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Top Dozen Documentary Film Festivals: Up Next, Hot Docs and Full Frame

Thompson on Hollywood By John Anderson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood March 31, 2014 at 1:30PM

With the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival announcing its 2014 lineup of Tribute and Thematic Program films, we put together a compendium of the top dozen must-attend doc fests around the country.
'The Lion's Mouth Opens'
HBO "The Lion's Mouth Opens"



Full Frame honors the work of Steve James. The Full Frame Tribute will be presented at the Awards Barbecue on Sunday. 


At the Death House Door (Directors: Steve James, Peter Gilbert)


An unflinching account of the work of Reverend Carroll Pickett, who presided over 95 executions during his 15-year tenure as a death house chaplain in a Texas prison.


Hoop Dreams (Director: Steve James)


This deeply moving film follows Arthur Agee, Jr., and William Gates as they strive to achieve professional basketball stardom and escape poverty in Chicago.


Hoop Dreams at 20


In celebration of the landmark documentary’s 20th anniversary, this panel conversation features insider commentary, rarely seen footage, and special guests.


The Interrupters (Director: Steve James)


Three brave “interrupters” from Chicago’s CeaseFire organization take on inner-city violence with a dangerous form of intervention.


A Place Called Pluto (Director: Steve James)


When a reporter is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, he boldly faces his prognosis by putting his experiences into words.


Reel Paradise (Director: Steve James)


The final month of an American family’s yearlong stay in Fiji, where they screened movies in one of the most remote cinemas in the world.


Stevie (Director: Steve James)


Ten years later, Steve James visits a young man to whom he was a Big Brother and finds him at a turbulent crossroads in his life.




Filmmaker Lucy Walker presents a series of documentaries featuring memorable subjects revealed through a diverse array of filmmaking techniques.


The Arbor (Director: Clio Barnard)


This unconventional portrait of the late British playwright Andrea Dunbar features actors lip-synching audio interviews with her family, friends, and neighbors.


Creature Comforts (Director: Nick Park)


In this short film, claymation zoo animals reveal how they feel about their living conditions, and living perpetually on display.


David Hockney IN THE NOW (in six minutes) (Director: Lucy Walker)


A tribute to the evolving work of the iconic British painter and photographer, an artist who insists on living in the present.


Devil’s Playground (Director: Lucy Walker)


Amish teenagers choose between their faith and the temptations of the modern world following a period of experimentation known as rumspringa.


The Five Obstructions (Directors: Lars von Trier, Jørgen Leth)


Lars von Trier challenges fellow filmmaker Jørgen Leth to create five new iterations of his film The Perfect Human, placing a new restriction on each production.


Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie (Director: Marcel Ophüls)


This epic examination of the life of Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, the “Butcher of Lyons,” doggedly explores questions of evil, complicity, memory, responsibility, and evasion.


The Kid Stays in the Picture (Directors: Nanette Burstein, Brett Morgen)


Robert Evans, the first actor to become head of a major film studio, narrates this Hollywood insider tell-all detailing his rise, his fall, and his rise again.


Land of Silence and Darkness (Director: Werner Herzog)


Fini Straubinger, deaf and blind since her teens, attempts to help those who are similarly afflicted overcome their isolation.


The Lion’s Mouth Opens (Director: Lucy Walker)


With the support of family and friends, a young woman takes the daring step of determining whether she carries the genetic marker for Huntington’s disease.


Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (Directors: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky)


At work on their album St. Anger, the members of the legendary band find themselves embroiled in bitter disputes, so they bring in their therapist to help.


On the Bowery (Director: Lionel Rogosin)


Part-time railroad worker Ray Salyer spends three days drinking on drifting on Manhattan’s Skid Row in this seminal postwar work of docufiction.


Portrait of Jason (Director: Shirley Clarke)


Drink in hand, Jason Holiday, a gay African American hustler and aspiring nightclub performer, regales us with stories of his life.

This article is related to: International Documentary Association , Documentary, Documentaries, Hot Docs , International Documentary Association , Documentary, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), Festivals, AFI, True/False Film Festival

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.