At AFI Docs this week, you can see plenty of stuff that’s new to you. You can also see things that are new to EVERYONE. These three movies are making their world premieres at the American Film Institute’s documentary festival, which opened Wednesday and runs through Sunday. (See the entire lineup at afi.com/afidocs.)
“Tough Guys” is a look at the dawn of mixed martial arts competitions in 1980s Pittsburgh. Directors Henry Roosevelt and W.B. Zullo were attracted to the subject through their love of ’80s action movies like “Bloodsport,” “The Karate Kid” and “Over the Top” and decided to make a movie featuring the real-life blue-collar brawlers who pioneered the sport of MMA, which eventually turned into a money-making free-for-all. For their film, the directors managed to scrounge up some of the men who bare-knuckled their way to a special kind of fame.
Landmark E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW; Thu., 8:30 p.m., sold out (standby seating available).
In the early days of movies, traveling projectionists carried reels from town to town, and the nearest barn wall was the screen. Frank Brinton was one of those barnstormers who worked from Texas to Minnesota, bringing to rural towns their first experience with moving pictures, including footage of Teddy Roosevelt and classics from Georges Melies. One man, Michael Zahs, has become Brinton’s unofficial historian, and this film follows his struggles to showcase his collection before it literally collapses into dust.
AFI Silver, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring; Sat., 4:15 p.m., $15. Landmark E Street Cinema; Sun., 4:15 p.m., $15.
This documentary follows two groups of citizens in St. Louis who are out to right some environmental wrongs. The first community is located next to an uncontrolled, underground landfill fire that is moving ever closer to a nuclear waste site — which, even if you’re not a scientist, seems to be a pretty not-good situation. The other residents are experiencing high rates of cancer, possibly caused by ionizing radiation poisoning from that same site, which has been there since the 1940s.
Landmark E Street Cinema; Sat., 7 p.m., $15.
AFI Silver; Sun., 9:15 p.m., $15.