Austin Film Society Announces Its Fourth Annual Doc Days Festival May 25–28, Spotlighting Outstanding New Documentaries From Around the Globe
(Still from HUMMINGBIRDS, directed by Estefanía Contreras and Silvia Castaños)
The 2023 Lineup Includes Major Festival Circuit Award Winners The Eternal Memory and Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project
April 20, AUSTIN, TX— The Austin Film Society is proud to announce its fourth annual Doc Days lineup, an annual festival of non-fiction cinema spotlighting exceptional documentary work from around the globe. The festival will take place at AFS Cinema from May 25–28, and individual tickets will be on sale as well as full-festival passes. The 2023 festival program includes 10 feature-length documentaries and a program of documentary shorts by female AFS-supported filmmakers. This year’s program includes the latest films by documentary veterans including Werner Herzog, Maite Alberdi and Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster, alongside a number of new names in filmmaking. The films come from Canada, Chile, South Africa, the UK/St. Helena, Mexico and Brazil. Many of the films in this year’s program will have filmmakers and special guests in attendance for in-person and virtual Q&As after their screenings at AFS Cinema. Many titles in the 2023 lineup were supported by AFS grants.
A complete list of film screenings and descriptions can be found below and on the AFS website here or by visiting austinfilm.org.
The Doc Days festival at AFS is an opportunity for Austin’s film community to come together to celebrate and discuss the art of non-fiction filmmaking with up-and-coming and established documentarians. Several of the films presented during previous Doc Days festivals went on to be nominated for Academy Awards® including Minding the Gap (2018), Hale County This Morning, This Evening (2018), Of Fathers and Sons (2017), and American Factory (2019). 2023 will mark the fourth edition of the annual festival of non-fiction cinema in Austin.
The opening-night film of this year’s Doc Days program will be the new documentary The Eternal Memory on May 25, written and directed by Maite Alberdi. The film won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentaries at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Alberdi was also the first Chilean woman nominated for an Academy Award® for her 2020 documentary The Mole Agent. The Eternal Memory is her latest film about the 25-year relationship between a famous Chilean couple, a journalist and an actress, overcoming an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Alberdi will join AFS audiences virtually for a post-film Q&A, and festival attendees will be invited to stay for a reception in the AFS Cinema lobby immediately following the film, which will include refreshments.
The closing-night film for this year’s Doc Days will be Going To Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, directed by Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster, which was the Grand Jury Prize US Competition winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Nikki Giovanni first came to prominence as a poet during the 1960s for her contributions to the Black Power Movement, and her poetry won her countless awards, including a Grammy and seven NAACP Image Awards. The film explores the life and legacy of Giovanni as a poet and activist, combining archival footage, performances and creative visual representations of her poetry. Both directors will be in attendance at this screening for a live Q&A after their film.
In addition to feature-length documentaries, the 2023 Doc Days festival lineup also includes a program of Texas Shorts. All five of the documentary shorts in the program were directed by women and supported by AFS grants. Among these films, three focus directly on the experience of Texans, some as local as Austin and others representing the Panhandle and US-Mexico border.
Doc Days will also feature a special Science on Screen® presentation of The Colour of Ink, which follows the stories of an ink maker, a cartoonist, a tattoo artist and a Japanese calligrapher who are all connected by this crucial resource. The screening will be preceded by a live scientific demonstration showing audiences the chemical properties of various inks. Science on Screen® is an initiative of the Coolidge Corner Theatre, with major support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
The full Doc Days lineup continues below, and a complete list of all film screenings is announced here and on our website at www.austinfilm.org. Individual ticket prices range from $11 to $13.50, and a full-festival pass is $95 for access to all 11 films. Discounts on tickets and festival passes are available for AFS members.
AUSTIN FILM SOCIETY: DOC DAYS FESTIVAL LINEUP
THURSDAY, MAY 25
The Eternal Memory
Maite Alberdi, 2023, Chile, DCP, 85 min. In Spanish with English subtitles.
May 25, 7 PM
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, THE ETERNAL MEMORY is one of the year’s most moving works of non-fiction. The love story between a famous Chilean couple — a journalist and an actress — has lasted 25 years, but now must overcome an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Paulina is determined to support her husband Augusto as he attempts to preserve and archive his memories, which are also the memories of a nation fighting an oppressive dictatorship. Directed by Academy Award® nominee Maite Alberdi (THE MOLE AGENT). The screening will be followed by a virtual Q&A with Maite Alberdi.
FRIDAY, MAY 26
Estefanía Contreras and Silvia Del Carmen Castaños, 2023, USA, DCP, 78 min. In English and Spanish with English subtitles.
May 26, 6:30 PM
A vibrant, impressionistic and timely film about coming of age in today’s Texas, HUMMINGBIRDS is the intimate story of two young Texas women on the border, best friends, one of whom is undocumented. What is today’s American story for these Gen Z women, who have experienced the criminalization of immigration and abortion? HUMMINGBIRDS is more than the answer to that question, a cinematic, joyful film pulsing with youthful energy and hope. Supported by an AFS Grant. This screening will be followed by an in-person Q&A with the filmmakers.
Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas, 2022, USA, DCP, 90 min.
May 26, 8:45 PM
A charming, lyrical and humanist verité film about a nudist campground in South Florida follows the stories of individuals drawn to this unusual community, and the dilemmas they face both inside and outside the “naturist resort”. By celebrated AFS-supported filmmakers Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas (PAHOKEE). This screening will be followed by an in-person Q&A with filmmakers Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas.
SATURDAY, MAY 27
The Tuba Thieves
Alison O’Daniel, 2023, USA, DCP, 91 min.
May 27, 12 PM
Perceiving the world without one of our key senses would be a feat of tremendous imagination. In this singular work of creative non-fiction, filmmaker and visual artist Alison O’Daniel challenges us to engage in an experiment with our personal experience of sound, and think about the ways hearing, or not hearing, constructs our human experience. Focused on the city of Los Angeles against the backdrop of a series of tuba robberies in the early 2010s, the film insightfully questions dominant assumptions about deafness. This film will be shown with Open Captions.
Jennifer Tiexiera and Camilla Hall, USA, 2022, DCP, 97 min.
May 27, 2:15 PM
SUBJECT explores the life-altering experience of sharing one’s life on screen through the participants of five acclaimed documentaries. As tens of millions of people consume documentaries in an unprecedented “golden era,” the film urges audiences to consider the impact on documentary participants—the good, the bad, and the complicated. This screening will be followed by an in-person Q&A with one of the film’s protagonists.
Milisuthando Bongela, 2023, South Africa/Columbia, DCP, 128 min. In English and Xhosa with English subtitles.
May 27, 5 PM
A stunning, poetic essay film that invites the audience on a journey to the aftermath of South African apartheid, and acutely reveals the enduring spectre of racism. Director, writer and artist Milisuthando Bongela recalls early memories of life inside the segregated Transkei region, and the hopes and dreams of a country eager to put apartheid behind them. Combining these memories and perceptions of her country with her deeply spiritual relations with family and clan, Bongela paints a complex picture of personal and national identity. A memorable work of creative non-fiction that has been celebrated at Sundance and New Directors New Films. This screening will be followed by an in-person Q&A with director Milisuthando Bongela.
Science On Screen®: The Colour Of Ink
Brian D. Johnson, 2022, Canada, DCP, 109 min.
May 27, 8 PM
Ink is such an omnipresent factor in our lives that many of us may not ever stop to think about its history, its chemical components, or its meaning. One person who has given all of this a lot of thought is Toronto ink maker Jason Logan. He brews, distills, concentrates and bottles his uniquely elegant inks for artists and printmakers around the world. In the process of his years of mastering his occupation he has collected and experimented with berries, leaves, rocks and even salvaged rust. Filmmaker Brian D. Johnson begins with Logan and carries his explorations around the world, from a New Yorker cartoonist to a renegade tattoo artist in the American Southwest and finally to a Japanese calligrapher. A special Science on Screen® presentation at Doc Days 2023, preceded by a presentation about the chemical properties of various inks.
SUNDAY, MAY 28
Theatre Of Thought
Werner Herzog, USA, 2023, DCP, 107 min.
May 28, 2 PM
Over his 60-plus year career, Werner Herzog has taken us everywhere from the farthest reaches of the Amazon rain forest to the uninhabitable ice ranges of Antarctica. Now, Herzog, with his characteristic humor and probing philosophical curiosity, takes us into the most mysterious locale of all, the human brain. Through interviews with researchers into human consciousness, artists, and the people working at the forefront of technology, he presents a Herzogian overview of the subject that will challenge and delight audiences.
A Story of Bones
Joseph Curran and Dominic Aubrey de Vere, 2022, UK, DCP, 95 min.
May 28, 4:30 PM
On the remote island of Saint Helena, a British territory where Napoleon was famously captured, lies some of the most significant historical evidence of the Atlantic slave trade. When environmental officer Annina Van Neel begins advocating for proper burial of human remains uncovered during the construction of a new airport, she steps into the fraught territory of a global reckoning with slavery. A riveting and powerful documentary about how we address history in our daily lives. This screening will be followed by a virtual Q&A with the film’s producer and cultural projects consultant Peggy King Jorde.
Going To Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project
Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster, 2022, USA, DCP, 102 min.
May 28, 7 PM
Inspired by the radical wit and vision of Nikki Giovanni, one of America’s greatest living poets, orators and social commentators — GOING TO MARS: THE NIKKI GIOVANNI PROJECT is a transcendent work of imagination beginning, first, in the present-day, the work hopscotches across scores of archival images to illustrate the complex nature of the artist’s mind. A truly vivid image of Black Liberation in thought and spirit, directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson (AMERICAN PROMISE, STATELESS) have crafted an impressionistic patchwork of American history, personal memories, and observations as variegated as the soul of Giovanni herself. Winner of the 2023 Sundance Grand Jury Prize. This program will be followed by an in-person Q&A with filmmakers Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster.
Various, DCP, 116 min.
May 28, 11 AM
These beautifully realized recent AFS-supported short films by women documentary filmmakers contain whole worlds within the scope of their brief running times, from a communist summer camp in 1930s upstate New York to the streets of Brasilia, to a tiny Texas Panhandle newsroom. This screening will be followed by a post-film Q&A and will feature the following short films:
Amy Grappell, 2022, USA, DCP, 31 Min.
KINDERLAND tells the story of two rival Jewish summer camps – one Communist, the other Socialist – founded in upstate New York in the 1920s and still in existence today. Camps Kinderland and Kinder Ring were established by secular Jews to inspire social-mindedness in their youth and have cultivated new generations of activists for nearly a century, helping to shape America’s progressive movement. AFS-supported project.
For The Record
Heather Courtney, 2023, USA, DCP, 35 min.
FOR THE RECORD follows what may be the last months in the life of the small-town newspaper The Canadian (Texas) Record. An oil bust in this once oil boomtown, coupled with wildfires more than two years ago that ranchers are still recovering from, have slowed the economy. A slow economy means less ad revenue for the paper, as businesses move to free advertising on social media. Can the paper, family owned and run by Laurie Brown, now in her 70’s, survive – and what will it mean to this small community if it ceases to publish. AFS-supported project.
The Paint Wizzard
Jessica Wolfson and Jessie Auritt, 2020, USA, DCP, 17 min.
The Paint Wizzard, by Jessie Auritt and Jessica Wolfson, follows Millie, a larger-than-life trans woman who recently came out, as she paints houses in Austin, Texas, and shares the struggles and joys of embracing her true self. AFS Grant supported.
Alejandra Aragon, 2022, USA/Mexico, DCP, 19 min.
A coming-of-age story about two best friends living on the Texas-Mexico border who embark on extraordinary journeys in 3D innovation and artistic creativity to heal themselves, their families, and their community. AFS Grant supported.
Men Who Talk
Cristin Stephens, 2020, USA/Brazil, DCP, 14 min.
Often touted as a paragon of diversity, Brazil’s relationship with race is complicated by its longstanding myth of a racial democracy. With heightened media attention to the violent policing of Black Brazilians in the past few years, this social myth has begun to unravel. Men Who Talk is an intimate portrait of Black men in Brasília, Brazil who strive to find their place in a hostile society. They meet regularly in the circle, a salve as a space to share, reflect, grieve and uplift one another. AFS Grant supported.
About Austin Film Society
Founded in 1985 by filmmaker Richard Linklater, AFS creates life-changing opportunities for filmmakers, catalyzes Austin and Texas as a creative hub, and brings the community together around great film. AFS is committed to racial equity and inclusion, with an objective to deliver programs that actively dismantle the structural racism, sexism and other bias in the screen industries. AFS supports filmmakers from all backgrounds towards career leaps, encouraging exceptional artistic projects with grants and support services. AFS operates Austin Studios, a 20-acre production facility, to attract and grow the creative media ecosystem. Austin Public, a space for our city’s diverse mediamakers to train and collaborate, provides many points of access to filmmaking and film careers. The AFS Cinema is an ambitiously programmed repertory and first run arthouse with broad community engagement. By hosting premieres, local and international industry events, and the Texas Film Awards, AFS shines the national spotlight on Texas filmmakers while connecting Austin and Texas to the wider film community. AFS is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. More at austinfilm.org.