Every iteration of Silverdocs captures a slice of the zeitgeist. Being a documentary film festival, that’s one thing it should do.

But last year’s festival felt more zeitgeisty than usual. Two eventual Oscar contenders about war and the energy industry, Restrepo and Gasland, showed in Silver Spring. So did the widely touted—and then widely criticized—education-reform documentary Waiting for “Superman.” The festival opened with Freakonomics, an omnibus film with vignettes from some of the most notable directors of social-issue documentaries, and closed with The Tillman Story, about the death of U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman and its pseudo cover-up by the U.S. government. Silverdocs 2010 had plenty of lighter and more eccentric fare, but in a serious year the most visible Silverdocs selections were issue-focused and austere.

Say what you will about the national mood, but this year’s Silverdocs, which runs from June 20 to 26, is kicking off on a more soulful note: Its opening-night offering is The Swell Season, a sensuous and meditative film about the romantic and musical partnership between the Irish singer Glen Hansard and Czech newcomer Markéta Irglová. Documentaries about musicians abound, from the inspiring (Bob and the Monster, about the Thelonious Monster frontman Bob Forrest, a former heroin user who now counsels drug addicts) to the tragic (Better Than Something, about late garage-rocker Jay Reatard) to the bizarre (The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, which follows an industrial-music pioneer’s quest to become pandrogynous). The Silverdocs slate also feels richer than usual in films about sports and food and the quirks of everyday life. We don’t often associate documentaries with escapism, but there’s plenty of it on offer at this year’s Silverdocs.

A number of Silverdocs selections concern themselves with law and order: Several grapple with the facts of grisly murders and possibly false convictions. One of Silverdocs’ most anticipated screenings—The Interrupters, the latest film from Hoop Dreams director Steve James—profiles a group of reformed Chicago gangsters who take the law into their own hands to stop street violence.

And then there are the social-issue films, fewer in number this year: urban decay and gentrification in The Pruitt-Igoe Myth; tort reform in Hot Coffee; the normalized cruelness of children in The Bully Project; and the future of transportation in Revenge of the Electric Car, Silverdocs’ closing-night selection.

That last film, with its amazing-race set-up and enthusiastic if sometimes bumblingindustrialists, might on first glance seem like an optimistic tonic to last year’s gloomy social-issue highlights. But if the world’s become a better place in the last 12 months, you don’t exactly get that vibe here. Revenge of the Electric Car looks to the future, but it closes this year’s Silverdocs with notes of forced cheer.

Plus: For a behind the scenes look at Silverdocs, read The Other Silverdocs by Benjamin R. Freed, a story about the business that happens at the annual festival, and the business that doesn’t.

Monday, June 20

Openings

Schedule (Openings marked with **)

The Swell Season**7:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1

Tuesday, June 21

Openings

Schedule (Openings marked with **)

Bob and the Monster**1:15 p.m.Discovery HD Theater
The Price of Sex**1:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
Love During Wartime**3:45 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
Hula and Natan**4:45 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
When the Drum Is Beating**5:45 p.m.Discovery HD Theater
Donor Unknown6:45 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
Give Up Tomorrow9 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3

Shorts

Minka**
Mothersbane**
Blue Rinse**
Still Here**
Night at the Dance**
11 a.mAFI Silver Theater 1
Vera Klement**
Kiss the Paper**
Miracle on 22nd Street**
1:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1

Wednesday, June 22

Openings

Schedule (Openings marked with **)

When the Drum Is Beating3:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
Page One5 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
The Green Wave5:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
Better This World6 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
The Price of Sex6:15 p.m.Discovery HD Theater
The Interrupters7:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
Position Among the Stars8:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
Dragsonslayer**10:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 2

Shorts

Living For 32**
Bathing Micky**
12 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1

Minka
Mothersbane
Blue Rinse
Still Here
Night at the Dance

3:45 p.m. Discovery HD Theater

Thursday, June 23

Openings

Schedule (Openings marked with **)

Grande Hotel10:15 a.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
Sound It Out10:30 a.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
Where Soldiers Come From12:15 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
Our School2:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
Give Up Tomorrow2:45 p.m.Discovery HD Theater
The Loving Story2:45 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
Better This World5 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
Position Among the Stars5:15 p.m.Discovery HD Theater
A Good Man8 p.m.Discovery HD Theater

Shorts

Guanape Sur**
Three Walls**
Humanoids**
Water**
10 a.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
Tobacco Girl**
Without Country**
12 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
Living For 32
Bathing Micky
5 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3

Friday, June 24

Openings

Schedule (Openings marked with **)

Fire In Babylon10 a.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
The Learning10:15 a.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
Hula and Natan11:15 a.m.Discovery HD Theater
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: An Urban History1 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
Incendiary: The Willingham Case1:15 p.m.Discovery HD Theater
Scenes of a Crime3:15 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
Catching Hell4:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles**5:15 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
Grande Hotel5:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
Hot Coffee7:15 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
The Loving Story7:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
Never Make It Home8:15 p.m.Discovery HD Theater
Dragonslayer9:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1

Shorts

Oil & Water**
12 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
Vera Klement
Kiss The Paper
Miracle on 22nd Street
3:45 p.m.Discovery HD Theater

Saturday, June 25

Openings

Schedule (Openings marked with **)

Scenes of a Crime10:45 a.m.Discovery HD Theater
A Good Man11:15 a.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
El Bulli: Cooking in Progress12 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
Hot Coffee12:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
Where Soldiers Come From2:45 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
The Team3 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
Donor Unknown3:30 p.m.Discovery HD Theater
Age of Champions5:15 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
Our School5:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
Fire In Babylon5:45 p.m.Discovery HD Theater
Bob and the Monster6:15 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
Revenge of the Electric Car7:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
Incendiary: The Willingham Case8:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
Life In a Day10 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles10:45 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3

Shorts

Oil & Water
9 a.m.Discovery HD Theater
Guanape Sur
Three Walls
Humanoids
Water
1:15 p.m.Discovery HD Theater

Sunday, June 26

Schedule (Openings marked with **)

Catching Hell9:15 a.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
At the Edge of Russia10 a.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
Life In a Day11:45 a.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
Never Make It Home2 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
Age of Champions2:15 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
The Learning4:15 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
Revenge of the Electric Car4:15 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
The Swell Season6:30 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1
Love During Wartime6:45 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 2
The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: An Urban History7 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 3
Sound It Out8:45 p.m.AFI Silver Theater 1

Shorts

Tobacco Girl
Without Country
9 a.m.AFI Silver Theater 1