The American Film Institute Announces Full Slate for AFI Docs 2020 Supported by AT&T

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The American Film Institute has revealed its full slate of films being presented online for the AFI DOCS 2020 festival. Apple and A24's Boys State will open the festival and Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President will close. 

Additionally, Magnolia Pictures and Topic Studios' The Fight will serve as the centerpiece offering. The lineup features 59 films from 11 countries and 12 virtual World Premieres, with 61% of the films directed by women, 25% by POC directors and 14% by LGBTQ directors. AT&T returns as Presenting Sponsor of AFI's five-day documentary celebration.    

The 18th edition of the festival will present films in the following sections: Special Presentations, Feature Films, Cinema's Legacy, Episodic and Short Film sections. AFI DOCS 2020 runs June 17–21, with films available to view on The Washington Post and Meet the Press return as the Primary Media Partners.

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"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. "These films explore political and social issues in the US and across the globe, introducing us to the next generation of leaders and shedding new light on figures of the past."

AFI DOCS' program of Special Presentations includes the previously announced Opening Night film BOYS STATE and Closing Night film JIMMY CARTER ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT, as well as the Centerpiece Screening of THE FIGHT. Additional titles include PORTRAITS AND DREAMS and Ron Howard's REBUILDING PARADISE.

This year's diverse Features section explores themes and subjects ranging from the intersectionality of race, gender and violence in the Minneapolis police department (WOMEN IN BLUE); the devastating effects of immigration policies under the current administration (BLOOD ON THE WALL); the importance of reclaiming female sexuality (DILEMMA OF DESIRE); and Asian Americans' experience gaining full participation in the American political process (FIRST VOTE).

Academy Award®-winners Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar return to AFI DOCS with their newest film, 9TO5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT, which chronicles the 1970s movement for gender equality in the workplace. 

Now in its second year at AFI DOCS, the Cinema's Legacy program showcases three classic documentaries focusing on the fight for full participation and access to our country's political system, and the importance of making sure all voices are heard. This year's Cinema's Legacy selections include FREEDOM ON MY MIND (1994), NATIONTIME - GARY (1972) and SISTERS OF '77 (2005).

The Episodic section features multi-part documentaries following the past, present and future of US politics, particularly women's importance in it, from the Women's Suffrage movement of the early 20th century to the recent historic rise of women of color running for office. The offerings in this section include AND SHE COULD BE NEXT, Steve James' CITY SO REAL and THE VOTE. 

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Short Films will be presented in four programs, highlighting unique voices from around the world. A competitive section, Shorts are eligible for the Grand Jury Prize. 

Audience Awards will be given to a feature and a short film based on votes cast by attendees throughout the festival. The winners of the Audience Awards for Best Feature and Best Short will be announced on Monday, June 22. This year, AFI DOCS is proud to announce the Shorts Grand Jury Prize is a qualifying award for Academy Award® eligibility.

The 2020Guggenheim Symposium will honor Academy Award®-winning actor and filmmaker Lee Grant. Each year, the AFI DOCS Charles Guggenheim Symposium honors a master of the nonfiction art form. This year's virtual Symposium will include a screening of Grant's Academy Award®-winning documentary film DOWN AND OUT IN AMERICA (1986) and an in-depth conversation with Grant on June 19, 2020, moderated by author and Washington Post chief film critic Ann Hornaday.

Grant's film debut in William Wyler's DETECTIVE STORY (1951) led to her first Academy Award® nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role and earned her the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival. However, that same year, after eulogizing a friend whose early death she implied was caused by fear of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and the naming of her then-husband to the HUAC, Grant was blacklisted for the next decade. After being cleared in the early 60s, Grant became a household name for her work on the popular television series Peyton Place, for which she earned an Emmy® in 1966. She returned to film, earning Academy Award® nominations for her roles in THE LANDLORD (1970) and VOYAGE OF THE DAMNED (1976) and winning the Academy Award® for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for SHAMPOO (1975).

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A graduate of the first-ever class of the AFI Directing Workshop for Women in 1974, Grant eventually transitioned to directing and debuted her first feature-length narrative film, TELL ME A RIDDLE, in 1980. Her first documentary, THE WILLMAR 8, was released the following year. Grant continued to both act and direct, becoming the first female director to win the Directors Guild of America Award for her television movie NOBODY'S CHILD (1986). Her documentary DOWN AND OUT IN AMERICA (1986) tied with another film to win the Academy Award® for Documentary Feature.

Grant joins a renowned list of Guggenheim Symposium honorees: 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).

Passes to AFI DOCS 2020 are now available to AFI members and the public at Tickets will be available on June 10. To become an AFI member, visit

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BOYS STATE:  DIRS Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine.  PRODS Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss.  USA.  

Each year the American Legion hosts a "civics camp" for high school students (separated by gender) in states across the country. BOYS STATE closely follows a group of teenage boys as they attend one such program in Austin, Texas. The attendees are tasked with creating a mock government and spend the week campaigning for leadership and party platforms. Political ambitions are high and the gubernatorial race is hot. Are you curious what the next generation of our political system looks like?  

Winner of the Sundance U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize, BOYS STATE explores politics through a coming-of-age lens. The result reveals American democracy and political division at its most hopeful and terrifying moments.


JIMMY CARTER ROCK & ROLL PRESIDENT:  DIR Mary Wharton.  PRODS Chris Farrell and Dave Kirkpatrick.  USA. 

If it hadn't been for a bottle of scotch and a late-night visit from musician Greg Allman, Jimmy Carter might never have been elected the 39th President of the United States. This fascinating documentary charts the mostly forgotten story of how Carter, a lover of all types of music, forged a tight bond with musicians Willie Nelson, the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton and others. Low on campaign funds and lacking in name recognition, Carter relied on support from these artists to give him a crucial boost in the Democratic primaries. Once Carter was elected, the musicians became frequent guests in the White House.

Director Mary Wharton assembles a star cast including Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brooks, Nelson, Dylan, Parton and Bono and fills the soundtrack with Southern rock, gospel, jazz, and classical.


THE FIGHT:  DIRS Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman and Eli Despres.  PRODS Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, Maya Seidler, Peggy Wexler and Kerry Washington.  USA.

In this stirring legal thriller, a cast of courageous lawyers at the ACLU fights an uphill battle against the dizzying array of rollbacks on civil rights put forward in the first years of the Trump presidency. Filmmakers Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman and Eli Despres (WEINER) capture all of the key moments in such high stakes cases as the rights of trans people to serve in the military, family separation in immigration enforcement, the citizenship question on the census and the abortion rights of immigrant detainees. 

Celebrating 100 years of the ACLU, THE FIGHT shows how this group of committed lawyers has made a huge difference in protecting our rights and in the daily lives of countless Americans. Winner of the Sundance U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking.

PORTRAITS AND DREAMS:  DIRS Elizabeth Barret and Wendy Ewald.  PRODS Elizabeth Barret, Wendy Ewald and Robert Salyer.  USA.

Thirty-five years ago, photographer Wendy Ewald published the remarkable PORTRAITS AND DREAMS: PHOTOGRAPHS AND STORIES BY CHILDREN OF THE APPALACHIANS. The result of a unique creative collaboration between Ewald and the students she taught at three rural schools in Letcher County, Kentucky, the photographs represented a rare opportunity for children living on the margins of American society to reflect on their lives and families. 

In this beautiful and deeply moving tribute to that collaboration, Ewald, whose artistic practice was formed through her experiences in Appalachia, returns to Letcher County to visit with her students, who are now adults with families of their own. As their collective memories are rekindled, what emerges is the unbreakable, timeless bond between teacher and student and the transformative power of art.

REBUILDING PARADISE:  DIR Ron Howard.  PRODS Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Xan Parker, Sara Bernstein and Justin Wilkes.  USA.

On November 8, 2018, tucked in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the picturesque town of Paradise would be changed forever. The Camp Fire, California's deadliest and most destructive fire in history, displaced over 50,000 residents, leaving the community in ashes.

In the aftermath of the haunting images of thick smoke and raging fires, Ron Howard's documentary follows a group of residents as they struggle to rebuild their lives. While coping from the trauma and grieving their loved ones, they must wrestle with the logistics and bureaucracy of rebuilding their community. A sincere portrait of humanity, REBUILDING PARADISE is a tribute of resilience in the face of uncertainty.



For the 2020 Guggenheim Symposium, Academy Award®-winning actor and documentary director Lee Grant will be featured in an in-depth conversation with Washington Post Chief Film Critic Ann Hornaday.

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