2020 festival films
And Still I Sing
Controversial Afghan pop star and activist Aryana Sayeed mentors young hopefuls as they prepare to appear on a hit TV singing competition show. As the show’s female contestants Zahra Elham and Sadiqa Madadgar are on the verge of their dreams becoming reality, the Taliban returns to power.
Angola Do You Hear Us?
The story of playwright Liza Jessie Peterson’s shutdown 2020 performance of her acclaimed play The Peculiar Patriot at Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary, America’s largest prison-plantation. The documentary examines what led to the shutdown of the performance, the material that confronted a system, and how the impact of Peterson’s visit rippled through Angola long after the record of her visit was erased by prison authorities.
Another Country is a Southern Gothic tale that’s partially autobiographical and fictional; it tells the story of an interracial couple raising their mixed-race child in the racially polarizing times of 1956 Mississippi.
Art & Pep
Art and Pep are the owners of the iconic bar Sidetrack, Chicago. And they’re also civil rights leaders who have been fighting for LGBTQ+ equality for decades, their activism is the focus of their struggle to live and love freely.
‘Battleground’ is an urgently timely window into the intersection of abortion and politics in America, following three women who lead formidable anti-abortion organizations to witness the enormous influence they wield. As the nation faces the end of Roe, the film also depicts those on the front lines of the fierce fight to maintain access.
BEING MICHELLE is an award-winning feature-length documentary film about a deaf woman with autism who survived incarceration and abuse and now uses her artwork to depict the trauma she survived and heal from her past.
Big Water Summer
Cherilyn grew up on her grandparents’ farm on the Navajo Nation. She has returned to grow produce for the community and is embarking on the biggest crop to date. Big Water Summer follows the farm over several months that don’t go as planned.
BODY PARTS traces the evolution of “sex” on-screen from a woman’s perspective, uncovering the uncomfortable realities behind some of the most iconic scenes in cinema history and celebrating the bold creators leading the way for change.
When a news publisher in Arkansas, an attorney in Arizona, and a speech therapist in Texas are told they must choose between their jobs and their political beliefs, they launch legal battles that expose an attack on freedom of speech across 33 states in America.
Emily Ford, 28, Black, LGBTQ, sets out with Diggins a borrowed female Alaskan Huskie sled dog as her companion and protector to hike the entire 1200-mile Ice Age Trail in winter. As the 69-day journey through subzero temperatures tests her physical and mental endurance, Emily and Diggins develop a powerful bond.
Caliefah is an entrepreneur and a single mother of three young kids. Growing up in Compton, she began her business first out of necessity, fueled by her resourcefulness. Upon discovering that personal products like soap weren’t available through the food stamp program, she saw an opportunity to provide for her family.
Inspired by true events, Carmen is a charming story set in a village in the Mediterranean island Malta. Carmen (Natascha McElhone) has looked after her brother, the priest at the local church, since she was sixteen years old. Now almost fifty, she is suddenly left to start a new life. Facing her past, Carmen brings color to the lives of the villagers in this compelling story about a woman finding her voice.
DANI’S TWINS captures the pregnancy and early parenting journey of Dani Izzie, one of the few quadriplegics ever to give birth to twins. While a source of great joy, Dani’s twin pregnancy is highly unusual and susceptible to an array of risks, ranging from blood pressure spikes that could lead to a stroke to the almost-certain likelihood of preterm labor. When the pandemic strikes, it raises the stakes for an already complicated pregnancy.
Sometimes, a crazy looking person enters the subway, and suddenly, a void is created around him. But what would happen if you chose to stay and treat him kindly? Perhaps, you would discover that inside him, there is someone who was once sane. Or maybe, you would discover, that deep down, we are all a little insane.
Fashion designer Amy Powney of cult label Mother of Pearl is a rising star in the London fashion scene. Raised off-the-grid in rural England by activist parents, Amy has always felt uneasy about the devastating environmental impact of her industry. When she wins the coveted Vogue award for the Best Young Designer of the Year, which comes with a big cash prize, Amy decides to use the money to create a sustainable collection from field to finished garment, and transform her entire business. Over the following three years, her own personal revolution becomes the precursor of a much bigger, societal change.
Fight or Flight
Fight or Flight chronicles the journey of the first female pilot employed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. She shares her story of how she overcame childhood trauma by taking to the sky. Drawn to flying as a means to flee her early life, she pursues a career in professional aviation and discovers she must first assemble the tools required to face her past and heal.
The Story of a grandfather’s quest for freedom and his perilous swim from China to Hong Kong with his young granddaughter.
Help Me Mary
Mary is a hospice nurse on the brink of burnout. When a desperate man with an unusual dilemma begs Mary for help, she’s forced to reckon with the thing she’s been avoiding: feeling all of it.
How to be at Home
Isolation can be daunting and overwhelming, especially when it extends over long periods of time or when it’s imposed upon us. While we all process loneliness differently, this is currently a collective experience shared across the world. With the hope that their moving work might help you cope with isolation, we want to present a unique and inspiring perspective from two Canadian artists who not only accept but embrace solitude.
Joyce Carol Oates: A Body in the Service of Mind
Joyce Carol Oates has remained intensely private, until now. After trying for 16 years, she finally agreed to participate in director Stig Bjorkman intelligent documentary.
Told by her daughter Wendy, MINK! chronicles the remarkable Patsy Takemoto Mink, a Japanese American from Hawaii who became the first woman of color elected to the U.S. Congress, on her harrowing mission to co-author and defend Title IX, the law that transformed athletics for generations in America for girls and women.
Civil rights legend James Meredith never fit in – not as the first Black person to attend the University of Mississippi, not surrounded by fellow activists on the Meredith March, not working for ultraconservative Jesse Helms or stumping for ex-Klansman David Duke. “Mississippi Messiah” is a nuanced exploration of Meredith’s complicated life as a public figure.
More Than I Want to Remember
Mugeni’s story starts with the sound of bombs when she awakes in the night in her small village in the Congo. Separated from her family at fourteen, she struggles to survive while also trying to find her family and maintain some stability.
Once There Was a Sea
Once upon a time there was a sea… Aral Sea. The sea that has vanished. And along with the sea, seaside life and work disappeared. Only the dead desert terrain remained here, and wrecks of huge fishing boats lying in the sand… and people who have been living on the shores of the dry port for years, dreaming of high water and longing to sail at least once again. A film about consequences of human decisions and actions, how they can affect daily life of one Uzbek town and its inhabitants. As the reporter Ryszard Kapuściński states: “There is no such nonsense a human mind could not invent.”
Pasang: In the Shadow of Everest
The story of Pasang Lhamu Sherpa, the indigenous trailblazer who battled racism, gender discrimination, and political opposition in her quest to become the first Nepali woman to summit Mt. Everest. Her courageous, tragic journey would greatly move her country, inspiring new generations to reach for their rights.
REFUGE is a story about fear and love in the American South. A leader in a white nationalist hate group finds healing from the people he once hated – a Muslim heart doctor and his town of refugees. Chris is a husband and father, a veteran, and until recently, a leader in the KKK. He started hating Muslims when the planes hit the Twin Towers on 9/11, but is forced to confront his hate when he receives a text from Muslim refugee, Heval. REFUGE illustrates the false promises of hate and reveals where real and lasting refuge is found. Where there is love, there is refuge.
Executive Produced by Meryl Streep, Sell/Buy/Date is a hybrid doc/narrative following Tony winning performer and comedian Sarah Jones. As a mixed-race Black woman in America, Sarah, alongside the multicultural characters she’s known for, explores her own personal relationship to one of the most misunderstood issues in our current culture: the sex industry.
Still Working 9 to 5
When the highest grossing comedy, 9 to 5, starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton, Dabney Coleman and Lily Tomlin, exploded on screens in 1980, the laughs hid a serious message about inequality in the workplace. Still Working 9 to 5 explores what has changed for working women over the last 40 years.
A timid engineer develops a wild and expressive split personality to help her speak up to the boy’s club at work.
Featuring an original new song written and performed by Mel Brooks, The Automat which Premiered at the 2021 Telluride Film Festival tells the 100-year story of the iconic restaurant chain Horn & Hardart, the inspiration for Starbucks, where generations of Americans ate and drank coffee together at communal tables. From the perspective of former customers entertainer Mel Brooks, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Horns, the Hardarts, and key employees – we watch a business climb to its peak success and then grapple with fast food in a forever changed America.
A behind-the-scenes look at the largest American flag factory in the United States where a tight-knit team of diverse refugees and immigrants from twelve nations cut, sew and ship 5 million American flags a year. These flags fly over our government buildings, hang in our classrooms, and are carried in rallies, parades, protests, sporting events, and funerals. This is a film about the people who make our flag and follows where those flags go.
The Great 14th: Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama in His Own Words
This uniquely exclusive oral autobiography is a profound and inspiring story for the ages.
The Quiet Epidemic
After years of living with mysterious symptoms, a young girl from Brooklyn and a Duke University scientist are diagnosed with a disease said to not exist: Chronic Lyme disease. The Quiet Epidemic follows their search for answers, which lands them in the middle of a vicious medical debate. What begins as a patient story evolves into an investigation into the history of Lyme disease, dating back to its discovery in 1975. A paper trail of suppressed scientific research, and buried documents reveals why ticks—and the diseases they carry—have been allowed to quietly spread around the globe.
The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks
This first feature documentary about Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks delves deep into her historic role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and her work both before and after this event. Through interviews with people who knew her, powerful archival footage and her own words, the film tells the story of Parks’ extensive organizing, radical politics, and lifelong dedication to activism.
The Return of Tanya Tucker
Decades after Tanya Tucker slipped from the spotlight, rising Americana music star Brandi Carlile takes it upon herself to write an entire album for her hero based on Tanya’s extraordinary life, spurring the greatest comeback in country music history.
The Seeds of Vandana Shiva
The Seeds of Vandana Shiva tells the remarkable life story of Gandhian eco-activist Dr. Vandana Shiva, how she stood up to the corporate Goliaths of industrial agriculture, rose to prominence in the ecological food movement, and is inspiring an international crusade for change.
The Smell of Money
A century after her grandfather claimed his freedom from slavery, Elsie Herring and her rural North Carolina community fight the world’s largest pork corporation for their freedom to enjoy fresh air, clean water, and a life without the stench of manure.
Three Minutes – A Lengthening
So long as we are watching history, history is not over. Three minutes of footage, shot by David Kurtz in 1938, are the only moving images remaining of the Jewish inhabitants of Nasielsk, Poland before the Holocaust. Narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, THREE MINUTES — A LENGTHENING explores the human stories hidden within the celluloid.
Ever since slave ships were followed by sharks across the Atlantic Ocean, there has been a deeply troubled relationship between the Black community in America and water. Porsha Olayiwola’s passionate and powerful poem “Water” addresses—in a torrential outpouring of rage—this systemic weaponization of water against her community.
Tula is the cleaning lady at a private school for girls. During her workday, she meets the headteacher’s fourteen-year-old daughter in the toilet. The girl is going to tell Tula her secret. Tula will have to decide whether to help her or not.
With This Breath I Fly
At the height of the international occupation of Afghanistan, two women – Gulnaz, raped and impregnated by her uncle, and Farida, on the run from an abusive husband – are imprisoned on charges of “moral crimes” by an Afghan justice system that is supported by billions of dollars of aid money from the European Union. Shot over ten years, With This Breath I Fly follows these two courageous women as they fight for their freedom against a patriarchal Afghan society determined to keep them bound to tribal culture, while exposing the complicity of the European Union in censoring their voices, and how the international press – and our documentary – forever alters the course of their lives.