A New Partner
Silverdocs, the premiere documentary festival in the Washington DC area, as well as a huge boon to the Silver Spring area, is getting some major changes. Its new iteration, which was announced just last week, will be known as AFI Docs Film Festival and will be backed by car manufacturer Audi instead of Discovery Communications. The new festival, running from June 19–23, will have an expanded presence as well as panels with greater focus on politics and other D.C.-centric issues. The festival will no longer take place solely in its home base of Silver Spring but will be presenting films at DC venues such as the Newseum, The National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American History.
The change is a consequence of the festival’s rising prominence on the national documentary circuit, as well as Discovery Communication’s change in corporate focus that has seen it move away from documentary storytelling, according to festival director Sky Sitney. Sitney sees the change in sponsors as positive and thinks it will help the festival to grow and gain an even more vibrant topical focus as it moves further into the heart of DC. She also said that, rather of thinking of it as scattered, instead think of it as incorporating two compact campuses.
The festival was started in 2003 as a joint venture between Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute. It should be noted that both of these organizations were major catalysts in the rejuvenation of the Silver Spring Area.
The Silver Spring Community Reacts
While it’s being stressed that the festival will still have important events and screenings in Silver Spring with no plans to leave it behind, the reaction locally has been mixed. Many locals as well as those in the production and documentary community feel that something is being lost with the expansion and name change. For years, the fact that the festival took place entirely in this one area has made it an important part of the community. The festival, which has grown to be the pride of Silver Spring, helps shine the spotlight on independent filmmakers and the important stories they have to tell. Smaller companies such as Word Wizards Inc., which thrives on transcription footage and the talking heads footage that are the meat of most documentaries, think it important these festivals go on, even if they’re in new forms.