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AFI Docs, the sweeping documentary film festival formerly known as Silverdocs, has announced its 2013 schedule. In addition to previously announced premieres of Herblock: The Black & The White, Documented, and Letters to Jackie, the June festival will include 52 other films, including Caucus, A.J. Schnack‘s behind-the-scenes look at the 2012 Republican caucuses in Iowa. You know, just in case you missed thinking about the good old days of Rick Santorum and Herman Cain.
The slate is heavily populated with familiar faces: films about Muhammad Ali, indie rockers The National, and Ernest Hemingway will be screened. Even Richard Nixon makes an appearance; Our Nixon consists of secret White House footage recorded by Watergate conspirators H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and Dwight Chapin that was recently released by the FBI. See killer whales go wild, watch young Chinese girls enroll at the nation’s largest kung fu academy, and maybe even understand the allure of cryogenics—-all those topics have been thrown into the mix.
AFI Docs begins June 19 with Letters to Jackie, a look at the thousands of letters the first lady received in the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination, and runs through June 23. Errol Morris, director of award-winning documentaries The Fog of War and The Thin Blue Line, is the 2013 Charles Guggenheim Honoree and will discuss his career at a symposium on June 21.
See the festival’s complete 2013 schedule after the jump. (Warning: It’s a lot of text.)
FEATURE FILM SELECTIONS:
12 O’CLOCK BOYS DIR Lotfy Nathan. USA. Cruising recklessly through the streets of Baltimore, notorious dirt bike gang, the 12 O’Clock Boys, are heroes to some and a menace to others. Director Lotfy Nathan’s debut feature follows a young boy named Pug over the course of several years as he strives to be accepted into their world.
THE ACT OF KILLING: DIR Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, Anonymous. Denmark/ Norway/UK. Disturbing and unforgettable, this unique film takes the viewer inside the complex psychology of Indonesian death squad leaders. Encouraging the killers to re-enact scenes of genocide in front of the camera, the filmmakers capture the men’s boastful pride and their slow realization of the full scope of their brutal crimes.
AFTER TILLER: DIR Martha Shane, Lana Wilson. USA. The 2009 murder of George Tiller in a Kansas Lutheran church left only four physicians providing late-term abortions in the United States. These four—two women, two men—provide exceptionally intimate access to their professional and personal domains, revealing nuanced decisions likely to surprise viewers on either side of the great abortion divide.
AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY: THE EVOLUTION OF GRACE LEE BOGGS: DIR Grace Lee. USA. Filmmaker Grace Lee set out in search of other Asian American women bearing the same name and found Grace Lee Boggs, a 95-year-old Chinese American philosopher, activist and force of nature whose remarkable life and work traversed the major social movements of the last century and warranted a film of her own.
ANITA: DIR Freida Mock. USA. For three days in October 1991 a mesmerized nation watched as a composed yet demure Oklahoma law professor accused a Supreme Court nominee of flagrant, serial sexual harassment. With hard-earned discernment gleaned in the intervening years, Anita Hill recalls the events of that autumn and shares her remarkable personal history.
APPROVED FOR ADOPTION: DIR Jung Henin, Laurent Boileau. Belgium/France. Skilled Korean graphic novelist Jung Henin was only five years old when he was adopted by a Belgian family who raised him as one of their own. Through a mixture of live action footage and his own beautiful animation, the adult Jung shares his story of growing up in a world where he always felt different.
BEST KEPT SECRET: DIR Samantha Buck. USA. Erik, Rahamid and Kareem, among others, have found an unexpected haven in a Newark, New Jersey public high school where a fiercely dedicated staff supports students such as themselves with autism and learning disabilities. Looming over them, however, is a ticking clock where at the age of 21 they will “age out.”
BLACKFISH: DIR Gabriela Cowperthwaite. USA. When SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau was mauled to death by a “killer whale,” the tragedy was dismissed as a freak accident. In actuality, it was one of many such violent incidents between well-meaning trainers and wild orcas living in captivity. Blackfish takes an unflinching look at the disturbing practices that keep marine parks in business.
BRAVE MISS WORLD: DIR Cecilia Peck. USA. Two months before she was crowned Miss World in 1998, Linor Abargil, an Israeli beauty queen, was raped in a violent attack by an acquaintance. Ten years later she is ready to talk about her ordeal as she travels the world to hear the stories of other rape victims and help them speak out.
CAMP 14– TOTAL CONTROL ZONE: DIR Marc Wiese. Germany. Little is known about the shadowy world of North Korea, but former prisoner Shin Dong-hyuk has lived to tell his harrowing story. Born inside a North Korean “death camp,” Shin knew of no other reality beyond the barbed-wire fences that encompassed a life of fear, hard labor, starvation and torture.
CAUCUS DIR AJ Schnack. USA. While the GOP leadership race in 2012 played itself out for the nation on primetime television with camera ready sound bytes and speeches, a documentary film crew led by filmmaker AJ Schnack went behind the scenes to capture the not-so-ready-for-primetime moments that culminate in a fascinating view of the lead-up to the crucial Iowa caucus. The documentary features conservative hopefuls Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry and a particularly intimate view of Rick Santorum.Filmmaker and subjects in attendance for the U.S. premiere.
THE CRASH REEL: DIR Lucy Walker. USA. A mere two months before the 2010 Winter Olympics, game-changing pro snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury that derailed his life, career and a much-anticipated rivalry with competitor Shaun White. Oscar®-nominee Lucy Walker’s engaging, intimate portrayal of Pearce’s recuperation explores the understated heroism of a recovering champion.
CUTIE AND THE BOXER: DIR Zachary Heinzerling. USA. When Noriko moved to New York City, her plans to study art were derailed by love. Now, 40 years into her marriage to Ushio, a painter many years her senior, Noriko seeks her own artistic identity as her 80-year-old husband struggles to establish his legacy. This is a poignant portrait of marriage, sacrifice, aging and dedication.
DOCUMENTED DIR Jose Antonio Vargas. USA. In 2011, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in The New York Times Magazine. The world premiere of his film Documented chronicles the aftermath as he travels around the country as an immigration reform activist and provocateur, lands a historic Time magazine cover story; and unexpectedly re-connects with his mother in the Philippines, whom he hasn’t seen in nearly 20 years. Filmmaker and subjects in attendance.
DRAGON GIRLS: DIR Inigo Westmeier. Germany. This exuberant film tells the tale of three adolescent girls studying to become fighters at the largest kung fu academy in China. These three faces (among 26,000) spend every waking moment training, managing injuries and coping with the school’s intense (and often abusive) discipline policies.
EXPEDITION TO THE END OF THE WORLD: DIR Daniel Dencik. Denmark. A motley crew of scientists and artists sets sail for the frozen fjords of Northeast Greenland, which are accessible only because of the melting ice cap. The stunning, unexplored landscapes of the Arctic form the backdrop of this madcap expedition to the end of the world.
THE GENIUS OF MARIAN: DIR Banker White, Anna Fitch. USA. Filmmaker Banker White’s mother Pam is slowly succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease, which is the same fate that befell her own mother Marian, a noted artist, before her. In this intimate portrait of a woman at her most vulnerable, Pam works to help preserve a meaningful personal legacy before it is too late.
GIDEON’S ARMY: DIR Dawn Porter. USA. In this smart, insightful documentary, filmmaker Dawn Porter sheds light on the plight of one of our country’s most valuable and unsung warriors: the public defender. Following a small group of dedicated public defenders in the South, Gideon’s Army highlights the daily battles they face within a flawed legal system.
GOD LOVES UGANDA: DIR Roger Ross Williams. USA. Blending vérité style with candid testimonials, filmmaker Roger Ross Williams tracks a group of missionaries from the evangelical Christian right as they take their religious crusade from the comfort of Middle America to the ravaged villages of a fiercely divided Uganda. God Loves Uganda paints a disturbing portrait of religious fundamentalism taken to extremes.
HERBLOCK: THE BLACK & THE WHITE DIR Michael Stevens. USA. Filmmaker Michael Stevens paints a lively portrait of influential Washington Post editorial cartoonist Herbert Block whose distinguished 55-year career spanning 13 presidents earned him three Pulitzer Prizes and the Medal of Freedom. Covering a time when cartoons had clout, Herblock celebrates the days of old school print journalism and media satire. Luminaries, including Carl Bernstein, Lewis Black, Ben Bradlee, Ted Koppel, Bob Woodward and Jon Stewart contribute their insights into Block’s life, work and indelible influence. The film’s producer George Stevens, Jr., Founder of the American Film Institute, will attend along with notables in the film.
IF YOU BUILD IT: DIR Patrick Creadon. USA. A David and Goliath story for the recession era, If You Build It documents a year in the innovative “Studio H” architectural program. The film examines the work of Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller who give the teens of a crumbling rural town a chance to build a better future.
I LEARN AMERICA: DIR Gitte Peng, Jean-Michel Dissard. USA. At a public high school in New York City dedicated to serving newly arrived immigrants, teenage students from more than 50 countries come together in a unique educational experience. I Learn America follows four students over the course of a year as they search for a future of their own.
INEQUALITY FOR ALL: DIR Jacob Kornbluth. USA. This riveting film takes an eye-opening look at the ever-widening gap in America’s income inequality and the dire threat it poses to the country’s future. Economic policy expert Robert Reich offers a passionate and fully accessible perspective on what happened to the vanishing American middle class and what might be done to fix it.
THE KILL TEAM: DIR Dan Krauss. USA. A powerful portrait of wartime atrocities and the men who commit them, this riveting film focuses on an American platoon in Afghanistan who waged a campaign of terror against the Afghani civilians they were sworn to protect. A chilling look at the madness of war that very few will forget.
LES INVISIBLES: DIR Sébastien Lifshitz. France. In May 1968, activists in Paris rioted for many different causes, including gay rights. Interviewing some of the gays and lesbians who fought for recognition and respect from the postwar years, through the riots and into the present, Les Invisibles shows a different side of the fight for liberty, fraternity and equality. North American Premiere.
LET THE FIRE BURN: DIR Jason Osder. USA. On May 13, 1985, Philadelphia authorities battling the black liberation group MOVE dropped incendiary explosives onto an Osage Avenue row house. The ensuing inferno killed five children and six adults, destroying 61 homes. This unfathomable saga of simmering fanaticism is adeptly retold without commentary, using archival footage including previously withheld materials.
LETTERS TO JACKIE DIR Bill Couturié. USA. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, the world came to a crashing halt as the nation grieved for its leader whose promise of a brighter future was cut tragically short. During this time the president’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, received thousands of letters from the public offering their heartfelt condolences. Oscar®-winning filmmaker Bill Couturié’s touching film focuses on these deeply personal letters that flooded in from all over the country to comfort a woman they greatly admired who was not just the fashionable First Lady, but also a wife and a mother. Set against a treasure trove of archival footage taken during the Kennedy era, the moving letters are read by twenty of today’s top actors including Jessica Chastain, Chris Cooper, Viola Davis, Zooey Deschanel, Kirsten Dunst, Anne Hathaway, Laura Linney, Frances McDormand, Mark Ruffalo, Octavia Spencer, Channing Tatum, Betty White and Michelle Williams. Filmmaker and select talent will be in attendance for this theatrical premiere.
LIFE ACCORDING TO SAM: DIR Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine. USA. Progeria is an extremely rare and fatal disease in which children suffer the afflictions of accelerated aging. Sam Berns is one such child who shares his life with remarkable grace and courage. Meanwhile, Berns’ physician parents work tirelessly to find a way to help their son and other children combat the deadly disease. East Coast Premiere.
LOST FOR LIFE: DIR Joshua Rofé. USA. Is it right for juvenile offenders to receive lifetime prison sentences without parole? Can some killers truly change and make a meaningful contribution to society as free men? This thought-provoking film explores the complex issue with input from both the perpetrators – all charged with first-degree murder – and the victims’ families. World Premiere.
THE MACHINE WHICH MAKES EVERYTHING DISAPPEAR: DIR Tinatin Gurchiani. Georgia/Germany. A film director puts out a casting call for local townspeople in the former Soviet republic of Georgia, and the taped “auditions” become the springboard for this portrait of contemporary Eurasian life. As the citizens open up with surprising intimacy, the filmmaker follows some of them in their real lives with fascinating results.
MCCULLIN: DIR Jacqui Morris. UK. British photojournalist Don McCullin escaped a hardscrabble childhood to create many of the most profound images of late-20th century wars on three continents. A pensive yet vulnerable McCullin looks back on his career with wistful, sometimes haunted memories touching on the essence of war and his ambivalence about documenting horrific events.
MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS: DIR Tom Berninger. USA. This hilarious film follows indie band The National on the road for a year through the eyes of singer Matt Berninger’s bumbling brother, Tom. As tensions boil, the film Tom meant to make falls apart, and what evolves is a touching, authentic, and delightfully wry portrait of two brothers who could not be more different.
MUSCLE SHOALS DIR Greg “Freddy” Camalier. USA. Filmmaker Greg “Freddy” Camalier chronicles the unique sound that emerged from the Deep South of 1960s America that would attract some of the most diverse musical talent of the time. The place was Muscle Shoals, Alabama and this is the story of how its sound, and the people who created it, left its mark on music history. There will be a special post-screening performance by Candi Staton with the Washington Performing Arts Society Choir.
THE NEW BLACK: DIR Yoruba Richen. USA. This thought-provoking film examines how African-American voters have become bitterly divided on the issue of gay marriage because of homophobia rampant in one of the pillars of the African-American community – the church. Focusing on the fight for marriage equality in Maryland, it argues that this hot-button issue is a matter of civil rights.
OUR NIXON: DIR Penny Lane. USA. Among the stranger remnants of the Watergate era are some 500 reels of Super 8 home movies created by aspiring – and conspiring – filmmakers named Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Chapin. This recently released FBI treasure, with commentary from the secret White House tapes, reveals extraordinary access to everyday intrigues of the Nixon White House.
THE PUNK SINGER: DIR Sini Anderson. USA. Musician and feminist icon Kathleen Hanna blazed a politically minded musical trail whose influence can still be felt. Director Sini Anderson’s film is an energetic and intimate look at Hanna’s life and work, from her days in Bikini Kill to her decision to step away from music in recent years.
REMOTE AREA MEDICAL: DIR Jeff Reichert, Farihah Zaman. USA. People wait for more than a day outside the Bristol Motor Speedway, lining up not for tickets but for necessary medical and dental procedures that are otherwise beyond their means. Telling stories from those who rely on the clinics, Remote Area Medical serves as a sobering look at life for the uninsured.
RENT-A-FAMILY, INC.: DIR Kaspar Astrup Schröder. Denmark. A service in Japan offers actors to stand in for family members, their presence providing support at negotiations and filling weddings. Struggling and depressed, Ryuichi runs one such company, sending himself to fill in for those who need family members and, in many ways, to get away from his own. East Coast Premiere.
RUNNING FROM CRAZY: DIR Barbara Kopple. USA. The Hemingways have long been one of America’s most notable families, from literary legend Ernest Hemingway to his famous model granddaughter Margaux and her sister, Academy Award®-nominated actress Mariel. Behind closed doors, however, the family has been plagued by mental illness, substance abuse and suicide, which seems to carry from one generation to the next.
TEENAGE: DIR Matt Wolf. USA. Those magical and often difficult years between childhood and adulthood didn’t always have a label. In fact, the word “teenager” didn’t even exist until 1945. This fascinating documentary, based on the Jon Savage book of the same name, illuminates the period in which teenagers emerged to claim their unique place in history.
THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI: DIR Bill Siegel. USA. When charismatic fighter Cassius Clay embraced Islam and renamed himself Muhammad Ali, the boxing icon came under fire for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War. This enlightening film examines the tumultuous period in Ali’s life that saw him forced into a legal battle with the U.S. government that almost cost him his livelihood.
WE CAME HOME: DIR Ariana Delawari. USA. Afghan-American musician Ariana Delawari shares the personal story of how she re-connected with her homeland in this thought-provoking film. Born in Los Angeles, Delawari’s life is turned upside down after 9/11. When her parents move back to Kabul, she spends a decade documenting their transition and her own awakening, through music, to her Afghan heritage.
WHITE BLACK BOY: DIR Camilla Magid. Denmark. The sun is among the least of his worries for Shida, a Tanzanian boy with albinism. Because witchdoctors believe in the mystical power of albino’s limbs, the white-skinned are often hunted for a bounty. White Boy Black looks at Shida’s first year at a boarding school, where he is momentarily safe from harm. North American Premiere.
A WILL FOR THE WOODS: DIR Amy Browne. USA. As lymphoma thwarts all attempts at treatment, Clark Wang makes his funeral plans. Rather than preserve his body with toxic chemicals, his last wish is for a “green” burial. Environmental preservation takes on a poignant intimacy in this touching portrait of a multi-faceted, ebullient advocate and his final legacy.
WRONG TIME WRONG PLACE: DIR John Appel. Netherlands. On July 22, 2011, Norway experienced its deadliest attack on native soil since World War II. Through intimate interviews with survivors of the tragedy and the families of victims, this powerful film takes a haunting look at the result of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
SHORT FILM SELECTIONS:
NOT ANYMORE: A STORY OF REVOLUTION: DIR Matthew VanDyke, Nour Kelze. USA. This vivid film explores the Syrian revolution as told through the experiences of two of its deeply affected citizens. Mowya is a dedicated male rebel fighter and Nour a young female journalist who risks her life in pursuit of the truth. By sharing their harrowing stories, each hopes to inspire action.
THE OTHER DAVE: DIR Pasquale Greco. USA. Meet Dave, an ordinary man whose life took an extraordinary turn when he was struck by lightning and lived to tell about it. Ever since, Dave’s life has taken a series of quirky twists and turns while his mind has been left with an altered perception of reality.
OUTLAWED IN PAKISTAN: DIR Habiba Nosheen, Hilke Schellmann. USA. This powerful film follows the courageous journey of one young girl in rural Pakistan. After being raped by four men, Kainat Soomro boldly fights the conventions of her society and takes the men to court. Facing a deeply flawed legal system and odds stacked against her, Soomro risks everything to demand justice.
SLOMO: DIR Joshua Izenberg. USA. What would really happen if you quit your lucrative job and just did what you wanted all day? Take a brief look into the mind of John Kitchin, a doctor who traded his medical practice for rollerblades and sandy beaches, and explore the neurological and spiritual joys of slow acceleration.
STRAIGHT WITH YOU: DIR Daan Bol. Netherlands. Though only 11 years old, Melvin has already become comfortable enough in his sexuality to come out to his parents and his best friend. Bullying and other outside pressures have kept him from going fully public with this self-awareness but now he must decide how to handle with delicacy a schoolgirl’s crush on him.
VULTURES OF TIBET: DIR Russell Bush. USA/Canada. For years the “sky burial” has been a private and mysterious death ritual in Tibet where corpses are offered to wild vultures for consumption. In recent years, however, this fascinating practice has become increasingly commercialized as tourists from around the world flock to witness it with their own eyes.
WE WILL LIVE AGAIN: DIR Josh Koury, Myles Kane. USA. To what lengths would you go in order to live again? Take a fascinating peek inside the Cryonics Institute where caretakers work to preserve the frozen bodies of 99 people who hoped to be brought back to life one day through creative leaps in scientific research.
WHEN THE SONG DIES: DIR Jamie Chambers. UK. This poetic film weaves the fading folklore and songs of Scotland together in a rich tapestry that pays tribute to a vanishing era. Set against the evocative Scottish landscape, When the Song Dies is a meditation on past and present featuring the exquisite haunting melodies of yesteryear.