Director: Jamila Wignot. US. 82 min.
Visionary Black choreographer Alvin Ailey was a pioneer of modern dance, infusing the art-form with the rich history of the African American experience and “a discourse on freedom… and soaring delights,” as author Zadie Smith once wrote. In this poetic documentary, director Jamila Wignot gracefully weaves together a tapestry of past and present, of archival footage from Ailey’s small-town Texas roots and rising career in New York City, along with a vast trove of his moving masterpieces. What emerges is a complex and impressionistic picture of a determined figure, whose powerful dance pieces revealed more about his personal struggles and triumphs than any words could describe. “A tour de force of archival assemblage” that “tells his life story with searing intimacy but also jubilant solidarity” (Filmmaker Magazine), Ailey is “tantalizing… poetic… [and] powerfully evocative” (Variety).
ALL THESE SONS
Directors: Bing Liu and Joshua Altman. US. 88 min.
What will it take to break the cycles of violence in Chicago’s South and West sides? William “Billy” Moore (of Green ReEntry) and Marshall Hatch Jr. (co-founder of MAAFA Redemption Project) are both leaders helping young men at risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of gun violence in their respective communities. But as everyone knows: There are no easy solutions. Like their stirring Oscar-nominated documentary Minding the Gap, Chicago filmmakers Bing Liu and Joshua Altman unflinchingly lay bare masculinity in crisis, an array of intractable social conditions that are near impossible to shake, and yet the hope and inspiration that can emerge from mutual struggle and brotherhood. Intimate, heartbreaking, deftly edited, and deeply compassionate, All These Sons is a stunning and candid portrait of generations of men looking to lift themselves up.
DEAR MR. BRODY
Director: Keith Maitland. US. 96 min.
In January 1970, “hippie-millionaire” Michael Brody Jr., the 21-year-old heir to a margarine fortune, announced to the world that he would give away $25 million to anyone in need. But what at first appeared to be a magnanimous gesture of peace and love turned out to be far more complex. In this wildly entertaining stranger-than-fiction chronicle of Brody’s story, and the thousands of people who wrote pleading letters to him, award-winning director Keith Maitland (Tower) reveals a moving story of one man’s misguided attempts to change the world and a deeply resonant look at the desires, misfortunes, and dreams of Americans looking for help in troubled times. “Enlightening… poignant” (Indiewire) and “wonderfully strange, funny, and dark” (The Playlist), Dear Mr. Brody is “incredibly powerful… with an energetic visual style” (RogerEbert.com) and “offers a surprising statement on American hope, endurance, and goodwill” (The Hollywood Reporter).
IN THE SAME BREATH
Director: Nanfu Wang. US. 99 min.
In her third visit to Doc10 (after award-winners Hooligan Sparrow and One Child Nation), indomitable filmmaker Nanfu Wang has made another piercing story of political and emotional weight, and perhaps the most important documentary of the year. In tracing the spread of the pandemic from the earliest days of the outbreak in Wuhan to its rampage across the U.S., Wang investigates the troubling campaigns of misinformation and propaganda in both China and Trump’s America, while also bearing her own and others’ intimate stories of fear, devastation, and resilience. In doing so, she ultimately reveals one of the destructive casualties of the pandemic: truth. “Shocking and heartrending” (The Guardian) and “a chilling, truly absorbing film” (Vox), In the Same Breath is “a must-see for its expansive, heartfelt perspective on this worldwide catastrophe” (RogerEbert.com).
MY NAME IS PAULI MURRAY
Directors: Julie Cohen and Betsy West. US. 91 min.
“America, be what you proclaim yourself to be!” Such are the activist and aspirational words of Pauli Murray, the most extraordinary feminist non-binary Black civil rights lawyer, poet, and priest you may have never heard of. In this timely follow-up to their Oscar-nominated film RBG, directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West chronicle the life of another inspiring progressive icon. Told through Murray’s own potent words, this powerful documentary follows the trailblazer’s lifelong moral crusade of social justice litigation and breaking barriers—against segregation and discrimination in America—all the while enduring poignant personal struggles around gender and racial identity. An “intricately crafted” (Variety) and “engrossing… tender… rich portrait” (RogerEbert.com), this essential “diligently assembled, absorbing film [is] destined to win hearts, minds and audiences” (Screen International).
ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BORDAIN
Director: Morgan Neville. US. 118 min.
From Academy Award® winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (Won't You Be My Neighbor?, 20 Feet From Stardom) comes this penetrating and entertaining look at the extraordinary life of the late storyteller, explorer, and chef Anthony Bourdain (Parts Unknown). With empathy, insight, and culled from a trove of priceless archival material, Neville creates a moving mosaic of the charismatic bad-boy chef's rise to fame, his generous humanity and infectious wanderlust, and the personal demons he fought along the way.
SUMMER OF SOUL (...OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED)
Director: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. US. 117 min.
In his acclaimed debut as a filmmaker, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (the Roots) presents a powerful and transporting documentary created around an epic event that celebrated Black culture and fashion. In the summer of 1969, just one hundred miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Marcus Garvey Park. But the footage was never seen and largely forgotten – until now. Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance, SUMMER OF SOUL (...OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED) shines a spotlight on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and the healing power of music during times of unrest, both past and present. With candid footage of the people who came to listen and never-before-seen concert performances by Mavis Staples, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension and more, SUMMER OF SOUL is both a vibrant music film and a vital snapshot of an inspiring moment in time.
Director: Kristine Stolakis. US. 104 min.
In this eye-opening and compassionate exposé into the “pray the gay away” movement, filmmaker Kristine Stolakis reveals the elaborate machinations, rationalizations, and hypocrisies of conversion therapy and its devastating reach. By gaining remarkable access to founders of the Evangelical ministry Exodus and other “ex-gay” spokespeople, Stolakis goes behind the scenes of the movement’s enduring legacy across America’s culture wars over the last four decades and how it continues to destroy lives. Once stars of the Religious Right, former leaders like John Paulk, Julie Rodgers, Yvette Cantu Schneider, and survivor Julie Rodgers all recount their most intimate and painful journeys from “going straight” and self-loathing to their eventual rejection of the manipulations of psychology and faith they once preached. “Powerful, gripping” (The Hollywood Reporter) and "a profoundly moving, heartbreaking examination… it might be the must-watch movie of the year” (The Playlist).
Director: Hogir Hirori. Sweden. 91 min.
Set in northeastern Syria, this gripping docu-thriller chronicles the adventures of Mahmud and his intrepid team of human rights activists as they rescue women and girls being held by members of ISIS inside a vast Kurdish-run prison camp. Complete with car chases and arson attacks, the stakes couldn’t be higher. While ISIS sympathizers violently try to thwart their efforts, Mahmud sends a group of burka-clad women clandestinely into the dangerous camp to find those still stuck inside. Winner of a Directing Award in this year’s Sundance’s World Documentary Competition, Kurdish filmmaker Hogir Hirori’s masterful and immersive documentary is “startling, intense” (Variety), “impressively exciting and strikingly novel” (The Hollywood Reporter), and "a harrowing portrait of courage under fire that will shake audiences into awareness.” (RogerEbert.com).
Director: Natalia Almada. US. 81 min.
Winner of Sundance’s Best Directing Award, acclaimed filmmaker Natalia Almada’s latest film is a personal and hypnotic meditation on the omnipresence of technology in our lives. From the electronic crib that robotically rocks her young son to sleep perfectly every time to the underwater cables that keep us precariously connected across the earth, Almada expresses her anxieties about our modern world, one that is highly advanced and yet dangerously out of balance. “A fully sensory experience” (Indiewire) with “astounding photography” (Variety) and an entrancing soundtrack created in Atmos surround sound with original music by the Kronos Quartet, this cinematic experience evokes the nonfiction work of Godfrey Reggio (the Qatsi trilogy) and Jennifer Baichwal (Anthropocene: The Human Epoch) with a more intimate confessional lens. “Lyrical... elegant… and chilling”... Users is a “mesmerizing exploration of how technology is transforming the ways we relate to the natural world” (Vox).