This year’s documentary festival features over 100 films, plenty of food and… Elmo?
By Joel Sparks
It’s summer solstice in Silver Spring, and that means it’s time for the American Film Institute and their partners at the Discovery Channel to kick off another round of AFI Discovery Channel SilverDocs Documentary Film Festival or just “Silverdocs.” In nine years, the event has grown into the world’s premier showcase for non-fiction films, drawing tens of thousands to see documentaries from around the world, plus an accompanying conference for industry types.
This year kicked off with “The Swell Season,” a portrait of songwriter Glen Hansard and his young partner Marketa Iglova. AFI President Bob Gazzale introduced the film and the week, particularly thanking Montgomery County for their support over the years. County Executive Ike Leggett, County Council members, and state representatives were on hand to accept his compliments and view the quietly charming film and its interlacing of brilliant folk-rock. Afterwards, National Public Radio’s Bob Boilen, host of “All Songs Considered,” conducted a talk with two of the film’s three filmmakers. Then everyone adjourned to the new Silver Spring Civic Center, a surprisingly pleasant space for a government office building, to enjoy an automatic FaceBook photo booth, drinks, mushroom caps, crab dip, jerk chicken, and an intense looped violin performance by local musician Matthew Hemerlein.
SilverDocs runs through Sunday the 26th, offering 108 films, and the breadth has grown to include something for everyone. Just a sampling: films on human rights struggles, the environment, and Al Franken; histories of rock bands, hippies raising an ape, and the Monterey Pop Festival; and personal appearances by Jose Andres, and Kevin Clash, the man who plays Elmo. Plenty of happy hours, receptions, and parties stud the week as well. See silverdocs.com for details.