"Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker" explores the life of the inimitable Booker, who Dr. John described as "the best black, gay, one-eyed piano genius New Orleans ever produced." "The Death of Kevin Carter," nominated for the Academy Award for Documentary Short in 2006, tells the story of the award-winning photojournalist who became depressed by the brutality he depicted and committed suicide at the age of 33.
The Guardian's Glen Greenwald, a frequent critic of the nation's "War on Terror," called "Dirty Wars," which examines America's covert wars in the Middle East under President Obama, "one of the most important films I've seen in years: gripping and emotionally affecting in the extreme, with remarkable, news-breaking revelations even for those of us who have intensely followed these issues." "Fake It So Real" is an engrossing look at the strange world of indie wrestling. There may be no tougher — and heroic — job than public defenders in the Deep South. "Gideon's Army" follows the stories of three young attorneys struggling to navigate a broken justice system.
It's hard to imagine American popular music without the influence of the "Muscle Shoals sound." "Muscle Shoals" features legendary producer Rick Hall as well as the musicians that made this sleepy Alabama town a mecca of rock and soul. "We Always Lie to Strangers" follows four musical families that have made their careers in hillbilly show business in Branson, Mo., the wildly successful tourist trap in the Ozarks.
"Our Nixon" is catnip for history buffs, constructed of archival Super-8 footage shot by Nixon staffers that was seized by the FBI after Watergate. It's a strange and intimate portrait of the White House in the years before scandal brought down the administration. The shocking story of state-sponsored espionage against the Civil Rights movement is revealed in "Spies of Mississippi."
Shot over a year in a remote town in Greenland, "Village at the End of the World" explores a community facing the threat of economic and environmental catastrophe through Lars, the only teenager in the village of 59 people. While the villagers try to reckon how to continue their way of life, Lars dreams of a new life far away.
"William and the Windmill" tells the story of William Kamkwamba, who rescued his family from poverty in Malawi by teaching himself to build a windmill when he was 14 years old.
Fans of HBO's "Girls" will enjoy seeing Christopher Abbott star as a strung-out writer trying to come to grips with a family crisis in "Burma." Young Brad is whisked away to a juvenile reform facility and finds himself in a "Lord of the Flies" style nightmare in "Coldwater." "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" brings Jeff Kinney's bestseller to the big screen. If you have kids of a certain age, this is a big deal: Stars Zachary Gordon and Robert Capron and producer Brad Simpson will be in attendance.
An ensemble drama in the style of "The Celebration" or "The Big Chill," "Good Night" tells the story of the boozy and heated 29th birthday party of Leigh, who has a surprise for her guests. "Hide Your Smiling Faces" evokes the style of Jeff Nichols and early David Gordon Green with beautiful, meandering shots of rural America and quietly emotional performances.
"Junk" offers a crowd-pleasing comedic take on the bizarre world of film festivals. Reality television gets a darkly satiric sendup in "Reality Show." A floundering history professor takes his estranged family on a reenactment of the Lewis and Clark expedition in "The Discoverers." From the producer of "Maria Full of Grace," and the director of "The City," "The Girl" takes place on the Texas-Mexico border, following a down-on-her-luck American woman and the young Mexican girl she finds herself taking care of. "This is Where We Live" is a portrait of a family in the Texas Hill Country.
The subtitle of "Wajma — an Afghan Love Story" is ironic — the first half of the movie is a lushly shot tale of puppy love, but when Wajma becomes pregnant, the story flips to an unflinching look at the horrors of a patriarchal culture. A warning: "Wajma" is not for the faint of heart — the brutality depicted is long in duration and extremely raw.
Talks and Panels
In "Zombies, Anarchists, Drag Queens and Wimpy Kids," husband-and-wife producers Brad Simpson ("Diary of a Wimpy Kid," "Boys Don't Cry") and Jocelyn Hayes ("Lola Versus," "The East") discuss the producing process, both in the indie world and navigating major studios. Bill Ross ("Tchoupitoulas"), Rick Rowley ("Dirty Wars), Lauren Wissot (Filmmaker magazine) and Philip Martin (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette) will look at how more artistic approaches to documentary filmmaking defy easy categorization between fiction and non-fiction in "Cinematic NonFiction: Not Your Parents Documentary Film." A distributor spotlight on Oscilloscope Laboratories will feature Joshua Fu and the directors of Oscilloscope's acquisitions playing at the festival: "12 O'Clock Boys," "These Birds Walk," and "After Tiller." In "Flip the Script: A Combat Soldier Interviews War Reporters," the panel of Christof Putzel (foreign correspondent Al Jazeera America), Brent Renaud ("Off to War"), and Dan Krauss ("The Kill Team") will discuss the challenges of war reporting with Sgt. John Fulbright, who did two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jeremy Scahill will sign and read from his book "Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield," the bestseller that forms the basis of the eponymous documentary at the festival.
David Riker ("The Girl"), Daniel Carbone ("Hide Your Smiling Faces," and Marc Menchaca ("This is Where We Live") discuss telling stories and making movies in flyover country in "Stories from the Heartland." Who better to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the raucous and magical "Making of Beasts of the Southern Wild" than Bill and Turner Ross, the wily brothers whose knack for playful observation made "Tchoupitoulas" a hit at last year's festival. Bill will be on hand to show and discuss two short films they made on the set of "Beasts."