This Wednesday, June 18, sees the opening of the 12th edition of AFI Docs, in its sophomore year in Washington DC with Scott Teems’ HOLBROOK/TWAIN: AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY. Another year has seen continued changes for the event, with longtime festival director Sky Sitney having left her post this past February. Once again running a trimmer five days vs its seven-day incarnation as Silverdocs, the festival will screen approximately fifty features through Sunday, June 22, when the festival closes with Steve James’ LIFE ITSELF.
This year’s feature offerings include several world premieres: Cheryl Furjanic’s BACK ON BOARD: GREG LOUGANIS, an intimate portrait of the Olympian diver; Farzad Sangari’s MUDBLOODS (pictured), which follows a real-life Quidditch team to compete in the sport’s World Cup; and Nicole Boxer’s HOW I GOT OVER, in which formerly homeless women share their stories in a stage project. Among the other newer features are: Laura Naylor’s THE FIX, about a young Bronx father recovering from heroin; Nickolas Rossi’s HEAVEN ADORES YOU, which explores the life and legacy of late musician Elliott Smith; and Michael Rappoport’s WHEN THE GARDEN WAS EDEN, about the revitalization of the New York Knicks in the 1969-1970 season.
AFI Docs singles out a handful of titles for extended conversations and engagement. Among this year’s Catalyst Screenings are Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly’s THE HOMESTRETCH (pictured), which follows three homeless high school teens; and David Heilbroner and Katherine Davis’ THE NEWBURGH STING, about a supposed terrorist threat in my upstate hometown. The fest also has grouped a few films thematically tied to surveillance and whistleblowing, presented in partnership with The Washington Post, including: James Spione’s portrait of three key whistleblowers, SILENCED; and Johanna Hamilton’s chronicle of an FBI office break-in, 1971.
Prolific filmmaker Alex Gibney is the subject of this year’s Guggenheim Symposium, an in-depth discussion of his extensive body of work. A retrospective of six of his feature documentaries will screen the week after the festival wraps.