Don’t Block the Docs Silverdocs is dead. Long live AFI Docs.

The festival formerly known as Silverdocs is now AFI Docs. We’re still trying to stop saying “Silverdocs.” We’re mostly failing.

It’s much easier to adjust to the fact that starting this year, Silver—damn it, AFI Docs—is a two-city festival with a metaphorical duplex in the ’burbs and an apartment in D.C. Most of the 2013 slate is now showing in multiple places: the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center mothership in Silver Spring, where the festival has been held since it began in 2003, and a smattering of venues in downtown D.C.: the National Archives, Goethe-Institut, the National Portrait Gallery, the Newseum, and the American History Museum. For District denizens who balk at the prospect of a trip to Silver Spring on the stop-and-go Red Line, that’s a big upgrade.

AFI Docs’ new dual citizenship might soften the blow of this year’s smaller slate of films. Starting June 19, the festival runs for five days, not seven, and its lineup has taken a big haircut—only 53 films this year, down from last year’s 114. Why the crunch? “This is a transitional year where we are basically expanding into a new city,” says AFI Docs spokesperson Jody Arlington. (Organizers expect the festival to grow again next year.) But a big factor is the loss of Discovery Channel, one of the festival’s major founding sponsors. When Discovery pulled its support, the fest turned to another sponsor, Audi, to help penetrate the District’s borders.

As for the actual films, well, they’re a little less glamorous than years past. Three of the fest’s four gala screenings skew toward an inside-the-Beltway audience, and one of them, Caucus, promises “a particularly intimate view of Rick Santorum.” Last year’s beefy slate of rock docs set a pretty high bar for music dorks, and this go-’round doesn’t match them in number, but it aims for interesting subjects: Look to The Punk Singer, a bio of Bikini Kill singer Kathleen Hanna, or Muscle Shoals, a story of the legendary Alabama recording studio. Social and policy issues remain a focus, like in The New Black, which examines how divided African-American Marylanders have become on the issue of gay marriage, and Remote Area Medical, about poor Tennesseans who camp out for days to get a rare shot at basic health care. Many of these show in both Maryland and D.C. this year.

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So we’ll forgive AFI Docs for playing it safe with the occasional Washingtonia pabulum, and just be happy that after 10 years, AFI Docs finally feels like a true D.C. film festival.

AFI Docs runs from June 19 to 23 at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, National Archives, Goethe-Institut, the Newseum, the National Portrait Gallery, and the American History Museum. See a complete schedule at afidocs.com.

Thursday, June 20

Openings

Schedule (Openings marked with **)

The Genius of Marian 3 p.m. National Portrait Gallery
If You Build It 3:30 p.m. American History Museum
The Crash Reel 8:45 p.m. American History Museum
We Always Lie to Strangers noon National Portrait Gallery

Shorts

"Truth be Told"
3:15 p.m.AFI Silver
Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution
Straight With You
 
"Life and Death"
5:30 p.m.AFI Silver
Slomo
The Other Dave
Vultures of Tibet
We Will Live Again
When the Song Dies

Friday, June 21

Openings

Schedule (Openings marked with **)

Mistaken for Strangers** 10 p.m. AFI Silver
The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear** 12:30 p.m. AFI Silver
Rent a Family Inc.** 2:15 p.m. Goethe-Institut
Remote Area Medical** 4:30 p.m. Goethe-Institut
Gideon's Army** 5 p.m.. National Portrait Gallery
The Trials of Muhammad Ali** noon National Portrait Gallery
The Crash Reel 7:30 p.m. AFI Silver
We Always Lie to Strangers 3:45 p.m. AFI Silver

Saturday, June 22

Openings

Schedule (Openings marked with **)

Life According to Sam** 11 a.m. Goethe-Institut
Our Nixon** 12:15 p.m. National Archives
I Learn America** noon National Portrait Gallery
The Genius of Marian 6 p.m. AFI Silver
If You Build It 10:30 a.m. AFI Silver
Rent a Family Inc. 12:45 p.m. AFI Silver
Remote Area Medical 3 p.m. AFI Silver
Gideon's Army 11 a.m. AFI Silver

Sunday, June 23

Openings

Schedule (Openings marked with **)

Anita: Speaking Truth to Power** 7:30 p.m. National Portrait Gallery
Mistaken for Strangers noon National Portrait Gallery
The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear 1:15 p.m. Goethe-Institut
Life According to Sam 1:15 p.m. AFI Silver
Our Nixon 5 p.m. National Portrait Gallery
I Learn America 11:30 a.m. American History Museum

Shorts

"Truth be Told"
10 a.m.Newseum
Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution
Straight With You
 
"Life and Death"
3:45 p.m.Goethe-Institut
Slomo
The Other Dave
Vultures of Tibet
We Will Live Again
When the Song Dies

Our Readers Say

Unfortunately, Metro is closing the Silver Spring Metro station the weekend of June 22-23, making it extremely difficult to commute between the downtown venues and the mothership.

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