AFI DOCS, the international documentary festival, has been held in Washington D.C. every summer for the past thirteen years. This years’ festival featured over 59 feature films and 27 shorts exhibited at seven different landmark theaters throughout downtown DC and Silver Springs, MD.
The ambiance was one of mixed intentions throughout the festival. There was the sentiment of entertainment that accompanies the joy that is the magic of film, but there was also a sense of pressing importance as socially and politically charged issues were abound in the films.
From the life of the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to gun rights to the immense pressures placed on high-school athletes, the films presented an extraordinary pallet of social and political issues to those inhabiting the country’s capital, raising awareness through film on the doorsteps of those in charge of policies in our government.
For instance, the film “Of Men and War,” directed by Laurent Bécue-Renard, tells the story of the effects of PTSD on returning American combat soldiers who had served in the Middle East, was screened at the Landmark theater, only five blocks from The White House!
As a psychology major in university I am forever conscience of the issues of mental health on communities, and with thousands of men and women coming home to their respective hometowns from tours of service, SO MUCH needs to be done in efforts to provide the proper support and preventative measures for these soldiers.
With each and every visitor passionate about at least one social or political issue, nearly all of the films drew crowds that, after the films end, were visibly engaged in politically and socially charged conversations. In that sense, the AFI DOCS were a great success, bringing to light innumerable social issues that need to be debated about, starting conversations that our government should have began long ago.
If only I had unlimited time, I would have undoubtedly watched every film and short. Nonetheless, the festival concluded Sunday night with a difficult decision to be made – should I see “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon,” or “Larry Kramer In Love & Anger”? One is the story of the renowned and crude-humored magazine, the other, the story of the historic writer and AIDS activist Larry Kramer.
In full disclosure, I chose to see the story of the National Lampoon. As a long-time Chevy Chase fan I felt that I had no real choice. Alas, the Naval Heritage Center on Pennsylvania Ave was packed with visitors anxious to end the week on a lighthearted note, and the film was fascinatingly informative and entertaining. I have not one ill word for any of the films screened over these five days, and I would be hard-pressed to find anyone to do so.