AFI-Discovery Channel SILVERDOCS Documentary Festival has announced the competition films for the 2009 Festival, taking place June 15-22, 2009 in the Washington, DC area. Films will screen in six sections: Sterling US Feature Competition, Sterling World Feature Competition, Music Documentary, Sterling Short Film Competition, and the to-be-announced Silver Spectrum and Special Programs (check back with indieWIRE tomorrow for those lineups). Overall, the festival will present 122 films representing 58 countries selected from 1,983 submissions with seven World, three North American, 12 US, and 14 east coast premieres, plus 12 retrospective films. Among them is Marshall Curry’s “Racing Dreams,” fresh off its Tribeca Film Festival win.
“We received an extraordinary volume of high-quality submissions this year, and the 2009 program represents the very best the documentary form has to offer. It covers a wide range of issues, gives voice to diverse storytellers, and touches upon the most compelling issues of our day,” said Sky Sitney, SILVERDOCS Artistic Director, in a statement.
The juries will consist of the following:
US Feature Jury: Margaret Brown, Filmmaker; David Kwok, Director of Programming, Tribeca Film Festival; Cian Smyth has worked for all the major Irish festivals, including Dublin, Cork, Galway and Belfast.
World Feature Jury: Esther Robinson, Filmmaker; Karina Rotenstein (Programmer, Hot Docs); Geoffrey Smith, Filmmaker
Short Film Jury: Bryan Stamp, producer and executive at Participant Media; Angela Tucker, Filmmaker and producer
Award winners will be announced at the SILVERDOCS Award presentation on Saturday, June 20th, 2009. All films are also eligible for Audience Awards for Best Feature and Short, which will be announced on Sunday, June 21, 2009. The winner of the Feature length Audience Award will receive two market badges to the American Film Market in November.
The following is a list of the competition feature films, with descriptions provided by the festival:
STERLING US FEATURE COMPETITION
GOOD FORTUNE / USA, 2009, 70 minutes (Director: Landon Van Soest)–The West has spent billions of dollars over the years on aid to Africa, yet poverty persists. GOOD FORTUNE examines two multi-million dollar international aid projects that may actually be undermining the very communities they seek to help. World Premiere.
JUNIOR / USA, 2009, 70 minutes (Director: Jenna Rosher)–Even though he was diagnosed with diabetes in his teens, Eddie “Junior” Belasco, now 75, has always lived life to its fullest. After a long career in show biz, Junior is on the verge of retirement. He struggles to maintain his youthfulness, taking inspiration from his 99-year-old mother. World Premiere.
MRS. GOUNDO’S DAUGHTER / USA/MALI, 2009, 60 minutes (Directors: Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater)–Mrs. Goundo is on a quest to spare her two-year-old daughter, Djenebou, from the same severe act she endured as a child: genital cutting. Millions of young girls have taken part in this West African tradition, which dates back thousands of years. Mrs. Goundo and her husband settle in Philadelphia, only to face deportation and the labyrinthine US judicial system. World Premiere.
MY NEIGHBOR, MY KILLER / USA, 2009, 80 minutes (Director: Anne Aghion)–After Rwanda was torn apart by ethnic division, the government put into place the Gacaca Tribunals–open-air hearings with citizen-judges intended to try their neighbors and rebuild the nation. This remarkable film explores whether it is possible to live again amongst people who slaughtered your family.
OCTOBER COUNTRY / USA, 2009, 80 minutes (Directors: Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher)–This finely crafted portrait of a family in crisis is a beautiful representation of America’s poor. The film is a haunting multigenerational story of a working-class family coping with poverty, teen pregnancy, foster care and the ineffable horrors of child molestation and war. East Coast Premiere.
OFF AND RUNNING / USA, 2009, 80 minutes (Director: Nicole Opper)–Avery is an accomplished African-American teenager adopted by Jewish lesbians. Her curiosity about her birth mother becomes a painful examination of race and identity that upends the family and threatens to derail Avery’s dreams.
THE PHILOSOPHER KINGS / USA, 2009, 70 minutes (Director: Patrick Shen)–Some people we revere, some we despise and others we simply ignore. The figure of the invisible janitor at last acquires a face, name, and personality in this probing look at the wisdom that comes from lives lived fully. World Premiere.
RACING DREAMS / USA, 2009, 93 minutes (Director: Marshall Curry)–In this rousing look at youth, passion and tricked-out go-karts, Oscar-nominated director Marshall Curry (STREET FIGHT) profiles three unforgettable pre-teen speedsters as they dream of professional racing stardom while competing in the World Karting Association championships.
SHE IS THE MATADOR (ELLA ES EL MATADOR) / USA/SPAIN, 2009, 62 minutes (Directors: Gemma Cubero and Celeste Carrasco)–The surprising history of female bullfighters is revealed in this artful portrait of two women struggling to succeed in one of the last strongholds of Spanish machismo. As Italian-born novice Eva fights for recognition and her veteran counterpart Mari Paz contemplates retirement, the travails of both athletes illuminate this controversial blood sport. US Premiere.
SWEETHEARTS OF THE PRISON RODEO / USA, 2009, 90 minutes (Director: Bradley Beesley)–Once a year at the Oklahoma Prison Rodeo in McAlester, Oklahoma, an eight-second bull ride becomes the most important time in the world. Director Bradley Beesley takes us along with male and female convicts as they compete and train for slots at this unique rough-stock rodeo. East Coast Premiere.
THE WINDMILL MOVIE / USA, 2008, 80 minutes (Director: Alexander Olchs)–Richard P. Rogers was a celebrated documentarian who, despite amassing more than 20 years’ and 200 hours’ worth of footage, was never able to complete his autobiographical magnum opus. After his death, a former student, Alexander Olchs, excavates Rogers’s archives and creates a complex portrait of an endearing and contradictory artist and man.
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STERLING WORLD FEATURE COMPETITON
ANOTHER PLANET (MASIK BOLYGO) / HUNGARY, 2008, 96 minutes (Director: Ferenc Moldovanyi)–This powerful globe-spanning film introduces us to children who are struggling to survive as trash scavengers, soldiers and sex workers. The children speak plainly to the camera about their work, resulting in a film that lands like a hard punch. ANOTHER PLANET offers a rare opportunity to open your heart to another–often forgotten–world. East Coast Premiere.
BLOOD TRAIL / UNITED KINGDOM/USA, 2008, 79 minutes (Director: Richard Parry)–Follow war photographer Robert King for 15 years as he works war zones worldwide. Along the way, the brutality of the subject steadily takes its toll on King. We rely on war reporters to take us where we never want to go, but rarely do we consider the costs. East Coast Premiere.
COOKING HISTORY / AUSTRIA/SLOVAKIA/CZECH REPUBLIC, 2009, 88 minutes (Director: Peter Kerekes)–This innovative film re-imagines Europe’s troubled past through the unheralded culinary workers who “catered” some of the pivotal armed conflicts of the modern era. Punctuated by recipes, cooking demonstrations and sometimes-fanciful interviews, this record of the quotidian details of military cuisine underscores the futility–and unfortunate persistence–of ethnic and political warfare. US Premiere.
DANCING WITH THE DEVIL / UNITED KINGDOM, 2009, 102 minutes (Director: Jon Blair)–This gripping film by Oscar winner Jon Blair offers an intimate look at the running battle between police and drug lords in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. In the midst of staggering violence, Pastor Dione dos Santos tries to broker peace among all parties. World Premiere.
HUNTING DOWN MEMORY (JAKTEN PA HUKOMMELSEN) / NORWAY, 2009, 80 minutes (Director: Thomas Lien)–Imagine waking up in a foreign country and not knowing who you are, what you’re doing there or how you even got there in the first place. For 27-year-old Oyvind Aamot, finding his way home turns out to be only the beginning of yet another journey. US Premiere.
MUGABE AND THE WHITE AFRICAN / UNITED KINGDOM, 2009, 90 minutes (Director: Lucy Bailey)–Told through the lens of 74-year-old white farmer Michael Campbell and his family, the film explores Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s deeply controversial land seizure program, which was intended to redistribute white-owned land to poor black Zimbabweans. Instead it has led to an increase in poverty, hunger, violence and intimidation among the majority of the country’s citizens. US Premiere.
PARTLY PRIVATE / CANADA, 2009, 82 minutes (Director: Danae Elon)–Elon faces the question “To cut or not to cut?” in this charming, heartfelt and highly personal documentary. Elon travels from her home in New York to Washington, DC, Israel, Turkey, Italy and back again in search of guidance, as she and her husband address the question of whether to circumcise their sons. Along the way, she consults rabbis, doctors, priests, parents, activists and Buster, a slightly cracked anti-circumcisionist on horseback.
RENE / CZECH REPUBLIC, 2008, 83 minutes (Director: Helena Tetikova)–For 20 years, Czech director Helena T•estikova filmed recidivist criminal Rene Plasil in his evolution from teen delinquent to career felon. Plasil offers an intelligent accounting of his life and nihilistic beliefs, but the whole truth is more elusive. East Coast Premiere.
SEA POINT DAYS / SOUTH AFRICA, 2008, 93 minutes (Director: Francois Verster)–Under Apartheid, the public pools and promenade at Sea Point were reserved for whites. Today this gorgeous section of Cape Town is a lively mix of people that epitomizes South Africa’s diversity. Nevertheless, an underlying malaise permeates SEA POINT DAYS. Francois Verster ponders the state of post-Apartheid South Africa in this lyrical feature. US Premiere.
THE SOUND OF INSECTS – RECORD OF A MUMMY / SWITZERLAND, 2009, 87 minutes (Director: Peter Liechti)–A hunter stumbles upon a ragged tent in a remote forest. Within lies a mummified corpse. A detailed journal found on site reveals that the man committed suicide by self-imposed starvation. Inspired by this true event and by Shimada Masahiko’s novella Until I Am a Mummy, Peter Liechti, known for his experimental and impressionistic style, evokes the mysterious man’s last days. US Premiere.
BEST MUSIC DOCUMENTARY AWARD
INTANGIBLE ASSET NUMBER 82 / AUSTRALIA/JAPAN, 2008, 90 minutes Director: Emma Franz)–When an Australian jazz drummer embarks on a journey to find a South Korean shaman and master musician who also happens to be one of the country’s “intangible” cultural assets, the trip proves to be not only a musical exploration, but also a spiritual one.
RISE UP / ARGENTINA, 2009, 88 minutes (Director: Luciano Blotta)–Three Jamaican musicians fight for a place in the overcrowded reggae field. Ice Anastasia hails from a posh neighborhood in Kingston, while Turbulence is from Trenchtown. Kemoy Reid, a weighty female presence, is a country girl at heart. RISE UP looks at the grit behind the glamour and explores class and gender issues in Jamaica today. US Premiere.
SOUL POWER / USA, 2008, 93 minutes (Director: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte)–Before Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s 1974 boxing match in Zaire, the biggest names in R&B assembled for a three-day music festival. Jeffrey Levy-Hinte takes this never-seen footage and shows us the talents of James Brown, Bill Withers, B.B. King, the Spinners and top African acts such as Miriam Makeba and Orchestre Afrisa International.
STILL BILL / USA, 2009, 78 minutes (Directors: Alex Vlack and Damani Baker) –Grammy-winning songwriter and musician Bill Withers stopped making albums in 1985, after a 15-year career that included such hits as “Lean on Me” and “Just the Two of Us.” STILL BILL offers a multifaceted look at the intriguing and insightful Withers, where he’s been and what’s next. East Coast Premiere.
TRIMPIN: THE SOUND OF INVENTION / USA, 2008, 78 minutes (Director: Peter Esmonde)–In this intriguing sonic biography, Trimpin–composer, instrument inventor, installation artist and engineering savant–guides audiences through his quirky realm of acoustic wizardry, reflecting on a long career of musical innovation as he plans a new performance piece with the esteemed Kronos Quartet.
For more information, check out the festival’s website