The American Film Institute revealed its full slate of films being presented online for the AFI DOCS 2020 festival which runs runs June 17–21. The lineup features 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.
“Now more than ever, it is important to expand our perspectives and listen to voices that may differ from our own, and this year’s festival includes a diverse range of insights and experiences for audiences to share in,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director of AFI Festivals. “These films explore 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.”
AFI DOCS’ program of Special Presentations includes the previously announced Opening Night film BOYS STATE and Closing Night film JIMMY CARTER ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT, as well as the Centerpiece Screening of THE FIGHT. Additional titles include PORTRAITS AND DREAMS and Ron Howard’s REBUILDING PARADISE.
This year’s diverse Features section explores themes and subjects ranging from the intersectionality of race, gender and violence in the Minneapolis police department (WOMEN IN BLUE); the devastating effects of immigration policies under the current administration (BLOOD ON THE WALL); the importance of reclaiming female sexuality (DILEMMA OF DESIRE); and Asian Americans’ experience gaining full participation in the American political process (FIRST VOTE).
Academy Award®-winners Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar return to AFI DOCS with their newest film, 9TO5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT, which chronicles the 1970s movement for gender equality in the workplace.
Now in its second year at AFI DOCS, the Cinema’s Legacy program showcases three classic documentaries focusing on the fight for full participation and access to our country’s political system, and the importance of making sure all voices are heard. This year’s Cinema’s Legacy selections include FREEDOM ON MY MIND (1994), NATIONTIME – GARY (1972) and SISTERS OF ’77 (2005).
The Episodic section features multi-part documentaries following the past, present and future of US politics, particularly women’s importance in it, from the Women’s Suffrage movement of the early 20th century to the recent historic rise of women of color running for office. The offerings in this section include AND SHE COULD BE NEXT, Steve James’ CITY SO REAL and THE VOTE.
Short Films will be presented in four programs, highlighting unique voices from around the world. A competitive section, Shorts are eligible for the Grand Jury Prize.
The 2020 Guggenheim Symposium will honor Academy Award®-winning actor and filmmaker Lee Grant. Each year, the AFI DOCS Charles Guggenheim Symposium honors a master of the nonfiction art form. This year’s virtual Symposium will include a screening of Grant’s Academy Award®-winning documentary film DOWN AND OUT IN AMERICA (1986) and an in-depth conversation with Grant on June 19, 2020, moderated by author and Washington Post chief film critic Ann Hornaday.
Grant’s film debut in William Wyler’s DETECTIVE STORY (1951) led to her first Academy Award® nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and earned her the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival. However, that same year, after eulogizing a friend whose early death she implied was caused by fear of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the naming of her then-husband to the HUAC, Grant was blacklisted for the next decade. After being cleared in the early 60s, Grant became a household name for her work on the popular television series Peyton Place, for which she earned an Emmy® in 1966. She returned to film, earning Academy Award® nominations for her roles in THE LANDLORD (1970) and VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED (1976) and winning the Academy Award® for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for SHAMPOO (1975).
A graduate of the first-ever class of the AFI Directing Workshop for Women in 1974, Grant eventually transitioned to directing and debuted her first feature-length narrative film, TELL ME A RIDDLE, in 1980. Her first documentary, THE WILLMAR 8, was released the following year. Grant continued to both act and direct, becoming the first female director to win the Directors Guild of America Award for her television movie NOBODY’S CHILD (1986). Her documentary DOWN AND OUT IN AMERICA (1986) tied with another film to win the Academy Award® for Documentary Feature.
Grant 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) and Freida Lee Mock (2019).
AFI DOCS 2020 PROGRAM
OPENING NIGHT SCREENING – Wednesday, June 17
BOYS STATE: DIRS Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine. PRODS Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss. USA.
Each year the American Legion hosts a “civics camp” for high school students (separated by gender) in states across the country. BOYS STATE closely follows a group of teenage boys as they attend one such program in Austin, Texas. The attendees are tasked with creating a mock government and spend the week campaigning for leadership and party platforms. Political ambitions are high and the gubernatorial race is hot. Are you curious what the next generation of our political system looks like?
Winner of the Sundance U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize, BOYS STATE explores politics through a coming-of-age lens. The result reveals American democracy and political division at its most hopeful and terrifying moments.
CLOSING NIGHT SCREENING – Sunday, June 21
JIMMY CARTER ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT: DIR Mary Wharton. PRODS Chris Farrell and Dave Kirkpatrick. USA.
If it hadn’t been for a bottle of scotch and a late-night visit from musician Greg Allman, Jimmy Carter might never have been elected the 39th President of the United States. This fascinating documentary charts the mostly forgotten story of how Carter, a lover of all types of music, forged a tight bond with musicians Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton and others. Low on campaign funds and lacking in name recognition, Carter relied on support from these artists to give him a crucial boost in the Democratic primaries. Once Carter was elected, the musicians became frequent guests in the White House.
Director Mary Wharton assembles a star cast including Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Nelson, Dylan, Parton and Bono and fills the soundtrack with Southern rock, gospel, jazz, and classical.
CENTERPIECE SCREENING – Friday, June 19
THE FIGHT: DIRS Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman and Eli Despres. PRODS Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Maya Seidler, Peggy Wexler and Kerry Washington. USA.
In this stirring legal thriller, a cast of courageous lawyers at the ACLU fights an uphill battle against the dizzying array of rollbacks on civil rights put forward in the first years of the Trump presidency. Filmmakers Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman and Eli Despres (WEINER) capture all of the key moments in such high stakes cases as the rights of trans people to serve in the military, family separation in immigration enforcement, the citizenship question on the census and the abortion rights of immigrant detainees.
Celebrating 100 years of the ACLU, THE FIGHT shows how this group of committed lawyers has made a huge difference in protecting our rights and in the daily lives of countless Americans. Winner of the Sundance U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking.
PORTRAITS AND DREAMS: DIRS Elizabeth Barret and Wendy Ewald. PRODS Elizabeth Barret, Wendy Ewald and Robert Salyer. USA.
Thirty-five years ago, photographer Wendy Ewald published the remarkable PORTRAITS AND DREAMS: PHOTOGRAPHS AND STORIES BY CHILDREN OF THE APPALACHIANS. The result of a unique creative collaboration between Ewald and the students she taught at three rural schools in Letcher County, Kentucky, the photographs represented a rare opportunity for children living on the margins of American society to reflect on their lives and families.
In this beautiful and deeply moving tribute to that collaboration, Ewald, whose artistic practice was formed through her experiences in Appalachia, returns to Letcher County to visit with her students, who are now adults with families of their own. As their collective memories are rekindled, what emerges is the unbreakable, timeless bond between teacher and student and the transformative power of art.
REBUILDING PARADISE: DIR Ron Howard. PRODS Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Xan Parker, Sara Bernstein and Justin Wilkes. USA.
On November 8, 2018, tucked in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the picturesque town of Paradise would be changed forever. The Camp Fire, California’s deadliest and most destructive fire in history, displaced over 50,000 residents, leaving the community in ashes.
In the aftermath of the haunting images of thick smoke and raging fires, Ron Howard’s documentary follows a group of residents as they struggle to rebuild their lives. While coping from the trauma and grieving their loved ones, they must wrestle with the logistics and bureaucracy of rebuilding their community. A sincere portrait of humanity, REBUILDING PARADISE is a tribute of resilience in the face of uncertainty.
2020 GUGGENHEIM SYMPOSIUM
HONORING LEE GRANT
For the 2020 Guggenheim Symposium, Academy Award®-winning actor and documentary director Lee Grant will be featured in an in-depth conversation with Washington Post Chief Film Critic Ann Hornaday.
9TO5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT: DIRS Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar. PRODS Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar. USA.
Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar’s film follows a group of secretaries in the 1970s fighting against lack of acknowledgment, demeaning tasks, low pay and all kinds of harassment in the workplace. From humble beginnings in a small office in a Boston YWCA to a nationwide movement so energized it inspired the iconic song and film, the organization’s rise was no easy undertaking. To achieve some justice, they employed clever tactics and took advantage of hidden talents wasted in the office. While gender parity has yet to be fully realized in the workplace, we would be nowhere as close without these women.
BLOOD ON THE WALL: DIRS Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested. PRODS Sebastian Junger, Nick Quested and Peter Goetz. USA.
Immigration under the current administration is indelibly marked by powerful media images of migrant caravans, thousands of Central American families walking hundreds of miles through Mexico desperate to attain asylum in the United States. Acclaimed filmmaker Sebastian Junger (Academy Award®-nominated RESTREPO and KORENGAL) reteams with Nick Quested (Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS) and National Geographic to chronicle the course of events that would transform Acapulco from tourist destination to murder capital in less than a decade.
BULLY. COWARD. VICTIM. THE STORY OF ROY COHN: DIR Ivy Meeropol. PRODS Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements and Ivy Meerpool. USA.
Before Donald Trump, there was Roy Cohn, the original New York bully. In fact, during the early days of Donald Trump, there was Roy Cohn, right by his side, introducing the brash young wannabe to the big time of Manhattan real estate. Trump was attracted to Cohn’s “take no prisoners” approach to the law and Cohn recognized a rising social climber when he saw one.
The Trump connection is but one fascinating thread in this multi-layered portrait of Cohn by filmmaker Ivy Meeropol, whose own grandparents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, were executed for spying for the Soviet Union as a result of Cohn’s ethically spurious legal maneuverings. Full of insightful interviews with the famous and the not-so-famous, the alchemical genius of BULLY. COWARD. VICTIM. THE STORY OF ROY COHN is to be, simultaneously, a searing indictment of Cohn and a poignant family history.
CODED BIAS: DIR Shalini Kantayya. PROD Shalini Kantayya. USA, UK, China.
While working on a project, MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini discovers issues with facial recognition programs. Investigating deeper into algorithms and the data in artificial intelligence, she discovers the large gender and racial bias in software created by tech companies. But her findings are only the beginning to much more disturbing revelations. As many of these AI technologies creep into our everyday systems, everything from college application screenings to the type of medical treatment one receives is affected.
Researcher turned advocate, Joy leads a team of women to raise awareness and push for legislative protection. With personal stories of prejudice and those fighting against it, CODED BIAS sharply reveals the urgent threats to privacy, civil rights and democracy that are not in the daily headlines.
DADS: DIR Bryce Dallas Howard. PRODS: Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Michael Rosenberg, Justin Wilkes, Bryce Dallas Howard and Walter Matteson. USA.
When director Bryce Dallas Howard heard her brother was going to be a first-time father, she decided to make a movie to show him just how amazing dads can be. In the process she interviewed many famous dads (including her own, director/actor Ron Howard) and other everyday dads. From comedians, actors, podcasters and farmers, the conversations show the ups and downs, the great moments and the gross, and everything in-between. Breaking down gender role stereotypes, Howard’s film shows a small glimpse into the wide world of men and their munchkins.
DILEMMA OF DESIRE: DIR Maria Finitzo. PRODS Maria Finitzo, Cynthia Kane and Diane Quon. USA.
Directed by two-time Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker Maria Finitzo, the film follows a motley crew of unstoppable women, comprised of artists, educators, scientists, strippers and sex toy designers, who have made it their mission to dismantle internalized sexism and begin to repair the dissociated relationships many women have to their own bodies. In a reframing of daily micro-aggressions, society’s erasure of the clitoris is exposed as a tool of patriarchal deception, a negation of women’s wants and needs. This exciting (and informative) campaign seeks to dispel the discomfort and shame surrounding female sexuality by empowering women to own their desire, connect with their bodies and familiarize themselves with the vast, internal structure of the clitoris. They will paint it, sculpt it, plaster its image on walls and design special toys for it until all of society knows the laws of “cliteracy.”
DOWN AND OUT IN AMERICA (1986): DIR Lee Grant. PRODS Milton Justice and Joseph Feury. USA.
Screening as part of the AFI DOCS Guggenheim Symposium
Years before the economic catastrophes of COVID-19 and the 2008 recession, the U.S. experienced the tumult and divisiveness of the 1980s, a period that saw the country rapidly splitting into the haves and have nots. Lee Grant’s devastating 1986 Academy Award®-winning documentary takes a compassionate, clear-eyed look at those left behind in Reagan’s America. From desperate family farmers in Minnesota to unemployed factory workers in the Midwest and homeless people forced to live in decrepit welfare hotels in Los Angeles and New York, a cruel picture emerges of a country unmoored from its basic principles and core values. But beneath the weight of such crushing hardship, Grant finds courageous people who, on the verge of losing everything, discover the power of community organizing to fight injustice and to preserve basic human dignity.
FIRST VOTE: DIR Yi Chen. PROD Yi Chen. USA.
Toward the end of Washington, DC-based filmmaker Yi Chen’s beguiling and refreshingly non-partisan FIRST VOTE, one of the film’s subjects posits, “The central question that I think all Asian Americans feel is, ‘Do we belong?’” Given that, as recently as 1952, federal law barred immigrants of Asian descent from becoming U.S. citizens and voting, it is a searing and inescapable reality faced by Asian Americans.
Taking her camera on the road during the 2018 midterm elections, Chen introduces us to a diverse cross section of politically engaged Chinese Americans: an avid Trump supporter in Ohio; a Democratic podcaster whose views have alienated his wife’s conservative friends; a gun-toting, Tea Party-favorite in North Carolina; and a progressive University of North Carolina professor. Speaking with distinct political voices, they share the common goal of seeing Asian Americans take their rightful place in American political life.
FREEDIA GOT A GUN: DIR Chris McKim. PRODS Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato and Chris McKim. USA.
Devastated after learning her brother Adam was murdered, New Orleans bounce legend Big Freedia uses her platform to raise awareness about the complexities of gun violence, a nationwide epidemic that continues to disproportionally harm Black communities. As Freedia shares her personal journey from growing up gay in the projects through Hurricane Katrina and chasing her musical dreams, she delves deep into the first-hand experiences she and the community have had with gun violence, seeking to uncover the causes behind it. She is not alone in her quest to make the streets of New Orleans safer for the next generation: mothers, teachers, students and others personally affected reveal the collective trauma left in the wake of this violence. Her brother’s murder still unsolved, Freedia leads us through a courageous and necessary dialogue about the origins of this American epidemic.
THE LETTER: DIRS Maia Lekow and Christopher King. PRODS Maia Lekow and Christopher King. Kenya.
Karisa lives in Mombasa, one of the largest cities in Kenya. He gets a call and discovers he has a delicate family problem: his grandmother has been accused of being a witch. Fearing for her life, he returns to his family’s village to figure out who wrote the letter accusing her of witchcraft and why. Using Karisa’s family as the jumping off point, we visit other elders accused of being witches and uncover the violence inflicted on them. What starts as an almost absurd family situation gets exposed to be a complicated human rights issue. Exploring unique modern cultural and religious clashes, Maia Lekow and Christopher King’s film is still able to achieve an intimacy and charm, that is, in many ways, magical.
MIRACLE FISHING: DIR Miles Hargrove CODIR Christopher Birge. PRODS Miles Hargrove, Christopher Birge and Eric F. Martin. USA.
So, your dad has been kidnapped by a rebel group and you are forced to negotiate for his release… what do you do? Well, if you’re Miles Hargrove, you make a video diary. Twenty-five years later, with the gift of hindsight, he returned to these diaries to tell this incredible story. In 1994, the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) kidnapped journalist Tom Hargrove from the family home in Cali, Columbia, leaving his wife and two sons to pay the ransom. With the help of their friends, including a hostage negotiator, FBI agent and their 18-year-old neighbor, the group navigated conditions for his expected release. Their story, impeccably captured by a then state-of-the-art Video8 camcorder, shows a family in crisis, yearning for normalcy and finding moments of hope and kindness amidst the horror.
ONE LIFE: DIR Josh Turnbow. PRODS Akshay M. Shah and Robert Dvoran. USA.
In October 2016, in response to the Myanmar government’s promised political reforms, President Obama ended decades of U.S. sanctions against the country. What Obama didn’t anticipate was that his actions would inadvertently open the door to the Myanmar military’s all-out assault on the country’s Rohingya people. With a population of nearly one million, the predominantly Muslim Rohingya people were targeted, terrorized and killed. Within a matter of weeks, nearly 700,000 Rohingya were driven from the country.
Shedding light on the long term persecution of the Rohingya, tracing their forced migration to neighboring Bangladesh and illustrating their current conditions, Josh Turnbow’s moving – and infuriating – documentary screens at AFI DOCS on United Nation’s World Refugee Day. The U.N.’s World Food Programme has taken responsibility for feeding the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in a massive refugee camp in Bangladesh.
THE REASON I JUMP: DIR Jerry Rothwell. PRODS Al Morrow, Stevie Lee and Jeremy Dear. UK.
Opening a window into the sensory universe of five nonspeaking autistic people from around the world, THE REASON I JUMP takes the audience on a uniquely cinematic journey that is both revelatory and inspiring. Based on the remarkable best-selling book by 13-year-old Naoki Higashida, the film brilliantly blends its portraits with Higashida’s own insights into autism.
Acutely observed moments in the lives of each of the five people are connected by passages from Higashida’s writing, which comes to life in scenes featuring a young Japanese boy. As the boy travels through an epic landscape, he gradually discovers what his autism means to him and why he acts the way he does: the reason he jumps. Winner of the Sundance World Cinema Documentary Audience Award.
SAUDI RUNAWAY: DIR Susanne Regina Meures. PROD Christian Frei. Switzerland.
Muna, a young woman living under the oppressive state of Saudi Arabia, prepares for her imminent arranged marriage…and her risky escape to Europe. Using cell phones to secretly document her life, Muna exposes the strict patriarchy affecting her family and controlling her free will. Her only chance to flee is during her honeymoon. Muna is fearless, but will she succeed with her plan?
SAUDI RUNAWAY shares an intimate and thrilling story of human rights and the voice of those silenced by their government. Filmmaker Susanne Regina Meures collaborates with Muna, constructing the secret footage into a raw and insightful profile of a culture caught between tradition and modernity and a young woman willing to risk everything for a better life.
SING ME A SONG: DIR Thomas Balmès. PROD Thomas Balmès. France, Germany, Switzerland.
Returning ten years later to the remote mountainside village where he once encountered precocious but dedicated eight-year-old Tibetan monk Peyangki, documentarian Thomas Balmès (BABIES, HAPPINESS) discovers that much has changed. The roads leading into Laya are now paved and, beyond the television Peyangki once longed for, the young monks now scroll mindlessly through their phones while chanting their prayers. Now 18 years old, our subject texts his girlfriend, a bar singer who lives in the city, his devotion to her having supplanted that of his religious studies. Without falling prey to a simple binary of good/bad, Balmès’ beautiful observational portrait is a remarkable opportunity to explore both the positive and negative repercussions that modernization and technological access has on a community.
STOCKTON ON MY MIND: DIR Marc Levin. PRODS Cassius Michael Kim and Mike Marangu. USA.
Upon his election as mayor of Stockton, CA, in 2016, Michael Tubbs inherited one of the poorest, most violent and least literate cities in the country. Tubbs was also 26 years old, the youngest and first African American mayor of the city. This intimate portrait follows Tubbs during his term as he and others work on projects to address homelessness, universal basic income and education for at-risk youth.
A native of Stockton, Tubbs knows how street violence affects families – his father is serving a life sentence in prison. His determination to change his community started in childhood. Capturing this unique moment in history, STOCKTON ON MY MIND reveals the creative ideas and collaborative spirit Tubbs brings to government, as well as the multitude of strong reactions that his leadership elicits from citizens. A hopeful story of community, leadership and love, Tubbs is an undeniable leader to have on your radar.
A THOUSAND CUTS: DIR Ramona S. Diaz. PRODS Ramona S. Diaz, Leah Marino, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements and Carolyn Hepburn. USA.
Upon taking power in 2016, the newly elected populist president Rodrigo Duterte promised a relentless war on drugs. Brushing aside the rule of law and due process, his campaign resulted in thousands of deaths. Another constitutional casualty of Duterte’s rule has been freedom of the press.
Co-founded by journalist Maria Ressa in 2012, the online site Rappler is one of the Philippine’s most popular news outlets and a thorn in Duterte’s side. The stakes are raised when Rappler is cited as a fake news outlet and targeted for possible closure, followed by Ressa’s arrest on specious charges.
Set against the backdrop of the country’s 2019 midterm elections, this stirring documentary shows what happens when a strongman president threatens democratic norms. But Ressa, part of a group honored as Time’s Person of the Year 2018, is not backing down: “We, at Rappler, we will not duck. We will not hide. We will hold the line.”
THROUGH THE NIGHT: DIR Loira Limbal. PRODS Jameka Autry and Loira Limbal. USA.
Any working parent can tell you how vital childcare providers are to their lives. As America’s economy requires more parents working multiple jobs or the nightshift, the need for 24-hour childcare is critical. THROUGH THE NIGHT shares an intimate portrait of the struggle and bond between two working mothers and their childcare provider.
For over twenty years, “Nunu” and her husband “Pop Pop” have dedicated their lives to their business — creating a safe space for children to learn, eat, sleep and be loved. It is hard work and Nunu is relentless in providing care to her families. Through beautiful verité storytelling, filmmaker Loira Limbal demonstrates the personal toll of rising economic inequality — an issue even more relevant now as our country struggles with the effects of a health pandemic.
TRANSHOOD: DIR Sharon Liese. PRODS Sasha Alpert and Sharon Liese. USA.
We all remember the trials and tribulations of being a kid: fitting in at school, getting along with siblings, finishing homework. These alone are enough to handle. Now, add in discovering who you are and growing up as a trans youth in Kansas City. TRANSHOOD is director Sharon Liese’s in-depth five-year journey following the lives of four kids (ages beginning at 4, 9, 12, and 15) discovering their specific trans experiences alongside their families. Each of the kids and their parents navigate the day-to-day challenges of their home lives and their lives out in the world. Finding normalcy isn’t easy while tackling issues of body dysphoria, transphobia and bullying, and many other big topics that their cis-gender classmates can’t understand. What truly ties these stories together is the unbelievable empathy and humanity exemplified by each family, not just with the heavy moments, but often also during those typical of any childhood.
UNLADYLIKE2020: DIRS Charlotte Mangin and Sandra Rattley. PRODS Charlotte Mangin and Sandra Rattley. USA.
An exciting sampling of the ambitious PBS American Masters multi-platform series that profiles over 200 women, UNLADYLIKE2020 calls into question American history as we know it, reaching back to the dawn of the twentieth century to recognize unsung female leaders and trailblazers. Upending expectations and challenging the definition of womanhood, these “first women” found themselves at the forefront of progressive movements, organizing campaigns and leading paths to cultural change. Female historians share the names and stories of five of these pioneers: Martha Hughes Cannon, Jovita Idár, Jeannette Rankin, Mary Church Terrell and Zitkála-Šá. Their profound and extraordinary achievements in government, suffrage and civil rights, largely taken for granted by history, underscore the importance of continuously revisiting and revising the historical record to include the contributions of women and women of color. The inspiring battles that they waged in the name of equality continue to be fought by women today.
WHITE NOISE: DIR Daniel Lombroso. PROD Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg. USA.
WHITE NOISE is the definitive – and disturbing – inside story of the alt-right. With unprecedented, exclusive access, first-time filmmaker Daniel Lombroso tracks the rise of far-right nationalism by focusing on the lives of three of its main proponents: Mike Cernovich, a conspiracy theorist and sex blogger turned media entrepreneur; Richard Spencer, a white-power ideologue; and Lauren Southern, an anti-feminist, anti-immigration YouTube star.
Lombroso’s intrepid camera takes the viewer into the terrifying heart of the alt-right movement: explosive protests, riotous parties and the private spaces where populist and racist ideologies are refined and weaponized. Easy to dismiss as extremists and provocateurs, the alt-right’s leaders adroitly wield the tools of social media to great effect, demonstrating that this dangerous movement is to be ignored at our democracy’s peril.
WOMEN IN BLUE: DIR Deirdre Fishel. PRODS Beth Levison. USA.
Janée Harteau became Minneapolis’s first female police chief in 2012. She quickly began the hard work to reform the MPD by increasing diversity through recruiting and leadership promotions. After a high-profile police shooting occurs in the city a few years later, Chief Harteau is forced to resign and the three female officers under her wing must continue the mission under an all-male leadership unit while rebuilding the community’s trust in the police.
WOMEN IN BLUE examines the relationship between gender, race and violence in an American institution that has long been male dominated. This compelling portrait demands we ask our society: by fighting for gender equality in policing, can we reduce police violence against citizens?
FREEDOM ON MY MIND (1994): DIRS Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford. PRODS Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford. USA.
This Academy Award®-nominated account of the Mississippi Voter Registration Project produced and directed by Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford combines extraordinary archival footage and in-depth interviews with traditional folk songs in a powerful tribute to the black activists and white allies who, from 1961 to 1964, descended upon the South determined to register black voters. After Herbert Lee, a local man who had been escorting voting rights organizer Bob Moses around Amite County, was shot and killed by a Mississippi state representative, the organizers were forced to acknowledge that this was a journey from which they may never return. Firm in their commitment to democracy, even under the threat of violence, they built powerful coalitions and their campaign, which culminated in the 1964 Freedom Summer and 1965 Voting Rights Act, was a triumph of political organization. The lesson learned – that freedom is a constant struggle – is one that still reverberates today.
NATIONTIME – GARY (1972): DIR William Greaves. USA.
In March 1972, an estimated 10,000 black politicians, activists and artists congregated at the National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana, with the express purpose of establishing a black political agenda. Attendees included Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dick Gregory, Coretta Scott King, Amiri Baraka, Richard Hatcher, Charles Diggs and H. Carl McCall. Also in attendance was prolific documentarian of black history, culture and politics William Greaves (SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM).
His filmed account of this historic event, narrated by Sidney Poitier with poetry recited by Harry Belafonte, was at the time thought to be too radical for television broadcast and was drastically edited. Now restored to its original cut, in a 4K restoration from IndieCollect, with funding from Jane Fonda and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, this rousing and revelatory documentary celebrates a diversity of black voices, finding support and solidarity even amid expected tensions and divisions.
SISTERS OF ’77 (2005): DIRS Cynthia Salzman Mondell and Allen Mondell. PRODS Cynthia Salzman Mondell and Allen Mondell. USA.
In 1977, over the course of four days, approximately 20,000 women would congregate in Houston, Texas, to attend the first ever National Women’s Conference, as presided over by Congresswoman Bella Abzug. In an effort to promote equality between men and women, a series of eye-opening and impassioned debates sought to achieve resolutions on major topics, ranging from domestic violence, employment and reproductive rights to the specific experiences of lesbians and women of color and the ultimately unsuccessful Equal Rights Amendment.
Filmmakers Cynthia Salzman Mondell and Allen Mondell combine incredible archival footage and insightful interviews with attendees to present an inside look at this historic event that defined the guiding principles of gender equality in politics today.
AND SHE COULD BE NEXT: DIRS Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia. PRODS Grace Lee, Marjan Safinia and Jyoti Sarda. USA.
A sweeping chronicle of the 2018 elections and the unprecedented rise of women of color running for — and winning — office throughout the U.S., AND SHE COULD BE NEXT follows the historic and dramatic stories of six candidates from throughout the country as they fight to represent their constituents and uplift disenfranchised communities.
Filmed, directed and produced by a team of women filmmakers of color, this riveting two-part series offers a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at Stacey Abrams’ game-changing campaign for Governor of Georgia; three battles for the U.S. House of Representatives (Rashida Tlaib, Lucy McBath and Veronica Escobar); Maria Elena Durazo’s race in Los Angeles for the California State Senate; and 19-year-old Bushra Amiwala’s run for the Cook County Board of Commissioners in Chicago.
The series is also an incisive look at the deeply troubling voter suppression tactics that are being employed to undermine our democratic system and the transformative organizational politics required to make real change in the U.S.
CITY SO REAL: DIR Steve James. PRODS Zak Piper and Steve James. USA.
There may be no better match between filmmaker and locale than Steve James and the city of Chicago. From HOOP DREAMS to THE INTERRUPTERS and the 10-part AMERICA TO ME, James has created a vibrant portrait of contemporary Chicago. But not until CITY SO REAL, a fascinating four-part episodic, has the celebrated filmmaker focused his lens on the epic sweep of Chicago’s multifaceted neighborhoods.
Filmed during the explosive trial of the Chicago police officer who killed Laquan McDonald, CITY SO REAL uses the wide-open 2019 mayoral election as the primary vehicle for doing what James does best: engaging with people, allowing them to express themselves as complex human beings and capturing the small, as well as the seismic, moments that define the places we come from and who we are as individuals and as members of a diverse community.
THE VOTE: DIR Michelle Ferrari. PRODS Connie Honeycutt and Michelle Ferrari. USA.
In recognition of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, this PBS American Experience documentary is a comprehensive and captivating look at the arduous 72-year struggle that culminated in permanently enfranchising women with the right to vote. Bringing to life the incredible suffragists who led this movement and the difficult path that they tread – one rife with infighting, splintered in radicalism and marred by complex alliances – this important historical documentary is a fascinating look at issues that would become near-universal to major progressive social and political movements. Their strategies, means of mobilizing, protests and demonstrations would create a framework of necessary persistence. Though many would not live to see their efforts rewarded, the ramifications of this fight affirm voting as a right that is integral to democracy.
808: HOW WE RESPOND: DIR Ian Bell. PRODS Alex Megaro, Jessica Kingdon and Nathan Truesdell. USA.
On January 13, 2018, Hawaii issued a false missile warning leading millions to believe a missile attack was imminent. Our live-streaming culture provided a record of how people dealt with their own mortality.
ABORTION HELPLINE, THIS IS LISA: DIRS Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Mike Attie. PRODS Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Mike Attie. USA.
At an abortion fund in Philadelphia, counselors arrive each morning to the nonstop ring of calls from women and teens who seek to end a pregnancy but can’t afford to.
AKASHINGA: THE BRAVE ONES: DIR Maria Wilhelm. PRODS Maria Wilhelm, Kim Butts and Drew Pulley. USA.
Single mothers, abandoned wives and survivors of sexual and domestic violence enroll in an intense training selection to join rangers protecting elephants from poachers across Africa.
ALL THE PERISHES AT THE EDGE OF LAND: DIR Hira Nabi. CREATIVE PROD Till Passow. Pakistan.
A decommissioned ship and the shipbreakers from all over Pakistan there to break it enter into a conversation and discover they might have more in common than otherwise imagined.
BLACKFEET BOXING: NOT INVISIBLE: DIRS Kristen Lappas and Tom Rinaldi. PRODS Jose Morales, Craig Lazarus, Victor Vitarelli, Ben Webber and Lindsay Rovegno. USA.
As the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women epidemic affects tribal communities, a group of Blackfeet women tackle the threat head-on by practicing and training in self-defense.
BROKEN ORCHESTRA: DIR Charlie Tyrell. PROD Julie Baldassi. Canada.
The Symphony for a Broken Orchestra project collected hundreds of broken instruments from the Philadelphia public school system, fixed them and then returned them to the hands of students.
THE CHURCH FORESTS OF ETHIOPIA: DIR Jeremy Seifert. PRODS Jeremy Seifert and Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee. USA.
In Ethiopia, church forests are withstanding environmental destruction — but just barely.
DAFA METTI (DIFFICULT): DIR Tal Amiran. PROD Tal Amiran. UK.
Under Paris’ Eiffel Tower, undocumented Senegalese migrants sell souvenirs of the monument to support their families back home. Each day is a struggle through darkness in the City of Lights.
THE DEEPEST HOLE: DIR Matt McCormick. PROD Matt McCormick. USA.
Cold War competitions are common knowledge, but few know the United States and Soviet Union faced off in a race to see which country could dig the deepest hole.
DO NOT SPLIT: DIR Anders Hammer. PRODS Anders Hammer and Charlotte Cook. USA, Norway.
During the 2019 protests in Hong Kong, a series of evening demonstrations escalate into conflict when heavily armed police appear on the scene.
ELEVATOR PITCH: DIR Martyna Starosta. PROD Martyna Starosta. USA.
A depiction of New York’s subway as an absurd obstacle course – revealing a system that shuts many out of a city in motion.
FLOWER PUNK: DIR Alison Klayman. PROD Alison Klayman. USA.
Japanese artist Azuma Makoto sends his floral sculptures into space and sinks them to the bottom of the ocean, but mostly, he thinks about the life and death of flowers.
HUNTSVILLE STATION: DIRS Jamie Meltzer and Chris Filippone. PROD Jamie Meltzer. USA.
Every weekday, inmates are released from Huntsville State Penitentiary, taking in their first moments of freedom with phone calls, cigarettes and quiet reflection at the Greyhound station up the block.
LAKE: DIR Alexandra Lazarowich. PRODS Coty Savard and David Christensen. Canada.
Shot on 16mm and in a vérité lens, LAKE shares a contemporary portrait of Métis women net fishing in Northern Alberta.
THE LOST ASTRONAUT: DIR Ben Proudfoot. PRODS Gabriel Berk Godoi and Abby Lynn Kang Davis. USA.
In 1963, Ed Dwight Jr. was poised to be NASA’s first African-American astronaut, until suddenly he wasn’t.
MEMOIRS OF VEGETATION: DIR Jessica Oreck. PROD Jessica Oreck. USA.
An enticing kernel of botanical intrigue that delves into the salubrious uses and nefarious misuses of castor beans throughout history.
MIZUKO: DIRS Kira Dane and Katelyn Rebelo. PRODS Kira Dane and Katelyn Rebelo. USA.
In Japanese Buddhism, there is a post-abortion grieving ritual called ‘water child memorial.’ Inspired by this ritual, a half-Japanese American woman reexamines abortion ethics after becoming pregnant herself.
MOTHER: DIRS Jas Pitt and Kate Stonehill. PRODS Sorcha Bacon and Lua Guerreiro. UK.
A young dancer from a violent favela in Rio de Janeiro finds redemption through his vogueing family, the art of Ballroom and his relationship with his vogueing mother, Makayla.
NOW IS THE TIME: DIR Christopher Auchter. PRODS Selwyn Jacob. Canada.
Fifty years ago, the entire village of Old Massett gathered to celebrate the raising of a totem pole that signaled the rebirth of the Haida spirit.
OUT OF THE BLUE: DIRS Jonathan Bregel and Steve Hoover. PROD Jonathan Bregel. USA.
A 78-year-old man decided to cover his entire body in a blue tattoo once he retired from his career as an accomplished Baltimore City planner.
THE PAINT WIZZARD: DIRS Jessie Auritt and Jessica Wolfson. PRODS Jessie Auritt and Jessica Wolfson. USA.
Millie, a transgender housepainter living and working out of her bright yellow RV in Austin, Texas, gained the courage to come out as her true self at age 58.
PAMPAS: DIR Jessica Bishopp. PROD Louisa Plumstead. UK.
A hybrid documentary exploring sexual signaling and urban legends about how plants were used in 1970s suburbia to send seductive signals to neighbors, or so rumor has it.
PATTY ARE YOU BRINGING WEED IN FROM JAMAICA?: DIR Matthew Salton. PROD Matthew Salton. USA.
In 1968, a young flight attendant bought 900 pounds of marijuana in Jamaica and tried to smuggle it out, leading to unexpected consequences.
SAN DIEGO: DIR Laura Hinman. PROD Civic Films. USA.
An essay on gathered fragments of daily Native American life, struggles for sovereignty and youth in a post-COVID-19 reality.
SEE YOU NEXT TIME: DIR Crystal Kayiza. PRODS Cady Lang, Crystal Kayiza and Sean Weiner. USA.
The intimate moments between a Chinese nail tech and her Black client shows how two women of color see each other in a space unlike anything else in their worlds.
STILL HERE (還在): DIR Sean Wang. PRODS Cynthia Lee, Pamela Li and Sean Wang. USA.
In Kaohsiung, Taiwan, a few residents refuse to leave their abandoned village.