Films Programs

True Stories

At the beginning of Junior, one of the unforgettable documentaries featured in this year's festival, Eddie "Junior" Belasco uses a heavy-duty wrench to break open a basement storage room full of memories that has been closed off for 40 years. The moment serves as an apt metaphor for the documentary impulse that drives all of the filmmakers in the series: to uncover the most compelling, true stories in the world. The range of the stories is quite extraordinary: from the spine-tingling attempt to ski down one of the world's most dangerous mountains in Mount St. Elias to the courageous Brazilian drag performance group in Dzi Croquettes; from the endearing characters who inhabit the world of ventriloquism in Dumbstruck to the aboriginal coming-of-age story In My Father's Country. It's all here, from searing political/historical documentaries, to the most intimate personal stories.

The films, award-winners from festivals around the world, include five recently shortlisted for the Best Documentary Feature Academy Award (The Most Dangerous Man in America, Soundtrack for a Revolution, Mugabe and the White African, Sergio and Garbage Dreams).


The Art of the Steal   

The Art of the Steal
USA, 2009, 101 min.
The decades-long battle for control of the Barnes Foundation's near-priceless collection of impressionist art -- as waged by the city of Philadelphia against the collection's protectors -- is the riveting focus of Don Argott's documentary. Compulsory viewing, the film unspools like a thriller.... more



City of Borders   

City of Borders
USA, 2009, 66 min.
Set during the construction of the separation wall between Israel and the Palestinian territories, City of Borders documents Jerusalem's gay community's struggles to hold a gay pride celebration in the Holy City while the characters, and the country, contend with internal conflicts.... more



Cooking History   

Cooking History
Austria, 2009, 88 min.
Proving the maxim an army marches on its belly, this playful documentary inventively uses the field kitchen as a prism through which to view 20th-century European history. Winner, Best Documentary, Chicago Film Festival.... more



Dumbstruck   

Dumbstruck
USA, 2010, 85 min.
At the annual Vent Haven Convention in Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky, ventriloquism capital of the world, director Mark Goffman discovers five extraordinary characters straight out of a Christopher Guest mockumentary. But in this delightful, it's-all-true documentary, the characters are real.... more



Dzi Croquettes   

Dzi Croquettes
Brazil, 2009, 95 min.
Dzi Croquettes is a revealing documentary about a Brazilian dance and theater group resembling an all-male, 1970s version of the Ziegfeld Follies. Banned by the ruling military dictatorship, they used their empowering sexuality to revolutionize the gay movement worldwide.... more



Forgotten Transports: To Poland   

Forgotten Transports: To Poland
Czech Republic, 2009, 90 min.
From a forbidden love affair to participation in the Sobibor uprising, those who escaped Nazi ghettos, labor and death camps speak out, some for the first time. This is the final entry in a monumental quartet of documentaries that meticulously trace the history of these Czech Jews.... more



Garbage Dreams   

Garbage Dreams
USA, 2009, 79 min.
With no organized sanitation in Cairo, the Zabbaleen, a minority group in Egypt, have for generations collected and recycled the city's garbage. Now, suddenly, foreign companies move in, recycling ceases, and the three Zabbaleen boys have to fight for their families' survival.... more



The Great Contemporary Art Bubble   

The Great Contemporary Art Bubble
United Kingdom, 2009, 96 min.
The beginning of the 21st century saw an unprecedented boom in the contemporary art market -- then an unprecedented collapse. Documentarian/art critic Ben Lewis bounces around the globe, interviewing the art world's biggest stars and uncovering an extraordinary world.... more



Inside Hana's Suitcase   

Inside Hana's Suitcase
Canada, 2009, 90 min.
The delivery of a battered suitcase to the Tokyo Holocaust Museum launches a quest to learn the fate of the owner, Hana Brady. The voices of children from Japan, Canada and the Czech Republic telling Hana's story are woven around the dramatic search, creating a film of astonishing power and hope.... more



Junior   

Junior
USA, 2009, 77 min.
Eddie "Junior" Belasco, 75, and Josey, his 99-year-old mother, might make the most co-dependent and heartwarming pair since Big Edie and Little Edie of Grey Gardens fame. Jenna Rosher's touching, laugh-out-loud documentary perfectly captures their endearing relationship for the ages.... more



Kimjongilia   

Kimjongilia
France, 2009, 75 min.
N.C. Heikin's documentary gives long overdue voice to those who've suffered under Kim Jong-il's reign. The film maintains a furious tone as it playfully mixes interviews, dance performances, propaganda films and animation. The result is a devastating indictment of one of the world's worst dictators.... more



Learning from Light: The Vision of I.M. Pei   

Learning from Light: The Vision of I.M. Pei
USA, 2009, 84 min.
A revelatory documentary exploring the vision of I.M. Pei, the distinguished 90-year-old Chinese-American architect as he works on his latest commission, the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar, one of the most complex building projects of his long career.... more



The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers   

The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
USA, 2009, 94 min.
On October 1, 1969, Daniel Ellsberg began smuggling a top-secret report about the history of the Vietnam War out of a safe in his office and, ultimately, into the pages of The New York Times. This gripping documentary explores the profound political and legal consequences that followed.... more



Mount St. Elias   

Mount St. Elias
Austria, 2009, 100 min.
At an altitude of 18,000 feet, Alaska's Mount St. Elias is the destination for a trio of mountaineers determined to reach the mountain's summit, and to ski back down as well. Mount St. Elias documents their journey as they trek the fine line between bravery and madness.... more



Mugabe and the White African   

Mugabe and the White African
Namibia, 2009, 94 min.
The tribulations of white farmer Mike Campbell and his family in Mugabe's Zimbabwe are brought to chilling life in this riveting Academy Award-shortlisted documentary. After Mugabe's "land reform" announcement led to farmers being assaulted and chased from their land, the Campbell clan fight.... more



My Neighbor, My Killer   

My Neighbor, My Killer
USA, 2009, 80 min.
Since 2001, the Gacaca Tribunals in Rwanda have tried to reconcile the victims and the perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide; Anne Aghion has been there documenting things from the beginning. Here she shows predominantly female survivors confronting the men who murdered their families.... more



NoBody's Perfect   

NoBody's Perfect
Germany, 2008, 84 min.
The documentary NoBody's Perfect follows former R.W. Fassbinder assistant Niko von Glasow as he looks for 11 people who, like him, were born disabled due to the disastrous side effects of Thalidomide, and who are prepared to pose naked for a book of photos.... more



On These Shoulders We Stand   

On These Shoulders We Stand
USA, 2009, 75 min.
Not everything began with Stonewall. On These Shoulders We Stand is a historical account of early gay life and activism in Los Angeles told by the people who lived it.... more



Only When I Dance   

Only When I Dance
Brazil, 2009, 78 min.
Two teenage ballet dancers from the favelas of Rio are determined to dance their way to a better life, but to do so they must overcome prejudice, doubt and better-trained performers. This inspiring documentary follows their path to beat the odds and attain their dream of making it.... more



Sergio   

Sergio
USA, 2009, 94 min.
In late 2003, a bomb blows up the UN headquarters in Iraq, trapping the head of the UN's mission -- an extraordinary diplomat named Sergio Vieira de Mello -- and dozens of others inside. This expertly paced, Oscar-shortlisted documentary tells what happened on that fateful day.... more



Sons of Cuba   

Sons of Cuba
United Kingdom, 2009, 88 min.
Wielding their fists like pinwheels, nine-year-old Cuban boxers fight for national pride, Olympic glory and, most importantly, the love of their families in this poignant, riveting documentary.... more



Soul Birds   

Soul Birds
Germany, 2009, 90 min.
Boasting an exceptional visual style to match its elemental themes, Soul Birds from documentarian Riedelsheimer, observes the intimate relationship between human beings and nature in this deeply moving portrait of three children battling leukemia.... more



Soundtrack for a Revolution   

Soundtrack for a Revolution
USA, 2009, 82 min.
Relive the American civil rights movement through the soul-stirring folk songs that fortified protestors struggling for equality. This powerful documentary pairs modern renditions with footage from the bitter days of segregation and emotional interviews with the people who fought through it.... more



The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet's Struggle for Freedom   

The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet's Struggle for Freedom
India, 2009, 79 min.
With unusual intimate access, filmmakers Sonam and Sarin find a unique perspective on the Dalai Lama's trials and tribulations and follow him over an eventful year, including the 2008 protests in Tibet, the long march in India, the Beijing Olympics and the breakdown of talks with China.... more



Sweet Crude   

Sweet Crude
Nigeria, 2009, 93 min.
Ten percent of our oil supply comes from Nigeria, but few of us know the social and environmental devastation that the oil business wreaks there. This film exposes the corruption and the growing militant reaction to the politically irresponsible oil companies.... more



This Way of Life   

This Way of Life
New Zealand, 2009, 84 min.
Peter Karena, his wife Colleen, their six children and many horses live almost wild in the stunning beauty of New Zealand's rugged Ruahine Mountains. Until, that is, Peter's escalating battle with his own father has profound consequences for the whole clan.... more



Waking Sleeping Beauty   

Waking Sleeping Beauty
USA, 2009, 86 min.
Don Hahn's engaging look at the resurgence of the Disney company's animation tradition features head honcho (at the time) Michael Eisner, animation guru Jeffrey Katzenberg, Roy E. Disney, and future geniuses Tim Burton and John Lasseter, all holding forth on the company's slide and rebirth.... more



The Wildest Dream   

The Wildest Dream
USA, 2008, 94 min.
The Wildest Dream uses astonishing visuals to tell the intersecting stories of George Mallory, the first man to attempt a summit of Mount Everest, and Conrad Anker, the mountaineer who finds Mallory's frozen remains 75 years later.... more





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