The American Film Institute has announced the slate for its hybrid 2021 edition from June 22-27. Titles include the centerpiece screening of Morgan Neville’s “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,” while Garrett Bradley’s “Naomi Osaka” will open the festival and “Cusp” is the closing night selection.
Held in Silver Spring, MD and on docs.afi.com, the lineup features 77 films from 23 countries, including four world premieres. The festival’s programming will feature 52% of the films directed by women, 40% by BIPOC directors and 18% by LGBTQ directors.
“We are living in the Golden Age of documentary film,” said Sarah Harris, AFI Festivals Director of Programming. “At AFI DOCS, we are proud to celebrate excellence in the films of 2021 – connecting audiences across the nation, engaging them in lively conversation and inspiring them with both the unprecedented challenges and the breathtaking beauty of the world around us.”
Other titles in the features section include “White Coat Rebels” about the movement to push back against big pharma; “The Slow Hustle” about a corruption scandal in the Baltimore police department, “Courtroom 3H” about family court trials and “The Story Won’t Die” about Syrian artists in Europe.
Historic nonfiction films in the Legacy program will include “In Search of Our Fathers,” “Sink or Swim” and “Stevie.”
Multi-part series include “Watch the Sound With Mark Ronson,” “9/11: One Day in America” and “Obama: In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union.”
Spotlight on the Hindsight Project is a section comprised of six short films chronicling the experiences of BIPOC communities during the unprecedented events of 2020.
The Charles Guggenheim Symposium will feature a discussion with Dawn Porter and a free screening of her new film “Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer.”
See the features and series program below:
OPENING NIGHT SCREENING – Tuesday, June 22
NAOMI OSAKA: DIR Garrett Bradley. PRODS Lauren Cioffi, Katy Murakami and Sally Rosen. USA.
What does it feel like to be one of the best tennis players in the world? An intimate look inside the life of one of the most gifted and complex athletes of her generation offers insight into the tough decisions and ecstatic triumphs that shape Naomi Osaka as both an elite global superstar and a young woman navigating a pressure-filled world. World Premiere.
CLOSING NIGHT SCREENING – Sunday, June 27
CUSP: DIRS Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt. PROD Zachary Luke Kislevitz. USA.
This coming-of-age documentary follows three teenage girls for one wild, life-changing summer in their small Texas town as they grapple with what becoming an adult means, especially for young women.
CENTERPIECE SCREENING – Friday, June 25
ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN: DIR Morgan Neville. PRODS Caitrin Rogers and Morgan Neville. USA.
A documentary about the uncommon life of the late storyteller, explorer and chef, Anthony Bourdain.
2021 CHARLES GUGGENHEIM SYMPOSIUM
GUGGENHEIM SYMPOSIUM WITH DAWN PORTER – Wednesday, June 23
Honoring a master of the nonfiction art form, this year’s Guggenheim Symposium will include an in-depth conversation with celebrated filmmaker Dawn Porter hosted by Variety’s Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis, featuring clips from her acclaimed work and a free screening of her most recent project.
RISE AGAIN: TULSA AND THE RED SUMMER: DIR Dawn Porter. PROD Dawn Porter. USA.
One hundred years after the two-day Tulsa Massacre, one of America’s most violent racial conflicts, this documentary explores the role of media during these early 20th century events and today’s revived call for justice and anti-racism. Free Screening.
This year’s diverse features section is a collection of original, enlightening and daring explorations of the people and world around us.
COURTROOM 3H: DIR Antonio Méndez Esparza. PRODS Pedro Hernandez Santos, Rebeca Villar Rodriguez and Ana Castanosa Bielsa. Spain.
Inside Tallahassee’s Courtroom 3H, staggeringly emotional hearings and trials hint at the complexities of family histories, calling into question a justice system with the power to decide who is suitable to be a parent. North American Premiere.
DAUGHTER OF A LOST BIRD: DIR Brooke Pepion Swaney. PRODS Jeri Rafter, Kendra Mylnechuk and Brooke Pepion Swaney. USA.
Kendra grew up in white suburbia knowing little of her Native American heritage. The search for her birth mother leads her to face a legacy of family trauma and joy.
DELPHINE’S PRAYERS (LES PRIÈRES DE DELPHINE): DIR Rosine Mbakam. PROD Geoffroy Cemaix. Belgium, Cameroon.
Delphine, a 30-year-old Cameroonian woman, sits casually on a mattress. With filmmaker Rosine Mbakam, she will “just talk as usual,” describing what led her to this brightly lit room in a Brussels apartment.
FATHOM: DIR Drew Xanthopoulos. PROD Megan Gilbride. USA.
Have you ever wanted to introduce yourself to a whale? FATHOM follows women in the field of cetacean research trying to do just that and takes a deep dive into whale culture and our own.
THE FIRST STEP: DIR Brandon Kramer. PROD Lance Kramer. USA.
Brilliantly plotted and politically nuanced, THE FIRST STEP follows CNN commentator Van Jones’ trip down the rabbit hole as he forms an unholy alliance with Jared Kushner to effectuate prison reform legislation.
LFG: DIRS Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine. PRODS Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine and Abby Greensfelder. USA.
LFG is an inspiring and intimate documentary following the U.S. women’s national soccer team as it files a class-action, gender discrimination lawsuit against the team’s employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation.
THE LOST LEONARDO: DIR Andreas Koefoed. PRODS Christoph Jörg and Andreas Dalsgaard. Denmark, France, Sweden.
This intriguing thriller follows the story behind the Salvator Mundi, the most expensive painting ever sold ($450 million) after it is claimed to be a long-lost masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci.
LUCHADORAS: DIRS Paola Calvo and Patrick Jasim. PROD Phillip Kaminiak. Germany, Mexico.
Three courageous female wrestlers, Luchadoras, confront crises in their personal lives and present strength in their community of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where women are all too often abused, kidnapped or murdered.
MY NAME IS PAULI MURRAY: DIRS Julie Cohen and Betsy West. PROD Talleah Bridges McMahon. USA.
Betsy West and Julie Cohen (RBG) profile the remarkable Pauli Murray, whose legacy as one of the 20th Century’s great human rights activists and legal scholars finally gets the attention it deserves.
THE NEUTRAL GROUND: DIR CJ Hunt. PROD Darcy McKinnon. USA.
Comedian and satirist CJ Hunt (THE DAILY SHOW) is asking difficult questions about this country’s Confederate monuments. In THE NEUTRAL GROUND, he hopes to discover some clarity, by diving into history.
NO STRAIGHT LINES: DIR Vivian Kleiman. PRODS Vivian Kleiman and Justin Hall. USA.
This wonderfully immersive look at the history of queer comics celebrates the queer artists who carved out a space in the culture where they could see themselves and be seen by others.
NORTH BY CURRENT: DIR Angelo Madsen Minax. PROD Felix Endara. USA.
After the death of his young niece and accusations that the family might somehow have been involved, filmmaker Angelo Madsen Minax has many questions that won’t have clear or easy answers.
THE ONE AND ONLY DICK GREGORY: DIR Andre Gaines. PRODS Andre Gaines and Valerie Edwards. USA.
In this affectionate tribute guided by other entertainers, the iconic comedian and activist Dick Gregory finds humor again after losing it in anger.
PRAY AWAY: DIR Kristine Stolakis. PRODS Jessica Devaney, Anya Rous and Kristine Stolakis. USA.
Former leaders of the “pray away the gay” movement contend with the aftermath unleashed by their actions, while a survivor seeks healing and acceptance from more than a decade of trauma.
PRESIDENT: DIR Camilla Nielsson. PRODS Signe Byrge Sørensen and Joslyn Barnes. Denmark, USA, Norway.
Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe has been ousted, but the corrupt ruling party has already thrown their power behind a new candidate and, with democracy at stake, challenger Nelson Chamisa faces an impossible battle.
RADIOGRAPH OF A FAMILY: DIR Firouzeh Khosrovani. PRODS Bård Kjøge Rønning and Fabien Greenberg. Iran, Switzerland, Norway.
Filmmaker Firouzeh Khosrovani excavates and examines her parents’ marriage, which reflects the divide between traditionalism and modernization in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution.
REBEL HEARTS: DIR Pedro Kos. PRODS Kira Carstensen, Shawnee Isaac-Smith and Judy Korin. USA.
In Los Angeles in the 1960s, the courageous Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary challenged the Roman Catholic Church in an effort to reform its engrained patriarchal strictures – but at a considerable cost.
SEARCHERS: DIR Pacho Velez. PRODS Pacho Velez, Joe Poletto, Sam Roseme and Cathy Tankosic. USA.
Swipe right or swipe left? Such love-life-altering decisions are explored in Pacho Velez’s enchanting, poignant exploration of online dating apps and those searching for love in all the digital places.
THE SLOW HUSTLE: DIR Sonja Sohn. PRODS Marc Levin, Daphne Pinkerson and Mahrya MacIntire. USA.
After Baltimore Police Detective Sean Suiter is shot and found dead while on duty, the tragedy soon becomes enmeshed in a widening corruption scandal that threatens to unravel the public’s already strained relationship with law enforcement. World Premiere.
STORM LAKE: DIRS Jerry Risius and Beth Levison. PROD Beth Levison. USA.
For 30 years, in Storm Lake, Iowa, Art Cullen and his family have been publishing a Pulitzer Prize-winning local newspaper. But, with newspapers everywhere going extinct, how long can they keep it up?
THE STORY WON’T DIE: DIR David Henry Gerson. PROD Odessa Rae, Abdalaziz Alhamza and Martin Marquet. USA, Germany, Denmark.
In their homeland of Syria, artists are routinely tortured, kidnapped, imprisoned and killed. While in exile in Europe, their talents speak truth to power, help them heal and find joy. US Premiere.
SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED): DIR Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. PRODS Joseph Patel; Robert Fyvolent; and David Dinerstein. USA.
In 1969, the same summer as Woodstock, another epic music festival — celebrating American music and African American history — took place in Harlem, New York.
TOM PETTY, SOMEWHERE YOU FEEL FREE: DIR Mary Wharton. PROD Peter Afterman. USA.
Newly discovered archival 16mm footage is weaved with intimate interviews to create a love letter to Tom Petty’s touchstone album “Wildflowers” and an artist’s story of his struggle to feel free.
TRY HARDER!: DIR Debbie Lum. PRODS Nico Opper, Lou Nakasako and Debbie Lum. USA.
Welcome to the high-pressure world of the college application process. TRY HARDER! features a wonderful cast of stressed-out high school seniors pulling out all the stops to make their college dreams a reality.
WE: DIR Alice Diop. PROD Sophie Salbot. France.
In this fascinating slice-of-life portrait of Paris and its outskirts, filmmaker Alice Diop turns her camera on the “ordinary” people living in the shadow of the RER B train that traverses the city.
WHITE COAT REBELS: DIR Greg Barker. PRODS. Diane Becker, Greg Barker, Christopher Buchanan, Dr. Harriet Fraser. USA.
In this probing look inside the medical profession, filmmaker Greg Barker examines the outsized influence of Big Pharma and the courageous “white coat rebels” who are pushing back against the powers that be. World Premiere.
9/11: ONE DAY IN AMERICA: DIR Daniel Bogado. PROD Caroline Marsden. USA.
In official collaboration with the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, this documentary series take viewers through harrowing moments of the historic morning of September 11, 2001. AFI DOCS will present the first three episodes.
OBAMA: IN PURSUIT OF A MORE PERFECT UNION: DIR Peter Kunhardt. PRODS George Kunhardt, Teddy Kunhardt, Maya Mumma and Matthew Henderson. USA.
This multi-part documentary explores the journey of Barack Obama from his early upbringing to the 44th U.S. President, set against the backdrop of the country’s unfolding racial history. World Premiere. AFI DOCS will present the first two episodes.
WATCH THE SOUND WITH MARK RONSON: DIRS Mark Monroe, Morgan Neville and Jason Zeldes. USA.
Hosted by renowned DJ and award-winning artist and producer Mark Ronson, this docuseries explores sound creation and the revolutionary technology shaping modern music. US Premiere. AFI DOCS will host three episodes of the new series.
IN SEARCH OF OUR FATHERS (1992): DIR Marco Williams. PRODS Michael Rubbo and Marco Williams. USA.
Marco Williams’ searing seven-year journey to track down the father he never knew. Thirty years on, the film remains a brilliant and powerful evocation of the personal documentary form.
SINK OR SWIM (1990): DIR Su Friedrich. USA.
In this canonical personal documentary, filmmaker Su Friedrich returns to a pivotal childhood memory – her father has thrown her into the deep end of the pool to teach her to swim.
STEVIE (2002): DIR Steve James. PRODS Steve James, Adam D. Singer and Gordon Quinn. USA.
Following HOOP DREAMS’ huge success, Steve James began a straightforward film about the man he had once mentored as a Big Brother. To James’ surprise, he would end up making his most complex and personal documentary.