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A Guide to SilverDocs 2009

A comprehensive guide to this year’s documentary film festival.

SilverDocs, the annual documentary film festival held at Silver Spring’s AFI Silver Theatre, returns next week with a slate of screenings, conferences, discussions, and a concert scheduled over eight days. More than 100 films are shown during the festival, and deciding which to catch (and which to skip) can be quite daunting. So we’ve come up with a trusty guide to help you out.

Below, we tell you about this year’s competing films (27 total), ticket prices, free screenings—we’re in the middle of a recession, after all—and some sure bets, depending on your interests. We’ve also included a list of some of this year’s more recognizable attendees, including directors, artists, politicians, and a certain boxing legend, because we all like to gawk at stars from time to time.

Competing Films | Tickets | Free Screenings | Our Picks | Stars and Special Guests | An Alternative to SilverDocs

Competing Films
Twenty-seven feature-length documentaries will be competing for a prize at this year’s festival. The three competition categories are: Sterling US Feature Competition, Sterling World Feature Competition, and Best Music Documentary. Below, we’ve listed all competing films under their corresponding category. For trailers and more information on individual films, click on titles.

Sterling US Feature Competition
Good Fortune 
Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter  
My Neighbor, My Killer  
October Country   
Off and Running    
The Philosopher Kings    
Racing Dreams  
She Is the Matador   
Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo   
The Windmill Movie   

Sterling World Feature Competition
Another Planet  
Blood Trail  
Cooking History  
Dancing with the Devil   
A Good Man  
Hunting Down Memory  
Mugabe and the White African  
Partly Private  
Sea Point Days   
The Sounds of Insects: Record of a Mummy  

Best Music Documentary
Intangible Asset Number 82  
Soul Power  
Still Bill  
Trimpin: The Sound of Invention  

Tickets to individual screenings are $10. They can be purchased online here or at the theater’s box office. We recommend getting your tickets online in advance as most screenings sell out quickly.

Festival passes for serious film buffs are also available:

The Conference Day Pass ($150) is one-day access to all conference programs, festival lounges, and happy hours.

The Silver Film Buff Pass ($275) grants you an invitation to the opening-night screening and gala, an all-access pass to daytime screenings (before 4 PM), and a voucher for ten screenings.

The Sterling All Access Pass ($700) gets you access to the Guggenheim Symposium, the opening- and closing-night screenings, and priority seating to all showings. You’ll also be able to attend any conference program or special event, including receptions and happy hours.

For information about special package deals, check out the festival’s Web site.

Free Screenings
In addition to showcasing feature-length documentaries, SilverDocs has a short-film program. Tuesday through Friday, a different collection of shorts will be shown for free at noon.

A free outdoor screening of For All Mankind, the 1989 documentary about the Apollo missions to the moon, will be held at Silver Plaza on Friday, June 19, at 9 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first walk on the moon.

Our Picks . . .

. . . for fashionistas:
The September Issue follows Vogue editrix Anna Wintour and her staff of editors and photographers as they put together the fashion magazine’s largest issue of the year. Curious just how right/wrong The Devil Wears Prada got it? This one’s for you. Friday, June 19, at 7:15 PM.

. . . for freaks and geeks:
There are bad movies, there are terrible movies, and then there’s Troll 2. Considered one of the worst feature films of all time, the 1990 horror movie has nevertheless attained a cult following. The documentary Best Worst Movie takes a look at the people who love Troll 2 and how the cast and director were affected by its initial reception. Friday, June 19, at 8:45 PM; Saturday, June 20, at 8:15 PM.

Grey Gardens, the documentary about the East Hampton estate where relatives of Jackie Kennedy Onassis lived in almost complete isolation for decades, screens Friday, June 19, at 11:15 PM.

A portrait of those people we always joke about becoming but secretly hope we never will, Cat Ladies looks at four women for whom cats have become an integral part of their lives. Tuesday, June 16, at 9:45 PM; Friday, June 19, at 11:30 PM.

. . . for foodies:
In Cooking History, Europe’s war history is retold through the eyes of a group of military cooks, who share recollections of battles and peace agreements in between recipes and cooking demonstrations. Wednesday, June 17, at 6:45; Tuesday, June 18 at 2:15.

. . . for sports fanatics:
This year’s winner for best documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, Racing Dreams comments on our nation’s obsession with racing—NASCAR, anyone? Filmmaker Marshall Curry follows three young boys competing in the World Karting national championship. Thursday, June 18, at 3:30; Saturday, June 20, at 11:15 AM.

In Facing Ali, the story of Muhammad Ali’s rise as boxing legend, is recounted by ten boxers, including George Foreman and Joe Frazier, who fought the heavyweight champion. Tuesday, June 16, at 7; Monday, June 22, at 8.

. . . for political junkies:
The collaborative effort of six documentary filmmakers led by AJ Schnack, Convention is a behind-the-scenes account of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. Wednesday, June 17, at 7.

. . . for music aficionados:
Democracy, religion, and pop culture meet (and clash) in Afghan Star, which tells the story of people vying for a spot on Afghanistan’s version of American Idol. Tuesday, June 16, at 7:45 PM; Friday, June 19, at 11:45 AM.

Trimpin: The Sound of Invention is the story of an usual type of artist—one who eschews conventional methods and creates melodies and artifacts using the most unexpected materials. Thursday, June 18 at 6 PM; Saturday, June 20 at 10:45 AM.

Stars and Special Guests

SilverDocs draws lots of directors, actors, producers, and industry insiders to Washington. Here’s a rundown of some of this year’s boldface names:

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali will make an appearance at the screening of Facing Ali on Tuesday, June 16. Muhammad Ali's appearance has been canceled.

The 2008 Democratic National Convention Committee’s CEO, Leah Daughtry; congressmen Chris Van Hollen; and US Department of Labor chief of staff Katherine Archuleta will be part of the discussion panel following the screening of Convention on Wednesday, June 17.

Albert Maysles, director of the 1976 documentary Grey Gardens—which recently inspired the HBO film of the same name, starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange, as well as the Broadway musical—is this year’s Charles Guggenheim Symposium honoree. Artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who collaborated with Maysles for his documentary The Gates, about the 2005 temporary art installation in New York City’s Central Park, will pay tribute to the director at the event, scheduled for Thursday, June 18, at 7 PM.

Former DC mayor Marion Barry will attend the screening of The Nine Lives of Marion Barry, which closes the festival on Saturday, June 20.

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