AFI Docs (formerly Silverdocs) is an all-you-can-eat buffet of the best documentaries yet to hit theaters. The problem with all-you-can-eat is there’s a limit to how much you can actually consume. Short of bending time and space, you won’t catch all 45 features, plus the discussions, plus the two groupings of shorts, especially now that the festival has expanded from its usual Silver Spring locations to theaters in the District. Here are five films we don’t plan to miss.
‘The Crash Reel,’ above; Reason: The director
Lucy Walker directed this story of pro snowboarder Kevin Pearce’s recovery from a traumatic brain injury he suffered in 2010, just as his rivalry with Shaun White was heating up. Walker has twice been nominated for her documentaries at the Oscars: in 2012 for the short “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” and in 2011 for “Waste Land.” She’s one of the most promising names in documentary film — maybe this will be the year she nabs that statue.
Thu., 8:45 p.m., National Museum of American History; Fri., 7:30 p.m., AFI Silver.
‘The New Black;’ Reason: The local angle
Last year’s battle in Maryland over Question 6, which brought marriage equality to the state this year, divided voters, particularly in the black community. “The New Black” looks at the complex relationship between gay rights, the civil rights movement and African-American churches. It’s a hometown take on one of the most contentious issues facing the country.
Sat., 1:30 p.m., Goethe-Institut; Sun., 1:15 p.m., AFI Silver.
‘The Act of Killing,’ above; Reason: The innovation
In looking at the Indonesian genocide of 1965-66, a group of Danish filmmakers interviewed aging death squad leaders and got them to re-create their crimes in front of the camera. What’s tricky, though, is that they allowed the men to use American film genres to tell their stories, so the re-enactments are in the style of, for example, Westerns and musicals. You don’t often see whimsy and genocide in the same movie (for good reason!), but if the filmmakers pull it off it’ll be something special.
Sat., 8:30 p.m., Goethe-Institut; Sun., 3:30 p.m., AFI Silver.
‘Remote Area Medical;’ Reason: The issue
Outside of the NASCAR stadium in Bristol, Tenn., on a non-race day last year, thousands of uninsured Americans lined up to get free routine health care they couldn’t otherwise afford. The nonprofit Remote Area Medical team travels around in retrofitted trucks and buses, pulling teeth, giving eye exams and performing checkups. The film puts a human face — a lot of human faces, actually — to a political problem that can too often seem purely theoretical.
Fri., 4:30 p.m., Goethe-Institut; Sat., 3 p.m., AFI Silver.
‘Best Kept Secret;’ Reason: The hope
Janet Mino, a special education teacher in Newark, N.J., is getting ready to see her students — many of whom are on the autism spectrum — graduate from high school. The problem is now they’ll age out of most state resources; in a high-poverty area, that’s a scary prospect. In and out of the classroom, Mino fights for her kids, first to teach them life skills, then to help ensure they don’t spend that life neglected in a poorly funded state-run home.
Thu., 6 p.m., National Museum of American History; Sat., 1:30 p.m., AFI Silver.