Bookended by gala screenings at the Newseum of Alex Gibney’s “Zero Days” (Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.) and “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You” (June 26 at 7 p.m.) — and stuffed in between with a stack of 53 other nonfiction features — the Dagwood sandwich that is AFI Docs gets delivered to a documentary-hungry audience this week.
In addition to the sold-out opener, a frightening look at the creation of the Stuxnet computer virus, other events have already sold out, including screenings of the homegrown “Check It ,” about a Washington street gang formed by bullied gay youths, and Werner Herzog’s “Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World,” a provocative rumination on the Internet that is being shown in conjunction with a ■conversation between Herzog and filmmaker Ramin Bahrani (“99 Homes”). Fortunately, “Lo and Behold” will have a commercial run beginning Aug. 19. (“Zero Days” and “Norman Lear” also will have commercial runs, beginning July 8 and July 22, respectively.)
There are, of course, plenty of other films to see — including several programs of shorts — beyond those high-profile documentaries. Here are a few recommendations.
June 24 at 12:30 p.m. at E Street; June 26 at 5:45 p.m. at AFI Silver.
Slovakian cinematographer Martin Kollar renders a virtually wordless account of the weeks leading up to his brother Jan’s life-threatening surgery to remove a facial growth, as his camera follows Jan on an aimless camping trip by bicycle. More impressionistic than diaristic, the languid yet not-quite-hour-long film quietly contemplates mortality and the simple joy of being alive.
Abortion: Stories Women Tell
Thursday at 4:15 p.m. at AFI Silver; June 24 at 1:30 p.m. at E Street.
Focusing on a single abortion facility — Illinois’ Hope Clinic, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis — this film examines efforts by Missouri legislators to shut down in-state access to abortion. Rather than exploring the politics of the issue, Tracy Droz Tragos’s gripping and searingly personal film gives voice to the clinic’s staff and its often frustrated patients, as well as to those working to close such facilities in Missouri.
Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and June 24 at 6:15 p.m. at E Street.
Filmmaker Clay Tweel (“Finders Keepers”) documents the struggle of former football player Steve Gleason — whose 2006 block of a punt while playing for the New Orleans Saints came to symbolize the city’s post-Katrina rebirth — with Lou Gehrig’s disease. The film is at once a video time capsule dedicated to Gleason’s son, Rivers, who was born shortly after its subject’s 2011 diagnosis, and a surprisingly moving piece of advocacy for his charity, Team Gleason. (This film will have a commercial release beginning Aug. 5.)
How To Build a Time Machine
June 25 at 4:15 p.m. at AFI Silver.
Two men — former “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” animator Rob Niosi and physicist Ron Mallett — open up about their shared obsession with time, as the former is shown building a meticulous replica of the titular prop from the 1960 film “The Time Machine,” and the latter discusses the theoretical likelihood of developing an actual time-travel device, based on black holes. This odd but charming meditation on memory, nostalgia and mortality is, at its deepest level, about the temporal nature of all things, including, especially, movie-making.
June 25 at 6 p.m. at the Newseum.
Based on journalist Ron Suskind’s 2014 book of the same name, “Life, Animated” tells the inspiring story of Suskind’s discovery of a way to communicate with his autistic son, Owen, using the characters, stories and themes of animated Disney movies. (This film will have a commercial release beginning July 8.)
June 24 at 6:45 p.m. at E Street; June 25 at 9 p.m. at AFI Silver.
An initial fascination with the subculture of tickle fetishism leads down a rabbit hole to a single individual, seemingly obsessed less with tickling than with destroying anyone who seeks to undermine or expose his empire. New Zealand television reporter David Farrier’s compelling first-person odyssey is informative, funny and ultimately frightening. (This film will have a commercial release beginning July 1.)
Under the Sun
Thursday at 2 p.m. AFI Silver; June 26 at 7:45 p.m. at E Street.
This is easily one of the standout films of the fest. Under the watchful eye of his North Korean handlers, Russian filmmaker Vitaly Mansky follows a North Korean family of three as they stage utterly phony scenes of “typical” daily life, including fake jobs for the mother and father. Mansky left his camera running between takes, capturing, without commentary, a world that is both profoundly troubling and — paradoxically — surreally beautiful.
Wednesday through June 26.
Screenings take place at the Newseum (555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW), Landmark’s E Street Cinema (555 11th St. NW) and AFI Silver (8633 Colesville Rd., Silver Spring).
Admission to most screenings is $12; Thursday and Friday matinees (before 6 p.m.) are $10. Tickets and information are available at afi.com/afidocs.