One hundred twenty-two films from 58 countries are drawing large audiences to a modern theater complex in Silver Spring, Maryland, where the annual Silverdocs Film Festival is under way [June 15-22].
Now in its seventh year, Silverdocs has managed to attract hundreds of established and up-and-coming documentary filmmakers, industry professionals and movie fans from around the globe. And it's done it again this year.
Local resident Jim Hill has been attending the Silverdocs festival for the past four years and says it's one of the best festivals he's been to.
"I like the fact that this festival concentrates only on documentary films, which I think brings a level of reality to films that you don't have in feature films."
Basketball star LeBron James highlight of opening-night film
A good example of that reality is the documentary chosen for Silverdocs' opening night. More Than a Game follows the remarkable rise of five talented young basketball players from the small Midwestern state of Ohio. One of those players is the current NBA superstar, LeBron James.
While More Than a Game features many scenes on the basketball court, director Kristopher Belman says the film is more than a story about basketball.
"Just seeing the way they interacted, on the court and off the court; the friendship was the unique thing to me."
A first-time festival attendee says he's at Silverdocs for the opening-night film.
"We're in town from Atlanta, Georgia, and we're looking forward to seeing it."
Other fans weren't so lucky. One man and his daughter said they couldn't get tickets for the film and even missed seeing the film's main star, who made a special opening-night appearance.
"We want to see LeBron James. He's the best! Where is he?"
Standout films from South Korea, Mali
Artistic Director Sky Sitney says this year's Silverdocs is showcasing not only U.S. and European documentaries but also a wide variety of non-Western films that she expects will appeal to international audiences.
"We are seeing a lot of work coming out of the Middle East this year. We had a number of works out of South Korea that were quite interesting. I think that documentary has really become a very kind of global storytelling at this point."
Supermen of Malegaon, a film from South Korea, documents the making of a low-budget version of Superman, in which the classic American superhero is infused with the local culture of Malegaon, India.
Another standout film at Silverdocs is Mrs. Goundo's Daughter, a moving account of a Malian mother's quest to save her daughter from genital mutilation.
Silverdocs' organizers say they're encouraged by the growing public interest in the festival, which is a cooperative effort between the privately funded American Film Institute and media giant Discovery Communications. Sitney says Silverdocs will continue showcasing domestic and foreign films that represent the most diverse and relevant issues of our time.
"As you can see every single year, the festival grows and grows, and there's no indication of that slowing down. I think people are really interested in the kind of storytelling that you can get in documentary."
Silverdocs organizers say they are also planning to broaden the festival's reach to regions of the world where this genre is newly emerging.