The American Film Institute Announces Full Slate For AFI DOCS 2021

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The American Film Institute has revealed its full slate of films being presented for the hybrid AFI DOCS 2021 festival. The lineup features 77 films from 23 countries and four World Premieres and over half, 52%, are directed by women.

The 19th edition of the festival will present films in the following sections: Special Presentations, Guggenheim Symposium, Feature Films, Series, Cinema's Legacy, Short Film Competition and Spotlight on the Hindsight Project.

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AFI DOCS 2021 runs June 22–27, with films available to view on as well as in-person screenings at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, MD, and select films will be available with closed captioning and descriptive audio. The Washington Post and Meet the Press return as the Primary Media Partners.

“We are living in the Golden Age of documentary film,” said Sarah Harris, AFI Festivals Director of Programming. “At AFI DOCS, we are proud to celebrate excellence in the films of 2021 – connecting audiences across the nation, engaging them in lively conversation and inspiring them with both the unprecedented challenges and the breathtaking beauty of the world around us."

AFI DOCS' program of Special Presentations includes the previously announced Opening Night World Premiere of NAOMI OSAKA and Closing Night film CUSP, as well as the Centerpiece Screening of ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN.

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This year, the Features section explores a diverse range of subjects including the growing movement in the medical community to push back against big pharma (WHITE COAT REBELS); an examination of law enforcement's relationship with the community through the lens of a corruption scandal in the Baltimore police department (THE SLOW HUSTLE); the emotional complexities of family court trials (COURTROOM 3H); and Syrian artists working in exile in Europe (THE STORY WON’T DIE).

The Cinema's Legacy program, now in its third year at AFI DOCS, presents historically notable nonfiction films that employ the personal documentary form: IN SEARCH OF OUR FATHERS (1992), SINK OR SWIM (1990) and STEVIE (2002). Cinema’s Legacy is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

This year's Series section features multi-part documentaries that investigate pivotal moments in history and culture, from an exploration of the sound creation in modern music in WATCH THE SOUND WITH MARK RONSON, to an in-depth look at a day that changed our country forever with 9/11: ONE DAY IN AMERICA. The Series section will also feature the World Premiere of OBAMA: IN PURSUIT OF A MORE PERFECT UNION.

The Short Film Competition will be presented in six programs, with stories from across the globe and close to home, and are eligible for the Grand Jury Prize.

Special to AFI DOCS this year is the Spotlight on the Hindsight Project, sponsored by CPB. The section presents the world premiere of six short films, which chronicle the experiences of BIPOC communities in the American South and U.S. Territories during the unprecedented events of 2020. The project is produced in partnership by Firelight Media, Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and Reel South.

As previously announced, this year's Charles Guggenheim Symposium will feature a discussion with filmmaker Dawn Porter and a free screening of her new film RISE AGAIN: TULSA AND THE RED SUMMER.

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Audience Awards will be given to a feature and a short film based on votes cast by attendees throughout the festival. The winners of the Audience Awards for Best Feature and Best Short will be announced on Monday, June 28. For the second year, the AFI DOCS Short Film Competition Grand Jury Prize is a qualifying award for Academy Award® eligibility.

Passes to AFI DOCS 2021 are now available at Early Bird pricing will be available until June 1. Tickets for individual and in-person screenings will be available June 8. AFI Members receive exclusive discounts and benefits. To become an AFI member, visit



Featuring our Opening, Centerpiece and Closing films, this section spotlights the highest-profile and most anticipated films of the festival.


NAOMI OSAKA: DIR Garrett Bradley. PRODS Lauren Cioffi, Katy Murakami and Sally Rosen. USA.

What does it feel like to be one of the best tennis players in the world? An intimate look inside the life of one of the most gifted and complex athletes of her generation offers insight into the tough decisions and ecstatic triumphs that shape Naomi Osaka as both an elite global superstar and a young woman navigating a pressure-filled world. World Premiere.


CUSP: DIRS Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt. PROD Zachary Luke Kislevitz. USA.

This coming-of-age documentary follows three teenage girls for one wild, life-changing summer in their small Texas town as they grapple with what becoming an adult means, especially for young women.


ROADRUNNER: A FILM ABOUT ANTHONY BOURDAIN: DIR Morgan Neville. PRODS Caitrin Rogers and Morgan Neville. USA.

A documentary about the uncommon life of the late storyteller, explorer and chef, Anthony Bourdain.

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Honoring a master of the nonfiction art form, this year’s Guggenheim Symposium will include an in-depth conversation with celebrated filmmaker Dawn Porter hosted by Variety’s Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis, featuring clips from her acclaimed work and a free screening of her most recent project.


One hundred years after the two-day Tulsa Massacre, one of America’s most violent racial conflicts, this documentary explores the role of media during these early 20th century events and today’s revived call for justice and anti-racism. Free Screening.

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