Now in its 13th year, the American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS Film Festival runs June 17-21 in Washington, D.C. and Silver Springs, M.D. In total the fest has slated 81 films from 25 countries, with world premieres including Brad Horn’s “First and 17,” Greg Whiteley’s “Most Likely to Succeed” and Discovery’s “Rise: The Promise of My Brother’s Keeper.”
AFI DOCS will open with Magnolia Pictures’ fest favorite “Best of Enemies,” a charming portrait of the 1968 televised sparring wars between William F. Buckley, Jr. and Gore Vidal. The fest will then close with HBO’s adored music doc “Mavis!”
AFI DOCS will recognize Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson (“The Black Panthers: Vanguards of the Revolution”) as its 2015 Charles Guggenheim honoree at the National Archives’ William G. McGowan Theater on June 19.
Other highlights include “In Transit,” partly directed by Albert Maysles, Alex Gibney’s “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine,” AFI alumnus Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Look of Silence,” Sundance winners “Cartel Land” and “The Russian Woodpecker,” late cult auteur Les Bank’s newly unearthed “A Poem Is a Naked Person,” “Listen to Me Marlon,” “What Happened, Miss Simone?” and more.
Q&As and panel discussion will accompany many screenings. Full feature and short film lineup is below.
OPENING AND CLOSING NIGHT, SPECIAL AND SPOTLIGHT SCREENINGS:
Wednesday, June 17
OPENING NIGHT: BEST OF ENEMIES: DIRS Morgan Neville, Robert Gordon. USA.
In the summer of 1968, the media landscape changed forever when ABC hired two politically opposed intellectuals — Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr. — to debate the issues of the day on live television. The directors will be in attendance for a discussion and Q&A following the film.
Thursday, June 18
SPECIAL SCREENING: RISE: THE PROMISE OF MY BROTHER’S KEEPER: DIR Dawn Porter. USA.
Discovery Channel’s documentary film about President Obama’s challenge to implement a community-level cradle-to-college-and-career strategy for young people, including boys and young men of color, to ensure they can reach their full potential. World premiere.
Friday, June 19
THE CHARLES GUGGENHEIM SYMPOSIUM: The Charles Guggenheim Symposium honors the legacy of the late four-time Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Charles Guggenheim. This year, the free Symposium pays tribute to pioneering documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson. AFI DOCS is proud to present Nelson’s latest documentary THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION as part of the 2015 program. The Symposium includes a conversation with Nelson moderated by The Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday and a series of excerpts from his work. Nelson’s films include Emmy Award®-nominated THE BLACK PRESS: SOLDIERS WITHOUT SWORDS (1999), Emmy Award®-winning THE MURDER OF EMMETT TILL (2003), BEYOND BROWN: PURSUING THE PROMISE (2004), JONESTOWN: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PEOPLES TEMPLE (2006), Emmy Award®-winning FREEDOM RIDERS (2011) and FREEDOM SUMMER (2014).
SPOTLIGHT SCREENING: MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED: DIR Greg Whiteley. USA.
The American education system has remained virtually unchanged for more than 100 years. In today’s highly competitive age of information and technology, experimental schools such as San Diego’s High Tech High aim to change that.
SPOTLIGHT SCREENING: THE DIPLOMAT: DIR David Holbrooke. USA.
The son of the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke unflinchingly examines the career of his brash and talented father, whose life had global reach and unquestioned historical impact.
Saturday, June 20
SPOTLIGHT SCREENING: FIRST AND 17: DIR Brad Horn. USA.
Da’Shawn Hand, the top-ranked high school football recruit of 2013, navigates the pressures of being aggressively pursued by more than 90 colleges. World premiere.
SPOTLIGHT SCREENING: THE ARMOR OF LIGHT: DIR Abigail Disney. USA.
Abigail Disney’s directorial debut follows a prominent evangelical Christian leader who begins to reconsider his moral and political assumptions about gun rights after a major tragedy hits close to home.
SPECIAL SCREENING: SALAM NEIGHBOR: DIRS Chris Temple, Zach Ingrasci. USA/Jordan.
A film team spends one month living in Jordan’s Syrian Za’tari refugee camp to uncover the personal stories behind a rapidly growing global crisis. World premiere.
Sunday, June 21
CLOSING NIGHT: MAVIS!: DIR Jessica Edwards. USA.
Mavis Staples, the legendary gospel and R&B singer, has been making music for more than 60 years. From her roots in Chicago with the family group The Staple Singers, led by her father, Roebuck “Pops” Staples, to her award-winning work as a solo artist, MAVIS! traces the life and career of a remarkable woman with an unstoppable voice. The director will be in attendance for a discussion and Q&A following the film.
FEATURE FILM SELECTIONS:
3 ½ MINUTES, TEN BULLETS: DIR Marc Silver. USA. The 2012 murder of African-American teen Jordan Davis by a middle-aged white man, following an argument over loud music, sparked a national debate about Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law.
ALL THINGS MUST PASS: DIR Colin Hanks. USA. Explore the rise and fall of Tower Records in this fascinating account of the iconic titan of the music business, which closed its doors in 2006. East Coast premiere.
ALTHEA: DIR Rex Miller. USA. Tennis great Althea Gibson rose from the tough streets of Harlem to become the first athlete of color to win Wimbledon. Rex Miller’s documentary tells the story of a strong and resilient champion.
AMONG THE BELIEVERS: DIRS Hemal Trivedi, Mohammed Ali Naqvi. Pakistan. Within Pakistan’s borders, a violent clash of ideologies between radical Muslim extremists and moderates is shaping the path of the country’s future.
ATTACKING THE DEVIL: HAROLD EVANS AND THE LAST NAZI WAR CRIME: DIRS Jacqui Morris, David Morris. UK/Canada. Sunday Times editor Sir Harold Evans uses his newspaper to shed light on the harmful effects of the drug thalidomide during the late 1960s and early ‘70s. U.S. premiere.
THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION: DIR Stanley Nelson. USA. Director Stanley Nelson offers a fascinating account of activist group the Black Panthers and its place in America’s history.
CARTEL LAND: DIR Matthew Heineman. USA/Mexico. A citizen vigilante group in Mexico fights back against the encroaching drug cartels, which have brought widespread fear, violence and corruption to the area for years. The Washington Post Film Strand.
THE CHINESE MAYOR: DIR Hao Zhou. China. Mayor Geng Yanbo has ambitious plans to refurbish and develop the Chinese city of Datong, but progress comes with a price
CITY OF GOLD: DIR Laura Gabbert. USA. Join Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold as he ventures off the beaten path in search of the most adventurous cuisine that Los Angeles has to offer and enjoy the fascinating personal stories that are often served up for dessert.
CODE: DEBUGGING THE GENDER GAP: DIR Robin Hauser Reynolds. USA. Though computer science touches every aspect of life, women are barely represented in a coding community urgently seeking millions of skilled workers. CODE asks, “Why?”
DRONE: DIR Tonje Hessen Schei. Norway. Drone technology has been a highly controversial issue in recent years as it has come to define the modern War on Terror.
DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: THE STORY OF THE NATIONAL LAMPOON: DIR Douglas Tirola. USA. Take a fascinating look into the history of National Lampoon, the hilariously twisted, profane and influential humor magazine that launched an astounding number of successful comedy careers.
FRAME BY FRAME: DIRS Alexandria Bombach, Mo Scarpelli. USA. Four photojournalists in Afghanistan work to re-establish a free press after years of oppression under the Taliban regime. The Washington Post Film Strand.
FRESH DRESSED: DIR Sacha Jenkins. USA. This fun and colorful history of hip-hop fashion looks
at how the fresh trends that were born on urban streets found their way into mainstream America.
FROM THIS DAY FORWARD: DIR Sharon Shattuck. USA. Filmmaker Sharon Shattuck explores her father’s gender identity struggles and how her parents have remained married through it all.
HOT TYPE: 150 YEARS OF THE NATION: DIR Barbara Kopple. USA. Two-time Oscar® winner Barbara Kopple tracks the iconic progressive weekly The Nation from its 1865 founding by abolitionist Republicans to present-day challenges facing print media of all stripes.
HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO: DIR Alexandra Shiva. USA. As they prepare for their first formal dance, a high-functioning co-ed group of autistic teenagers learns the intricacies of social interaction.
I WANT TO BE A KING: DIR Mehdi Ganji. Iran. Abbas runs a B&B-like tourist destination out of his Iranian home, but with the success of his business, his plans grow increasingly ambitious and outlandish. U.S. premiere.
INDIA’S DAUGHTER: DIR Leslee Udwin. UK/INDIA. INDIA’S DAUGHTER tells the tragic story of a 2012 gang rape and murder of a medical student and presents a searing indictment of the culture of misogyny behind the assault.
IN TRANSIT: DIRS Albert Maysles, Lynn True, Nelson Walker, Ben Wu, David Usua. USA. Legendary documentary pioneer Albert Maysles captures a cross-section of people in transitional stages of life as they journey across America by train.
KING GEORGES: DIR Erika Frankel. USA. Take a look behind the scenes of five-star French restaurant Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia, run by its famously demanding owner and chef, Georges Perrier.
LARRY KRAMER IN LOVE & ANGER: DIR Jean Carlomusto. USA. A portrait of outspoken writer and AIDS activist Larry Kramer, one of the most fiery, passionate, complicated and fascinating people you will ever get to know.
LISTEN TO ME MARLON: DIR Stevan Riley. UK. Drawing on hundreds of hours of previously unheard personal audio recordings, filmmaker Stevan Riley lets actor Marlon Brando tell his extraordinary life’s journey from beyond the grave.
THE LOOK OF SILENCE: DIR Joshua Oppenheimer. Denmark/Indonesia/Norway/Finland/UK. In his follow-up to THE ACT OF KILLING, director Joshua Oppenheimer continues to unearth the ghosts of Indonesia’s violent past, shifting his focus from the perpetrators to those left in the aftermath.
LOVE MARRIAGE IN KABUL: DIR Amin Palangi. Australia. In Afghanistan, Abdul and Fatemeh have fallen in love and wish to marry, but their voices in the matter all but disappear within the complex negotiations and exchanges of money that must occur between the two extended families before an agreement can be made.
OF MEN AND WAR: DIR Laurent Bécue-Renard. France. The devastating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on returning American combat soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are explored in this essential testimony documented by French filmmaker Laurent Bécue-Renard over the course of five years.
OUT TO WIN: DIR Malcolm Ingram. USA/Canada. The world of professional sports has long been dogged by a reputation of homophobia, steeped in the fear that openly gay players provide a potential “distraction” to the other teammates. However, times are changing.
PEACE OFFICER: DIRS Scott Christopherson, Brad Barber. USA. A former Utah sheriff investigates the increased militarization of police forces following the death of his son-in-law during a police standoff.
PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT: DIR Lisa Immordino Vreeland. USA. Born into New York’s prominent Guggenheim family, Peggy Guggenheim made her own mark as one of the premier art collectors and exhibitors of her day.
A POEM IS A NAKED PERSON: DIR Les Blank. USA. Unseen for more than 40 years, Les Blank’s portrait of singer-songwriter Leon Russell is a brilliantly freewheeling and poetic film experience ready for rediscovery. East Coast premiere.
PROPHET’S PREY: DIR Amy Berg. USA. Filmmaker Amy Berg examines the alarming allegations surrounding the rogue polygamist religious sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) and its incarcerated leader, Warren Jeffs.
RADICAL GRACE: DIR Rebecca Parrish. USA. When you hear the words “feminist,” “activism” and “politics,” Catholic nuns are not usually the first thing that come to mind. However, this group of nuns is turning tradition on its ear. U.S. premiere.
REQUIEM FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM: DIRS Peter Hutchison, Kelly Nyks, Jared P. Scott. USA. Noam Chomsky offers a riveting discourse on income inequality and its devastating effects, which threaten to erode democracy itself.
REQUIEM FOR THE DEAD: AMERICAN SPRING 2014: DIRS Nick Doob, Shari Cookson. USA. During the spring of 2014, more than 8,000 individuals lost their lives to gun violence in the United States. REQUIEM focuses on these gun tragedies, weaving a series of vignettes from police footage, 911 calls and social media. East Coast premiere.
THE RUSSIAN WOODPECKER: DIR Chad Gracia. UK. Was Chernobyl really an accident? Ukrainian artist Fedor Alexandrovich investigates an unusual conspiracy theory behind the infamous disaster. East Coast premiere.
STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE: DIR Alex Gibney. USA. Alex Gibney takes a candid and critical look at Steve Jobs, the iconic visionary behind Apple Inc., whose impact helped define the tech industry. East Coast premiere.
THE STORM MAKERS: DIR Guillaume Suon. Cambodia/France. Through revealing interviews with victims and perpetrators, filmmaker Guillaume Suon exposes the human-trafficking industry in Cambodia that ensnares tens of thousands of victims annually.
THE THREE HIKERS: DIR Natalie Avital. USA. In 2009, when American hikers Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal mistakenly wandered off the beaten path near Iraq’s poorly marked border with Iran, they quickly experienced the draconian consequences of their error. World premiere. The Washington Post Film Strand.
TYKE ELEPHANT OUTLAW: DIR Stefan Moore, Susan Lambert. Australia. After years of mistreatment, Tyke the circus elephant goes on a rampage in this tragic and unforgettable tale of performing-animal abuse.
UNCERTAIN: DIRS Anna Sandilands, Ewan McNicol. USA. Stunningly beautiful and disarmingly funny, UNCERTAIN delivers a portrait of the literal and figurative troubled waters of Uncertain, Texas, a 94-resident town on the brink of extinction.
VERY SEMI-SERIOUS: DIR Leah Wolchok. USA. This fascinating, funny film explores the history and process of The New Yorker’s iconic cartoons through the lens of its cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff.
WELCOME TO LEITH: DIRS Michael Beach Nichols, Christopher K. Walker. USA. When notorious white supremacist Craig Cobb decides to settle in Leith, North Dakota, the townspeople work together to evict their unwanted neighbor.
WHAT HAPPENED, MISS SIMONE?: DIR Liz Garbus. USA. Nina Simone trained as a classical pianist but evolved into one of jazz music’s most beloved and complex figures. Lending her voice to the civil rights movement, Simone battled demons that ultimately drove her into a self-imposed exile.
THE WOLFPACK: DIR Crystal Moselle. USA. Tucked inside an apartment in Manhattan’s Lower East Side live the Angulo siblings, a tight-knit group who have barely left home due to the overbearing hand of their father. They spend countless hours re-creating scenes from their favorite movies, which have shaped their view of the outside world.
THE YES MEN ARE REVOLTING: DIRS Laura Nix, The Yes Men. USA. The prankster activists known as The Yes Men are at it again. Traveling the globe posing as corporate and government spokesmen, the mischievous pair stages elaborate stunts designed to draw attention to the issue of climate change.
SHORT FILM SELECTIONS:
THE 414S: THE ORIGINAL TEENAGE HACKERS: DIR Michael T. Vollmann. USA. When a group of teenagers began testing their hacking skills in 1983, they started a firestorm by stumbling into a national laboratory’s computer system.
ALLEN & ALINEA: DIR Daniel Addelson. USA. In his home kitchen, Allen tackles the complicated recipes from Alinea, a high-end restaurant. In the process, he unlocks his own creativity and confidence.
BODY TEAM 12: DIR David Darg. Liberia. It’s perhaps the most dangerous job in the world: collecting dead bodies from Ebola-stricken villages.
BORN TO BE MILD: DIR Andy Oxley. UK. Members of the Dull Men’s Club explain their non-threatening passions (mailboxes, traffic circles, bricks, milk bottles) without shame and without judgment.
COBBLER: DIR Madelon Vroom. UK. A feisty artisan seems poised to be the last shoemaker in his family — until his inexperienced son joins the business, triggering a lively dialogue.
COMIC BOOK HEAVEN: DIR E.J. McLeavey-Fisher. USA. A long-standing comic book store in Queens prepares to close its doors for good.
A CONVERSATION WITH MY BLACK SON: DIRS Blair Foster, Geeta Gandbhir. USA. A group of racially diverse parents discuss the importance of having a conversation with their young black sons about racism and interacting with the police.
CROOKED CANDY: DIR Andrew Rodgers. USA. An adult collector shows off his illegal Kinder Egg collection, the egg-shaped chocolate candies banned in the U.S.
DEAR ARAUCARIA: DIR Matt Houghton. UK. When the creator of a long-running newspaper crossword is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he begins leaving a cryptic message within the puzzles.
GIOVANNI AND THE WATER BALLET: DIR Astrid Bussink. Netherlands. Ten-year-old Giovanni is the only boy trying out for the synchronized swimming team.
HANGAR B: DIR Thomas Beug. USA. A group of men, some in their eighties and nineties, stays active working at a hangar at Floyd Bennett Airfield in Brooklyn, restoring old planes.
KATSUO-BUSHI: DIR Yu Nakajima. Japan. Japanese cuisine’s umami flavor depends upon dried, smoked and fermented tuna. While most processors have industrialized production, the finest artisans continue to use age-old methods.
THE LAND: DIR Erin Davis. USA. A radical European playspace for children encourages independence and risk-taking.
LAST REEL: DIR Steven Bognar. USA. With the arrival of new technological advances, Ohio’s Little Art Theatre prepares to say goodbye to 35mm movie prints.
LETTING YOU GO: DIR Kim Faber. Netherlands. This delicate film explores one woman’s heartbreaking decision to self-euthanize.
LOSERS, A FILM ABOUT LOSS: DIR Arianne Hinz. Netherlands. Three young people share their different stories of loss: a stuffed animal, a fencing tournament and a loved one.
MEND AND MAKE DO: DIR Bexie Bush. UK. As Lyn looks back on her past, her imagination brings to life her treasured memories in the shape of her most familiar belongings.
MIDNIGHT THREE & SIX: DIR Joe Callander. USA. As Lyn looks back on her past, her imagination brings to life her treasured memories in the shape of her most familiar belongings.
OBJECT: DIR Paulina Skibińska. Poland. A Polish rescue team dives into the freezing depths to retrieve a mysterious object hidden beneath the ice.
SANDORKRAUT: DIRS Emily Lobsenz, Ann Husaini. USA. A “fermentation fetishist” blends his ritualistic culinary process with his own personal feelings on eating, living and mortality.
SLEEPERS’ BEAT: DIR Anastasia Kirillova. Russian Federation/UK. The romance of the rails is beautifully captured in this meditative look at the workers on long-distance Russian trains who sleep to its rhythmic beat.
A STRONG BEAT: DIR Daniel Addelson. USA. A man receives a heart transplant and then falls in love in a most unexpected way.
THE TIMEKEEPER: DIR Katherine Wells. USA. How long is one second? Demetrios Matsakis keeps the official time for the U.S. by measuring fractions of a nanosecond with cutting-edge atomic clocks.
WATERLILIES: DIR Tanya Doyle. Ireland. Irish lasses in their sixties learn to swim for the very first time while discussing their marriages, children and interests.
A WEE NIGHT IN: DIR Stuart Edwards. Scotland. An elderly Scottish couple enjoys an evening at home together, delighting in all the wee things that make life special.
WHO STOLE THE RUBY SLIPPERS? DIR Theodore James. USA. The investigation of the theft of one of the iconic pairs of ruby slippers from THE WIZARD OF OZ from the Judy Garland Museum.
WOMEN IN SINK: DIR Iris Zaki. Israel/UK. In this charming film, the director converses with Arab and Jewish women as she washes their hair, revealing a nuanced portrait of contemporary Israel.