One of my favorite film industry events is the annual AFI Fest in the fall. It always has a collection of the best films of the year. The American Film Institute has another important festival each year, AFI Docs, that centers on documentary films. AFI Docs usually takes place in Maryland (close to Washington, DC, since political issues are often central to documentaries), but this year it is a hybrid festival with live screenings as well as online availability of the films.
AFI Docs is a bit shorter than AFI Fest. The program begins Tuesday night, June 22 with a showing of Naomi Osaka. A full set of films begins releasing on Wednesday, with the festival finishing on Sunday, June 27. Some of the feature films I’m planning on taking in are The First Step, a story of the workings of the political world, Fathom, about humpback whales, LFG, focusing on the US Women’s Soccer Team’s lawsuit for equal pay, The Lost Leonardo, about a surprise discovery of a DaVinci painting, Pray Away, a look at those who try to “cure” homosexuality, and many others over a wide range of subjects.
There are also a few documentary series that will be previewed at AFI Docs. 9/11: One Day in America looks at one of the darkest days in American history. Obama: In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union looks at Barak Obama’s journey from the Illinois State House to the White House. Some of the episodes of these will be shown.
There are also industry forums that address issues facing documentary filmmakers and the changing landscape for the industry. One I’m looking forward to will speak of how documentaries can help shape the conversation about race in America.
There will also be several programs of short documentaries covering sports, science, everyday life, war and peace, and the kinds of dreams people had during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shorts can always bring incredible insights. Each day when I report of what I’ve seen, I’ll include of few notes on some of the shorts.
But wait, you don’t necessarily need me to tell you what has happened at AFI Docs. As I note above, this festival is virtual! You can watch some of these films at home. Some of the screenings and all of the industry forums are free (but you must get a ticket). Go to https://docs.afi.com/how-to-fest/ to learn more about being part of AFI Docs this year. Then we can compare notes.