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Silverdocs Documentary FF

Online Dailies Coverage of SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival taking place June 21-27, 2010 at the AFI Silver Theater


American Films In Competition At SILVERDOCS


Thursday, June 19------In just a few short years, SILVERDOCS has emerged as a major showcase of non-fiction film and video from around the world. As the Festival becomes more impressive, so to is the cache of winning an award in one of its several competition categories. With documentaries experiencing a little bit of a dip in box office success in the past year, an award from SILVERDOCS could be the imprimatur needed to make a film get noticed for both artistic and commercial potential.

This year, the Festival has divided its main competition strands into two sections: one for American documentaries and the other for non-fiction films from around the world. For this article, the focus is on America, where the renaissance of what has been called a "golden age" of documentary continues to expand the possibilities for subject matter, cinematic style and commercial possibilities.

This year, 10 feature titles are competing for cash prizes in the American Documentaries Competition. BULLETPROOF SALESMAN by co-directors Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein focuses on a supplier of bulletproof gear for troops and diplomats in the world's war zones. War is big business, especially for people in this trade. Fighting off charges of war profiteering and embracing the American reverence for captialism, this controversial film looks at the both the winners and losers when America goes to war.

War as revolution was the ethos of rebel icon Che Guevera. His image, which has adorned everything from t-shirts to coffee mugs, is an instant symbol of revolutionary fervor. In CHEVOLUTION, co-directors Luis Lopez and Trisha Ziff  look at the worldwide business that has grown up around the legend of Che, whose image has been a catch-all that has been exploited for profit and gain.

For those who survive the traumas of war, the fighting never quite stops. In FOUR SEASONS LODGE, by director Andrew Jacobs, a group of Holocaust survivors meets every summer at a bucolic Catskills bungalow colony. As the enter their final years, the film follows the feisty surviors as they cook, flirt, argue, dance and share stories of loss and survival, while the fate of their community remains uncertain.

Another provocative film about survival is THE GARDEN, by director Scott Hamilton Kennedy. Rising up from the ashes of 1992’s devastating Los Angeles riots is a 14-acre oasis in one of the country’s most blighted neighborhoods. The South Central Farmers created the garden to provide fresh produce for low-income people. Now, as bulldozers are poised to level it, the farmers won’t give up without a fight.

The inner city is also the focus of HARD TIMES AT DOUGLASS HIGH by the veteran director team of Alan and Susan Raymond. A year inside Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass High School shows how broken the public education system has become. An equally devastating environment is surveyed in TROUBLE THE WATER  by directors Tia Lessin and Carl Deal. The film weaves footage of  the city of New Orleans, just before and almost three years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Provocatively mixing footage shot by the directors with a camcorder record of local resident Kimberly Roberts tells an evocative story of survival and hope.

The struggles of life in contemporary Africa are the focus of two films in the competition. KASSIM THE DREAM by Kief Davidson tells the tale of Kassim Ouma, a Ugandan boy who was kidnapped by the rebel army and trained to be a child soldier at age 6. After a decade of warfare, he defected and began a new life in the U.S., quickly becoming a world champion boxer. In PRAY THE DEVIL BACK TO HELL, director Gini Reticker tells the inspiring story of the thousands of Liberian women who peacefully ended the war in their country that killed over 250,000 people.

Closer to home, HERB & DOROTHY by Megumi Sasaki tells the unlikely tale of Herbert and Dorothy Vogel, a postal clerk and a librarian, who are the most important contemporary art collectors you've never heard of. Finally, IN THE FAMILY by Joanna Rudnick offers a distressing dilemma. The 27 year old filmmaker has discovered via genetic testing that she will most likely develop breast and ovarian cancer. This information becomes the catalyst for life-changing decisions about whether she will take the pre-emptive step of having her breasts and ovaries removed. The hard choices that human beings must face as technology becomes more sophisticated is one of the potent themes of this controversial and provocative film.

Covering a broad spectrum of subjects, themes and stylistic approaches, the diversity of the US Documentaries Competition section point to the continued vitality of the American documentary film movement.

Sandy Mandelberger, SILVERDOCS Dailies Editor

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About Silverdocs Documentary FF

Sandy Mandelberger
(International Media Resources)

Online Dailies Coverage of SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival, taking place at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland from June 21 to 27, 2010.

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