American Film Institute 2020 Documentary Film Festival

Jordan Wright
June 11, 2020 

It couldn’t come at a better time.  Amidst a global pandemic, months without live theatre and without the documentaries we usually must wait to see at art house movie theatres, the AFI DOCS 2020 Festival will go virtual.  Launching June 17th and continuing through the 21st all screenings of the American Film Institute’s Festival will be available to view at  This is your chance to see these powerful issue-based films, reflecting the global human experience through thought-provoking, non-fiction documentaries and shorts that reflect our shared humanity.

THE DILEMMA OF DESIRE is a powerful reminder that true equality will come only when we all arrive at a place of understanding and acknowledgement that women are sexual beings, entitled to live their lives fully within the expression of their desire. Cinematographers Hillary Bachelder, Bing Liu, Adam Singer, Keith Walker

This year’s festival showcases COVID-19 challenges, criminal justice reform, the George Floyd killing, gender parity, women’s rights, Roy Cohn (Donald Trump’s former attorney), sexual and domestic violence, wildlife protections, the Stacey Abrams campaign, shared community through music, ecological disasters, legal challenges, and more.

Women in the Vote – Directors: Grace Lee, Marjan Safinia – Director of Photography: Asad Faruqi

With an august Advisory Board of Ken Burns, Davis Guggenheim, Chris Hegedus, Werner Herzog, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson and Frederick Wiseman, AFI’s 18th year promises to be a blockbuster experience.  The lineup features 59 films from 11 countries and 11 virtual World Premieres.  Women and minority creatives are well represented with 61% of the films directed by women, 25% by POC directors and 14% by LGBTQ directors.  The films will be divided into sections:  Special Presentations, Feature Films, Cinema’s Legacy, Episodic and Short Film sections.

AT&T UNLADYLIKE – Zitkála-Šá, aka Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, (1876–1938), American Indian Composer, Author & Civil Rights Activist – Photo credit Jovita Idar_Signature Portrait – Artwork by Amelie Chabannes

Sponsored by AT&T, the Festival features The Washington Post and Meet the Press returning as Primary Media Partners.  Representatives from other major news media outlets – NPR, NOVA, PBS, MSNBC and others – will participate in moderated panel discussions to further the conversation.  The importance of convening these filmmakers and thought leaders cannot be overstated in a time of extreme partisanship.  Shedding light on global issues through these documentaries can raise consciousness and spark much-needed change.

“AFI is committed to the documentary art form in the best of times and in the most challenging times, “said Michael Lumpkin, Director of AFI Festivals.  “Now more than ever, we are dedicated to supporting extraordinary films because the world needs stories that educate, inspire hope and remind us of humanity’s strength.  AFI DOCS is here to help.”

As with all documentaries that reveal our strengths and foibles, there will be heart-warming drama and heart-breaking truths that speak to the issues we face today.  Powerful stories of countries and citizens living in fear and oppression, and of people rising up to confront the challenges of prejudice, speak to our shared humanity and our deepest emotions.

Women in Blue -Sgt. Alice White of the Minneapolis Police Department inside squad car. Credit: Erica Ticknor.

Audience Awards will be given to a feature film and a short film based on votes cast by attendees throughout the festival.  This year AFI DOCS is proud to announce the Shorts Grand Prize is a qualifying award for Academy Award eligibility.

Passes are now available to AFI members and the general public at  To access the full slate of films visit and check out AFI DOCS on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.