Roger Ebert in Life Itself

The festival formerly known as Silverdocs will open and close with biographies of two (or, depending on how you look at it, three) men who’ve made lifelong contributions to the arts. The world premiere of Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey, a Scott Teems-directed film about actor Hal Holbrook of “Mark Twain Tonight!,” will kick off the festival at the Newseum on June 18. Holbrook, who’s played Mark Twain for 60 years in the longest-running one-man show in the history of theater, will introduce the film at the screening. The documentary looks at the marks both Holbrook and Twain have made on American society, and the relationship between a man and the character he’s inhabited for longer than most marriages should be a fascinating study.

AFI DOCS will end with a showing of Life Itself, a look at the life of iconic movie critic Roger Ebert, directed by Steve James of Hoop Dreams fame. Based on Ebert’s titular 2011 memoir, the film delves into Ebert’s storied career and partnership with Gene Siskel, following him through the last months of his life. The first anniversary of Ebert’s death passed last month, making this doc a particularly poignant choice for the festival’s closing screening at the National Portrait Gallery on June 21.

Check back on May 21 for the full AFI DOCS slate, and look out for our reviews and recommendations just before the festival opens.

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