Documentary slate also features American Factory, One Child Nation, The Apollo and more
AFI Fest, the prestigious eight-day festival mounted by the American Film Institute, gets underway tonight in Hollywood, with the first documentary screenings set for Friday.
Described by the Los Angeles Times as LA's "dominant local festival," the event features more than a dozen prominent nonfiction films, along with narrative work from the likes of Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Clint Eastwood (Richard Jewell) and Tom Hooper (The Aeronauts).
Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney brings his latest documentary, Citizen K, to the festival on Friday. It centers on exiled Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who once enjoyed favor with the Kremlin but later ran afoul of Vladimir Putin.
He's a very intriguing figure.
"He's a very intriguing figure," Gibney tells Nonfictionfilm.com. "It struck me that his story would be a very interesting way of talking about Russia, about how power works in Russia. Also, what's in a way a personal version of what Russia's been through since the end of Communism."
Citizen K opens in theaters on November 22.
Also on the AFI Fest slate is One Child Nation, the documentary by Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang that explores China's brutal enforcement of its one child policy. It won the top prize in U.S. documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.
Another award-winning film, American Factory, screens at AFI Fest on Saturday. The documentary by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert explores the cross-cultural challenges that emerged when a Chinese auto glass company set up shop in an abandoned GM plant in Dayton, Ohio.
Bognar, Reichert, Wang, and Gibney are all expected to be on hand at AFI Fest to represent their films. So will Feras Fayyad, director of The Cave, the Syrian filmmaker's documentary about a heroic woman physician working in the outskirts of Damascus. As Dr. Amani Ballour struggles to treat the injured in Syria's bloody civil war, she faces sexist elements in her society who think a woman's place is not running a hospital.
"She's the first female doctor to lead a hospital in the history of Syria," Fayyad tells Nonfictionfilm.com. "It's never happened before and this is surprising."
Award-winning director Lauren Greenfield will appear at AFI Fest Sunday evening on behalf of her documentary The Kingmaker, a portrait of former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos. Over the course of making the film, Greenfield discovered the extent to which Marcos was intent on reestablishing her family's political power in the Philippines, more than three decades after she and her husband, President Ferdinand Marcos, were chased out of the country in the midst of the People's Power Revolution.
The Apollo, directed by Oscar winner Roger Ross Williams, screens on Sunday afternoon. His film recounts the history of the famed theater in Harlem and its continuing influence on American culture.
On Saturday afternoon AFI Fest will host a documentary roundtable discussion with leading nonfiction filmmakers, including Williams, Greenfield, Wang, Fayyad, Bognar and Gibney. Joining them will be Waad Al-Kateab, director of For Sama, and Eva Orner, director of Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator. Amy Kaufman of the LA Times will moderate.
AFI Fest runs from November 14-21. For the full lineup of documentary films at the festival, click here.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.