The documentary film festival formerly known as Silverdocs, AFI Docs presented by Audi, gets under way tonight at the Newseum's Annenberg Theater with an opening-night premiere of "Letters to Jackie," a film about the worldwide condolences Jackie Kennedy received in the wake of President John F. Kennedy's assassination.
The rechristened festival is expanding beyond its Silver Spring, Md., Silver Theater campus into several venues at Penn Quarter and has shortened its schedule and slate of films, as well as changed some of its emphasis from filmmaker education to filmmaker political engagement.
The transition hasn't been without a few bumps and grumbling, as Ann Hornaday details in today's Washington Post. "What had grown into a bustling, camplike confab of kibbitzing filmmakers and sold-out screenings in Silver Spring theaters threatens to disperse into something far less intimate in D.C.'s Penn Quarter," Hornaday relays, explaining that festival director Sky Sitney and her engaging style has helped assuage the concerns of "even the harshest naysayers."
The Washington City Paper's latest issue also gets into some of the difficulties with the transition this year.
Speaking from personal experience, Sitney is indeed a great ambassador for the festival and certainly had a herculean task in refashioning a hugely important part of D.C.'s cultural calendar and the film festival circuit after it lost longtime partner Discovery Channel.
The festival starts with tonight's screening at 7:30 p.m. and wraps up on Sunday.