Previously: #6 Berlin
#7. AFI Silverdocs
Our take: The most important US-based documentary festival continues to grow and refine as it heads into year #8. Does a good job of balancing a program that features both premieres and "best of the fests" titles and is strong in programming of international docs. Probably one of the most industry-heavy US-based events (although there are some US buyers who, for whatever reason, never come) and one that actually draws some international buyers. Silverdocs is quite good at using its DC-adjacent location in attracting press attention for its major films and the Capitol and all its attractions are just a short train ride away.
The downside: While we don't mind the location, lots of folks hate it. Unlike the other US doc fests, there's a bit of a corporate feeling going on - from that outdoor mall-based setting to the proximity of Discovery to the underlying AFI presence. Much like IDFA and Hot Docs, the fest has yet to reconcile the relationship between the conference and the festival, leading some to wonder whether those buyers are actually going to any of the screenings (like at Sheffield). Introduced the Good Pitch last year but otherwise lacks a market or Forum component. Questions about the future in light of sponsorship changes and a potential challenge from Sheffield.
Important recent premieres: GOOD FORTUNE, JUNIOR, DANCING WITH THE DEVIL, CONVENTION
Selection of US films screened at 2009 Fest: OCTOBER COUNTRY, RACING DREAMS, THE HORSE BOY, THE WINDMILL MOVIE, THE NINE LIVES OF MARION BARRY, MORE THAN A GAME
Our coverage of Silverdocs here.
Filmmaker: "always liked this festival and feel it is consistently very good in terms of programming. Also has some great shorts programmes. Very good for industry with the conference going on at the same time. We had great screenings, packed; although I'm not as impressed with the projection quality in the AFI Silver - we had some problems before. The Q&A moderation is also a bit hit and miss as they get quite a few of the volunteers to do this, who do not necessarily have a lot of experience. Not sure about their new venue for evening parties as it is quite far, and you don't necessarily leave once you go there, so some of the later screenings can be quite empty. However, I have had a good time there, and it's easy to meet people. I think their hospitality has been not in particular good in recent years in terms of transport in particular. However, I would always come back to this festival."
Filmmaker: "Incredible festival. Sky is a genius. Best documentary programming in the United States bar none, especially when it comes to the international selections. I'd say that getting asked to show in Silverdocs competition is already a major coup for your film. This is a festival NOT TO MISS on all levels: business, parties, people, screenings, press. The best major US festival experience we've had."
Filmmaker: "The fantastic Sky needs some more support. fabulous set of industry meetings, seminars and specialised classes etc with some real key industry people. Great selection of films, easy to meet people as it tightly focused in one area. Very very well done."
Filmmaker: "had a mixed experience. two screenings. first screening in a special "discovery channel" theater. invite only, discovery "members". no one came. superlate time. Sky apologized profusely. said it was an experiment, using that building and the invite only scheme. hope they remedied that. never heard a peep from local press."
Filmmaker: "awesome festival. great staff, great films, great audiences. love 'all doc' fests. really get your core audience out. could make more effort to connect filmmakers with each other (laff's retreat is the best at this) do fly filmmakers. i had a place to stay, can't remember if they would have covered that."
Filmmaker: "Not bad. Staffers mean well but I feel the vibe of Discovery... Not much of a market."
Filmmaker: "ALWAYS SEEM TO HAVE GOOD CROWDS AND A REALLY TOP ASSORTMENT OF DOCS."
Filmmaker: "Love the festival staff here, wish it weren't in a strip mall but always a good time."
Filmmaker: "Class act, best venue ever, hotels paid. Excellent crowds, Gets better every year."
Filmmaker: "Has a bit too much of a business feel to me."
Filmmaker: "Fantastic. The place to be for doc filmmakers."
Filmmaker: "Intriguing selection of wide-ranging docs. Enthusiastic audiences and great crowds. Fun setting."
Industry: "For me the most important US Doc Fest. Festival has grown a little too much - so I am intrigued what their loss of sponsorship will mean for them - perhaps a more focused fete will be better. As a member of the industry this fest is very important."
Industry: "I love Silverdocs, I love the programming. Despite the lack of a true market, I find it a great place to get noticed. I do wish there was more industry stuff. They treat both producers and directors really well."
Industry: "pretty close to the premier festival for docs in the US these days. Well run, convivial, an old-fashioned feeling that you're at a film festival with lots of other folks going to, talking about, and excited about films. Easy to find people, well run, interesting panels. In the city of non-profits and ngos, the addition of the Good Pitch is a very smart addition. I got free passes to films but otherwise paid full freight."
Industry: "Strong doc fest - Sky and her team really fight to keep it going with integrity."
Industry: "I think it just can’t get beyond its space. It’s interesting films. Sky does a really good job with the programming but I really hate being there because of that space. I still think they do a really great job at the conference and of all of the documentary festivals in the US, it’s probably the best, but from an international perspective, it’s just too American."
Industry: "they've never assisted
with my expenses. Both years I've attended I've felt daunted by the lineup and
wasn't sure if I was seeing/covering the "right" things."
Industry: "Great place to network. Nice vibe. It is a lot smaller a fest than I imagined, and not very thrilled with SilverSprings as the host city (mini-malls?), but all in all, nice."
Industry: "I think Sky has done a great job in putting together a refreshing line-up of films from around the world. The conference is a must-attend for us and a good entrée into the confusing US market for filmmakers from around the world."
Industry: "Silverdocs is really well programmed and organized. Top notch screening facilities and good audiences."
Industry: "In my opinion the most important east coast doc fest. They put us on panels every year and are gracious hosts- paying for hotel and train fare. We often pick up films from Silverdocs or have a film we’ve already secured premiere here."
Industry: "Pretty good but we've never sold anything from there. It's an enjoyable festival though."