Monday, June 17, 2013

AFI Docs Premieres Wednesday

2013 Guggenheim Symposium honoree Errol Morris

After celebrating its 10th anniversary last year, the nation's finest festival dedicated to documentary film underwent some radical changes. For starters, it said goodbye to its name (Silverdocs) and replaced it with AFI Docs. It also expanded, to include several choice venues in the District: Fear not, AFI's Silver Theatre will still host a slew of films. What remains the same is the quality and variety that AFI Docs (may as well get used to saying it) has made famous in now its 11th year.

This year's festival opens at one of its new downtown venues, the Newseum with the theatrical premiere of Bill CouturiĆ©'s Letters to Jackie. Tickets are still available and include admittance to the post-screening cocktail reception. Click here to purchase online.

Things kick into high gear on Thursday across five venues, highlighted by a Gala screening of DC's own Michael Stevens' Herblock - The Black & White (also at the Newseum's Annenberg theater.) The documentary covers the remarkable career of the 3x Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Herbert Block and his indelible influence on many of today's finest journalists.

Friday features the 2013 Guggenheim Symposium honoring Academy Award-winner Errol Morris. The free event takes place at 6:00 PM at the National Archives. The Symposium will feature a series of excerpts from Morris' long & distinguished career... as well as Morris himself. The festival's Centerpiece Screening will take place later that evening at the Portrait Gallery with the world premiere of Jose Antonio Vargas' Documented.

The Portrait Gallery also plays host to the festival's Closing Night feature Caucus and its US premiere at 8:00 PM Saturday. In addition, 2 Shorts programs will be held as well as a series of The Washington Post Films (including Caucus, and Our Nixon, one of 40 + features: You can see Our Nixon for free on Saturday at the National Archives. I plan on attending the Sunday afternoon screening at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's beautiful Warner Bros. Theater.

Tickets for all screenings are $13.00 (with the exception of Gala events.) AFI members (2-star level and up) are eligible for a $1 discount for advance sales, as are Amtrak Guest Rewards members. Combo ticket packages are also available for $100 ($90 for AFI members) at the AFI Silver Theatre box office only (no online sales) and allow you to select any combination of 10 tickets. Purchasing a package also entitles you to priority seating at the AFI Catalyst Sessions: The Art of Moving Reality on Thursday at the Newseum's Knight Conference Center.

One other special addition worth noting is AFI's Inaugural Policy Engagement Program, which features a one-of-its-kind Film and Politics Boot camp on the Hill Thursday at the U.S. Capitol Building.

"When AFI DOCS Presented by Audi unspools next week in the Capital and AFI Silver, we will be presenting the best documentaries of the year in the place where global and national issues are the daily business, and engaged citizens and leading thinkers can grapple with topical conversations catalyzed by our program," said Jody Arlington, the festival's PR Manager.

Although the festival officially gets underway on Wednesday, Audi is sponsoring a free outdoor screening of Truth in 24 II: Every Second Counts at Dupont Circle tomorrow at 9:00 PM. The film chronicles Audi's 10th victory at the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans. Refreshments will be served, and the first 200 guests who check-in will receive an Audi blanket (I want one.) Click here to register.

To see a full rundown of this year's impressive schedule, click here. AFI Docs Presented by Audi is the premier event on the documentary film calendar, and it will be exciting to see what other surprises they have in store for us. I can't wait to find out.