Festival Year: 2020

Never Too Late: The Doc Severinsen Story
Kevin S. Bright, Jeff Consiglio

For three decades, bandleader and master trumpeter Doc Severinsen was a mainstay of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Treasured for his exceptional talent, he is equally remembered for his eccentric outfits and charismatic banter with the show’s beloved host. Now in his nineties, and still performing and teaching, Severinsen lights up this radiant film about his life and career, which weaves together archival footage; recollections from friends, family, and fans; and intimate conversations with the man himself, whose passion for music remains evergreen.

Oliver Sacks: His Own Life
Ric Burns

Through interviews, immaculate archival materials, and direct access, a spirited tribute to esteemed neurologist and author Oliver Sacks emerges. The film spans the story of Sacks’s life from birth to his battle with terminal cancer, profoundly weaving personal and professional endeavors into a celebration of his numerous groundbreaking contributions to science and society.

The Painter and the Thief
Benjamin Ree

After two works by Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova are stolen from her solo show in Norway, the police find the thieves, but not the paintings. At the trial, Kysilkova forges a connection with one of the defendants when she asks him to pose for a portrait. As the two confront the complications of their pasts and presents, their precarious friendship evolves in unexpected ways.

Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack
Deborah Shaffer

This vibrant study of painter and sculptor Audrey Flack tracks a career that trailblazed through an artworld designed for men. The octogenarian artist reflects on her expansive body of work and the struggles she faced balancing her talent and ambition with her role as a wife and mother.

Hannes Lang

Farmers and shepherds in the Alps rely on a distinct communication style, a steady stream of call and response that echoes off the mountainsides. A condensed pictorial symphony, this short offers a glimpse into a blissful form of connection far removed from the reaches of technology.

Denize Galiao

In this short, sensitive personal essay, a Brazilian-born filmmaker grapples with the physical, and emotional, distance between her life in Germany and her family back at home. Saudade, a Portuguese word that cannot be translated into any other language, is the thread that ties familial generations together and explores what it means to long for home.

Saudi Runaway
Susanne Regina Meures

Stifled by the life of a woman in an oppressive country, Muna decides that she must leave Saudi Arabia. Communicating remotely with director Susanne Regina Meures, whom she met in a chat room, Muna uses cell phones to document her escape plans as they unfold in this gripping film that presents a portrait of desperate circumstances and daring actions.

Sing Me a Song
Thomas Balmès

A young monk in the remote mountain village of Laya, Bhutan, the last place in the country to receive access to the internet and television, finds himself addicted to his smartphone and in a virtual relationship with a singer in Thimphu, the capital city. In this moving and nuanced portrayal of technology infiltrating tradition, Sing Me a Song balances its message about the greater ramifications of these new influences with tender portraits of personal growth.

Sam Soko

Affable and spirited Boniface Mwangi (nicknamed “Softie”) is running for political office in Kenya. Through longitudinal access to the election’s lead-up and Softie’s life at home, this beautifully edited journey engages with what it means for a man of integrity to choose between fighting for country or for family. The film excels in illustrating the joys and pains of an activist’s push for real change.

Spaceship Earth
Matt Wolf

Biosphere 2, conceived as a self-sustaining laboratory mimicking Earth’s ecology and resources, was a massive geodesic enclosure built in the Arizona desert. In 1991, an eight-person crew of “biospherians” undertook a two-year experiment to live inside the dome. Part science-fiction, part co-op—and inadvertent precursor to reality television—the experiment yielded unexpected results both inside and outside the bubble.

Spit on the Broom
Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich

Tracing its roots and operations to the Underground Railroad, the United Order of Tents remains a secret organization of African American women who offer support and aid to their communities and to one another. Featuring members of the Tents as well as actors, this short film creatively reflects on the group’s history of service, which has remained a powerful, clandestine force for nearly two centuries.

Then Comes the Evening
Maja Novaković

Two aging women on a farm in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina live a simple but idyllic life of hard work and immense care for each other and for the land. With a combination of pristine landscape shots and sparse dialogue, this richly textured short preserves an irreplaceable heritage.

A Thousand Cuts
Ramona S. Diaz

A Thousand Cuts examines current events in the Philippines, where President Duterte’s war on drugs has resulted in the murders of thousands. With staggering access, the film juxtaposes the stories of two political candidates who support Duterte’s administration with the intrepid work of journalist Maria Ressa and her team at the online news site Rappler, who report the facts in a climate where the truth, and those who expose it, are both under fire.

Garrett Bradley

Rendered in evocative black and white, this intimate and artfully shaped documentary follows Fox Rich, who, during desperate times, took part in the attempted robbery of a Shreveport, Louisiana, credit union with her husband, Rob. Released after three years, Fox returns home to raise their sons and take on the relentless fight for Rob’s release, shooting home videos for him while becoming a formidable advocate and entrepreneur.

Elaine McMillion Sheldon

This short film follows inmates at Alabama’s notorious Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women as they prepare to give birth. With the support of a group of doulas, and one another, they navigate pregnancy, labor, and the profound loss of being separated from their newborns.

Two Gods
Zeshawn Ali

In striking black and white, this exquisitely shot film tells the story of a Muslim casket maker and ritual body washer in Newark, NJ. As he mentors two young men in his community, seeking to set them on paths towards better lives, he works to come to terms with decisions he made in the past.

Up At Night
Nelson Makengo

Nighttime Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is often illuminated solely by thousands of portable LED lights. With the power often cut out, people have found a way to improvise. In this visually layered experimental short, three screens reflect a city filled with political strife and violence, and people who are primed to resist their circumstances.

Us Kids
Kim Snyder

In the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, in 2018, students come together to speak out against gun violence. Grieving but refusing to stay silent, they spark a national movement to hold public officials accountable for their inaction and demand legislative reform.