For years, the only way to find the true-story docs that rock our world was to attend film festivals, where nonfiction tales thrive on schedules programmed by cinephiles raised on the movies of D. A. Pennebaker, Albert and David Maysles, Robert Drew, and other pioneers of the medium. Without fail, the highlights of Sundance, South by Southwest, or most any other fest, for that matter, are the honest-to-God stories no writer of fiction could ever cook up. Who would have believed a spelling bee could be as riveting and as heartbreaking as the one documented in 2002’s Spellbound? Who would have believed the destruction of an average American family would compel and confound us as it did in 2003’s Capturing the Friedmans? And who would have believed there were paraplegic rugby players speeding around in Mad Max-style wheelchairs, as documented in this year’s Sundance smash Murderball?
Now in its third year, Silverdocs, formed by the American Film Institute and the Discovery Channel, gets right to the marrow, showcasing nothing but documentaries. Among the 80 screenings at this year’s fest: the aforementioned Murderball, as well as films about legendary gospel group Sweet Honey in the Rock and iconic Hollywood specter James Dean. Silverdocs, with its six days of seminars and workshops and screenings, is a destination event for filmmakers who look through the lens to see the real world. In its first year, it drew an astonishing 450 filmmakers from 50 countries. You, too, can attend by heading to Silver Springs, Maryland, June 14 to 19. For more information on the event, visit www.silverdocs.com
— Robert Wilonsky
From the top: Last year’s Silverdocs event included an outdoor screening of Dick Rude’s Let’s Rock Again, about the Clash frontman Joe Strummer; documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles speaking at Silverdocs Guggenheim Symposium; executive producer Ed Norton with Dirty Work directors David Sampliner and Tim Nachash; the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center; rugby on wheels in the film Murderball.