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Silver Docs 2012: The Women

Silver Docs 2012: The Women

The 10th edition of AFI Silver Docs Festival will take place in Washington DC from June 18-24.  It will open with Ramona Diaz' crowd pleaser DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’: EVERYMAN’S JOURNEY.  If you like docs this seems like a great place to go.  Info here.

Here are the women directed films in competition for the doc feature awards.  (All descriptions are from the AFI site)

U.S. Feature Competition

BETTING THE FARM:  DIR Jason Mann and Cecily Pingree.  USA.  World Premiere.

When a group of Maine dairy farmers are dropped by the national milk company that has been their bread and butter for years, their livelihood is in danger.  Refusing to go down without a fight, the farmers take matters into their own hands, banding together to form their own organic milk company, MOO.

CALL ME KUCHU:  DIR Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall.  USA.  East Coast Premiere.

In Uganda, homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment or sometimes even death.  David Kato, one of the few openly gay men in Uganda, bravely battles the archaic laws of his country along with the other members of a tight-knit group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender activists who refuse to live in fear.

DOWNEAST:  DIR David Redmon and Ashley Sabin.  USA.

The economic crisis hits the residents of Gouldsboro, Maine, when a large sardine cannery that has been a source of livelihood for hundreds of workers – many of them elderly – closes its doors for good.  The close-knit town’s new legion of unemployed must now stake their hope on an outsider who attempts to transform the defunct factory into a new lobster processing facility.

ONLY THE YOUNG:  DIR Jason Tippet and Elizabeth Mims.  USA.  East Coast Premiere.

Stuck in a chaste love triangle, three teens in a depressed Southern California suburb explore different paths to maturity, independence and romance.  Tippet and Mims portray their awkwardness, irreverence, rebellion, angst and joy with cinematic tenderness, finding unexpected beauty and nascent wisdom in a foreclosed wasteland.

RADIO UNNAMEABLE:  DIR Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson.  USA.

In 1963, legendary radio personality Bob Fass sat down behind the microphone at WBAI in New York City, and radio was never the same.  Fass used his innovative late night show to entertain, inform and call listeners to action during some of America’s most volatile times.  RADIO UNNAMEABLE celebrates one of radio’s unsung heroes and his remarkable life in and out of the spotlight.

SUN KISSED:  DIR Maya Stark and Adi Lavy.  USA.  East Coast Premiere.

Dorey and Yolanda Nez are a Navajo couple with two children born with XP, an extremely rare genetic neurodegenerative disease which makes any exposure to direct sunlight fatal.  For 15 years, Dorey and Yolanda believed their family to be the only one affected in their reservation, but then they discover that they are not alone.

SWEET DREAMS:  DIR Rob and Lisa Fruchtman.  USA.  World Premiere.

Ingoma Nshya is the only all women’s drumming troupe in Rwanda.  Made up of Rwandan genocide survivors and the offspring of former perpetrators – both Hutu and Tutsi – the troupe offers the women a place of support, healing and reconciliation.  When the group decides to partner with a Brooklyn-based business and open up Rwanda’s first ice cream store, these remarkable women embark on a journey to help themselves become more self-sufficient.

Sterling World Feature Competition

OMA & BELLA:  DIR Alexa Karolinski.  Germany/USA.  U.S. Premiere.

Best friends Bella and Regina share an apartment in Berlin, a passion for homespun Eastern European cooking and an extraordinary life history.  Holocaust memories are soothed by the balm of lovingly-prepared dishes remembered from a fading era.  L’Chaim meets guten Appetit in a celebration of indomitable camaraderie and remarkable, nurturing lives.

PRIVATE UNIVERSE:  DIR Helena Trestikova.  Czech Republic.  U.S. Premiere.

The celebrated Czech documentary filmmaker Helena Trestikova shows us astonishingly and with gorgeous scrutiny the intimate evolution of a family filmed over 37 years, culminating in a rich portrait of the family as well as the country.

VIRGIN TALES:  DIR Mirjam Von Arx.  France/Germany/Switzerland.  North American Premiere.

Within the Evangelical Christian community, chastity until marriage is one of its core values.  VIRGIN TALES explores the recent phenomenon of Purity Balls, in which young girls pledge their pre-marital virginity in a ceremonial ritual to their fathers.  Follow its founders Randy and Lisa Wilson, along with their seven children, as they open their lives to demonstrate what they feel should be an example to the rest of the world.

THE WORLD BEFORE HER:  DIR Nisha Pahuja.  USA/Canada/Germany/UK.

In modern day India, a group of ambitious young women undergo a month-long beauty boot camp regimen to compete in the Miss India pageant, which, for some, is one of the few avenues of success and independence for Indian women.  In contrast is Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of the Hindu fundamentalist movement and its charismatic camp leader, Prachi, who stands in direct opposition to her forward-thinking pageant contemporaries.

Other women directed films screening:

AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY:  DIR Alison Klayman.  USA/China.

Controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has made a name for himself through his unique conceptual art, use of social media to express political dissent and a penchant for butting heads with the Chinese government.  Filmmaker Alison Klayman takes the viewer inside Weiwei’s world as he gives unprecedented access to his work process and personal life.

BAD BRAINS: A BAND IN D.C.:  DIR Mandy Stein and Benjamen Logan.  USA.  East Coast Premiere.

Originally formed in Washington, D.C., during the late 1970s, Bad Brains quickly became one of the most unique and influential punk bands in the world.  For over 30 years, Bad Brains has survived numerous breakups, ongoing changes in the musical landscape and an eccentric frontman whose unpredictable behavior constantly threatens the band’s future.

BROOKLYN CASTLE:  DIR Katie Dellamaggiore.  USA.

At the junior high school I.S. 318 in Brooklyn, New York, it isn’t sports or music that reigns supreme among the students; it’s the game of chess.  With 26 national championship titles won by the school, chess is for some of them a way to a better future.  With budget cuts looming, the school fights to keep the chess program alive.

CANNED DREAMS:  DIR Katja Gauriloff.  Finland.  U.S. Premiere.

What all goes into a can of ravioli on the supermarket shelf?  The answer is more complicated than one might think.  This fascinating film explores the inner workings of food production, as well as the blood, sweat and tears of the human laborers whose personal hardships have often stood in the way of a better future.

DETROPIA:  DIR Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing.  USA.

Once it may have been music, manufacturing or automobiles that defined Detroit, but now through the eyes of the makers of JESUS CAMP, it is its near dissolution and the scrappy residents fighting to keep it alive.  While we meet numerous remarkable characters striving to make ends meet and to make sense of their city teetering on the brink of collapse, it is Detroit itself that emerges as its central and most evocative character.  The intricate rhythms of desolation, survival and rebirth make DETROPIA a worthy heir of one of the founding glories of the documentary cinema – the city symphony.


The legendary Diana Vreeland was the arbiter of the fashion world for four decades.  From her early days as a columnist at Harper’s Bazaar to her eight-year reign as Editor-in-Chief at Vogue beginning in 1963, Vreeland’s larger-than-life personality and flair for the slightly outrageous gave her the final word in pushing fashion forward.


What went wrong with America’s healthcare system, and how can it be fixed?  In ESCAPE FIRE, filmmakers Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke examine the nuts and bolts of the current battle raging over a healthcare system that is desperately broken.  Drawing from harrowing personal stories and the ongoing efforts of those trying to make a positive difference, this hard-hitting film focuses on finding workable solutions.

A GIRL LIKE HER:  DIR Ann Fessler.  USA.

In the '50s and '60s, more than a million unmarried American women lost children to enforced adoption.  Voiceless pregnant singles were commonly ostracized to endure shame-filled pregnancies in distant, secretive institutions.  This is a compelling glimpse at an abusive system in which mothers had few rights and rarely saw or held their newborns.

JOE PAPP IN FIVE ACTS: DIR: Tracie Holder, Karen Thorsen

Joe Papp was an indomitable champion of the arts in New York.  Believing that the arts should be available to everyone, not just a privileged few, he created the free Shakespeare in the Park series as well as the Public Theater.  Never afraid to experiment with the new, Papp’s vision had a major impact on New York’s concept of what theater could and should be.

MEET THE FOKKENS:  DIR Rob Schröder and Gabriëlle Provaas.  Netherlands.  U.S. Premiere.

Louise and Martine Fokken are identical twin sisters who have worked for over 50 years as prostitutes in Amsterdam’s Red Light District.  Sassy and unapologetic, these strong and unique women are survivors whose paths through life have not always been easy.  Bound together for life by the fierce love of sisterhood, the Fokkens share many amusing and sometimes sad stories surrounding their unusual lives.


David and Jacqueline Siegel are a filthy rich couple who set out to build their dream house in Florida – a 90,000-square-foot behemoth modeled after Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles in France.  When the global economic meltdown hits in the late 2000s, the Siegels, along with their eight children, are forced to confront the meaning of a new word: “downsizing.”

SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE:  DIR Debbie Lum.  USA.  East Coast Premiere.

Twice-divorced 60-something Steven lives a quiet life by himself in San Francisco and has a “thing” for Asian women.  When he meets 30-year-old Chinese national Sandy online, love blossoms quickly over the Internet.  With plans to marry, Steven brings Sandy over from China, but the fantasies both have about each other turn out to be far from reality.

THE SOURCE:  DIR Jodi Wille and Maria Demopoulos. USA.

In California during the early 1970s, The Source restaurant was one of the hottest spots on the Sunset Strip.  It was also home base to a New Age cult presided over by eccentric restaurateur James Baker.  With a treasure trove of archival footage and contemporary interviews, what follows is a fascinating psychedelic journey into the life and death of a cult.

STRONG!:  DIR Julie Wyman. USA.  World Premiere.

One of America’s top Olympic women weightlifters, Cheryl Haworth doesn’t fit the conventions of a typical athlete.  At 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing over 300 pounds, the talented, engaging and intelligent Cheryl is a force of nature unto herself.  STRONG! chronicles her battle of maintaining her championship status, while at the same time facing an uncertain future.


TOKYO WAKA:  DIR John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson.  USA.  East Coast Premiere.

WAGNER’S DREAM:  DIR Susan Froemke.  USA.

Also, Ann Richards' Texas directed by Keith Patterson and Jack Lofton is having its world premiere screening.

In a state known for outsized political personalities, a silver-haired lady from Austin became one of the biggest and boldest by speaking her mind and sticking to her guns.  The high-energy ANN RICHARDS’ TEXAS celebrates her rise in the Democratic Party, her improbable turn as governor and her legacy as a feisty liberal icon.

And here are a couple of shorts that intrigued me:

MONDAYS AT RACINE, Cynthia Wade, USA, 2012, 39 MINUTES

Sisters Cynthia and Rachel watched their mother suffer the indignities and pain of struggling with cancer when they were younger.  Now the owners of a beauty salon in Islip, Long Island, the sisters open their doors every third Monday of the month to women living with cancer.  With great compassion and support, the women undergoing treatment face their fears together and rediscover their beauty in a whole new way.

SPARKLE, Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, USA, 2012, 18 MINUTES

Sheri “Sparkle” Williams has been a star dancer with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company for nearly 40 years – a track record virtually unheard of in the professional dance community.  When the powerhouse dancer suffers her first serious injury, she must work to recover in time for a triumphant return to the stage at the age of 49.


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Anyone else notice that whenever there's a mixed gender directing team the man's name invariably comes first? Grrrrr.

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