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Documentary Film Festival Brings World to Washington

One of the premier documentary film festivals in the United States has chosen to focus this year on freedom, both in the the United States and overseas.

The film festival's name is SILVERDOCS. It is jointly sponsored by the American Film Institute and the Discovery Channel, a television network that specializes in science, history, nature, technology and adventure.

SILVERDOCS director Patricia Finneran says this year's theme of freedom will be broadly represented. One obvious sub-theme is politics, so the festival will include a special project on documentary and democracy.

Ms. Finneran says some of the documentaries highlight elections in the United States.

"One of the films in the festival is a film called Street Fight, which is about the election for mayor in Newark, New Jersey, between two African Americans, Sharpe James, the incumbent for four terms and a new up and coming guy named Cory Booker," said Patricia Finneran. "And it's about old-fashioned, dirty politics, and it's about the sort of state of democracy in the United States."

Others, she adds, focus on democracy in other countries.

"Another film we're showing is Our Brand is Crisis, which is about the firm of Greenberg, Carville, Shrum, I think many people of heard of James Carville, the political consultant, so, they're Washington-based political consultants who work in Bolivia, consulting on the re-election campaign of the Bolivian president," she said.

Ms. Finneran says the theme of freedom also includes the freedom of speech. This concept will be emphasized in several films and a panel discussion called "God Save the Dirty Joke," that focus on comedy's unique role in the United States in challenging notions of acceptable speech.

At a luncheon Wednesday to announce this year's slate of 89 films from 43 countries, actor Richard Dreyfuss says documentary films let different people talk to and learn from each other.

"The only way that people get to see the rest of the world, most people, is to have it brought to them," said Richard Dreyfuss. "And when you see the rest of the world, without going there, you can be changed by it."

SILVERDOCS is in its third year. The festival runs for six days next month in a suburb of Washington, because this is the city where, as organizers say, politics, art and media converge.