×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

AFI Docs Film Festival Stays Topical With a Diverse Slate

The 17th annual AFI Docs Film Festival will launch this year’s eclectic program from June 19-23 in Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring, Md., showcasing 72 films from 17 countries, with a strong emphasis on female filmmakers. Of the current slate set to unspool, 48% of the directors and 68% of the producers are women, marking a considerable uptick from past festivals. This year, AFI Docs is organizing its entries into different categories (Galas, Special Screenings, Portrait, Truth and Justice, Spectrum, Anthem, Cinema’s Legacy, and Short Films), and will include six world premieres, one North American premiere, and two U.S. premieres.

The festival kicks off with the world premiere of “True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality” and closes with “Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins.” Other special screenings include the world premiere of “Chasing the Moon,” “Ruth – Justice Ginsburg in Her Own Words,” “Sea of Shadows,” and “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.”

This year’s centerpiece film screening, occurring June 21 at the Warner Bros. Theater at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, will be “American Factory,” which was directed by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. It examines the culture clash resulting from the takeover of a Dayton, Ohio, General Motors factory by a Chinese corporation, which reopened the location as Fuyao Glass America, with the promise of providing consistent work to more than 2,000 local residents, along with bringing hundreds of Chinese workers to the state. Tensions quickly mounted and escalated among the Americans due to low wages and concerns about safety.

Popular on Variety

Festival director Michael Lumpkin, who was recently placed in charge of Los Angeles’ AFI Film Festival in the fall, is ecstatic about this year’s crop of projects.

“We try and focus on how important and integral storytelling is for both the audience and the filmmakers, and because these films are so personal in nature, these are stories that feel like they had to be told,” Lumpkin says.

Taking on dual responsibilities across AFI’s festival platform is a big job, but Lumpkin credits his “exceptionally talented staff” with helping him restructure the festivals, in order to “take advantage of the many creative opportunities that have come our way as a result of screening these important films.”

Lumpkin is ebullient in his praise of this year’s slate. “We’re all so excited about the filmmakers who are bringing their films to the festival this year. ‘The Elephant Queen’ and ‘Midnight Family’ are titles to look out for, as they both tell very personal and private stories which go beyond your expectations,” he says. He notes that he was taken by surprise by music doc “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice,” from directors Robb Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. “That was an unexpectedly touching film that a lot of people are really going to connect with.”

This is also the third year that NBC’s “Meet the Press” will partner with AFI Docs Festival for a short film series, which Lumpkin says has become a tremendous success.

“Our partnership with NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ has been very unique in that we program and screen the films in conjunction with NBC News journalists, who help to select socially relevant options that bridge the worlds of entertainment and politics.” He adds that between the traditional AFI Docs Festival and the special “Meet the Press” event, “there’ll be some overlap with certain titles but we’re always looking to keep our selections fresh and topical.”

More Film

  • FAMILIAR FACE -- In Walt Disney

    'Frozen 2' Still Sizzling With $37 Million in Third Weekend; 'Playmobil' Crashing

    “Frozen 2” is gradually warming up the North American box office, with an estimated $37 million its third weekend at 4,440 sites, early estimates showed Friday. Disney’s animated sequel is projected to decline about 57%. Should estimates hold, “Frozen 2” should finish the weekend with nearly $340 million domestically in it first 17 days. With [...]

  • Legendary Logo

    Legendary Invests in Library Pictures to Fund Local-Language Production

    Legendary Pictures has made an investment in Library Pictures International with plans to fund local-language productions. Library Pictures is a content-financing entity organized earlier this year by CAA Media Finance to support industry-leading filmmakers and distributors by investing in local-language production slates. As part of the deal, Legendary becomes part of a team at Library [...]

  • Knives and Skin

    Film Review: 'Knives and Skin'

    Jennifer Reeder’s “Knives and Skin” will test the limits of viewer patience. The positive qualities lie in the surrealistic film’s bold cinematography, distinctive use of music, and diversity of cast, though that’s not enough to redeem this tedious viewing experience. Following a festival run that began at the Berlinale, IFC Midnight is giving the film [...]

  • Frozen 2

    Women In Animation Celebrate a Banner Year

    When “Missing Link” producer Arianne Sutner began her career in the early 1990s, fresh out of college, she had a goal: Get a job working on a film set that didn’t involve doing craft service. Because, she says “as women, they were always kind of either intentionally or unintentionally pointing you in that direction.” After [...]

  • Laura DernIFP Gotham Awards 2019 -

    Palm Springs Festival to Honor Laura Dern With Career Achievement Award (EXCLUSIVE)

    The 31st annual Palm Springs International Film Festival has selected Laura Dern as the recipient of its Career Achievement Award. Dern will be honored at the festival awards gala on Jan. 2 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The festival runs Jan. 2-13. “Laura Dern is one of the most outstanding and talented actresses of [...]

  • American Cinematheque Charlize Theron

    Listen: How Charlize Theron Overcame Her Fear of Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron immediately didn’t jump at the chance to play controversial news anchor Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell,” the Jay Roach-directed drama about the downfall of late Fox News boss Roger Ailes’ downfall after he was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct and harassment. “She wasn’t necessarily a person who I just could throw my [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content