World Documentary Feature Competition
Ballroom Dancer, directed and written by Christian Bonke and Andreas Koefoed. (Denmark) – North American Premiere. In 2000, Slavik Kryklyvyy became the World Latin American Dance Champion. Enduring success seemed assured, but instead Slavik’s career sputtered… until redemption seemed possible with his new partner and lover, Anna. But will Slavik’s unwavering ambition prove toxic to their romance? Subtly depicting the pair’s shifting relationship through gestures, glances, and the dance itself, Ballroom Dancer begins as a comeback story and evolves into a movingly intimate tragic romance. In Russian, English with subtitles.
Downeast, directed by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin. (USA) – World Premiere. Gouldsboro, Maine. Hit hard by the closure of the sardine canning factory, its laid-off residents—mostly 70-year-olds—just want to get back to work. So why is Italian immigrant Antonio Bussone having so much trouble getting federal funds to open a new lobster processing plant? Charged with the spirit of a generation that still gives it 110 percent, this poignant and poetic documentary sheds new light on the trying task of putting America back to work.
Fame High, directed and written by Scott Hamilton Kennedy. (USA) – World Premiere. Scott Hamilton Kennedy’s follow-up to his Oscar®-nominated The Garden captures all the drama, competition, heartbreak, and triumph among a group of struggling students at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. From the nail-biting freshman auditions to the spectacular senior graduation performance, this endearing coming-of-age documentary is a tribute to discovering your passion and deciding whether you have the talent to take it to the next level.
The Flat (Ha-dira), directed and written by Arnon Goldfinger. (Israel, Germany) – North American Premiere. At age 98, director Arnon Goldfinger’s grandmother passed away, leaving him the task of clearing out the Tel Aviv flat that she and her husband shared since immigrating to Palestine from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. In this emotionally riveting documentary, Goldfinger follows the hints they left behind in a lifetime’s collection of documents to investigate long-buried family secrets and uncover the mystery of his grandparents’ painful past. In Hebrew, German, English with subtitles.
High Tech, Low Life, directed by Stephen Maing. (USA, China) – World Premiere. With the Chinese government employing 40,000 “internet police,” more than half a million websites are blocked in the country. Local TV stations only publicize “the good news.” The rising tide of censorship has aroused a wave of citizen reporters committed to investigating local news stories and crime scenes. This timely and probing documentary tracks rogue bloggers Zola and Tiger Temple as they risk political persecution to become China’s uncensored eyes and ears. In Mandarin with subtitles.
The List, directed by Beth Murphy. (USA) – World Premiere. After leading rebuilding teams in war-torn cities in Iraq, Kirk Johnson returned to America to establish and advocate for a growing number of Iraqi citizens now targeted by radical militias because they aided the U.S. in the reconstruction effort. TFF alum Beth Murphy (Beyond Belief) creates an affecting portrait of an unlikely but passionate humanitarian who has championed the cause of Iraqi refugees largely ignored by the U.S. government. In English, Arabic with subtitles.
Off Label, directed by Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher. (USA) – World Premiere. The term “off-label” refers to the use of pharmaceuticals in any way counter to their prescribed dosage and function. Weaving together the powerful, personal stories of misdiagnosed patients, professional guinea pigs, recreational drug users, and soldiers struggling with PTSD, Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher (October Country) expose the breadth of off-label drug use and take us on an emotional road trip through an overmedicated, misdiagnosed, and drug-addled America.
Planet of Snail, directed by Seung-Jun Yi. (South Korea) – North American Premiere. Deaf and blind, Young-Chan lives in a quiet, isolated world in his small apartment. But when Soon-Ho, an empathetic woman compromised by a spinal disability, comes into his life, a unique love story begins. Poetic and gently paced, Planet of Snail brings to life the sensual world shared by this special couple, and illustrates that the greatest beauty can be found in the smallest and most unlikely love stories. In Korean with subtitles.
The Revisionaries, directed by Scott Thurman, written by Jawad Metni and Scott Thurman. (USA) – World Premiere. Once in a decade, the 15 members of the Texas State Board of Education meet in Austin to revise the textbook standards for five million schoolchildren. Led by Don McLeroy, a Young-Earth Creationist and Evangelical Christian, the panel implements standards that will ultimately go into effect in science and history textbooks for schoolchildren across the nation. The Revisionaries is a galvanizing peek behind the curtain at the politicization of education.
The Virgin, the Copts and Me (La Vierges, les Coptes et Moi), directed by Namir Abdel Messeeh, written by Namir Abdel Messeeh, Nathalie Najem, and Anne Paschetta. (France, Qatar) – North American Premiere. In his feature debut, French-Egyptian filmmaker Namir Abdel Messeeh sets out to investigate the phenomenon of supposedly miraculous Virgin Mary apparitions in Egypt’s Coptic Christian community. But when the secular director faces opposition from skittish producers and his Coptic family, Namir turns the camera on his wonderfully smart-alecky mother and reimagines his film as a touching, uniquely hilarious portrait of family and heritage. In Arabic, French with subtitles.
Wavumba, directed by Jeroen van Velzen, written by Jeroen van Velzen and Sara Kee. (Netherlands) – North American Premiere. Mysticism and color reign in this stunning documentary steeped in the fishermen lore of Kenya. Revisiting a childhood fairy tale of a spirit-filled island with the magic to either bless or curse a fisherman’s journey, Dutch filmmaker Jeroen van Velzen explores his memories via Masoud, a real-life legend of shark fishing. His glory days long gone, Masoud relives his youth through grandiose stories told with swaggering pride and heartbreaking nostalgia. In English, Swahili with subtitles.
The World Before Her, directed by Nisha Pahuja. (Canada) – World Premiere. Weaving together the seemingly opposing stories of the Miss India beauty pageant and a fundamentalist Hindu camp for girls, director Nisha Pahuja illuminates the situation of women across contemporary India, drawing surprising parallels in the way women are perceived and the opportunities that are afforded them in both modernizing and traditional cultures. The World Before Her is a riveting, thoughtful profile of the fundamental contradictions of a country in transition. In English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati with subtitles.