassy of Denmark in Washington, DC, and the Farhang Foundation are this year’s Cultural Sponsors. 

Generous individual support comes from Stephanie and Hunter Hunt.

About AFI DOCS 

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 DOCS.AFI.comand connect on Twitter.com/AFIDOCS,Facebook.com/AFIDOCSYouTube.com/AFI andInstagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute

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 AFI.com and follow us on social media atFacebook.com/AmericanFilmInstitute,YouTube.com/AFI, Twitter.com/AmericanFilm andInstagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

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 www.cpb.org 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 www.wapo.st/pressfreedom

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. 

CONTACT: 

Elizabeth Ward, AFI DOCS PR,elizabeth@prcollaborative.com 

American Film Institute: Stacy Adamski, 323.856.7759,SAdamski@AFI.com

NAOMI OSAKA docuseries opening the American Film Institute’s 2021 AFI DOCS

Posted by Larry Gleeson

What does it feel like to be one of the best tennis players in the world?

Naomi Osaka

Find out June 22nd as the American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS will host the Opening Night World Premiere of Naomi Osaka directed by Garrett Bradley (“TIME”) followed by a virtual Q&A with Bradley. Tickets and passes for Naomi Osaka and for the AFI DOCS 2021 festival are available here.

Naomi Osaka gives unprecedented access following Osaka during a historic two years in which she works on her game but also begins to find her voice. Whether she’s defending her grand slam titles —while wearing masks in defense of Black lives — mourning the unexpected loss of mentor Kobe Bryant, or finding her independence, the challenges Naomi faces on a personal level begin to align with those in the public sphere.

With fly-on-the-wall intimacy, the series chronicles Osaka’s hectic training and travel schedule, explores the layers of pressure she is under, and reveals how she spends her time off the court hanging with her closest family and friends. The episodes also travel the globe with Osaka to further explore her Haitian roots as well as examine her deep connection to Japan, the country she represents.

Naomi Osaka is a three-part documentary series. One you won’t want to miss!

AFI DOCS 2021 TICKETS NOW ON SALE

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The American Film Institute has gone live with its tickets and passes for the AFI DOCS 2021 festival. With  77 films from 23 countries and 4 World Premieres, with 52% of the films directed by women, 40% by BIPOC directors and 18% by LGBTQ directors, this year’s AFI DOCS promises to be quite heated and equitably balanced.

WE THE PEOPLE

The 19th edition of the festival will present films in the following sections: Special Presentations, Guggenheim Symposium, Feature Films, Series, Cinema’s Legacy, Short Film Competition and Spotlight on the Hindsight Project. AFI DOCS 2021 runs June 22–27, with films available to view on DOCS.AFI.com as well as in-person screenings at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, MD, and select films will be available with closed captioning and descriptive audio. The Washington Post and Meet the Press return as the Primary Media Partners.

“We are living in the Golden Age of documentary film,” said Sarah Harris, AFI Festivals Director of Programming. “At AFI DOCS, we are proud to celebrate excellence in the films of 2021 – connecting audiences across the nation, engaging them in lively conversation and inspiring them with both the unprecedented challenges and the breathtaking beauty of the world around us.”

 

AFI DOCS‘ program of Special Presentations includes the previously announced Opening Night World Premiere of NAOMI OSAKA and Closing Night film CUSP, as well as the Centerpiece Screening of ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN.

CUSP

ROADRUNNER

This year, the Features section explores a diverse range of subjects including the growing movement in the medical community to push back against big pharma (WHITE COAT REBELS); an examination of law enforcement’s relationship with the community through the lens of a corruption scandal in the Baltimore police department (THE SLOW HUSTLE); the emotional complexities of family court trials (COURTROOM 3H); and Syrian artists working in exile in Europe (THE STORY WON’T DIE).

 

 

The Cinema’s Legacy program, now in its third year at AFI DOCS, presents historically notable nonfiction films that employ the personal documentary form: IN SEARCH OF OUR FATHERS (1992), SINK OR SWIM (1990) and STEVIE (2002). Cinema’s Legacy is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

 This year’s Series section features multi-part documentaries that investigate pivotal moments in history and culture, from an exploration of the sound creation in modern music in WATCH THE SOUND WITH MARK RONSON, to an in-depth look at a day that changed our country forever with 9/11: ONE DAY IN AMERICA. The Series section will also feature the World Premiere of OBAMA: IN PURSUIT OF A MORE PERFECT UNION.

The Short Film Competition will be presented in six programs, with stories from across the globe and close to home, and are eligible for the Grand Jury Prize.

 

Special to AFI DOCS this year is the Spotlight on the Hindsight Project, sponsored by CPB. The section presents the world premiere of six short films, which chronicle the experiences of BIPOC communities in the American South and U.S. Territories during the unprecedented events of 2020. The project is produced in partnership by Firelight Media, Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and Reel South.

As previously announced, this year’s Charles Guggenheim Symposium will feature a discussion with filmmaker Dawn Porter and a free screening of her new film RISE AGAIN: TULSA AND THE RED SUMMER.

Audience Awards will be given to a feature and a short film based on votes cast by attendees throughout the festival. The winners of the Audience Awards for Best Feature and Best Short will be announced on Monday, June 28. For the second year, the AFI DOCS Short Film Competition Grand Jury Prize is a qualifying award for Academy Award® eligibility.

Passes to AFI DOCS 2021 are now available at DOCS.AFI.com . AFI Members receive exclusive discounts and benefits. To become an AFI member, visit AFI.com/join.

AFI DOCS 2021 PROGRAM 

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS 

Featuring our Opening, Centerpiece and Closing films, this section spotlights the highest-profile and most anticipated films of the festival.

OPENING NIGHT SCREENING – Tuesday, June 22

NAOMI OSAKA:  DIR Garrett Bradley.  PRODS Lauren Cioffi, Katy Murakami and Sally Rosen.  USA.

What does it feel like to be one of the best tennis players in the world? An intimate look inside the life of one of the most gifted and complex athletes of her generation offers insight into the tough decisions and ecstatic triumphs that shape Naomi Osaka as both an elite global superstar and a young woman navigating a pressure-filled world. World Premiere.

 

CLOSING NIGHT SCREENING – Sunday, June 27

CUSP:  DIRS Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt.  PROD Zachary Luke Kislevitz.  USA.

This coming-of-age documentary follows three teenage girls for one wild, life-changing summer in their small Texas town as they grapple with what becoming an adult means, especially for young women.

 

CENTERPIECE SCREENING – Friday, June 25

ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN:  DIR Morgan Neville.  PRODS Caitrin Rogers and Morgan Neville.  USA.

A documentary about the uncommon life of the late storyteller, explorer and chef, Anthony Bourdain.

 

 

2021 CHARLES GUGGENHEIM SYMPOSIUM 

 

GUGGENHEIM SYMPOSIUM WITH DAWN PORTER – Wednesday, June 23

Honoring a master of the nonfiction art form, this year’s Guggenheim Symposium will include an in-depth conversation with celebrated filmmaker Dawn Porter hosted by Variety’s Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis, featuring clips from her acclaimed work and a free screening of her most recent project.

 

RISE AGAIN: TULSA AND THE RED SUMMER:  DIR Dawn Porter.  PROD Dawn Porter.  USA.

One hundred years after the two-day Tulsa Massacre, one of America’s most violent racial conflicts, this documentary explores the role of media during these early 20th century events and today’s revived call for justice and anti-racism. Free Screening.

FEATURE FILMS 

This year’s diverse features section is a collection of original, enlightening and daring explorations of the people and world around us.

COURTROOM 3H:  DIR Antonio Méndez Esparza.  PRODS Pedro Hernandez Santos, Rebeca Villar Rodriguez and Ana Castanosa Bielsa.  Spain.

Inside Tallahassee’s Courtroom 3H, staggeringly emotional hearings and trials hint at the complexities of family histories, calling into question a justice system with the power to decide who is suitable to be a parent. North American Premiere.

 

DAUGHTER OF A LOST BIRD:  DIR Brooke Pepion Swaney.  PRODS Jeri Rafter, Kendra Mylnechuk and Brooke Pepion Swaney.  USA.

Kendra grew up in white suburbia knowing little of her Native American heritage. The search for her birth mother leads her to face a legacy of family trauma and joy.

 

DELPHINE’S PRAYERS (LES PRIÈRES DE DELPHINE):  DIR Rosine Mbakam.  PROD Geoffroy Cemaix.  Belgium, Cameroon.

Delphine, a 30-year-old Cameroonian woman, sits casually on a mattress. With filmmaker Rosine Mbakam, she will “just talk as usual,” describing what led her to this brightly lit room in a Brussels apartment.

 

FATHOM:  DIR Drew Xanthopoulos.  PROD Megan Gilbride.  USA.

Have you ever wanted to introduce yourself to a whale? FATHOM follows women in the field of cetacean research trying to do just that and takes a deep dive into whale culture and our own.

 

THE FIRST STEP:  DIR Brandon Kramer.  PROD Lance Kramer.  USA.

Brilliantly plotted and politically nuanced, THE FIRST STEP follows CNN commentator Van Jones’ trip down the rabbit hole as he forms an unholy alliance with Jared Kushner to effectuate prison reform legislation.

 

LFG:  DIRS Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine.  PRODS Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine and Abby Greensfelder.  USA.

LFG is an inspiring and intimate documentary following the U.S. women’s national soccer team as it files a class-action, gender discrimination lawsuit against the team’s employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation.

 

THE LOST LEONARDO:  DIR Andreas Koefoed.  PRODS Christoph Jörg and Andreas Dalsgaard.  Denmark, France, Sweden.

This intriguing thriller follows the story behind the Salvator Mundi, the most expensive painting ever sold ($450 million) after it is claimed to be a long-lost masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci.

 

LUCHADORAS:  DIRS Paola Calvo and Patrick Jasim.  PROD Phillip Kaminiak.  Germany, Mexico.

Three courageous female wrestlers, Luchadoras, confront crises in their personal lives and present strength in their community of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where women are all too often abused, kidnapped or murdered.

 

MY NAME IS PAULI MURRAY:  DIRS Julie Cohen and Betsy West.  PROD Talleah Bridges McMahon.  USA.

Academy Award® nominees Betsy West and Julie Cohen (RBG) profile the remarkable Pauli Murray, whose legacy as one of the 20th Century’s great human rights activists and legal scholars finally gets the attention it deserves.

 

THE NEUTRAL GROUND:  DIR CJ Hunt.  PROD Darcy McKinnon.  USA.

Comedian and satirist CJ Hunt (THE DAILY SHOW) is asking difficult questions about this country’s Confederate monuments. In THE NEUTRAL GROUND, he hopes to discover some clarity, by diving into history.

 

NO STRAIGHT LINES:  DIR Vivian Kleiman.  PRODS Vivian Kleiman and Justin Hall.  USA.

This wonderfully immersive look at the history of queer comics celebrates the queer artists who carved out a space in the culture where they could see themselves and be seen by others.

 

NORTH BY CURRENT:  DIR Angelo Madsen Minax.  PROD Felix Endara.  USA.

After the death of his young niece and accusations that the family might somehow have been involved, filmmaker Angelo Madsen Minax has many questions that won’t have clear or easy answers.

 

THE ONE AND ONLY DICK GREGORY:  DIR Andre Gaines.  PRODS Andre Gaines and Valerie Edwards.  USA.

In this affectionate tribute guided by other entertainers, the iconic comedian and activist Dick Gregory finds humor again after losing it in anger.

 

PRAY AWAY:  DIR Kristine Stolakis.  PRODS Jessica Devaney, Anya Rous and Kristine Stolakis.  USA.

Former leaders of the “pray away the gay” movement contend with the aftermath unleashed by their actions, while a survivor seeks healing and acceptance from more than a decade of trauma.

 

PRESIDENT:  DIR Camilla Nielsson.  PRODS Signe Byrge Sørensen and Joslyn Barnes.  Denmark, USA, Norway.

Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe has been ousted, but the corrupt ruling party has already thrown their power behind a new candidate and, with democracy at stake, challenger Nelson Chamisa faces an impossible battle.

 

RADIOGRAPH OF A FAMILY:  DIR Firouzeh Khosrovani.  PRODS Bård Kjøge Rønning and Fabien Greenberg.  Iran, Switzerland, Norway.

Filmmaker Firouzeh Khosrovani excavates and examines her parents’ marriage, which reflects the divide between traditionalism and modernization in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution.

 

REBEL HEARTS:  DIR Pedro Kos.  PRODS Kira Carstensen, Shawnee Isaac-Smith and Judy Korin.  USA.

In Los Angeles in the 1960s, the courageous Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary challenged the Roman Catholic Church in an effort to reform its engrained patriarchal strictures – but at a considerable cost.

 

SEARCHERS:  DIR Pacho Velez.  PRODS Pacho Velez, Joe Poletto, Sam Roseme and Cathy Tankosic.  USA.

Swipe right or swipe left? Such love-life-altering decisions are explored in Pacho Velez’s enchanting, poignant exploration of online dating apps and those searching for love in all the digital places.

 

THE SLOW HUSTLE: DIR Sonja Sohn.  PRODS Marc Levin, Daphne Pinkerson and Mahrya MacIntire.  USA.

After Baltimore Police Detective Sean Suiter is shot and found dead while on duty, the tragedy soon becomes enmeshed in a widening corruption scandal that threatens to unravel the public’s already strained relationship with law enforcement. World Premiere.

 

STORM LAKE:  DIRS Jerry Risius and Beth Levison.  PROD Beth Levison.  USA.

For 30 years, in Storm Lake, Iowa, Art Cullen and his family have been publishing a Pulitzer Prize-winning local newspaper. But, with newspapers everywhere going extinct, how long can they keep it up?

 

THE STORY WON’T DIE:  DIR David Henry Gerson.  PROD Odessa Rae, Abdalaziz Alhamza and Martin Marquet.  USA, Germany, Denmark.

In their homeland of Syria, artists are routinely tortured, kidnapped, imprisoned and killed. While in exile in Europe, their talents speak truth to power, help them heal and find joy. US Premiere.

SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED):  DIR Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.  PRODS Joseph Patel; Robert Fyvolent; and David Dinerstein.  USA.

In 1969, the same summer as Woodstock, another epic music festival — celebrating American music and African American history — took place in Harlem, New York.

 

TOM PETTY, SOMEWHERE YOU FEEL FREE:  DIR Mary Wharton.  PROD Peter Afterman.  USA.

Newly discovered archival 16mm footage is weaved with intimate interviews to create a love letter to Tom Petty’s touchstone album “Wildflowers” and an artist’s story of his struggle to feel free.

 

TRY HARDER!:  DIR Debbie Lum.  PRODS Nico Opper, Lou Nakasako and Debbie Lum.  USA.

Welcome to the high-pressure world of the college application process. TRY HARDER! features a wonderful cast of stressed-out high school seniors pulling out all the stops to make their college dreams a reality.

 

WE:  DIR Alice Diop.  PROD Sophie Salbot.  France.

In this fascinating slice-of-life portrait of Paris and its outskirts, filmmaker Alice Diop turns her camera on the “ordinary” people living in the shadow of the RER B train that traverses the city.

 

WHITE COAT REBELS:  DIR Greg Barker.  PRODS. Diane Becker, Greg Barker, Christopher Buchanan, Dr. Harriet Fraser.  USA.

In this probing look inside the medical profession, filmmaker Greg Barker examines the outsized influence of Big Pharma and the courageous “white coat rebels” who are pushing back against the powers that be. World Premiere.

SERIES 

Go on a binge or take it one episode at a time, these multi-part documentaries explore pivotal moments in history and culture that connect us.

9/11: ONE DAY IN AMERICA:  DIR Daniel Bogado.  PROD Caroline Marsden.  USA.

In official collaboration with the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, this documentary series take viewers through harrowing moments of the historic morning of September 11, 2001. AFI DOCS will present the first three episodes.

 

OBAMA: IN PURSUIT OF A MORE PERFECT UNION:  DIR Peter Kunhardt.  PRODS George Kunhardt, Teddy Kunhardt, Maya Mumma and Matthew Henderson.  USA.

This multi-part documentary explores the journey of Barack Obama from his early upbringing to the 44th U.S. President, set against the backdrop of the country’s unfolding racial history. World Premiere. AFI DOCS will present the first two episodes.

 

WATCH THE SOUND WITH MARK RONSON:  DIRS Mark Monroe, Morgan Neville and Jason Zeldes.    USA.

Hosted by renowned DJ and award-winning artist and producer Mark Ronson, this docuseries explores sound creation and the revolutionary technology shaping modern music. US Premiere. AFI DOCS will host three episodes of the new series.

CINEMA’S LEGACY 

Presenting historically notable nonfiction films, this year’s edition of Cinema’s Legacy section focuses on important works employing the personal documentary form. Now over a year into an extended quarantine, personal documentary has acquired a renewed relevance, reflecting a global turn towards introspection. Cinema’s Legacy is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

IN SEARCH OF OUR FATHERS (1992):  DIR Marco Williams.  PRODS Michael Rubbo and Marco Williams.  USA. 

Marco Williams’ searing seven-year journey to track down the father he never knew. Thirty years on, the film remains a brilliant and powerful evocation of the personal documentary form.

 

SINK OR SWIM (1990):  DIR Su Friedrich. USA.

In this canonical personal documentary, filmmaker Su Friedrich returns to a pivotal childhood memory – her father has thrown her into the deep end of the pool to teach her to swim.

 

STEVIE (2002):  DIR Steve James.  PRODS Steve James, Adam D. Singer and Gordon Quinn.  USA.

Following HOOP DREAMS’ huge success, Steve James began a straightforward film about the man he had once mentored as a Big Brother. To James’ surprise, he would end up making his most complex and personal documentary.

SHORT FILM COMPETITION 

Curated from hundreds of entries, this year’s short films highlight unique voices from around the world – presented in six programs.

AUDIBLE:  DIR Matt Ogens.  PRODS Nyle DiMarco and Peter Berg.  USA.

Athletes at the Maryland School for the Deaf defend their winning streak while dealing with the loss of a friend. They face pressures of entering the hearing world in this coming-of-age story.

THE BEAUTY PRESIDENT:  DIR Whitney Skauge.  PROD Caley Shannon.  USA.

“If a bad actor can be president, why not a good drag queen?” In 1992, Joan Jett Blakk made a historic bid for the White House as the first openly queer write-in candidate. World Premiere.

THE BROTHER (LE FRÈRE):  DIR Jérémie Battaglia.  PROD Amélie Lambert Bouchard.  Canada.

Suffering from an illness that causes body paralysis, Kais dreams he is the hero of his favorite anime, along with his brothers, Fehd the bodybuilder and Zaïd the ninja. US Premiere.

BUG FARM:  DIR Lydia Cornett.  PROD Brit Fryer.  USA.

Four women in Central Florida establish a unique bond while working with crickets, superworms and roaches on an insect farm in the rural town of LaBelle.

CODED:  DIR Ryan White.  PRODS Christopher Leggett, Rafael Marmor, Conor Fetting-Smith, Jessica Hargrave and Marc Gilbar.  USA.

The coded advertisements of legendary early-20th century gay illustrator J.C. Leyendecker quietly, but directly, acknowledged a community that was forced to live in the closet.

THE COMMUNION OF MY COUSIN ANDREA:  DIR Brandán Cerviño Abeledo.  PRODS Brandán Cerviño Abeledo and Sabrina Zimmermann.  Spain.

Andrea’s First Communion ceremony lacks glamour. For Andrea, things without sparkles are meaningless. World Premiere.

EAGLES (ÁGUILAS):  DIRS Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Maite Zubiaurre.  PRODS Kristy Guevara-Flanagan and Maite Zubiaurre.  USA.

Once a month, along the scorching southern desert border in Arizona, one group of searchers, the Aguilas del Desierto, set out to recover missing loved ones.

THE GALLERY THAT DESTROYS ALL SHAME:  DIRS Aurora Brachman and Jessie Zinn.  PRODS Aurora Brachman and Jessie Zinn.  USA.

One evening in L.A., a group of womxn gather to learn how to take back the speculum. World Premiere.

THE GAME:  DIR Roman Hodel.  PROD Franziska Sonder.  Switzerland.

A whistle. The crowded stands of the stadium roar. Players protest angrily. Announcers follow the action on the field. In the middle of it all is the referee.

GOLDEN AGE KARATE:  DIR Sindha Agha.  PRODS Malcolm Pullinger and Rachel Serada Barth.  USA.

Teen karate pro Jeff Wall teaches senior citizens self-defense at a local nursing home, giving them the tools to feel in control, connected and cared for.

THE HAIRDRESSER (LA COIFFEUSE):  DIR Lorraine Price.  PROD Lorraine Price.  Canada.

At 83, Kathleen is still doing hair, though not how you might expect. Her work is special. World Premiere.

HALPATE:  DIRS Adam Piron and Adam Khalil.  PRODS Alexandra Lazarowich and Everett Osceola.  USA.

Alligator wrestling, considered a staple of Florida tourism, is a dangerous spectacle that has been performed by members of the Seminole Tribe for over a century.

THE I AND S OF LIVES:  DIR Kevin Jerome Everson.  PRODS Madeleine Molyneaux and Kevin Jerome Everson.  USA.

The smoothest area of resistance. The “I and S” of “Lives” is traced by a lone rollerskater on Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, DC, on a summer afternoon in 2020.

INTERNATIONAL DAWN CHORUS DAY:  DIR John Greyson.  PROD John Greyson.  Canada.

On International Dawn Chorus Day (May 3, 2020), birds from six continents join a Zoom call, where they gossip about storms, cats, wires, dates and two Egyptian activists. US Premiere.

INVISIBLE MONSTERS AND TOMATO SOUP:  DIRS Stevie Borrello, Marcie LaCerte and Meghan McDonough. USA.

A batch of mushy sourdough. Two radioactive lizards. Three cans of Campbell’s tomato soup. When COVID-19 lockdowns began in 2020, people around the world began reporting more vivid dreams.

MAMA:  DIR Pablo de la Chica.  PRODS David Torres, Pablo de la Chica, Kathleen McInnis, Miguel González, Eduardo Jiménez, Jordi Rubio, Diego Urruchi and Néstor Lopez.  Spain.

Deep in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, one of the most violent places in the world, Mama Zawadi and her baby chimpanzees find that unconditional love can heal the wounds of war. North American Premiere.

MISSION: HEBRON:  DIR Rona Segal.  PROD Idit Kliger.  Israel.

Israeli soldiers are recruited at age 18 and, only months later, are already overseeing Palestinian civil life. Former soldiers describe their time in Hebron, the most troubled city in the West Bank. North American Premiere.

 

A NIGHT AT THE OPERA:  DIR Sergei Loznitsa.  PRODS Philippe Martin, Dimitri Krassoulia-Vronsky, Emmanuel Perreau and Louis Vaudeville.  France.

Filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa revisits the Palais Garnier of the 1950s and 1960s, reviving the era when kings and queens, celebrities and heads of state ascended the stairs to worship the art of opera.

NSENENE:  DIR Michelle Coomber.  PROD Michelle Coomber.  UK.

In this poetic portrait of a Ugandan tradition, Masaka’s grasshopper catchers light up the sky. World Premiere.

THE ONE WHO CROSSED THE SEA (DER ÜBERS MEER KAM):  DIR Jonas Riemer.  PRODS Jonas Riemer and Johannes Schubert.  Germany.

In a makeshift boat, a GDR refugee escapes to West Germany. His newfound freedom is disorienting, and it is only later, with a growing nationalist movement, that he begins to feel at home.

PARTY LINE:  DIR Lydia Cornett.  PROD Lydia Cornett.  USA.

At the early voting line in Ohio’s most populous county, civic duty is a public performance. World Premiere.

R.I.P. T-SHIRTS:  DIRS Kate Davis and David Heilbroner.  PRODS David Heilbroner, Grace Harry and Anwan Glover.  USA.

A small custom T-shirt shop in Washington, DC, sees a generation of Black youth experience gun violence. World Premiere.

RED TAXI:  DIR Anonymous.  Hong Kong.

As protests in Hong Kong escalate, taxi drivers experience a city in upheaval driving the streets day and night. Anonymously filmed by locals.

S P A C E S (M E Z E R Y):  DIR Nora Štrbová.  Czech Republic.

A multi-textured animated exploration of memory as a container of identity, based on the personal story of the filmmaker and her brother who was diagnosed with a brain tumor. North American Premiere.

SCUM BOY:  DIR Allison Swank.  PROD Allison Swank.  South Africa.

A look at the off-the-wall psyche of Gen Z by way of visionary 3D artist Scum Boy, a young South African, Jewish transgender man living his life with illuminating fearlessness.

SENIOR PROM:  DIR Luisa Conlon.  PRODS Jessica Chermayeff and Luisa Conlon.  USA.

At an LGBTQ retirement home, the annual “senior” prom takes on a whole new meaning – a celebration of the lives and legacies of resistance of the eldest queer generation. World Premiere.

SHELTER:  DIR Smriti Mundhra.  PROD Maya Gnyp.  USA.

A verité documentary that follows three young children and their families as they grapple with housing insecurity in Los Angeles. World Premiere.

SINCE YOU ARRIVED, MY HEART STOPPED BELONGING TO ME (DESDE QUE LLEGASTE MI CORAZÓN DEJÓ DE PERTENECERME):  DIR Erin Semine Kökdil.  PROD Erin Semine Kökdil.  USA.

Central American mothers journey by bus through Mexico, searching for their children who migrated north towards the United States but disappeared en route.

SOUVENIR SOUVENIR:  DIR Bastien Dubois.  PROD Amiel Tenenbaum.  France.

An account of filmmaker Bastien Dubois’ multiple unsuccessful attempts to initiate a dialogue with his grandfather, who had been a soldier in the French-Algerian war.

TRADE CENTER:  DIR Adam Baran.  PRODS Adam Baran and Ethan Weinstock.  USA.

The voices of gay men who cruised for sex at the World Trade Center in the 1980s and 1990s haunt the sanitized, commerce-driven landscape of the newly rebuilt Freedom Tower.

THE TRAIN STATION:  DIR Lyana Patrick.  PROD Jessica Hallenbeck.  Canada.

In this beautifully animated documentary short, filmmaker Lyana Patrick narrates her family’s powerful story of love and survival at Lejac Indian Residential School. US Premiere.

UNDER THE LEMON TREE (تحت شجرةالليمون):  DIR Noor Fawzi Alasswad.  PROD Yassmine Hammoudi.  Qatar, Palestine.

Under the shade of a lemon tree, a Palestinian woman, Khaldieh, prepares herself a humble breakfast, remembering her former life and lost homeland with an assemblage of simple elements. US Premiere.

UNFORGIVABLE (IMPERDONABLE):  DIR Marlén Viñayo.  PRODS Marlén Viñayo and Carlos Martínez.  El Salvador.

Inside an evangelical Salvadoran prison, a ruthless 18th Street gang hitman is guilty, not only of his crimes, but of the unforgivable sin of being gay.

 

THE WAY WE WAIT:  DIR Ji-Yoon Park.  PROD Ji-Yoon Park.  South Korea, UK.

The filmmaker has just moved into her 22nd house when she receives a phone call that her grandmother is in critical condition. Belatedly attempting to strengthen their relationship, she awaits the impending loss. North American Premiere.

 

WHEN WE WERE BULLIES:  DIR Jay Rosenblatt.  PROD Jay Rosenblatt.  USA.

A mind-boggling “coincidence” leads a filmmaker to track down his fifth-grade class, to examine a memory of his own complicity in a bullying incident 50 years ago.

 

 

SPOTLIGHT ON THE HINDSIGHT PROJECT 

Special to AFI DOCS this year is the Spotlight on the Hindsight Project, sponsored by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.The section presents the world premiere of six short films, which chronicle the experiences of BIPOC communities in the American South and U.S. Territories during the unprecedented events of 2020. The project is produced in partnership by Firelight Media, Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and Reel South.

 

FOOD FOR THE POOR (COMIDA PA’ LOS POBRES):  DIR Arleen Cruz-Alicea.  PRODS Arleen Cruz-Alicea.  Puerto Rico (USA).

COMIDA PA’ LOS POBRES follows a young Puerto Rican activist as he confronts the island’s persistent crisis of food insecurity. World Premiere.

 

MISSING MAGIC:  DIR Anissa Latham.  PRODS Anissa Latham, Kelsey Harrison.  USA.

MISSING MAGIC centers on a young poet and activist in Birmingham, Alabama, as he tries to write his way through the complex history of the city. World Premiere.

 

NOW LET US SING:  DIR Dilsey Davis.  USA.

An interfaith, interracial choir in Durham, North Carolina, is forced to take a new direction during the pandemic. World Premiere.

 

THIS BODY:  DIR Zac Manuel.  PRODS Lauren Cargo.  USA.

As Sydney Hall participates in an experimental coronavirus vaccine trial in hopes of protecting her beloved New Orleans community, she and her loved ones confront the history of medical abuse and experimentation on Black bodies. World Premiere.

 

UDAAN (SOAR):  DIR Amman Abbasi.  PRODS Alex Nystrom.  USA, Pakistan.

UDAAN (SOAR) follows a young Pakistani woman as she immigrates from Karachi, Pakistan, to a small town in Arkansas to begin her first year of college. World Premiere.

 

WE STAY IN THE HOUSE:  DIR Kiyoko McCrae.  PRODS Kiyoko McCrae, Eritria Pitts.  USA.

A group of New Orleans mothers struggle to care for their families and themselves throughout the pandemic. Utilizing video diaries, it provides an intimate portrait of mothering during a time of crisis. World Premiere.

 

 

About AFI DOCS 

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 DOCS.AFI.com and connect on Twitter.com/AFIDOCSFacebook.com/AFIDOCSYouTube.com/AFI and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute. 

 

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 AFI.com and follow us on social media at Facebook.com/AmericanFilmInstituteYouTube.com/AFITwitter.com/AmericanFilm and Instagram.com/AmericanFilmInstitute.

 

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 www.cpb.org and follow us on Twitter @CPBmediaFacebook 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 www.wapo.st/pressfreedom

 

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.

 

Dawn Porter AFI DOCS 2021 Guggenheim Honoree

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI Tradition Includes Honorees Spike Lee, Barbara Kopple,
Martin Scorsese, Errol Morris, Lee Grant, Stanley Nelson

AFI DOCS Will Celebrate Award-Winning Filmmaker on June 23, 2021

AFI DOCS, the American Film Institute’s documentary film festival, has announced that it will honor Dawn Porter as the 2021 Charles Guggenheim Symposium honoree.

Each year, the AFI DOCS Charles Guggenheim Symposium honors a master of the nonfiction art form. This year’s virtual Symposium will include a free screening of Dawn Porter’s new documentary with National Geographic Documentary Films RISE AGAIN: TULSA AND THE RED SUMMER and an in-depth conversation with Porter, moderated by Variety’s Clayton Davis.

“Dawn Porter’s voice echoes with power by combining the political with the deeply personal,” said Bob Gazzale, AFI President and CEO. “Her presence is imperative in today’s world, and we are honored to shine a light upon her life and her work at AFI DOCS.”

AFI President, Bob Gazzale (Photo byTom Kochel)

Porter’s new film RISE AGAIN: TULSA AND THE RED SUMMER follows award-winning Washington Post journalist DeNeen Brown as her investigation into a mass grave in her home state of Oklahoma leads her to dig deeper into the racial violence of the early 20th century. The film comes one hundred years after the Tulsa Massacre of 1921, during which hundreds of Tulsa’s Black residents were murdered and thousands were displaced.

“With each of her projects, Dawn Porter turns our attention to a previously unexamined topic or invites us to take a fresh look at something we thought we already knew – and she does that again with RISE AGAIN: TULSA AND THE RED SUMMER,” said Sarah Harris, AFI Festivals Director of Programming. “This is the kind of film that embodies the spirit of AFI DOCS, and we are honored to have it as part of our programming.”

A University of Georgetown Law School alumna, Dawn Porter turned her career from law to film in the late 2000s, executive-producing documentary, and narrative films. Porter made her directorial debut with GIDEON’S ARMY (2013), a documentary about three Black public defenders in the South, which won best editing at Sundance and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and an Emmy®. GIDEON’S ARMY is now part of the US Department of State’s American Film Showcase, the State Department’s cultural diplomacy program, and film collection.

Porter’s documentaries SPIES OF MISSISSIPPI (2014), about a secret, state-funded anti-civil rights movement, and TRAPPED (2016), exploring TRAP Laws (“Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers”) that regulate abortion clinics in the South, both aired as part of PBS’ Independent Lens series. Additionally, TRAPPED won the Special Jury Prize for Social Impact Filmmaking at Sundance and went on to win a Peabody Award.

Throughout her career, Porter has been commissioned by the Center for Investigative Reporting, Time and Essence Magazines, The New York Times Op Docs, and Amazon to create and direct films. Her most recent works, all released in 2020, examine the lives of three varied Americans who made an impact on the political and social climates, including Obama White House photographer Pete Souza (THE WAY I SEE IT), Clinton advisor and Civil Rights leader Vernon Jordan (VERNON JORDON: MAKE IT PLAIN), and Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis (JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE).

Porter’s next major project will be an AppleTV+ documentary series with Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry about mental illness and mental well-being.

Porter joins a renowned list of Guggenheim Symposium honorees: Charles Guggenheim (2003), Barbara Kopple (2004), Martin Scorsese (2006), Jonathan Demme (2007), Spike Lee (2008), Albert Maysles (2009), Frederick Wiseman (2010), Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker (2011), Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (2012), Errol Morris (2013), Alex Gibney (2014), Stanley Nelson (2015), Werner Herzog (2016), Laura Poitras (2017), Steve James (2018), Freida Lee Mock (2019), and Lee Grant (2020).

Passes to AFI DOCS 2021 are now available at DOCS.AFI.com. Early Bird pricing will be available until June 1. Tickets for individual and in-person screenings will be available June 8. To become an AFI member, visit AFI.com/join.

AFI DOCS Film Review: Maria Finitzo’s Cliteracy-exploring DILEMMA OF DESIRE Shouts For More

Posted by Larry Gleeson                                                                                      June 29, 2020

Watching the opening scene of the cliteracy-exploring documentary, The  Dilemma of Desire, I was intrigued watching a woman, neuroscientist Stacey Dutton, Ph. D., in an office present-day, walking across the screen and opening a Gray’s Anatomy Textbook, while a voice-over narration informs the viewer. What happens next befuddled me. I could not believe my eyes. Here is a woman in 2020 with an anatomy book that has no picture or information on the female clitoris. Unbelievable right? Well, apparently, the edition being discussed was published in 1858. A sleight of hand so to say. The intent is crystal clear in today’s protest language, “Let’s get emotional people! This is pussy power were dealing with here!!!”

But, the best was yet to come as the film’s most intriguing characters were introduced. One, a Brooklyn-based artist, Sophia Wallace, has a routine of going to the gym listening to “work-out” music then taking lyrics and reframing them with the clitoris in mind. From there, prints are created celebrating the “clit,” and the hundred laws of cliteracy. To accentuate, a revealing text title poses the question with dramatic flair, “Can you draw a clit?” Pulsating music accompanies the next segment, Womanhood: The Clitoris Chapter, introducing “Critical Thinking – The Best Work of Sophia Wallace” – a very thought-provoking art exhibit celebrating the female “joy button.” More importantly, Wallace is a compelling force on the screen as she shares her experience, strength, and hope in navigating desire as she expresses her truth as Director Maria Finitzo captures mush of it in Verite’ style.

In today’s world, we often hear somewhat crude and vulgar terms such as “bumping uglies” or “doing the nasty.” Wallace’s phrases, in juxtaposition, are framed in glitteringly gold letters – a beautiful and highly respectful manner and miles away from “bumping uglies” or “doing the nasty.” After Wallace’s whirlwind world, Finitzo goes on to highlight Linda Diamond, PH. D., Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies, a monthly newsletter for women interested in “pleasure in a practical everyday sense,” an industrial engineer manufacturing elegant female vibrators as well as a stunning Chicagoan woman, Coriama, who proudly postulates she has the will to negotiate for what she needs sexually.

Interestingly, Finitzo, a Peabody Award-winning director, spouts themes from Audrey Lourde’s feminist-leaning essay, Uses of the Erotic, that women have been suppressed from power and information by the male world. To prove her point, Finitzo adds a black and white still photograph of a woman suffering from what Dr. Sigmund Freud referred to as hysteria. Today, “hysterical” women in Decatur, Georgia, have formed a female support group. Here women create a sacred, safe space to explore the bounds of their sexuality. Adeptly, Finitzo managed to score footage from a meeting of the “mine’s.” as the women from Decatur openly share intimate feelings about their clitorises.

Nevertheless, “the little man in the boat” remains the misunderstood, “shuntive” part of the female anatomy, keeping women suppressed, as they are systematically warned against the dangers of eroticism and the resulting information. In one especially memorable scene, Finitzo mixes a driving, non-diegetic musical score culminating in a crescendo with a voice-over narration describing the clitoris as a powerful provocative force, a replenishing force. Some top-notch burlesque sequences, both archival performances as well as current-day performers, add an exquisite, erotic vibe.

The Dilemma of Desire, executively produced by Academy Award-winning Barbara Kopple, is an exceptionally well-executed film advocating that women are sexual beings with the right to live fully in the expression of their desires. The craftsmanship in gathering footage, in editing, informative narrative voice-overs, and musical score support and add timely emotionality in underscoring Finitzo’s sharply-pointed direction. My hat comes off to the cast and crew.

Probably most surprising was Finitzo’s ability to add tongue-in-cheek scenic elements underscoring the buffoonery surrounding the massive dismissal of the “devil’s doorbell” – in my opinion, a very serious oversight. But in the end, though the coverage seemed somewhat excessive, I found it wholly conceivable to view the clitoris as a replenishing, provocative force after viewing The Dilemma of Desire. A bit long, however, with a runtime of 109 minutes. Highly recommended.

 

 

 

AFI DOCS FILM REVIEW: Ron Howard’s Gripping “Rebuilding Paradise” Uplifts and Inspires

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard’s Rebuilding Paradise, a blistering Verite-style, National Geographic documentary, captures the devastation of the 2018 Camp Fire and the resiliency of Paradise, Calif., residents in the fire’s aftermath. Howard, one of Hollywood’s most popular directors, also directed the 1991 fire drama Backdraft. Other Howard films include the Oscar-winning dramas A Beautiful Mind and Apollo 13, the hit comedies Parenthood and Splash, and the critically-acclaimed documentaries Pavarotti and The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years. Following the Rebuilding Paradise screening, Howard and Paradise residents, Michelle John and Woody Culleton, participated in a Q & A moderated by broadcast journalist Katy Tur, an NBC correspondent and anchor for MSNBC Live. Howard confided Rebuilding Paradise was his first venture into Verite-style filmmaking while the residents echoed the unimaginable magnitude of the fire’s devastation and that the images don’t reflect the fire’s “uncomprehendable” nature.

Rebuilding Paradise opens in dramatic fashion with narrative voice-over providing a weather update informing the viewer of a windy day and PG&E contemplating a pre-emptive decision to shut down the area’s power grid. Large, fast-moving fire breaks out in the Feather River Canyon with four dozers, two water tenders, and four strike teams are deployed. Emergency calls are heard. School and hospital evacuations are taking place. Audible prayers are heard. And then, dashcam footage of a vehicle racing through the haze and fiery embers with diegetic radio communications juxtaposed against footage of a raging, massive wildfire (imagine Lord of the Rings Mountain of Fire) fueled by dry timber and blustering forty mile-per-hour winds reveal the genesis of a perfect firestorm. Non-diegetic music from the master composer, Hans Zimmer accompanies haunting, apocalyptic slow-motion frames of horses seeking freedom or at least a free-range amidst a claustrophobic smoke and death-seeking fire patches. The scene closes tinged in hope as a family escapes the area in their vehicle with exclamatory verbiage.

For me, this opening scene captured the essence of Rebuilding Paradise. As devastating as the fire and the footage were, the family breaks out and into blue skies with a redemptive foreshadowing. Howard latches on to a group of Paradise residents who have a deeply rooted sense of place and home as they take the journey to rebuild Paradise one day at a time. There were plenty of setbacks and details of electrical equipment dating to 1921 still in use were trying and quite frustrating as the lawyers for PG&E managed to beat down a wrongful death case to manslaughter with a 3.5 million dollar fine for the lives of 85 Paradise residents who perished in the massive fire. Adeptly, Howard captures the real Erin Brockovich speaking to a group of Paradise residents. Brockovich was the subject of a 2000 bio-drama directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Julia Roberts that dramatized Brockovich’s relentless and successful pursuit of justice for families who were victims of PG&E polluting their water supply.

Interestingly, Howard chose to tell the story in linear segments beginning with one month, then to three months, six months, culminating with nine months. On top of the eighty-five deaths, fifty thousand lives were displaced. One of the film’s most compelling characters turned out to be the school psychologist, Carly Ingersoll, a young thirty-something, married woman who had decided to start a family with her husband. But due to contaminants being absorbed into the groundwater, she and her husband were advised by their physician not to have a baby. In her professional capacity, she was fully engaged in trauma counseling with students and despite having nearly perished in the fire herself managed to see beyond the devastation and find a sense of hope for the future.

Rebuilding Paradise is a gripping, well-executed film with top-notch photography, driving musical score and inspirational, narrative story-telling and it covers the trials and tribulations of a community facing an assured annihilation who turn their devastation into a mythic Phoenix as their town rises from its ashes in warm and hopeful tones. Very highly recommended.

 

AFI DOCS FILM REVIEW: Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President Brings Down The Curtain for 2020 With Hope And Love

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Virtual World Premiere of the 2020 Virtual AFI DOCS Closing Night Film, Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President, directed by Mary Wharton, provided an artistic view into the influence of music on Jimmy Carter’s upbringing and its influence on the Carter Presidency. The work also provides an intimate look inside the former United States President who made peace, human rights, and healing the nation a priority after the Vietnam War and the Watergate debacle. Director Wharton also won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Music Film for her documentary feature Sam Cooke: Legend. Other feature film credits include Joan Baez: How Sweet The Sound, the platinum-selling concert film Phish: It and Farrah Fawcett Forever.

Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President featured testimonial interviews, poetry readings, and archival performances from musical legends Bob Dylan, Nile Rodgers, Roseanne Cash, Chuck Leavell, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Dizzie Gillespie, Sarah Vaughn, Ray Charles, Mihaela Jackson, Tom T. Hall, Jimmy Buffet, Bono, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Charlie Daniels, and Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band. Moreover, Ambassadors to the United Nations, Madeline Albright and Andrew Young, as well as Special Assistants to the President, Jim Free and Tom Beard, shared their respect and admiration for President Carter with direct interviews. Chip Carter, son and Presidential driver, added verisimilitude to the film’s revelatory narrative.

Following the screening, Wharton and Producer Chris Farrell participated in a Q & A moderated by Ken Jacobson and with President Carter calling in from his home in Plains, Georgia. Unfortunately, due to low bandwidth, the call was mostly inaudible. Nevertheless, the Q & A proved enlightening. While Farrell was researching and gathering artifacts for an Allman Brothers documentary, he was referred to a “bunch of guys” who began sharing stories of Gregg Allman and Jimmy Carter. Then Bob Dylan. Then Willie Nelson. And so it went. Ad Infinitum. Interestingly, Allman was the first guest of President Carter to dine in the White House. The two had become friends during Carter’s years as the Governor of the State of Georgia. In an archival interview, a clean and sober Allman tells the story of Jimmy coming out and claiming the Presidency was his for the winning. Mr. Allman claims the pronouncement came as the two heavyweights put a large dent in a bottle of J & B Scotch Whiskey. Carter contested Allman’s claim as Jimmy limits himself to one drink a day at most!

But, Jimmy Carter did become President. The road wasn’t easy. He struggled immensely until musicians like the Allman Brothers and Jimmy Buffet put on concerts in Rhode Island and Oregon respectively, galvanizing the youth vote. Even gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson was impressed with Jimmy Carter. Thompson was covering Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy’s national campaign for the Democratic Party nomination when he witnessed the verve of Carter. Carter would go on to win the nomination and the election. Kennedy would go on to have one of the longest and most influential careers in the history of the United States Senate championing a wide-range of legislative issues including the civil rights of the disabled, immigration, education, and health care reform and would bear the moniker, Lion of the Senate, for his Senatorial prowess,

Once Jimmy Carter became President, White House Lawn gatherings became regular events organized by the First Lady Rosalynn Carter. And Wharton provides spot-on footage, voice-overs, and montages of stills photographs to perfection. Yet, all was not perfect in the Camelot of the South. The longtime U.S. friend and ally, the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, had been facing opposition demonstrations and civil resistance when he fled the country leaving the opposition party’s Prime Minister in charge. The Shah had cancer and sought exile and treatment in the United States. This would become the defining moment of the Carter Administration. Carter, the humanitarian, allowed the Shah into the U.S. for treatment. The Iranian government fell and was taken over by the religious Grand Ayatollah Khomeini. The country quickly became an Islamic republic with a theocratic-republican constitution while student radicals took 52 American hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran. Former President Richard Nixon and Republican foreign policy hawks wanted swift military action against Iran. President Carter chose peace and dialogue in negotiating a release.

The U.S. economy had inflation, exorbitant interest rates, and gasoline shortages that resulted in huge lines at the pumps when gas was available. The country was in a spiritual malaise. Carter would lose his re-election bid in a landslide to Ronald Reagan, the movie actor, and Governor of California. Carter states on camera if he had it all to do over again, he’d do it the same way. The day Reagan was sworn in all the hostages were released after being held captive for 444 days. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter said their goodbyes, boarded Air Force One (where they received word of the hostages leaving Iranian airspace) and returned to small-town life in Plains, Georgia. The Carter Administration had significant foreign policy and domestic achievements with the Camp David Accords, the Panama Canal Treaties, humanitarian work around the world and new energy policies at home, environmental protection, and major educational programs under the new Department of Education.

Jimmy Carter, the Naval Officer, author, poet, a nuclear physicist, and a peanut farmer from small-town Plains, Georgia, would go on to lead a life of service negotiating peace deals (winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002), advocating for voter rights, and building homes for the less fortunate. He continues to this day with the love of his life, Rosalynn. Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President is one of the most fascinating biographical documentaries, I have ever seen. While many might feel compelled to say, “I like Jimmy Carter, the man, but not Jimmy Carter, the President.” I say, “Well…you need to watch Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President.” Highly recommended!

JIMMY CARTER Rocks the 2020 Virtual AFI DOCS to a Resounding Close

Posted by Larry Gleeson

AFI DOCS Wraps Up its First-Ever Virtual Film Festival

 

The 2020 AFI DOCS went virtual for the first time ever. The scheduled Opening Night Film, BOYS STATE, an up-close and personal look inside the American Legion’s annual political summer camp, was postponed for me due to technical issues. Consequently, A Thousand Cuts became the first film I viewed. I was able to circle back with an extended Boys State viewing window thanks to AFI DOCS. In the words of former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, in the Closing Night Film, Jimmy Carter, Rock & Roll President, “If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

The AFI DOCS offerings for its 2020 edition featured 59 films from 11 countries and 12 virtual World Premieres, with 61% of the films directed by women, 25% by POC directors, and 14% by LGBTQ directors. AT&T returned as Presenting Sponsor. Eventive provided the virtual space for viewings.

Rebuilding Paradise
Rebuilding Paradise

 

Some of my favorite films and events included: the Closing Night Film, Jimmy Carter, Rock and Roll President, an artistic view into the influence of music on the Carter Presidency featuring musical legends Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Dizzie Gillespie, Jimmy Buffet, Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, and Gregg Allman while providing an intimate look inside the former United States President who made peace, human rights, and healing a priority (highly recommended viewing); Ron Howard’s Rebuilding Paradise, a blistering Verite-style documentary capturing the devastation of the 2018 Camp Fire and the resiliency of a group of Paradise, Calif., residents in the aftermath; Sing Me A Song, a “beautiful observational portrait” on the influence technology has on a Bhutan monastery and the life of its monks; and, the Guggenheim Symposium with Lee Grant, a conversation moderated by Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday, that focused on Grant’s second career behind the camera after an Oscar-worthy acting career. Grant spoke of Barbara Kopple’s groundbreaking work, Harlan County, U.S.A., and the profound influence it had on her decision to make her 1986 Best Documentary Oscar-winning Down and Out in America – Grant’s exploration of homelessness, foreclosures, and food insecurity across the country during the Reagan-era recession.

 

 

2020-06-19_AFIDOCS_GuggenheimSymposium_LeeGrant_SP-11
Academy Award ® -winning actor and filmmaker Lee Grant, left, and the Washington Post’s Ann
Hornaday during the 2020 Guggenheim Symposium at AFI DOCS.

Truthfully, there were so many excellent films, presentations, panels, and forums, I’m somewhat dumbfounded virtually. A film deserving of special mention, however, is The Fight, produced by Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Maya Seidler, Peggy Wexler, and Kerry Washington, and tracked four American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) cases beginning with archival footage of a crowd of peaceful protesters outside the Brooklyn, New York, office building. The gathering came together following the newly inaugurated (seven days old) United States President’s public declaration on national television of Donald J. Trump’s Muslim ban. The Muslim ban’s third iteration was upheld by the United States Supreme Court. In the other three cases, the ACLU prevailed revealing military sex-orientation discriminatory policy, census misinformation perpetrated by the Commerce Department, and the denial of constitutionally granted reproductive rights by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. All three issues were strongly supported publicly by President Trump. An exceptionally well-constructed film. Essential viewing.

The Fight
The Fight

Congratulations to this year’s AFI DOCS Award Winners. The Audience Award for Best Feature went to TRANSHOOD, directed by Sharon Liese. The Audience Award for Best Short went to BLACKFEET BOXING: NOT INVISIBLE, directed by Kristen Lappas and Tom Rinaldi. The Grand Jury Prize for Short Films went to ABORTION HELPLINE, THIS IS LISA, directed by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, and Mike Attie. The jury said of the selection, “For its simple yet profound approach to a polarizing political issue, we have selected a film which puts humanity ahead of an agenda.” The Shorts Grand Jury Prize is a qualifying award for Academy Award eligibility. The jury also awarded an honorable mention to DO NOT SPLIT, directed by Anders Hammer.

This year’s voting jury for the competitive Short Films slate was comprised of Opal H. Bennett, festival Programmer for DOC NYC and Athena Festival and Shorts Producer for POV; filmmaker and curator Cameron Yates; and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Smriti Mundhra.

In addition to the films and the Guggenheim Symposium, AFI DOCS offered a plethora of panels featuring engaging discussions between filmmakers and film subjects, led by some of the nation’s top journalists: NBC News’ Meet the Press moderator and NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd; NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell; MSNBC correspondent Trymaine Lee; CNN anchor and correspondent Juan Carlos Arciniegas; NBC News correspondent and MSNBC anchor Katy Tur; NBC News correspondent Jacob Soboroff; NBC News’ Meet the Press senior producer Allie Sandza; CNN history correspondent Douglas Brinkley; author and journalist Lois Romano; activist and journalist Tre’vell Anderson; journalist Soledad O’Brien; and The Washington Post’s chief film critic Ann Hornaday, Global Opinions writer Jason Rezaian, on-air reporter Nicole Ellis and deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus.

Moreover, The AFI DOCS Forum explored unique topics with keynote presentations, conversations, panel discussions, and micro-meetings that covered developments affecting our world and documentary filmmaking. Programming for the Forum was made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. NBC News’ Meet the Press and The Washington Post returned to host and moderate sessions, with Netflix and ITVS joining to host sessions as well.

Until next time, I look forward to seeing you at the movies!

 

afidocs

About AFI DOCS

Showcasing the best in documentary programming from the US and around the globe in the heart of the nation’s capital, AFI DOCS is the nation’s premier documentary film festival.

AFI DOCS offers a unique opportunity to connect audiences with inspiring documentarians, film subjects, national opinion leaders, public policy experts, and changemakers. With insightful screenings, industry panels, and creative workshops you won’t experience at any other film festival, the festival harnesses the power of this important art form and its potential to inspire social change.

Throughout the year, the AFI DOCS Film Series brings audiences in the nation’s capital the best in nonfiction filmmaking.

“The nation’s leading documentary film festival.” – The Washington Post

AFI DOCS Advisory Board

Ken Burns

Davis Guggenheim

Chris Hegedus

Werner Herzog

Rory Kennedy

Barbara Kopple

Spike Lee

Errol Morris

Stanley Nelson

Frederick Wiseman

* Featured photo: President Jimmy Carter, left, and musician Willie Nelson.

 

 

 

AFI DOCS 2020 FILM REVIEW: A THOUSAND CUTS A Prophetic Story of “The Last Days of Democracy”

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The virtual 2020 AFI DOCS, supported by presenting sponsor, AT & T, started off with a technical difficulty, unrecoverable on my end, for the Opening Night Film, Boys State. As a result, my opening film became Ramona Diaz’s A Thousand Cuts, a well-orchestrated feature documentary on the suppression of free speech, corruption, human rights violations, the impunity of the Presidency, and the proliferation of disinformation spread through government propaganda and social media sites after the 2016 Philippine election of a populist candidate, Rodrigo Duterte. A Thousand Cuts is being presented at the 2020 AFI DOCS by The Washington Post and Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership.

Diaz utilizes historical interview and news archives after the 2016 election of “strongman” Rodrigo Duterte and the culminating intersection of Maria Ressa’s Rappler, a news site run by Phillipino women speaking truth to power. Ressa, the Time Magazine 2018 Person of the Year, received a six-year sentence for cyber-libel four days ago for her stand on democracy and her vision for a Philippine society based in love and hope rather than in anger and fear. Amal Clooney, the wife of American Hollywood actor, George Clooney, both of whom appear in the film during some heady moments, provides representation to Ressa.

In addition, Diaz provides testimonials from a multitude of journalists and a celebrity political candidate, who becomes Duterte’s social media pawn, on the political situation in the streets and inside the Duterte government. Both direct cinema and cinema verite are woven into the film’s narrative adding substance and depth to the testimonials. In one capture, Ressa describes the global alternative news movement in the Philippines. Ressa uses graphs and a verbal explanation in revealing 25 bot-like sites, all following each other, to influence an immediate audience of three million while disseminating various untruths of misinformation. Ressa also explains to co-journalists how this messaging is then repeated millions of times with the end goal of creating doubt as to what facts are.

In archival footage following his election, Duterte begins calling traditional news outlets “fake news” and begins utilizing alt news sites to sow misinformation, creating a mob mentality as misogynistic comments to rape to death or to behead Ressa for her critical news reporting approach appear on social media. Vile and shocking screenshots of social media comments further substantiate Ressa’s journalistic claims and warrant further investigation. Martin Niemölle’s infamous “First they came:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

is reduced with dramatic and telling effect by another journalist with, “First they came for the journalist, then no one knows what happened next.”

Unmistakably, a correlation with the Trump government surfaces even though only one image of the President of the United States is shown. The typical sexist (misogynistic) “locker room” talk is shown at a rally where Duterte connects the smell of fish to the scent of a woman, manipulates a podium microphone to illustrate a weak phallus, and promulgates a war on drugs vocally saying he will kill drug dealers.

Unsurprisingly, three hours after Duterte’s election, the first dead body is found in the street. Pushing aside due process and the rule of law, the Duterte government has killed thousands upon thousands of individuals leaving the bodies in the streets devastating family members and disrupting the family dynamic, disrupted constitutional checks and balances with an unchecked abuse of executive authority, and suppressed freedom of the press with slut-shaming tactics such as labeling female journalists “presstitutes” – in my opinion, the least derogatory term Duterte uses throughout A Thousand Cuts to describe the media and the female journalists depicted.

The title of the film, A Thousand Cuts, refers to a small cut that doesn’t have much effect on the workings of democracy, yet when repeated over and over each small effect begins to damage the fabric of democracy until it becomes something else. An exceptionally well-made political documentary with a timely urgency and the soul democracy at its core. A “must-see” selection with a recorded Q & A following with Diaz and Ken Jacobson, an AFI Senior Documentary Film & Special Content Programmer.

PBS Distribution and Frontline will release A Thousand Cuts this August.

AFI DOCS continues through June 21st “exploring political and social issues in the US and across the globe, introducing us to the next generation of leaders and shedding new light on figures of the past.” For more information visit AFI DOCS.

Until next time, I look forward to seeing you at the movies!

AFI DOCS 2020