Running June 18 to 22, the AFI Docs Festival brings the biggest, best, and most buzzed-about documentary films to theaters throughout the District and Silver Spring. You can take your pick of 50 feature-length films, 27 shorts, and 1 outdoor screening. (If that’s not enough, a retrospective of six films by award-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney starts right after the festival wraps up.) The venues showing films span the District and Silver Spring, including the AFI Silver Theatre & Cultural Center, the Downtown Silver Spring Plaza, the Newseum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Naval Heritage Center, the Goethe Institut, and the National Archives. Too much to handle? Here are the best documentaries for you to seek out.
Thursday, June 19, 9 p.m. at AFI Silver
Friday, June 20, 9:15 p.m. at Goethe Institut
Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a critical habitat for the endangered mountain gorilla, but poachers, civil war, and illegal oil exploration threaten its survival. Virguna follows park rangers and a plucky journalist determined to protect Africa’s oldest national park.
Shut Up and Play The Hits
Friday, June 20, 9 p.m. at Downtown Silver Spring Plaza
No band defined the sound of the 2000s more than LCD Soundsystem. The dance-punk group called it quits in 2011 after a string of hits and three critically acclaimed albums, but not before playing a big blowout final show at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Shut Up and Play the Hits splices scenes from their final show with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with frontman James Murphy.
Friday, June 20, 7 p.m. at Goethe Institut
Saturday, June 21, 2 p.m at AFI Silver
Abbie Evans is like most eighteen-year-old girls, eager to escape her parents and strike off on her own—except that she suffers from epidermolysis bullosa, a life-threatening disease that leaves her skin covered in cuts and blisters, as fragile as a butterfly’s wings. Butterfly Girl follows Abbie as she asserts her independence while dealing with the complications of her illness.
Saturday, June 21, 11 a.m. at the National Portrait Gallery
Sunday, June 22, 3:30 p.m. at AFI Silver
One day in 2008, unemployed Bronx resident Louis Ortiz shaved his goatee, and realized he bore a resemblance to then-Senator Barack Obama. As Obama’s star rose, so did Ortiz’s. Bronx Obama is equal parts funny, sad, and heartwarming as it tracks the ups and downs of Ortiz’s career as a professional Obama-impersonator.