Silverdocs No More

AFI Docs

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.

Changing Sponsors

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.

.Silverdocs Spotlight – Surviving The Plague

Word Wizards is proud to support documentary production in the Metropolitan Washington DC area.  DC, is the documentary capitol of America, as well as the Nation’s Capitol.  Between Discovery Communications, (in our own home town of Silver Spring Maryland,) National Geographic and Smithsonian – ShowTime a lot of documentary production gets done around here.  “Docs are King” in DC.  And we all know that to make a great Doc you need a lot of interviews, which means lots of time coded video tape transcription for Word Wizards!

Silverdocs in Silver Spring

SilverDocs Logo

Nothing showcases this fusion of talented production capabilities and talking heads like the fabulous Silverdocs Film Festival which is going on here this week in Silver Spring.  Since documentaries are created by interviewing people, we are here to meet their production deadlines with our own professional, all American workforce, available to them – 24/7.

Sometimes however, between overnight and weekend rush jobs, we actually indulge our creative cravings by attending a few good documentaries at Silver Docs ourselves. One such provocative and award winning film featured this year was How to Survive a Plague by film maker David France.

The Silent Struggle

How to Survive a Plague

It is the  riveting story of two coalitions, Act Up (AIDS Advocacy) and TAG (Treatment Action Group) who refused to go off and die quietly without putting the Government in general; and the Food and Drug Administration and National Institute of Health in particular “feet to the fire” to come up with a cure; or at least a livable containment policy.  (By the way these agencies are also in suburban Maryland, so we were inspired by seeing local demonstration footage.)

The struggle against HIV / AIDS took a terribly long time; which was exasperated by society at large who in the early 1980’s started off by blaming people for alternative life styles, which seemed to contribute to the spread of the disease.  However, as the death count climber higher year after year, the scapegoat-ing stopped a bit, as we finally realized that a killer pathogen  was among us that threatened civilization as we know it.  It wasn’t the first time that an unpopular minority was blamed for “the Plague.”

Fight HIV!

These courageous people; the victims of AIDS, their families, friends and supporters; formed the nucleolus of  a movement that continued to demonstrate at the FDA and NIH until the bureaucrats came up with an accelerated drug testing and approval process.  As a result, finally the best medical minds “got lucky,” as one advocated put it in the film. Therefore, as a result of continued civil disobedience coupled with working within the system, a viable containment policy was developed in 1996.

Some of the activists who were around at the beginning of the film’s creation were not around at the end.  Some were, seemingly miraculously cured of their most visible symptoms.  This was as a story of protest and the decency of the human spirit winning out over bigotry and deliberate neglect.  We hear it will be coming soon to an independent theater near you. Please don’t miss it.  And you thought “Talking Heads” were boring!