One of America’s most prominent documentary events, the AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Documentary Festival, unveiled its competition line up with 11 features competiting in both its “Sterling U.S. Feature Competition and “Sterling World Feature Competition.” There are also over three dozen shorts set for its shorts competition. As previously announced, “Freakonomics” will open SilverDocs, which takes place in Silver Springs, MD June 21 to 27. The Magnolia release includes contributions from Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side”), Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”), Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing (“Jesus Camp”), Eugene Jarecki (“Why We Fight”), and Seth Gordon (“King of Kong”). Gibney, Spurlock, Grady, and Ewing will attend the festival. The fest will close out with Amir Bar-Lev’s Sundance title, “The Tillman Story.”
New this year is a retrospective series of films by Guggenheim honoree Frederick Wiseman and a special “Peacebuilding On Screen” strand organized in collaboration with the United States Institute of Peace.
“This year we received more high-quality submissions than ever before, making it harder than ever to select the films for the 2010 program,” commented Sky Sitney, SilverDocs Artistic Director in a comment. “This Festival slate represents the very best the documentary form has to offer, covering a wide range of issues and voices, and focusing on cinematic excellence.”
Sterling U.S. Feature Competition line up (with descriptions provided by the festival):
“Beyond This Place,” USA/Switzerland, 2010, 92 minutes (Director: Kaleo La Belle)—Cloud Rock La Belle is the quintessential hippie, still living a perpetually stoned and carefree lifestyle 40 years after the ‘60s ended. His son attempts to re-connect with his absentee father by taking a 500-mile bike trip together around the Pacific Northwest. US Premiere.
“Camera, Camera,” USA/Laos, 2009, 60 minutes (Director: Malcolm Murray)—In Laos, the digital camera is the universal sign of the tourist, but when westerners take photos in seemingly exotic locals, what are they really capturing? A snapshot of reality, or a highly-distorted caricature that reveals more about the photographer than the landscape? This poetic film invites you to reconsider what it means to be a stranger in a strange land. East Coast Premiere.
“Circo,” Mexico/USA, 2010, 75 minutes (Director: Aaron Schock)—CIRCO is an intimate look at a family’s struggle to preserve the institution of their small traveling circus in rural Mexico. At once producers, performers, and roadies, the Ponce family—the driven owner-father, his questioning wife, and their dedicated children—forms the heart of CIRCO, which explores the inner workings of the circus business as well as family sacrifice, loss of childhood, and the preservation of a fading art form. East Coast Premiere.
“The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan,” USA/Cambodia/Vietnam, 2010, 85 minutes (Director: Henry Corra)—Forty years after Pvt. McKinley Nolan vanished in Vietnam, his family learns there is hope the beloved brother, husband and father is alive and the decades-long mystery of his disappearance may be solved. World Premiere.
“Holywars,” USA/UK/Spain, 2009, 72 minutes (Director: Stephen Marshall)—The film follows two deeply committed men of faith–a Muslim and a Christian–as they travel the world spreading messages they both feel represent “the truth.” What happens when the men are put in the same room? This thought-provoking film is sure to push buttons and instigate discussions about the nature of religion, extremism and tolerance. World Premiere.
“The Kids Grow Up,” USA, 2009, 91 minutes (Director Doug Block)—In his previous film, 51 BIRCH STREET, director Doug Block examined the marriage between his parents and, in particular, his relationship with his father. In this film, Block turns the camera on his daughter Lucy, meticulously documenting her life from birth, with the hopes that this will be a gift she one day enjoys, and that it might somehow help stave off the looming separation he hopes to avoid as she grows older and more independent.
“Monica And David,” USA, 2009, 67 minutes (Director: Alexandra Codina)—Like many couples blissfully in love, Monica and David are getting married. Yet unlike most married couples, Monica and David have Down syndrome. The film offers an intimate glimpse into the first year of marriage for this charismatic young couple and reveals the joys and struggles that are much the same as that of any newlyweds.
“My Perestroika,” USA/UK/Russia, 2010, 87 minutes (Director: Robin Hessman)—The film’s intimate and heartfelt portrait of the last generation of Soviet children brought up behind the Iron Curtain presents a complex picture of the challenges, dreams and disillusionments of this cross-over generation.
“On Coal River,” USA, 2010, 81 minutes (Directors: Francine Cavanaugh and Adams Wood)—When residents of the Coal River Valley begin noticing that a host of medical problems are linked to a Massey-owned coal-waste dumping ground that sits above the local elementary school, they demand action. World Premiere.
“Sons of Perdition,” USA, 2010, 85 minutes (Directors: Tyler Measom and Jennilyn Merten)—The film offers an eye-opening look into the world of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a branch of Mormonism that has continued the practice of polygamy since its emergence in the early 20th century. Far too often they exile young men, who are forced to find their way in a world previously unknown.
“Wo Ai Ni Mommy” (I Love You Mommy), China/USA, 2009, 76 minutes (Director: Stephanie Wang-Breal)—Eight-year-old Chinese Fang Sui Yong is adopted by a Jewish couple from Long Island who name her “Faith.” The film follows Faith and her parents’ twist-and-turn journey over a year and a half. East Coast Premiere.
-continue to the following page for the rest of the lineup-
The Sterling World Feature Competition (with descriptions provided by the festival):
“The Arrivals,” France/French Embassy, (2009), 111 minutes (Directors: Claudine Bories and Patrice Chagnard)—Arriving on the shores of France is merely the beginning of a labyrinthian journey for more than 50,000 refugees seeking asylum through the municipal reception center in Paris each year. North American Premiere.
“As Lilith,” Israel, 2009, 78 minutes (Director: Eytan Harris)—After a 14-year-old Israeli girl commits suicide, her mother, Lilith, wants the body cremated. Before she can proceed, she must fight ZAKA, one of Israel’s most powerful religious organizations, which is fundamentally against cremation. East Coast Premiere.
“Budrus,” Israel/Palestinian Territories/USA, 2009, 81 minutes (Director: Julia Bacha)—This rousing film about one Palestinian village and its unlikely hero—humble family man turned activist Ayed Morrar—reveals the power of ordinary people to peaceably fight for extraordinary change.
“Familia,” Sweden/Peru/Spain, 2010, 82 minutes (Directors: Mikael Wiström and Alberto Herskovits)—Swedish filmmaker Mikael Wiström captures the emotional ups and downs of an impoverished Peruvian family struggling to create a better life and stay together in the midst of great difficulty. US Premiere.
“A Film Unfinished,” Germany/Israel, 2009, 87 minutes (Director: Yael Hersonski)—In never before seen footage from a lost reel of an incomplete Nazi-produced propaganda film about Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto in 1942, the film captures images of manipulated and staged ghetto life mixed with stunning photographic evidence and testimony—all making for a riveting experience.
“Into Eternity,” Finland, (2010), 73 minutes (Director: Michael Madsen)—This film ponders how to caution explorers from future civilizations who may be driven by curiosity, or a desire to understand their distant past, to stay clear of buried nuclear waste.
“Presumed Guilty,” Mexico, 2009, 92 minutes (Directors: Roberto Hernández and Geoffrey Smith)—In its stunning indictment of Mexican jurisprudence, the film invites unsettling suspicion that legions of hapless prisoners face groundless decades behind bars. East Coast Premiere.
“Regretters,” Sweden, 2010, 59 minutes (Director: Marcus Lindeen)—Mikael and Orlando are two aging Swedes with something unusual in common: They are both biological males who have undergone sex reassignment surgery but now wish to ‘change back.’ The pair’s startling testimony forms a complex philosophical interrogation of gender performance and selfhood.
“Space Tourists,” Switzerland, 2009, 98 minutes (Director: Christian Frei)—Amid the crumbling infrastructure of the former Soviet military space program, Russians allow civilians to travel into space for the low, low price of $20 million. Meanwhile, poor herders in Central Asia wait expectantly for the discarded remains of the rocket to sell on the black market. East Coast Premiere.
“Steam Of Life,” Finland, 2010, 82 minutes (Director: Joonas Bergh ll and Mika Hotakainen)—It’s neither a therapist’s office nor a lover’s bed where Finnish men’s deepest feelings about life, love and family are brought to the surface: It’s the sauna. The film allows the viewer to become a fly on the wall as it listens in on men—naked men—talking to other men (or occasionally a grizzly bear) in the sanctuary of the country’s ubiquitous saunas. US Premiere.
“The Woman With the Five Elephants,” Germany/Switzerland/Ukraine, 2009, 92 minutes (Director: Vadim Jeydrenko)—Witness to unspeakable horrors, eighty-five-year-old Svetlana Geier has dedicated her life to language. Considered the greatest translator of Russian literature into German, Svetlana has just concluded her magnum opus, completing new translations of Dostoyevsky’s five great novels—known as the five elephants. US Premiere.