×

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.

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

  • Animation Studio Fire

    Kyoto Arson Attack: Animation Community Mourns Colleagues

    Thursday’s deadly attack on Japan’s Kyoto Animation studios left many in the animation community shocked and horrified by the loss of 33 of their colleagues. Another 36 people were injured in the attack, which was Japan’s deadliest ever. A suspect was arrested after pouring a flammable liquid inside the building, which caught fire and trapped [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Film News Roundup: Nicolas Cage's '10 Double Zero' Completes Financing

    In today’s film news roundup, financing has been secured for a Nicolas Cage police drama, feature drama “Topside” is unveiled and the late Tom Snyder is getting a tribute from his daughter. FINANCING COMPLETED Related Five Reasons L.A. Hasn't Found Its Sundance Film Festival Yet AFI Docs Unveils 2019 Line-Up With 'American Factory' as Centerpiece [...]

  • Matt Damon and Tom McCarthy Team

    Matt Damon Teams with 'Spotlight' Director Tom McCarthy on New Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    Even as buzz grows for his upcoming race car drama “Ford v. Ferrari,” Matt Damon looks to keep the pedal to the metal: the A-lister is set to star in the Participant Media feature film “Stillwater” with Tom McCarthy directing. Damon attached himself in May, and the package was quickly acquired by Participant, who previously [...]

  • US actor Kevin Spacey (C) is

    Kevin Spacey Shouldn't Be Exonerated in Hollywood Even as Criminal Case Ends (Column)

    The news that criminal charges against Kevin Spacey in the Nantucket groping case have been dropped raises an inevitable question: does this mean he can claw his way back into Hollywood’s good graces? Or maybe more importantly: should it?  Spacey’s rapid descent was startling, even as it quickly followed that of the once untouchable producing [...]

  • Movie Ticket Subscriptions

    As MoviePass Fades, Theaters Fall In Love With Subscription Services

    MoviePass may be cratering, but movie theater subscriptions are here to stay. AMC and Cinemark already operate their own online ticketing services. And by the end of July, Regal Entertainment is expected to unveil a subscription plan for customers accustomed to getting all manner of entertainment for a monthly fee. Related Five Reasons L.A. Hasn't [...]

  • This photo shows composer Hans Zimmer

    Hans Zimmer on Recreating Iconic Score: 'The Lion King' 'Brought People Together'

    Composer Hans Zimmer is seated at the mixing board at the Sony scoring stage, head bobbing to the music being performed by 107 musicians just a few yards away. He’s wearing a vintage “Lion King World Tour” T-shirt, frayed at the collar. On the giant screen behind the orchestra, two lions are bounding across the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content