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17 BLOCKS

Discussion to follow with members of the Sanford family (via Skype)

In 1999, using only his home video camera, nine-year-old Emmanuel Sanford began recording himself and his family. His innocent lens captured not only his Washington, D.C., neighborhood (17 blocks from the capitol), but also a group of warriors—his mother, sister, and brother—as they managed to confront, and rise above, incredible hardship. Filmmaker, journalist, and frequent This American Life contributor Davy Rothbart befriended the Sanfords as they continued to document their lives over a 20-year period. The result is a stunning one-of-a-kind odyssey that highlights familial bonds and raw courage.


AFTER PARKLAND

Discussion to follow with activists and film subjects Lauren Hogg and Brooke Harrison and directors Jake Lefferman and Emily Taguchi

It seems as though a senseless mass shooting takes place every week, but last year’s horrific events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School still resonate. With great intimacy and raw emotion this moving film follows several survivors—David Hogg, Victoria Gonzalez, Sam Zeif, and Dillon McCooty—as they learn to manage their trauma within daily lives of basketball, preparing for prom, graduation. Swept into the national spotlight, these brave, resilient individuals speak in the face of fear and unite on a quest to change gun laws.


AMERICAN FACTORY

Discussion to follow with producer Jeff Reichert and former congressman Barney Frank

In 2014, a Chinese billionaire opened a factory in a shuttered General Motors plant in Ohio. For thousands of locals, the arrival of a multinational manufacturer meant regaining their jobs—and dignity—after a recession had left them high and dry. At first, the culture clash was humorous. Transplanted Chinese workers attended trainings on dealing with their peculiarly casual and “chatty” American counterparts. But tensions mounted. This precise, astonishing film is a difficult, altogether urgent, but often funny look at the future of labor.


THE APOLLO

Discussion to follow with director Roger Ross Williams and producer Lisa Cortés, moderated by Charlayne Hunter-Gault

Since 1934, the Apollo Theater has been a Harlem landmark, showcasing the talent of Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Billie Holiday, and many other legendary African American artists of the past nine decades. While following the theater’s inaugural staging of Ta-Nehisi Coates's acclaimed Between the World and Me, Academy Award-winning filmmaker and MVFF alum Roger Ross Williams gracefully intertwines historic and present-day footage, richly illustrating the fundamental role the Apollo continues to play in black American life.


ASK DR.RUTH

Discussion to follow with film subject Dr. Ruth Westheimer

Don’t let her small stature fool you. Although under five feet tall, Dr. Ruth Westheimer is a force. At 90 years old, this pioneer of sex therapy hasn’t stopped working—and still promises the best sex you’ve ever had, if you listen to her. Exuberant and infectiously energetic, she hopscotches from speaking engagements to TV and radio appearances. This inspiring portrait, colored by her almost arresting openness, spans from her childhood as an orphan of the Holocaust to her emergence from the darkness, bringing light to so many people.


BEDLAM

Discussion to follow with film subject Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, producer Peter Miller, and director Kenneth Paul Rosenberg

Psychiatrist, author, and filmmaker Kenneth Rosenberg explores a major social crisis of our time—the lack of adequate care for the mentally ill. His deeply personal film follows several individuals, including Monte, a gentle giant caught in the endless, ineffective cycle, and his devoted sister Patrisse Cullors, who during filming becomes a co-founder of Black Lives Matter. Shot over five years, Bedlam shines a light on the deep-seated shame, stigma, and political negligence that have led to one of America’s largest health catastrophes.


THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM

Introduction by executive producer Laurie David

What do you do when your barking dog gets you evicted from your apartment? Molly and John Chester decide to create a farm on 200 acres of nutrient-depleted land suffering from drought. Then there are the wildfires, and plot twists that prove true life is stranger than fiction. This is the inspiring tale of incredibly resilient farmers striving to understand the intricacies and wisdom of nature, and of life itself.


CHEF FLYNN

Discussion to follow with film subject Flynn McGarry

This delightful film follows the extraordinary journey of a true prodigy. With classmates as line cooks, ten-year-old Flynn McGarry transforms his living room into a supper club. This isn’t boxed spaghetti and frozen meatballs we’re talking about. Dedicating himself to his craft, Flynn creates stunning and intricate gastronomic wonders right at home. After sudden fame, he outgrows his bedroom kitchen and sets out to challenge the hierarchy of the culinary world.


DRIVING WHILE BLACK

Presented by director Ric Burns with film editor Emir Lewis

For no people was the call of the automobile and the highway—the promise of freedom and mobility, choice and adventure, agency and self-expression—more powerfully felt, more freighted with hope, more fraught with danger and anxiety, than it was for African Americans. Join Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Ric Burns as he takes us through his work in progress. Based on more than a decade of research, the film draws on an extraordinarily rich archive of material, including The Negro Motorist Green Book that was once known as “the bible of black travel during Jim Crow.”


EATING UP EASTER

For centuries, the monolithic mo’ai statues and sensationalized "mysteries" of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui (as its aboriginal Polynesian people and language are also known), have drawn curious visitors to its shores. Today, the tiny, barren island is experiencing an economic boom as tourism skyrockets. Yet its indigenous culture and fragile environment are suffering. This film by native filmmaker Sergio Mata’u Rapu explores the dilemma his people are facing. Crafted as a story passed down to his newborn son, it intertwines history of the island with the stories of four islanders. The Rapa Nui reveal the reality of modern life—blessings or curses, depending on who is speaking.


ECHO IN THE CANYON

Celebrate the explosion of popular music that came out of L.A.'s Laurel Canyon in the mid-‘60s as folk went electric and the Byrds, the Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, and the Mamas and the Papas gave birth to the “California Sound.” The songs from that era provide an entry point for Jakob Dylan and a new generation of artists—Beck, Fiona Apple, Norah Jones, Regina Spektor—whose body of work reflects the echoes of that pivotal time. Paying homage, they interpret and perform these songs, in many cases in front of the original songwriters and at a 50th anniversary tribute concert. Dylan, the film’s narrator, also uncovers never-before-heard personal details behind the recordings, and how the music continues to inspire today.


THE FAREWELL

After learning their beloved matriarch has terminal lung cancer, a family opts not to tell her about the diagnosis. Instead, they schedule an impromptu wedding-reunion back in China. Headstrong granddaughter Billi, gloriously portrayed by comedian Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, Ocean’s Eight), returns with her relatives as they awkwardly attempt to rekindle old bonds, throw together a wedding that only grandma is actually looking forward to, and surreptitiously say their goodbyes. With warmth and wit, the excellent ensemble cast invites us to share a clan’s joy as well as its sorrow. A heartfelt celebration of both the way we act, and the way we actually are, like family.


THE GREAT HACK

Discussion to follow with film subject David Carroll, directors Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer, producer Geralyn White Dreyfous, and executive producer Nina Fialkow

Data has surpassed oil as the planet’s most valuable asset, and it is being weaponized to wage wars both cultural and political. This incredibly in-depth piece of investigative journalism uncovers the dark realm of data exploitation. Following the compelling personal journeys of players on opposite sides of the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data breach that shocked the world, it urges us to question the origin of the information we consume, and challenges us to consider what we give up when we tap that phone or keyboard in this digital age.


MAIDEN

In the late 1980s, British sailor Tracy Edwards decided she’d had enough of often being dismissed and belittled as the only woman among male seafarers. Setting her sights on the Whitbread Round the World Race, she assembled the world’s first all-female, multinational sailing crew, oversaw their DIY refurbishment of a beat-up old vessel, and entered the competition. This is the thrilling tale of inspiring women relying on their own resilience—and each other—to prove the naysayers and skeptics wrong.


MARIANNE & LEONARD: WORDS OF LOVE

The striking love story began on the idyllic Greek island of Hydra, in a bohemian community of artists, writers, and musicians. Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen met Marianne Ihlen, the Norwegian who would become his muse. It was a relationship that cast a long shadow in both of their lives, from their early days of free love to well after Cohen became a global success. Mixing vintage concert clips and behind-the-scenes glimpses with the reminiscences of close friends and colleagues, master documentarian Nick Broomfield deftly weaves the highs and lows of Cohen’s career with the inspirational power that Marianne possessed.


A PRIVATE WAR

Discussion to follow with director Matthew Heineman

Celebrated war correspondent Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike) is as comfortable downing martinis with high society as she is brazenly staring down warlords and fleeing gunfire. Driven by her desire to bear witness and give voice to the voiceless, she charges into danger, constantly testing the limits between bravery and bravado. Based on Colvin’s extraordinary life, this is the narrative feature debut of MVFF alum Matt Heineman (City of Ghosts, Cartel Land).


RECONSTRUCTION: AMERICA AFTER THE CIVIL WAR

Presented by series writer, executive producer, and host Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Join professor, author, historian, and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates, Jr., as he shares clips from his four-part PBS series exploring the transformative years after the Civil War, when the nation struggled to rebuild itself in the face of profound loss, massive destruction, and revolutionary social change. One of the most important and consequential chapters in American history is also among the most overlooked, misunderstood, and misrepresented. The twelve years of the post-war Reconstruction era signalled a seismic shift in our democracy.


RUNNING WITH BETO

Discussion to follow with director David Modigliani

Could Beto O’Rourke be the next president of the United States? Some people think so, even though the Texan’s one of many in that race—but only last year the three-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives gave up his seat in order to run for the U.S. Senate. Going behind the scenes of O’Rourke’s unconventional, breakaway campaign to beat incumbent Ted Cruz, this film captures his rise from virtual unknown to national political sensation.


THIS MOUNTAIN LIFE

Martina Halik and her 60-year-old mother Tania embark on a 1,429-mile ski trek through the treacherous Coast Mountains of British Columbia, expecting it will take them five to six months. This journey has only been completed once before, and never by a female duo. In between their helicopter drops of food (which they’ve dehydrated themselves, naturally), we are transported into the lives of other people in the mountain range: a German artist who’s been living off the grid for 50 years, nuns in a snowbound convent, even a snowshoe artist. In this unconventionally adventurous documentary, two women nonchalantly make history—and a much larger point.


WORLD AT WAR

Discussion to follow with director Robert Nixon and film subjects Max Kennedy, Jack Nixon, and Buddy Vanderhoop

Seeing the disappearance of fish he loves to catch, 15-year-old Jack Nixon enlists marine conservationist Dr. Sylvia Earle in a years-long quest to save our dying oceans. Photographer Brian Skerry, captain Max Kennedy, and a band of teenage aquanauts bolster expeditions to the high seas of industrial fishing fleets, and to the melting polar ice of the Chukchi Sea. Astronaut Bill Anders and activist Bill McKibben provide lessons on how humanity met past challenges. Daunted by the present ones, the teenagers find hope in nature’s ability to heal.


YESTERDAY

Yesterday, everyone knew the Beatles. Today, only Jack remembers their songs. He’s about to become a very big deal. From Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, Notting Hill) comes a rock ‘n’ roll comedy about music, dreams, friendship, and the long and winding road that leads to the love of your life. Featuring new versions of the Beatles’ most beloved hits.