AFI Docs 2020 Has Majority Films by Women, New Movies from Julia Reichert, Ron Howard

The American Film Institute's documentary film celebration this year boasts 59 films you can watch from the comfort of home.
Julia Reichert
Julia Reichert

The American Film Institute has revealed its full slate of films being presented online for the AFI Docs 2020 Film Festival, which will take place digitally this year. The lineup features 59 films from 11 countries and 12 virtual world premieres, with 61 percent of the films directed by women, 25 percent by POC directors, and 14 percent by LGBTQ directors. The festival runs June 17–21, with films available to view on See the full lineup below.

“Now more than ever, it is important to expand our perspectives and listen to voices that may differ from our own, and this year’s festival includes a diverse range of insights and experiences for audiences to share in,” said Michael Lumpkin, AFI Festivals director. “These films explore political and social issues in the U.S. and across the globe, introducing us to the next generation of leaders and shedding new light on figures of the past.”

The program’s special presentations include the opening night film “Boys State,” closing night film “Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President,” plus a centerpiece screening of “The Fight.” Also screening will be Ron Howard’s new documentary “Rebuilding Paradise,” about a town in the Sierra Nevada foothills attempting to rebuild after devastating wildfires in 2018.

“American Factory” Oscar winners Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar return to AFI Docs with their newest film, “9to5: The Story of a Movement,” which chronicles the 1970s movement for gender equality in the workplace.

The Episodic section features multi-part documentaries following the past, present and future of U.S. politics, from the Women’s Suffrage movement of the early 20th century to the recent historic rise of women of color running for office.

The 2020 Guggenheim Symposium will honor Academy Award-winning actor and filmmaker Lee Grant. This year’s virtual Symposium will include a screening of Grant’s Academy Award-winning documentary film “Down and Out in America” and an in-depth conversation with Grant on June 19, moderated by author and Washington Post chief film critic Ann Hornaday.

Special Presentations

Opening Night Screening — Wednesday, June 17
“Boys State”: Directed by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine. Produced by Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss. USA.

Closing Night Screening – Sunday, June 21
“Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President”: Directed by Mary Wharton. Produced by Chris Farrell and Dave Kirkpatrick. USA.

Centerpiece Screening – Friday, June 19
“The Fight”: Directed by Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman and Eli Despres. Produced by Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Maya Seidler, Peggy Wexler and Kerry Washington. USA.

“Portraits and Dreams”: Directed by Elizabeth Barret and Wendy Ewald. Produced by Elizabeth Barret, Wendy Ewald and Robert Salyer. USA.

“Rebuilding Paradise”: Directed by Ron Howard. Produced by Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Xan Parker, Sara Bernstein and Justin Wilkes. USA.

Feature Films

“9to5: The Story of a Movement”: Directed and produced by Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar. USA.

“Blood on the Wall”: Directed by Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested. Produced by Sebastian Junger, Nick Quested and Peter Goetz. USA.

“Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn”: Directed by Ivy Meeropol. Produced by Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements and Ivy Meerpool. USA.

“Coded Bias”: Directed and produced by Shalini Kantayya. USA, UK, China.

“Dads”: Directed by Bryce Dallas Howard. Produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Michael Rosenberg, Justin Wilkes, Bryce Dallas Howard and Walter Matteson. USA.

“Dilemma of Desire”: Directed by Maria Finitzo. Produced by Maria Finitzo, Cynthia Kane and Diane Quon. USA.

“Down and Out in America” (1986): Directed by Lee Grant. Produced by Milton Justice and Joseph Feury. USA.
Screening as part of the AFI DOCS Guggenheim Symposium

“First Vote”: Directed and produced by Yi Chen. USA.

“Freedia Got a Gun”: Directed by Chris McKim. Produced by Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato and Chris McKim. USA.

“The Letter”: Directed and produced by Maia Lekow and Christopher King. Kenya.

“Miracle Fishing”: Directed by Miles Hargrove; co-directed by Christopher Birge. Produced by Miles Hargrove, Christopher Birge and Eric F. Martin. USA.

“One Life”: Directed by Josh Turnbow. Produced by Akshay M. Shah and Robert Dvoran. USA.

“The Reason I Jump”: Directed by Jerry Rothwell. Produced by Al Morrow, Stevie Lee and Jeremy Dear. UK.

“Saudi Runaway”: Directed by Susanne Regina Meures. Produced by Christian Frei. Switzerland.

“Sing Me a Song”: Directed and produced by Thomas Balmès. France, Germany, Switzerland.

“Stockton On My Mind”: Directed by Marc Levin. Produced by Cassius Michael Kim and Mike Marangu. USA.

“A Thousand Cuts”: Directed by Ramona S. Diaz. Produced by Ramona S. Diaz, Leah Marino, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements and Carolyn Hepburn. USA.

“Through the Night”: Directed by Loira Limbal. Produced by Jameka Autry and Loira Limbal. USA.

“Transhood”: Directed by Sharon Liese. Produced by Sasha Alpert and Sharon Liese. USA.

“Unladylike2020”: Directed and produced by Charlotte Mangin and Sandra Rattley. USA.

“White Noise”: Directed by Daniel Lombroso. Produced by Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg. USA.

“Women in Blue”: Directed by Deirdre Fishel. Produced by Beth Levison. USA.

Cinema’s Legacy

“Freedom on My Mind” (1994): Directed and produced by Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford. USA.

“Nationtime — Gary” (1972): Directed by William Greaves. USA.

“Sisters of ’77” (2005): Directed and produced by Cynthia Salzman Mondell and Allen Mondell. USA.


“And She Could Be Next”: Directed by Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia. Produced by Grace Lee, Marjan Safinia and Jyoti Sarda. USA.

“City So Real”: Directed by Steve James. Produced by Zak Piper and Steve James. USA.

“The Vote”: Directed by Michelle Ferrari. Produced by Connie Honeycutt and Michelle Ferrari. USA.

Short Films

“808: How We Respond”: Directed by Ian Bell. Produced by Alex Megaro, Jessica Kingdon and Nathan Truesdell. USA.
On January 13, 2018, Hawaii issued a false missile warning leading millions to believe a missile attack was imminent. Our live-streaming culture provided a record of how people dealt with their own mortality.

“Abortion Helpline, This is Lisa”: Directed and produced by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Mike Attie. USA.
At an abortion fund in Philadelphia, counselors arrive each morning to the nonstop ring of calls from women and teens who seek to end a pregnancy but can’t afford to.

“Akashinga: The Brave Ones”: Directed by Maria Wilhelm. Produced by Maria Wilhelm, Kim Butts and Drew Pulley. USA.
Single mothers, abandoned wives and survivors of sexual and domestic violence enroll in an intense training selection to join rangers protecting elephants from poachers across Africa.

“All That Perishes at the Edge of the Land”: Directed by Hira Nabi. Creative Producer: Till Passow. Pakistan.
A decommissioned ship and the shipbreakers from all over Pakistan there to break it enter into a conversation and discover they might have more in common than otherwise imagined.

“Blackfeet Boxing: Not Invisible”: Directed by Kristen Lappas and Tom Rinaldi. Produced by Jose Morales, Craig Lazarus, Victor Vitarelli, Ben Webber and Lindsay Rovegno. USA.
As the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women epidemic affects tribal communities, a group of Blackfeet women tackle the threat head-on by practicing and training in self-defense.

“Broken Orchestra”: Directed by Charlie Tyrell. Produced by Julie Baldassi. Canada.
The Symphony for a Broken Orchestra project collected hundreds of broken instruments from the Philadelphia public school system, fixed them and then returned them to the hands of students.

“The Church Forests of Ethiopia”: Directed by Jeremy Seifert. Produced by Jeremy Seifert and Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee. USA.
In Ethiopia, church forests are withstanding environmental destruction — but just barely.

“Dafa Metti (Difficult)”: Directed and produced by Tal Amiran. UK.
Under Paris’ Eiffel Tower, undocumented Senegalese migrants sell souvenirs of the monument to support their families back home. Each day is a struggle through darkness in the City of Lights.

“The Deepest Hole”: Directed and produced by Matt McCormick. USA.
Cold War competitions are common knowledge, but few know the United States and Soviet Union faced off in a race to see which country could dig the deepest hole.

“Do Not Split”: Directed by Anders Hammer. Produced by Anders Hammer and Charlotte Cook. USA, Norway.
During the 2019 protests in Hong Kong, a series of evening demonstrations escalate into conflict when heavily armed police appear on the scene.

“Elevator Pitch”: Directed and produced by Martyna Starosta. USA.
A depiction of New York’s subway as an absurd obstacle course – revealing a system that shuts many out of a city in motion.

“Flower Punk”: Directed and produced by Alison Klayman. USA.
Japanese artist Azuma Makoto sends his floral sculptures into space and sinks them to the bottom of the ocean, but mostly, he thinks about the life and death of flowers.

“Huntsville Station”: Directed by Jamie Meltzer and Chris Filippone. Produced by Jamie Meltzer. USA.
Every weekday, inmates are released from Huntsville State Penitentiary, taking in their first moments of freedom with phone calls, cigarettes and quiet reflection at the Greyhound station up the block.

“Lake”: Directed by Alexandra Lazarowich. Produced by Coty Savard and David Christensen. Canada.
Shot on 16mm and in a vérité lens, “Lake” shares a contemporary portrait of Métis women net fishing in Northern Alberta.

“The Lost Astronaut”: Directed by Ben Proudfoot. Produced by Gabriel Berk Godoi and Abby Lynn Kang Davis. USA.
In 1963, Ed Dwight Jr. was poised to be NASA’s first African-American astronaut, until suddenly he wasn’t.

“Memoirs of Vegetation”: Directed and produced by Jessica Oreck. USA.
An enticing kernel of botanical intrigue that delves into the salubrious uses and nefarious misuses of castor beans throughout history.

“Mizuko”: Directed and produced by Kira Dane and Katelyn Rebelo. USA.
In Japanese Buddhism, there is a post-abortion grieving ritual called ‘water child memorial.’ Inspired by this ritual, a half-Japanese American woman reexamines abortion ethics after becoming pregnant herself.

“Mother”: Directed by Jas Pitt and Kate Stonehill. Produced by Sorcha Bacon and Lua Guerreiro. UK.
A young dancer from a violent favela in Rio de Janeiro finds redemption through his vogueing family, the art of Ballroom and his relationship with his vogueing mother, Makayla.

“Now is the Time”: Directed by Christopher Auchter. Produced by Selwyn Jacob. Canada.
Fifty years ago, the entire village of Old Massett gathered to celebrate the raising of a totem pole that signaled the rebirth of the Haida spirit.

“Out of the Blue”: Directed by Jonathan Bregel and Steve Hoover. Produced by Jonathan Bregel. USA.
A 78-year-old man decided to cover his entire body in a blue tattoo once he retired from his career as an accomplished Baltimore City planner.

“The Paint Wizzard”: Directed and produced by Jessie Auritt and Jessica Wolfson. USA.
Millie, a transgender housepainter living and working out of her bright yellow RV in Austin, Texas, gained the courage to come out as her true self at age 58.

“Pampas”: Directed by Jessica Bishopp. Produced by Louisa Plumstead. UK.
A hybrid documentary exploring sexual signaling and urban legends about how plants were used in 1970s suburbia to send seductive signals to neighbors, or so rumor has it.

“Patty Are You Bringing Weed in from Jamaica?”: Directed and produced by Matthew Salton. USA.
In 1968, a young flight attendant bought 900 pounds of marijuana in Jamaica and tried to smuggle it out, leading to unexpected consequences.

“San Diego”: Directed by Laura Hinman. Produced by Civic Films. USA.
An essay on gathered fragments of daily Native American life, struggles for sovereignty and youth in a post-COVID-19 reality.

“See You Next Time”: Directed by Crystal Kayiza. Produced by Cady Lang, Crystal Kayiza and Sean Weiner. USA.
The intimate moments between a Chinese nail tech and her Black client shows how two women of color see each other in a space unlike anything else in their worlds.

“Still Here (還在)”: Directed by Sean Wang. Produced by Cynthia Lee, Pamela Li and Sean Wang. USA.
In Kaohsiung, Taiwan, a few residents refuse to leave their abandoned village.

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