The 6th annual SILVERDOCS documentary film festival announced its programming for its June 16-23, 2008 event, which takes place in Silver Spring, MD,. The festival will present 108 films representing 63 countries selected from 1,861 submissions with six world, eight North American, six U.S. and seven East Coast Premieres and two retrospective programs. It will open with the U.S. Premiere of Adrian Wills‘ “All Together Now” and close with John Walter‘s “Theater of War.”
“SILVERDOCS 2008 celebrates the best of documentary past, present and future. We are excited to present several seminal films in our side-bar “1968 and Beyond”; showcase and serve young storytellers in our Conference; and continue to offer the surprising perspectives on contemporary issues that our audiences have come to expect throughout all of our programming,” said Festival Director Patricia Finneran in a statement.
Notable filmmakers presenting their work this year include SILVERDOCS’ Charles Guggenheim Symposium Honoree Spike Lee, Alex Gibney, Nanette Burstein, Ellen Kuras, Al Maysles, Guy Maddin and Patrick Creadon.
Films screen in six sections: US Feature Competition, World Feature Competition (added this year), Best Music Documentary, Silver Spectrum (formerly World View), Short Films, and “1968 and Beyond”, a special thematic side-bar for 2008.
The complete Competition lineups are below, with descriptions provided by SILVERDOCS:
US FEATURE COMPETITION
Bulletproof Salesman / USA, 2008, 70 minutes (Directors: Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein)–For civilians, diplomats, and soldiers, roadside bombs in war-torn areas are a constant scourge. For Fidelis Cloer, they are a check in the mail. Cloer sells armored vehicles to the highest bidder, and his business acumen provides a disturbingly simple and unsentimental context in which to understand international conflict and suffering.
Chevolution / USA, 2008, 90 minutes (Directors: Luis Lopez and Trisha Ziff)–Songs and films pay tribute to Ernesto “Che” Guevara, but he lives on most famously through Alberto Korda’s photograph of his somber yet fiercely proud face. This vibrant study of the image that has outlived the man traces the construction of a mythology launched by a revolution, adopted by worldwide rebellion, and exploited by capitalism.
Four Seasons Lodge / USA, 2008, 109 minutes (Director: Andrew Jacobs)–For decades, a group of Holocaust survivors has met every summer at a bucolic Catskills bungalow colony, despite their ever-dwindling ranks. In what may be their final season together, the lodgers cook, flirt, argue, dance and share stories of loss and survival, while the fate of their community remains uncertain. World Premiere.
The Garden / USA, 2008, 95 minutes (Director: Scott Hamilton Kennedy)–Rising up from the ashes of 1992’s devastating L.A. riots is a 14-acre oasis in one of the country’s most blighted neighborhoods. The South Central Farmers created the garden to provide fresh produce for low-income people. Now, as bulldozers are poised to level it, the farmers won’t give up without a fight. World Premiere.
Hard Times At Douglass High / USA, 2007, 112 minutes (Directors: Alan and Susan Raymond)–A year inside Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass High School shows the parts of a broken public education system: dedicated administrators, harried–but present–teachers, and students trying to get by. But isn’t the shaky foundation of the social system outside the school’s walls–marked by poverty, broken homes and lack of opportunity–a set-up for failure? World Premiere.
Herb & Dorothy / USA, 2008, 85 minutes (Director: Megumi Sasaki)–He’s a postal clerk. She’s a librarian. Despite their modest means, the unassuming pair are the most important contemporary art collectors you’ve never heard of. Meet Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, whose shared passion and discipline defied stereotypes and redefined what it means to be a patron of the arts. World Premiere.
In The Family / USA, 2008, 83 minutes (Director: Joanna Rudnick)–Would you surrender your ability to give life if you knew it might save your own? A genetic test has told 27-year-old Joanna Rudnick that she will most likely develop breast and ovarian cancer. Now she must decide if she will take the pre-emptive step of having her breasts and ovaries removed. US Premiere.
Kassim The Dream / USA, 2008, 87 minutes (Director: Kief Davidson)–Kassim Ouma was born in Uganda, kidnapped by the rebel army and trained to be a child soldier at age 6. After a decade of warfare, he defected and began a new life in the U.S., quickly becoming a world champion boxer. Kief Davidson captures Ouma’s passions, tragedies, victories, and emotional and geographic journeys.
Pray The Devil Back To Hell / USA, 2008, 72 minutes (Director: Gini Reticker)– An inspiring chronicle of the thousands of Liberian women who peacefully ended the war in their country that killed over 250,000 people. Non-violent protests, sit-ins, and organizational acumen resulted in disarmament and the 2005 election of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Trouble The Water / USA, 2008, 95 minutes (Directors: Tia Lessin and Carl Deal)–Kimberly Roberts bought a camcorder off the street for $20 just a week before Hurricane Katrina hit her hometown of New Orleans. Veteran filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal weave together Roberts’ footage with their own into an evocative dialogue that reveals a powerful, heart-wrenching, infuriating and ultimately inspiring survival story.
WORLD FEATURE COMPETITION
Comeback / Germany, 2007, 79 minutes (Director: Maximilian Plettau)–German boxer Juergen Hartenstein is a 35-year-old former middleweight champion hoping to re-enter the sport in this quiet and lovingly crafted film. Max Plettau’s camera unobtrusively follows Hartenstein as he struggles to revive his career. Hartenstein’s gentle demeanor and unassuming lifestyle elevate his ambition to a noble quest that we are privileged to witness. North American Premiere.
Corridor #8 / Bulgaria, 2008, 74 minutes (Director: Boris Despodov)–The saying “you can’t get there from here” never rang more true than in this fabulously droll road trip across Bulgaria, Albania and Macedonia on Corridor #8–the Balkan antithesis of Route 66. This massive infrastructure project, commissioned by the EU, was designed to connect the Black and Adriatic seas and lift the economic hopes of the working-class residents along its route. But a decade and millions of euros later, little progress has been made.
The English Surgeon / United Kingdom/Ukraine, 2007, 94 minutes (Director: Geoffrey Smith)–British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh resides in an idyllic English village, but he spends several weeks a year in Ukraine performing surgeries with the crudest of tools in a country where neurosurgery barely exists. His skills have saved innumerable lives, yet Dr. Marsh refuses to slow down until he’s saved every possible life. East Coast Premiere.
Four Wives – One Man / Iran, 2007, 76 minutes (Director: Nahid Persson)–A poignant, occasionally hilarious, often harrowing glimpse into an institution oft undertaken but rarely understood–marriage. As the title suggests, this is no conventional marriage, with four wives, dozens of children, and one domineering mother-in-law, all competing for the attention of one man. North American Premiere.
Head Wind / Iran, 2008, 65 minutes (Director: Mohammad Rasoulof)–If satellite dishes are illegal in Iran, then why are so many Iranians watching Hollywood blockbusters? This fascinating film reveals a fast-growing subculture determined to gain access to Western media by any means necessary. Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Rasoulof illuminates the growing disparity between what Iranians want and what their Islamic leaders will allow.
The Infinite Border / Mexico, 2007, 90 minutes (Director: Juan Manuel Sepulveda)–Some migrants exude a determination that points less to the promise of a bright future and more to an escape from a troubled past. In this visually stunning yet unromantic account of their journey, migrants face starvation and dismemberment on the road from Central America to Mexico and finally to the United States. US Premiere.
Mechanical Love / Denmark, 2007, 79 minutes (Director: Phie Ambo)–How far we are prepared to go when human intimacy becomes a rare commodity? Robots promise to make our lives easier, but for some people they can be a stand-in for human affection. This fascinating film explores the intimate and complex relationships between people and therapeutic robots.
Milosevic On Trial / Denmark, 2007, 69 minutes (Director: Michael Christofferson)–When former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was on trial for crimes against humanity, he acted as his own counsel; his most masterful move in the trial was when he died from a heart attack. Michael Christoffersen captures the trial and its defendant, from its historic beginnings to its bizarre end.
My Life Inside / Mexico, 2007, 120 minutes (Director: Lucia Gaja)–The tragic story of Rosa, a Mexican citizen living illegally in Texas, addresses the contentious issue of illegal immigration and the pitfalls of the judicial system. Accused of murdering a child under her care, Rosa must battle a system that is as foreign to her as she is to it.
The Red Race / China/Germany, 2008, 70 minutes (Director: Chao Gan)–Against the backdrop of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and escalating international condemnation over Chinese policies from Tibet to Darfur, THE RED RACE presents a microscopic insight into the Chinese passion for gymnastics. In training centers, there’s no time for childish games as these aspiring Olympians carry their parents’ and their country’s dreams on their tiny shoulders.
BEST MUSIC DOCUMENTARY AWARD
Hi My Name Is Ryan / USA, 2008, 78 minutes (Directors: Paul Eagleston and Stephen Rose)–Cherubic 19-year-old alt-culture renaissance man Ryan Avery is the best thing that happened to the downtown Phoenix art scene since native son Alice Cooper. Though Avery seems destined for an artist’s life, he’s grappling with a different calling. A devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he has chosen to forgo his madcap antics for a religious mission. Yet, with what some might call a god-given gift, Avery must learn to reconcile his two competing callings. North American Premiere.
La Paloma / Germany/France, 2008, 88 minutes (Director: Sigrid Faltin)–Long before corporate distribution and file-sharing fused music with globalization, songs traversed the globe. LA PALOMA follows Sebastian de Iradier’s 1861 song, La Paloma, from the Basque country to Latin America, Hawaii, back to Europe, and finally to Africa. In each country, the tune remained while the meaning changed dramatically.
Life. Support. Music. / USA, 2008, 79 minutes (Director: Eric Daniel Metzgar)–At 34, Jason Kriglin has found his calling: making music. He’s still working at making a living, but he’s found the love of his life. Suddenly, a massive stroke leaves him in a vegetative state. This is a story of his tenacity, the power of familial love, and how music inspires and gives voice to that which words cannot.
Song Sung Blue / USA, 2008, 87 minutes (Director: Greg Kohs)–Decked out in sequined outfits, Mike & Claire Sardina, AKA “Lighting & Thunder,” play to hooting crowds at Milwaukee bars and clubs. But when a freak accident leaves Claire immobile, their Vegas dreams are replaced by a reality of rehabilitation, unpaid bills, drug addiction and lost hopes. Will Lightning only strike once?
Throw Down Your Heart / USA, 2008, 97 minutes (Director: Sascha Paladino)–American banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck travels to Africa to explore the little-known roots of the instrument and record an album. Fleck’s riveting journey takes him through Uganda, Tanzania, The Gambia, and Mali, where he transcends the barriers of language and culture through a shared passion for music.
Wild Combination / USA, 2008, 71 minutes (Director: Matt Wolf)–This visually absorbing film looks at the seminal avant-garde composer, singer-songwriter, cellist and disco producer Arthur Russell. Before his AIDS-related death, Russell created music that spanned pop and the transcendent possibilities of abstract art–a legacy that richly deserves this hip and hypnotic visual tone poem.