Washington DC’s American Film Institute has unveiled the full slate of films being presented digitally at the 2020 edition of AFI Docs.
The 18th annual edition of the documentary festival and conference was re-imagined in May as a global, online film festival in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Featured in the 2020 lineup will be 59 films from 11 countries and 12 virtual world premieres. The lineup is also bolstered by directors who identify as women (61%), people of color (25%) and LGBTQ (14%) across its Special Presentations, Feature Films, Cinema’s Legacy, Episodic and Short Film sections.
The five-day documentary festival will present its lineup of non-fiction fare digitally from June 17 to 21 on DOCS.AFI.com.
As previously announced, the festival will open with Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine’s Boys State (pictured), which follows a group of teenage boys at an annual civic program hosted by the American Legion in Austin, Texas.
Closing the festival will be Mary Wharton’s Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President, which charts the mostly forgotten story of how Carter forged a tight bond with musicians such as Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton and others.
Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman and Eli Despres’ The Fight, meanwhile, will serve as AFI Docs’ centerpiece screening. The 96-minute film, which world premiered at Sundance ’20, offers an in-depth look at how civil liberties battles are fought and the ACLU lawyers on the front lines of an increasingly polarized legal landscape.
Also included in the Special Screenings section are Elizabeth Barret and Wendy Ewald’s Portraits and Dreams and Ron Howard’s Rebuilding Paradise.
“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, director of AFI Festivals, in a statement. “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 Features program, meanwhile, will explore themes and subjects ranging from the intersectionality of race, gender and violence in the Minneapolis police department (Deirdre Fishel’s Women In Blue); the effects of immigration policies under the current administration (Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested’s Blood on the Wall); the importance of reclaiming female sexuality (Maria Finitzo’s Dilemma of Desire); and Asian Americans’ experience gaining full participation in the American political process (Yi Chen’s First Vote).
Elsewhere, Academy Award winners Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar will return to AFI Docs with their latest film, 9to5: The Story of A Movement, which chronicles the 1970s movement for gender equality in the workplace.
Now in its second year, the Cinema’s Legacy program will screen three classic documentaries that focus on the fight for access to America’s political system. Featured films include Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford’s Freedom on My Mind (1994), William Greaves’ Nationtime – Gary (1972), and Cynthia Salzman Mondell and Allen Mondell’sSisters of ’77 (2005).
Audience Awards will be handed out to a feature and short film based on votes cast by digital attendees. Winners for Best Feature and Best Short will be announced on June 22.
The film that picks up AFI Docs’ Shorts Grand Jury Prize will also qualify for Academy Award eligibility.
Finally, AFI Docs will honor Oscar-winning actor and filmmaker Lee Grant with the 2020 Guggenheim Symposium. This year’s virtual Symposium will also include a screening of Grant’s 1986 Oscar-winning Down and Out in America, followed by an in-depth conversation with Grant on June 19 moderated by author and Washington Post chief film critic Ann Hornaday.
Past Guggenheim Symposium honorees include Charles Guggenheim (2003), Barbara Kopple (2004), Martin Scorsese (2006), Jonathan Demme (2007), Spike Lee (2008), Albert Maysles (2009), Frederick Wiseman (2010), Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker (2011), Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (2012), Errol Morris (2013), Alex Gibney (2014), Stanley Nelson (2015), Werner Herzog (2016), Laura Poitras (2017), Steve James (2018) and Freida Lee Mock (2019).
Boys State – Opening Night Film
Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine
Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President – Closing Night Film
The Fight – Centerpiece Screening
Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman and Eli Despres
Portraits and Dreams
Elizabeth Barret and Wendy Ewald
9to5: The Story of A Movement
Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar
Blood on The Wall
Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested
Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story Of Roy Cohn
USA, UK, China
Bryce Dallas Howard
Dilemma of Desire
Down and Out in America (1986)
Freedia Got A Gun
Maia Lekow and Christopher King
Miles Hargrove and co-director Christopher Birge
The Reason I Jump
Susanne Regina Meures
Sing Me A Song
France, Germany, Switzerland
Stockton on My Mind
A Thousand Cuts
Ramona S. Diaz
Through the Night
Charlotte Mangin and Sandra Rattley
Women in Blue
Freedom on My Mind (1994)
Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford
Nationtime – Gary (1972)
Sisters Of ’77 (2005)
Cynthia Salzman Mondell and Allen Mondell
And She Could Be Next
Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia
City So Real