In its fourteenth year, DocuWeeks, a three week exhibition of documentary films in Los Angeles and New York will screen seventeen feature films and five shorts from July 30 to August 19. The Los Angeles screenings will take place at the ArcLight Hollywood, and the New York screenings will take place at the IFC Center. In all, seventeen feature films and five shorts will screen in theatrical runs that will qualify them for consideration for next year’s Oscars. The even is run by the International Documentary Association (IDA).
IDA Executive Director Michael Lumpkin commented on the lineup announcement in a statement: “Once again DocuWeeks gives film-goers in Los Angeles and New York City their first opportunity to see some of the year’s most celebrated and talked-about documentary films. With award-winning films from Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, SXSW, and Silverdocs, this year’s program is an outstanding collection of must-see films.”
To purchase tickets or for more information, visit the IDA website.
The complete lineup, with descriptions provided by IDA:
“Apaporis,” directed by Antonio Dorado
Apaporis follows the journey of ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes, who in 1941 set off on an epic 12-year research trip down the Amazon and through the Andes, navigating unknown rivers, collecting new plant species, establishing friendships with indigenous tribes and uncovering age-old secrets of sacred plants. The filmmakers navigated the Apaporis River and sought the cultures that Schultes found with surprising results. Apaporis records the present state of the customs and beliefs of the communities, such as the use of psychotropic plants, and the threats to community survival posed by increasing globalization.
“Budrus,” directed by Julia Bacha
Ayed Morrar took leave of his comfortable job at the Palestinian Authority upon hearing that the Israeli government was planning to build a separation barrier through “Budrus, his small agricultural village. He convened a town-hall meeting, invited Israeli civilians, and formed a movement whose motto, “We Can Do It,” resonates with community organizers worldwide. To everyone’s surprise, Ayed became the leader of the first unarmed movement to successfully protect and even expand Palestinian territory—an accomplishment made possible in large part by Ayed’s 15-year-old daughter Iltezam, who launched a women’s contingent that quickly moved to the front lines.
“Colony,” directed by Carter Gunn & Ross McDonnell
The unexplainable phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder has left landscapes of empty beehives all across America, threatening not only the beekeeping industry but our food supply. As scientists and beekeepers search for the cause, “Colony” captures the struggle within the beekeeping community to save the honeybee through the efforts of veteran beekeeper Davis Mendes and newcomers Lance and Victor Seppi, two young brothers getting into beekeeping when most are getting out. As Mendes tries to save the nation’s collapsing hives, the Seppis try to keep their business alive amidst a collapsing economy.
“Family Affair,” directed by Chico Colvard
Like a scene torn from “The Color Purple” or “Capturing The Friedmans,” this deeply personal and uncompromising documentary examines the complex levels of pedophilia and how it can manipulate and control an entire family for life. “Family Affair” is also a story about resilience, survival and understanding a child’s capacity to accommodate a parent’s past crimes in order to satisfy a basic longing for family.
“For Once In My Life,” directed by Jim Bigham & Mark Moormann
“For Once in My Life” is a documentary about a unique band of singers and musicians, and their journey to show the world the greatness—and killer soundtrack—within each of them. The band members have a wide range of mental and physical disabilities, as well as musical abilities that extend into ranges of pure genius. In a cinema vérité style, the film explores the struggles and triumphs, and the healing power of music, as the band members’ unique talents are nurtured to challenge the world’s perceptions.
“Freedom Riders,” directed by Stanley Nelson
“Freedom Riders” is the first feature-length film about a courageous band of civil rights activists called the Freedom Riders who risked their lives to challenge segregation in interstate transport in the American South during the spring and summer of 1961. The attention their movement generated forced the federal government to take down Jim Crow signs of “whites only” and “colored only,” allowing every American to travel freely—a legacy we enjoy today.
“HolyWars,” directed by Stephen Marshall
Touching down in four hotbeds of religious fundamentalism—Pakistan, Lebanon, the United Kingdom, and heartland America—”HolyWars” goes behind the scenes of the 1,400-year-old conflict between Islam and Christianity. The film follows a danger-seeking Christian missionary and a radical Muslim Irish convert who both believe in a coming apocalyptic battle, after which their religion will ultimately rule the world. Tracking their lives from the onset of the “War on Terror” to the election of Barack Obama, “HolyWars” shows that even the most radical of believers can be transformed by our changing world.
“Louder than a Bomb,” directed by Greg Jacobs & Jon Siskel
“Louder Than a Bomb” tells the story of four Chicago high school poetry teams as they prepare for and compete in the world’s largest youth poetry slam. By turns hopeful and heartbreaking, the film captures the tempestuous lives of these unforgettable kids, exploring the ways writing shapes their world, and vice versa. Louder Than a Bomb is about language as a joyful release, irrepressibly talented teenagers obsessed with making words dance, and the communities they create along the way. While the topics they tackle are often deeply personal, what they put into their poems, and what they get out of them, is universal: the defining work of finding one’s voice.
“Most Valuable Players,” directed by Matthew D. Kallis
Across the USA high school sports are regularly lavished with funding, publicity and scholarships, while theater departments, hoping for some attention of their own, struggle to put on a school musical. It’s no different in sports-crazy Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, except for the “Freddy Awards,” a live television event that recognizes excellence in local high school musical theater. Illustrating that arts education encourages the same teamwork, camaraderie and confidence as sports, “Most Valuable Players” follows three theater troupes on their creative journey to the elaborate award ceremony—the “Super Bowl” of high school musical theater.
“Music from the Big House,” directed by Bruce McDonald
Rita Chiarelli, an award-winning recording artist, takes a pilgrimage to the birthplace of the blues: Louisiana State Maximum Security Penitentiary, a.k.a Angola Prison. She never imagined that her love for the blues would lead her to raise the roof in a collaborative jailhouse performance with inmates serving life sentences for murder, rape and armed robbery. Music has given these inmates something to live for in what was once the bloodiest prison in America. Steeped with hope, these remarkable voices guide us on a journey of men on a quest for forgiveness. One woman, four bands, and two hours of the blues: It’s time to make a new soundtrack.
“My Perestroika,” directed by Robin Hessman
“My Perestroika” follows five ordinary Russians living in extraordinary times—from their sheltered Soviet childhood, to the collapse of the Soviet Union during their teenage years, to the constantly shifting political landscape of post-Soviet Russia. Using a wealth of footage rarely seen outside of Russia—including home movies from the USSR in the 1970s—the film combines an intimate view of the past with the contemporary lives of these former schoolmates, painting a complex picture of the dreams and disillusionment of those raised behind the Iron Curtain.
“Pushing the Elephant,” directed by Beth Davenport & Elizabeth Mandel
Rose Mapendo lost her family and home to the ethnic violence that engulfed the Democratic Republic of Congo, yet she emerged from the suffering advocating peace and reconciliation. But after helping numerous victims to recover and rebuild their lives, there is one person Rose must still teach to forgive: her daughter Nangabire, now 17 and living in Arizona. “Pushing the Elephant” captures one of the most important stories of our age, in which genocidal violence is challenged by the moral fortitude and grace of one woman’s mission for peace.
“Quest for Honor,” directed by Mary Ann Smothers Bruni
The alarming rise in “honor killing,” the heinous act of men killing daughters, sisters and wives who threaten “family honor,” endangers tens of thousands of women in Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and adjoining countries. The Women’s Media Center of Suleymaniyah, Iraq, has joined forces with Iraq’s Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) to end this practice. “Quest for Honor” follows Runak Faranj, a former teacher and tireless activist, as she works with local lawmen, journalists and members of the KRG to solve the murder of a widowed young mother, protect the victim of a safe house shooting, eradicate honor killing and redefine honor.
“Steam of Life,” directed by Joonas Berghall & Mika Hotakainen
Naked Finnish men in saunas speak straight from the heart and in the warmth of rusty stoves, cleansing themselves both physically and mentally as this unusual film moves towards a deeply emotional and unforgettable finale. The filmmakers travel across Finland, inviting men of all walks of life in many different saunas to share their touching stories about love, death, birth and friendship—about life. Along the way, Steam of Life reveals the men’s naked souls in an exceptionally intimate and poetic way.
“Summer Pasture,” directed by Lynn True & Nelson Walker
Filmed in the high grasslands of eastern Tibet, with unprecedented access to a place seldom visited by outsiders, “Summer Pasture” is a rare and intimate glimpse into the life of a young couple and their infant daughter during a time of great transition. Locho and Yama are nomadic herders who carve their existence from the land as their ancestors have for generations. But now, as traditional nomadic life confronts rapid modernization, “Summer Pasture” captures a family at a crossroads, ultimately revealing the profound sacrifice they will make to ensure their daughter’s future.
“This Way of Life,” directed by Tom Burstyn
Set against the imposing mountains and isolated beaches in a remote part of North Island, New Zealand, “This Way of Life” is an intimate portrait of a Maori family—Peter and Colleen Karina and their six children, ages 2 through 11—and their relationship with each other, nature and horses. “This Way of Life” is a blueprint for how to live with little. It is also a modern parable of one family’s unconventional and incredibly positive response to the questions that confront many families in these anxious times.
“Waste Land,” directed by Lucy Walker
Waste Land follows renowned artist Vik Muniz as he journeys from his home in Brooklyn to his native Brazil and the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, located on the outskirts of Rio. There, he photographs an eclectic band of catadores—self-designated pickers of recyclable materials. Muniz’s initial objective was to “paint” the catadores with garbage. However, his collaboration with them, as they recreate photographic images of themselves out of garbage, reveals both the dignity and despair of the catadores as they begin to re-imagine their lives. “Waste Land” offers stirring evidence of the transformative power of art and the alchemy of the human spirit.
“Keep Dancing,” directed by Greg Vander Veer
After celebrated careers, legendary dancers Marge Champion and Donald Saddler became friends while performing together in the Broadway Show Follies in 2001. When the show closed, they decided to rent a private studio together, and they have been choreographing and rehearsing original dances ever since. At age 90, they continue to pursue their passion for life through their love and mastery of dance. “Keep Dancing” seamlessly blends nine decades of archival film and photographs with present-day footage to tell a story through dance of the passing of time and the process of aging.
“Killing in the Name,” directed by Jed Rothstein
Ashraf Al-Khaled was celebrating the happiest day of his life when an Al-Qaeda suicide bomber walked into his wedding and killed his father and 26 other family members in front of his eyes. Now, he is rising from that horrific tragedy to break the silence in the Muslim community on this taboo subject by speaking out against terrorism. Killing In the Name follows Ashraf’s quest to speak with victims and perpetrators and expose the true cost of terrorism, taking us on a journey around the world to see if one man can speak truth to terror and begin to turn the tide.
“The Labyrinth,” directed by Jason A. Schmidt
Memory, art and hell collide as an Auschwitz survivor finally confronts the horrors of his past after 50 years of silence. Marian Kolodziej was on one of the first transports to enter Auschwitz. He survived five years imprisonment and never spoke of his experience until after a serious stroke in 1993. He began rehabilitation by doing pen-and-ink drawings depicting his horrific experience. His drawings and art installations, which he called “The Labyrinth,” fill the large basement of a church near Auschwitz. Through the blending of his testimony and graphic drawings, this documentary explores the memories and nightmares that were buried for years.
“Mozambique,” directed by Alcides Soares
Alcides Soares is a 16-year-old AIDS orphan, one of half a million living in Mozambique today. After an American television writer (Neil Baer) and a movie director (Chris Zalla) gave Alcides a camera and taught him how to shoot, he made a moving chronicle about his journey to find a family and make a new life in a country that has been ravaged by AIDS—a story repeated millions of times every day throughout Africa. AIDS tears families apart, but the resilience of children like Alcides can make new families out of tragedy.
“Sun Come Up,” directed by Jennifer Redfearn
“Sun Come Up” tells the story of some of the world’s first environmental refugees—the Carteret Islanders, a matrilineal society of 3,000 that inhabits some of the most remote islands in the South Pacific. The islanders share a rich tradition of music, dance and storytelling, and survive without cars, electricity or running water. Now, however, a modern crisis has intruded upon them, and their idyllic community is on the verge of extinction, due to the impact of climate change on the shoreline. “Sun Come Up” follows relocation leader Ursula Rakova and a group of young families as they look for a new place to call home.