Described by the Washington Post as “the nation’s leading documentary film festival,” AFI DOCS returns to the Washington, D.C. area June 19-23 to showcase the best in documentary films.
Tickets are now on sale to this year’s diverse program, which features more than 70 films from 17 countries as well as insightful panels and presentations. Here are seven film highlights from the festival’s lineup of enlightening, daring and boundary-pushing explorations of the world around us.
Kicking off the festival is the world premiere of True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight For Equality. The doc tells the inspiring story of lawyer and human rights advocate Bryan Stevenson, who founded the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, to provide legal services for the poor and disenfranchised.
Raise Hell: The Life & Times Of Molly Ivins, which closes the festival, chronicles the life and work of maverick political commentator and Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Molly Ivins. Filmmaker Janice Engel crafts a witty and entertaining portrait of Ivins, who died of cancer in 2007, giving life to her words and reminding us to be bold in today’s political climate.
Featuring everything from Mexican drug cartels to the Chinese Mafia, this environmental thriller is every bit as gripping as any pulp novel but with real world consequences for the imperiled vaquita (the world’s smallest whale) and for local fisherman in the Sea of Cortez. This urgent anti-poaching documentary is both action-packed and meditative as a poignant portrait of marine life that has been driven to near extinction.
Fifty years after Neil Armstrong’s “one small step” marked an indelible moment in space exploration, the exceptional series Chasing The Moon chronicles America’s audacious and challenging race to Earth’s only natural satellite. Using exclusively archival material — including never-before-seen footage — this world premiere re-contextualizes the social and historical importance of the Space Age and the sheer wonder of the moon landing itself.
Seeking no easy answers, directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert craft a masterpiece of documentary storytelling by focusing on the intriguing culture clash that ensues when a shuttered GM plant in Dayton, OH, is taken over by a giant Chinese company. Winner of the Sundance Festival U.S. Documentary Prize for Directing, this stunning film takes us inside the factory to observe what happens when working-class America collides with high-tech China.
In Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ highly engaging portrait of author Toni Morrison, the legendary writer reflects on her life and career through the lens of literature, history, art and race. The doc also features dynamic interviews with cultural icons and critics, including Oprah Winfrey, Angela Davis, Walter Mosley, Fran Lebowitz, Russell Banks and Hilton Als.
Drawing from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s own words, as illuminated by carefully culled archival footage and interviews, Academy Award-winning filmmaker and Freida Lee Mock crafts an intimate profile that covers the full breadth of Ginsburg’s life, views and career. The 2019 Guggenheim Symposium at AFI DOCS will pay tribute to Mock with an onstage discussion of her career, film clips and a sneak preview of this RBG doc.
Buy tickets to all 73 films at AFI DOCS 2019 here.