From the Mayor for Life to King James to the Champ, the event films at 2009’s AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival celebrate big talents and big personalities—fitting for a fest that’s become an industry darling in its seven years. Opening night offers More Than a Game, which follows five young basketball players from Akron, Ohio—including the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James—as they sweat from obscurity to championships. The former Cassius Clay will be in attendance for Facing Ali, a collection of rare footage and fresh interviews in which opponents of boxing’s greatest talk about what it was like to face him in the ring. And closing the festival is The Nine Lives of Marion Barry, an examination of the current Ward 8 councilmember and erstwhile mayor who has landed on his feet despite one scandal after another.
According to our critic, however, the latter is less an in-depth analysis than a puff piece, and unlike last year’s fest—which boasted, among many other excellent films, future Oscar-winner Man on Wire and nominee Encounters at the End of the World—few of the 122 documentaries being presented are home runs. We were able to review nearly 70 of this year’s entries, approximately double our coverage of 2008’s festival, and not many of them left us drooling. An inevitability of numbers, or is Silverdocs stumbling? With celebrities gracing the screenings and the world watching, it likely doesn’t matter. —Tricia Olszewski
Films show at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring; Round House Theatre, 8641 Colesville Road, Silver Spring; and Discovery HD Theater, 1 Discovery Place, Silver Spring. Most screenings are $10; for schedules and prices visit silverdocs.com.
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