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AFI DOCS Sets Special Screenings Lineup, Opening & Closing Films

AFI DOCS, the American Film Institute’s annual documentary celebration in the nation’s capital, has announced the Opening and Closing Night films as well as the Special Screenings for its 17th annual edition.  

AFI DOCS 2019 will open with the world premiere of HBO’s True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight For Equality, directed by Peter Kunhardt, George Kunhardt and Teddy Kunhardt, and will close with Raise Hell: The Life & Times Of Molly Ivins, directed by Janice Engel. AFI DOCS runs June 19–23, 2019, in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD.

This year’s program also includes five Special Screenings: Sea of Shadows, Chasing The Moon, American Factory, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am and Ruth--Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words.

“We found ourselves this year with a wealth of powerful films focused on the most intriguing individuals, from a crusader for justice in Alabama to a brazen political commentator in Texas,” said Michael Lumpkin, director of AFI Festivals. “We are thrilled to invite our audiences to share in the extraordinary journeys of Bryan Stevenson and Molly Ivins, two unique personal portraits that also explore the society in which we all live.”

The Opening Night screening of True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight For Equality will be held on June 19 at the National Archives’ McGowan Theater and will be followed by a Q&A with subject Stevenson.  The film is an intimate portrait of Mr. Stevenson--founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama--who has dedicated his life to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned.

The Closing Night screening of Raise Hell: The Life & Times Of Molly Ivins  will be held on June 23 at the Navy Memorial’s Burke Theater and will feature a Q&A with director Engel.  The film tells the story of Ivins, six feet of Texas trouble who took on “good old boy” corruption wherever she found it.

AT&T is returning as presenting sponsor of AFI DOCS for a sixth straight year.

Here’s a rundown of the AFI DOCS lineup:


TRUE JUSTICE: BRYAN STEVENSON’S FIGHT FOR EQUALITY:  DIRS & PRODS Peter Kunhardt, George Kunhardt and Teddy Kunhardt.  USA.  Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, has dedicated his life to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned.  He and his staff have won reversals, relief or release for more than 140 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row.  World Premiere.


RAISE HELL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS:  DIR Janice Engel.  PRODS James Egan, Janice Engel and Carlisle Vandervoort.  USA.  Molly Ivins was six feet of Texas trouble.  RAISE HELL illustrates how both sides of the political aisle were engaged and enraged by her sharp commentary and her understanding that “polarizing people is a good way to win an election and good way to wreck a country.”


SEA OF SHADOWS:  DIR Richard Ladkani.  PRODS Walter Köhler and Wolfgang Knöpfler.  Austria.  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. With fewer than 10 vaquita left in the world, time is running out.

CHASING THE MOON:  DIR & PROD Robert Stone.  USA.  This World Premiere utilizes a visual feast of previously overlooked and “lost” archival material to reimagine the race to the moon for a new generation, upending much of the conventional mythology surrounding the effort.  World Premiere.

AMERICAN FACTORY:  DIRS Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert.  PRODS Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Jeff Reichert and Julie Parker Benello.  USA.  This riveting story highlights the clash of cultures at a shuttered GM plant in Dayton, Ohio, which has been reborn as an auto glass factory owned by a giant Chinese company.

TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM:  DIR Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.  PRODS Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Johanna Giebelhaus, Chad Thompson and Tommy Walker.  USA.  The legendary writer reflects on her life and career through the themes of history, art, literature and race.

RUTH – JUSTICE GINSBURG IN HER OWN WORDS:  DIR Freida Lee Mock.  PRODS Freida Lee Mock and Meghan Hooper.  USA.  Relying on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s own words, as illuminated by carefully culled archival footage and interviews, Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock crafts an intimate profile that covers the full breadth of Ginsburg’s life, views and career.  Furthermore, Mock succeeds in creating a compelling portrait as authentic, poignant and powerful as the Justice herself.  World Premiere.

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