AFI DOCS has finally revealed its full slate of 92 films representing 22 countries for the 16th edition of the American Film Institute’s five-day documentary film festival in the nation’s capital. AFI DOCS 2018 runs June 13 to 17 in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD.
As previously announced, the festival will open with the world premiere of PERSONAL STATEMENT and will close with UNITED SKATES. ABOVE AND BEYOND: NASA’S JOURNEY TO TOMORROW screens as the Centerpiece Screening. Special Screenings include THE COLD BLUE, KINSHASA MAKAMBO, MR. SOUL! and WITKIN & WITKIN.
AFI DOCS 2018 PROGRAM
OPENING NIGHT SCREENING
PERSONAL STATEMENT: DIRS Juliane Dressner and Edwin Martinez. USA. Karoline, Enoch and Christine are Brooklyn high school seniors who just want to go to college, but like so many public-school students throughout the country, their schools don’t have enough college guidance support. Refusing to give up, they decide to work as college counselors in their schools, becoming the very resource they don’t have themselves. World Premiere.
CLOSING NIGHT SCREENING
UNITED SKATES: DIRS Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown. USA. Roller-skating has played a critical role in modern African-American culture, with rinks serving as both a haven of community and of artistic expression, and a flashpoint in the civil rights movement. UNITED SKATES chronicles the fight to save these rinks, and the souls of communities nationwide.
ABOVE AND BEYOND: NASA’S JOURNEY TO TOMORROW: DIR Rory Kennedy. USA. Rory Kennedy tells the stories of the women and men behind the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s decades-long exploration of our solar system, our universe and our planet, in this enlightening film that celebrates NASA’s triumphs, mourns its tragedies and affirms the importance of its mission both in space and on Earth.
THE COLD BLUE: DIR Erik Nelson. USA. In 1943, legendary Hollywood director William Wyler crafted MEMPHIS BELLE, a celebrated tribute to the titular WWII bomber. Using footage shot by Wyler from the National Archives, director Erik Nelson has made a new film, featuring gripping narration from some of the last surviving B-17 pilots. A meditation on youth, war and stunning bravery. World Premiere.
KINSHASA MAKAMBO: DIR Dieudo Hamadi. DRC, France, Germany. Amid the backdrop of seemingly the neverending political and social unrest that hangs over the Democratic Republic of Congo, three young activists take to the streets with their fellow countrymen to overthrow their country’s President and help enact much needed change in their politically beleaguered country. East Coast Premiere.
MR. SOUL!: DIRS Sam Pollard and Melissa Haizlip. USA. An in-depth look at the late 1960s WNET public television series SOUL! and its producer Ellis Haizlip. The series was among the first to provide expanded images of African Americans on television, shifting the gaze from inner-city poverty and violence to the vibrancy of the Black Arts Movement.
WITKIN + WITKIN: DIR Trisha Ziff. Mexico. The artwork of septuagenarian twins Joel-Peter and Jerome Witkin transcends genres and traditional form. WITKIN & WITKIN explores the brothers’ complicated relationship with one another, and examines depths and divisions in their work. Joel-Peter’s stunning photography and Jerome’s powerful figurative paintings distinctly capture the human condition, reflecting differing emotional and intellectual approaches. U.S. Premiere.
FEATURE FILM SELECTIONS
209 RUE SAINT-MAUR, PARIS 10ÈME – THE NEIGHBOURS: DIR Ruth Zylberman. France. After selecting a building at random in a Jewish neighborhood in Paris, French director Ruth Zylberman meticulously reconstructed its community of inhabitants during the German occupation. What results is the spellbinding 209 RUE SAINT-MAUR, an experimental historiography that tells the emotional story of lives uprooted and destroyed under the Nazis. U.S. Premiere.
ALONE IN THE GAME: DIRS Natalie Metzger and Michael Rohrbaugh. USA. Outdated ideas and outright prejudice have made competitive sports one of the gay rights movement’s final frontiers. ALONE IN THE GAME reveals how a new generation of queer and transgender athletes are scoring victories on and off the field by standing up for their rights — including the right to compete. World Premiere.
AMÉRICA: DIRS Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside. USA. At the heart of this film is 93-year-old matriarch América. When an accidental fall lands her son in jail for neglect, her three freewheeling grandsons must reunite to get their father out of prison and their grandmother out of bed. What emerges is an unforgettable and tender tale of familial love.
AMERICA TO ME: DIR Steve James. USA. In this first episode of his excellent miniseries, Steve James returns to the subjects that have marked his career — class, race, and how the two affect social and economic mobility. James follows students at a public high school in suburban Chicago that is considered the gold standard of diversity, yet on the ground, he discovers a different story.
BATHTUBS OVER BROADWAY: DIR Dava Whisenant. USA. Steve Young is obsessed with industrial musicals, the often bizarre and hilarious productions commissioned by companies to celebrate their products at corporate conventions. Follow him as he investigates this odd aspect of midcentury corporate culture, while continuing his search for gems like “Diesel Dazzle” and “The Bathrooms Are Coming!”
BISBEE ’17: DIR Robert Greene. USA. Bisbee, Arizona, an old copper-mining town on the Mexican border, finally reckons with its darkest day: the deportation of 1,200 immigrant miners left to die in the middle of the desert in 1917. Filmmaker Robert Greene captures the city’s residents as they commemorate this tragic event by staging a reenactment on its 100th anniversary.
BLOWIN’ UP: DIR Stephanie Wang-Breal. USA. A New York City courtroom recommends a unique and compassionate intervention option to young women charged with prostitution: submit to free counseling sessions designed by a mentoring program to get you off the street, and your record will be expunged. Are they ready to make that change?
CENTRAL AIRPORT THF: DIR Karim Aïnouz. Germany, France, Brazil. A decade after ceasing operations, Berlin’s historic Tempelhof Airport has found a second life serving a new group of arrivals and departures: refugees now seeking asylum in Germany. CENTRAL AIRPORT THF looks at the absurdity of life for migrants making the most of the long layover.
CHARM CITY: DIR Marilyn Ness. USA. On the streets of Baltimore, the murder rate is approaching an all-time high, and distrust of the police reaches a fever pitch. With neighborhoods in peril, residents attempt to diffuse the violence through cooperative efforts helmed by community leaders, compassionate law-enforcement officers and a progressive young city councilman.
COMBAT OBSCURA: DIR Miles Lagoze. USA. Miles Lagoze was deployed as a combat photographer in Afghanistan, making videos for official Marine Corps recruitment purposes. Compiled of outtakes from those videos, this disturbingly raw portrait of the conflict in Afghanistan exposes the gulf between the war we’re meant to see and the war as it really is. East Coast Premiere.
CRIME + PUNISHMENT: DIR Stephen Maing. USA. In 2015, a group of 12 whistleblower cops sued the NYPD for using illegal quotas despite a 2010 statewide ban on the practice. A blood-boiling investigation into a corrupt organization, CRIME + PUNISHMENT follows these officers as they face retaliation for attempting to resist against racist practices.
DARK MONEY: DIR Kimberly Reed. USA. A portrait of democracy under fire, DARK MONEY pulls back the curtain on big money in national politics. Revealing how right-wing giants like the Koch brothers hide behind super PACs to do their bidding — in the forms of corporate-funded smear campaigns and dangerous legislation — this film is as timely as it is eye-opening.
THE DISTANT BARKING OF DOGS: DIR Simon Lereng Wilmont. Denmark, Finland, Sweden. Taking an observational approach, this masterful film follows 10-year-old Oleg and his grandmother as they cope with life mere miles from the frontline of the war in Ukraine, showing how children navigate the trauma of conflict, while still seeing the world with naiveté and wonder.
DON’T BE NICE: DIR Max Powers. USA. Following a diverse team of slam poets as they mine their feelings and personal experiences about race, sexuality, gender and popular culture to craft poems for national competition, DON’T BE NICE demonstrates how collaboration and communication between artists can allow them to better understand who they are and what they want to say. U.S. Premiere.
FOR THE BIRDS: DIR Richard Miron. USA. In Richard Miron’s surprising and empathetic film, we follow a woman named Kathy who lives with 200 pet birds. What starts as a story about Kathy’s battle with local animal advocacy groups slowly transforms into an intimate drama about the toll of Kathy’s bird-hoarding — on her marriage and mental health. North American Premiere.
FOSTER: DIR Mark Jonathan Harris. USA. Oscar® winners Mark Jonathan Harris and Deborah Oppenheimer (INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS: STORIES OF THE KINDERTRANSPORT) roam courtrooms, foster homes, juvenile halls and the streets of Los Angeles to tell the moving human stories behind the largest county child protection agency in the United States. World Premiere.
THE GOSPEL OF EUREKA: DIRS Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher. USA. A tiny Arkansas town is home to a popular live-action Passion Play — and a tightknit gay community centered around a lively drag bar. A touching, upbeat look at an enlightened town that maintains a peaceful coexistence of two seemingly divergent groups through tolerance, love and inclusion.
GURRUMUL: DIR Paul Williams. Australia. With the release of his debut album, blind indigenous Australian musician Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu became an unlikely star in both his homeland and in the larger world music scene. But as Gurrumul’s fame grew, the balance between his culture’s way of life and a career in music proved tricky to maintain. U.S. Premiere.
HAL: DIR Amy Scott. USA. Surveying the works of iconoclastic filmmaker Hal Ashby (HAROLD AND MAUDE, THE LAST DETAIL, COMING HOME), director Amy Scott identifies how Ashby’s brilliant and seminal works helped define both the New Hollywood of the 1970s and the American experience for a decade.
HALE COUNTY THIS MORNING, THIS EVENING: DIR RaMell Ross. USA. Winner of a Special Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, RaMell Ross’ assured feature debut is a lyrical look at the lives of two young African-American men born and raised in Alabama’s Hale County, the community that surrounds them and the paths they follow throughout the years.
HAPPY WINTER: DIR Giovanni Totaro. Italy. The escapism of being on holiday gets a fascinating twist in Giovanni Totaro’s shrewdly observant HAPPY WINTER. Mondello beach in Palermo, Italy, is a seemingly pleasant circus of bronzed vacationers milling about. But behind the happy goings-on is a different story of collective denial about the looming economic crisis. U.S. Premiere.
HESBURGH: DIR Patrick Creadon. USA. He counseled presidents and popes, served on corporate boards and infuriated Richard Nixon. He was one of the only friends to whom Ann Landers turned for advice. During his 35 years as president of the University of Notre Dame, Theodore Hesburgh became one of the most influential and inspiring people of the 20th century. World Premiere.
INTO THE OKAVANGO: DIR Neil Gelinas. USA. National Geographic photographer Neil Gelinas makes his directorial debut with INTO THE OKAVANGO. This visually stunning film follows three passionate individuals as they embark on a four-month journey along the titular river — witnessing Africa’s animal and bird population in visceral, jaw-dropping close-up — to discover why the Okavango Delta is rapidly drying up.
INVENTING TOMORROW: DIR Laura Nix. USA. Laura Nix’s inspiring film follows high school students from around the world, many of whom hail from dangerously polluted countries, as they tackle daunting environmental issues affecting their communities. Watch as the teens then bring their ingeniously proposed solutions to “the science fair of science fairs” — the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
IT WILL BE CHAOS: DIRS Lorena Luciano and Filippo Piscopo. USA. Follow an Eritrean man and a Syrian family on dual quests for freedom amid the refugee crisis in the eastern Mediterranean. Tension mounts as they battle the rough seas, harsh conditions and red tape standing in their way. Will they make it to a new life in Europe?
THE LIBERATION: DIRS Christoph Green and Brendan Canty. USA. Therapy sessions, cooking lessons and raw personal stories provide the drama in THE LIBERATION, DC-based filmmakers Christoph Green and Brendan Canty’s story of the formerly incarcerated men and women struggling to get through DC Central Kitchen’s 14-week culinary training program. Can they make it and turn their lives around? East Coast Premiere.
LOVE, GILDA: DIR Lisa D’Apolito. USA. Lisa D’Apolito’s moving documentary LOVE, GILDA looks back at the exuberant life and courageous death of Gilda Radner, the first female superstar of SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Using an abundance of archival photos and clips, along with confessional narration by Radner, the film paints a loving portrait of her short but spectacularly eventful life.
MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A.: DIR Stephen Loveridge. UK. Drawn from 22 years’ worth of personal video footage, MATANGI / MAYA / M.I.A. is an intimate look at the life of rapper, songwriter and activist M.I.A., from her childhood in war-torn Sri Lanka, to her eventual rise to international stardom as one of the most thought-provoking artists working in music today.
MCQUEEN: DIRS Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui. UK. This intimate profile offers unparalleled access to one of the fashion industry’s brightest stars, Alexander McQueen. Brilliant, bold and informed by a British punk aesthetic, the designer was known for his exquisite and strikingly original clothes and his legendary runway shows — theatrical spectacles influenced by contemporary art, theater and photography.
MINDING THE GAP: DIR Bing Liu. USA. First-time filmmaker Bing Liu turns the camera on himself, his family members and his skateboarder friends in this deeply moving depiction of three young men in a small Midwestern town grappling with issues of class, race and learning to overcome the cycles of family violence.
A MURDER IN MANSFIELD: DIR Barbara Kopple. USA. Two-time Oscar® winner Barbara Kopple takes on true crime, revisiting a horrific 1989 domestic murder in Ohio. Collier Boyle was 12 when his father killed and buried his wife under the flooring of a remote countryside home. Now an adult, Collier returns to Mansfield to face the lingering impact of his mother’s murder.
ON HER SHOULDERS: DIR Alexandria Bombach. USA. Filmmaker Alexandria Bombach follows Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi woman who gained international attention after escaping captivity by the Islamic State. Forgoing sensationalism, Bombach’s award-winning film offers a fresh perspective on Nadia’s new life as a human rights activist raising awareness for her people and their plight.
OVER THE LIMIT: DIR Marta Prus. Poland, Germany, Finland. As the 2016 Summer Olympics loom, Russian gymnast Margarita Mamun prepares to represent her country at this historic event. But the path to the Olympics is not an easy one in this unflinching portrait of an athlete straining to retain her humanity while going for gold. U.S. Premiere.
PICK OF THE LITTER: DIRS Dana Nachman and Don Hardy. USA. Shortly after birth, five Labrador puppies enter the intensive two-year training program at California’s Guide Dogs for the Blind. Here, only the best pups will make the cut to protect and serve blind partners, while others will have to change careers for good.
THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING: DIR Nathaniel Kahn. USA. An examination of the contemporary art market through the eyes of artists, dealers and collectors, THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING is the latest work from Oscar® nominee Nathaniel Kahn. Illuminating complex dynamics between artistic intention and consumer behavior, the film begs the question: What value do we place on the priceless?
THE PROVIDERS: DIRS Anna Moot-Levin and Laura Green. USA. THE PROVIDERS follows three “country doctors” — health care providers working for a small network of clinics in northern New Mexico — as they confront the challenges of keeping those in their poor and opioid-plagued communities safe. As the film movingly shows each doctor’s day-to-day responsibilities, a complex portrait emerges of small-town America.
SHIRKERS: DIR Sandi Tan. USA. In 1992, Sandi Tan shot a film in Singapore with her friends and her American mentor, Georges. As the film neared completion, Georges disappeared with the footage, leaving Sandi heartbroken. Twenty years later, the footage is discovered, and the strange mystery of Georges begins to unravel.
THE SILENCE OF OTHERS: DIRS Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar. USA, Spain. A quest for justice by those who suffered under the repressive regime of General Francisco Franco is at the heart of this powerful and provocative film. Those who were tortured or had family members murdered are demanding the truth be told to the Spanish people, and the remaining perpetrators put on trial. U.S. Premiere.
STUDIO 54: DIR Matt Tyrnauer. USA. An Icarus tale unfolds to a disco beat in STUDIO 54, an intimate peek behind the velvet ropes, where mirror balls twinkled over Liza Minelli, Diana Ross, Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol in Matt Tyrnauer’s illuminating history of the rise and fall of the legendary New York nightclub.
THIS ONE’S FOR THE LADIES: DIR Gene Graham. USA. Diving inside an unexpected subculture of Newark, THIS ONE’S FOR THE LADIES follows a group of women who throw weekly underground male exotic dance parties. Exploring sexual identity and the meaning of community, the film is a unique portrait of the black experience in 21st-century America.
TRANSMILITARY: DIRS Gabriel Silverman and Fiona Dawson. USA. Gabriel Silverman and Fiona Dawson make their stirring feature debut with TRANSMILITARY, following four individuals who come out as transgender to top officials at the Pentagon — a brave move that puts their military careers in jeopardy, and shows a struggle for equality that is more relevant than ever.
TRE MAISON DASAN: DIR Denali Tiller. USA. With a parent in prison, three Rhode Island boys tackle adult realities few of their peers can even imagine. Unfettered access to three troubled but promising young lives produces an unforgettable perspective on the multigenerational consequences of U.S. incarceration, where one out of 14 kids has a parent with a prison history.
UNDER THE WIRE: DIR Chris Martin. UK. In 2012, acclaimed journalist Marie Colvin illegally crossed the Syrian border to cover the country’s civil war. She became one of the only voices reporting on the atrocities being committed against the Syrian people. With breathtaking footage, UNDER THE WIRE profiles one woman’s drive to uncover the truth, no matter the cost. International Premiere.
UNITED WE FAN: DIR Michael Sparaga. Canada. UNITED WE FAN follows the ingenious save-our-show campaigns that have been spurred by passionate television uber-fans throughout the decades. From STAR TREK to CAGNEY AND LACEY and CHUCK — plus many more — this delightful doc highlights the grassroots efforts needed to save beloved TV shows. U.S. Premiere.
YOURS IN SISTERHOOD: DIR Irene Lusztig. USA. More than four decades after the birth of Ms. Magazine, director Irene Lusztig combs the publication’s archives and pairs some of the most memorable letters, many never published, with contemporary readers to comment on just how far we’ve come — and what we still have to accomplish.