Austin Film Society Announces Third Annual Doc Days, Oct 14 – 17 at the AFS Cinema

(Still from Todd Haynes’ new documentary The Velvet Underground)

Brady Dyer, Communications Manager

Austin Film Society Announces Third Annual AFS Doc Days Spotlighting Outstanding New Documentaries from Around the Globe

Including Opening Night Film THE VELVET UNDERGROUND by Todd Haynes and Centerpiece FLEE by Jonas Poher Rasmussen

October 14 – 17, at the AFS Cinema

September 14, 2021 (AUSTIN, TX)—The Austin Film Society announces Doc Days, AFS’s annual festival of non-fiction cinema spotlighting exceptional documentary work from around the globe, returns for its third year taking place October 14 – 17 at the AFS Cinema. The 2021 film program includes eight new documentaries from the festival circuit, all Austin or Texas premieres. The films are from the US, Denmark, India, and Hong Kong, and two films were supported by the AFS Grant program. Many of the selections in this year’s program will have live, virtual Q&As with the filmmakers.

Doc Days is a unique opportunity for Austin’s vibrant documentary community, filmmakers and audiences, to come together, see new work, and hear from filmmakers during live Q&As and discussions. Several of the films presented during previous Doc Days 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). 2021 will mark the third edition of the annual festival of non-fiction cinema in Austin. AFS started Doc Days at the AFS Cinema in 2018, in collaboration with AFS member Todd Savage. The festival was held for two editions, 2018 and 2019, before being cancelled due to the Covid-19 cinema closure in 2020. While much of the engagement with filmmakers will be virtual this year, 2021 marks an opportunity to bring non-fiction audiences back to the big-screen.

The opening night selection will be The Velvet Underground by acclaimed director Todd Haynes (The Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, I’m Not There, Carol), presented on Thursday, October 14, 7PM. Following the screening, Todd Haynes will join AFS Founder and Artistic Director Richard Linklater for a live, virtual Q&A. Through interviews with former band members and archival film footage, the documentary chronicles one of the world’s most enduring bands and their emergence alongside New York’s independent and experimental film scene. The Velvet Underground world premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival in July and has garnered overwhelming critical praise.

Several of the films will premiere in Austin after major success on the festival circuit. Danish film Flee will be the Doc Days Centerpiece presentation on Saturday, October 16 with director Jonas Poher Rasmussen joining us for a virtual Q&A following the screening. Winner of Grand Jury Prize at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, the animated documentary explores how the experience of being a refugee can shape one’s identity. Writing with Fire, directed by Sushmit Gosh and Rintu Thomas tells the remarkable story of India’s Khabar Lahariya paper, the women who run it, and the impact of their powerful truth-telling in the face of radical right-wing politics, centuries-old patriarchy, and class injustice. The film is the winner of both Audience and Jury prizes at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

Doc Days will also feature a special Science on Screen® presentation of Fathom, the story of two scientists who take us on a fascinating journey into their studies of humpback whale songs and social communication, with an in-person appearance by director Drew Xanthopoulos (AFS Grant recipient) and a special live virtual Q&A with Dr. Michelle Fournet, one of the two research scientists featured in the film. Science on Screen® is an initiative of the Coolidge Corner Theatre, with major support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Doc Days 2021 will also feature highly anticipated new films: The Conductor, an intimate portrait of Maestra Marin Alsop, the first woman in history to lead a major orchestra, with director Bernadette Wegenstein participating in a virtual Q&A following the screening; Dirty Feathers, a moving and sensitive document of the homeless community in El Paso, with director (and AFS Grant recipient) Carlos Corral for an in-person introduction to the film and a Q&A following; Inside the Red Brick Wall and Taking Back the Legislature, two documentaries that capture the urgent, visceral experience of the Hong Kong conflict from the ground, with a special guest introduction before the screenings and a voice-only Q&A with the filmmakers afterwards; and Cuban Dancer, a beautiful and expressive portrayal of a talented young dancer living with his family in Cuba, who must balance his dreams with his family’s desire to immigrate to the US.

A complete list of film screenings and descriptions can be found below and on our website.

Individual tickets will be released on Tuesday, September 14, series passes will also be available for purchase. Film stills and additional materials can be found here.

Doc Days
October 14 – 17
AFS Doc Days, our third annual festival of non-fiction cinema, features outstanding new documentary work from around the world with live filmmaker Q&As. All films are Austin and or Texas premieres.

The Velvet Underground
Todd Haynes, USA, 110 min.
Thursday, October 14, 7PM
AFS is proud to present a Doc Days Opening Night presentation of Todd Haynes’ The Velvet Underground: a look at the cultural, social, musical, artistic and cinematic forces that created one of the world’s most enduring bands, directed by one of our most singular American filmmakers. Far from your typical rock documentary, Haynes goes deep into the source inspiration of the sounds The Velvets would be known for, while tracking and connecting the band’s rise with and through New York’s independent and experimental film scene. Haynes weaves a cinematic portrait of a band that was essentially birthed and defined through cinematic ideas and images, using footage from the films of Andy Warhol, Jonas Mekas, Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger, and Shirley Clarke, among others; and interviews past and present with those who experienced the brief reign of The Velvet Underground. Our Opening Night presentation will feature a live post-screening discussion with director Todd Haynes (via Zoom), moderated by Richard Linklater.

Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Denmark, 83 min.
Saturday, October 16, 7PM
When we hear tales of migration or refugee flight, we often experience these narratives as starting and ending with the journey itself, the aftermath a sort of epilogue. The brilliant and beautiful new animated documentary Flee, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, takes an entirely different approach, revealing how the experience of being a refugee can shape one’s identity. In a film told almost entirely through animation, director Jonas Poher Rasmussen interviews middle school friend Amin Nawabi, an Afghan refugee, who recounts—for the first time—the full story of his escape from Afghanistan and eventual resettling in Denmark as a young teenager. This displacement from his home, and the discoveries he made about himself and his family over the course of a years-long journey, changed the young man’s life forever. AFS is proud to present Flee as the Centerpiece Film selection of the 2021 Doc Days. Featuring a virtual Q&A with Jonas Poher Rasmussen.

The Conductor
Bernadette Wegenstein, USA, 90 min.
Friday, October 15, 6:30PM
In 2008, Maestra Marin Alsop became the first woman in history to lead a major orchestra. Her inspiring journey from child violinist to sought-after conductor–passionate about opening the door behind her for other underrepresented voices in classical music—is chronicled in this beautiful film. The Conductor captures Alsop’s incredible musical powers through great orchestral performances, and offers great insight into the dedication, artistic drive, mentorship and altruism that guided her through extreme adversity and persistent sexism in her field. Featuring a virtual Q&A with director Bernadette Wegenstein.

Writing With Fire
Sushmit Gosh and Rintu Thomas, India, 92 min.
Saturday, October 16, 2PM
The women reporters of India’s Khabar Lahariya newspaper are a formidable group. Cooperatively running India’s only all-female news service, the women are all of Dalit (“Untouchable”) caste, or India’s lowest class. Many of them balance caring for young children in homes without electricity while traveling the country to shed light on some of India’s most pressing human rights issues. Writing With Fire tells the extraordinary story of the Khabar Lahariya paper, the women who run it, and the impact their powerful truth-telling has in the midst of the rise of radical right-wing politics and persistent patriarchy and class injustice. Winner of Audience and Jury prizes at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.

Cuban Dancer
Roberto Salinas, Cuba, 90 min.
Saturday, October 16, 4:15PM
The Cuban National Ballet School in Havana is where Cuba’s most talented young dancers prepare for and dream of a life on the professional stage. Alexis Martinez, 15, is a student who lives to dance, and dances to live; his supportive family shares his passion and supports his ambitions to rise to company status. When political forces begin to shape the family’s future, Alexis faces the possibility of immigration during a critical moment in his training. Featuring stunning dance sequences choreographed for the film by the characters, Cuban Dancer embraces the narrative and expressive possibilities of dance on camera; and is an enduring portrait of the challenges of immigration for a family determined to follow their dreams.

Drew Xanthopoulos, USA, 86 min.
Sunday, October 17, 1PM
Humpback whales are among the most majestic and yet mysterious of earth’s creatures. Time is of the essence for us to study and understand who these incredible mammals are, and what they are capable of. From AFS-Grant supported filmmaker Drew Xanthopoulos comes the story of two scientists on opposite sides of the globe who take us on a fascinating journey into their studies of humpback whale songs and social communication. With unwavering dedication and commitment to the scientific process, Doctors Ellen Garland and Michelle Fournet open up their process for the camera, revealing the incredible challenges and revelations experienced by field scientists on the road to discovery. A Science On Screen presentation, the film will feature an in-person appearance by director Drew Xanthopoulos, and a special virtual Q&A with Dr. Michelle Fournet.

Inside the Red Brick Wall with Taking Back the Legislature
Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers, Hong Kong, 88 min. + 44 min.
Sunday, October 17, 4:15PM
An urgent, visceral experience of the Hong Kong conflict, Inside the Red Brick Wall was filmed by an anonymous group of demonstrators who documented the two-week occupation of Hong Kong Polytechnic University in November, 2019 and the terrifying stand-off between demonstrators and the police. The film is an insider’s view of one of the most historic pro-democratic movements of our time. Following the screening of the feature-length Inside the Red Brick Wall, we will screen the filmmakers’ featurette, Taking Back the Legislature, which documents the July 1st 2019 storming of the Hong Kong Legislative Council Complex, which took place four months prior to the siege at the University. “[Sets] a new standard for immediacy and intensity in current affairs reportage” – Jonathan Romney, Screen Daily. The screenings will be preceded by a special guest introduction and a voice-only Q&A with the filmmakers afterwards. 

Dirty Feathers
Carlos Corral, USA, 75 min.
Friday, October 15, 9PM
Dirty Feathers is a lyrical journey in black and white through the long days of several members of an unhoused community in El Paso, specifically those who have been banned from a city shelter that is often a last resort for the homeless. Filming inside and outside El Paso’s Opportunity Center shelter, the film captures the realities and the dreams alike of the unique individuals who’ve adapted to an unrelentingly difficult life on the streets. Corral takes a spiritual and humanistic approach to the verité tradition in this notable poetic feature, his first. An AFS Grant-supported project, Dirty Feathers premiered at the 2021 Berlin Film Festival. Director Carlos Corral will be in attendance for an introduction to the film and a post-screening Q&A.

Special thanks to our partner, the Commodore Perry Estate, and to Todd Savage, Doc Days Programmer-At-Large and co-founder.

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.