Docuweeks lineup: magicians, Mormons, migrants and more

A Mormon man’s effort to rescue, preserve and share 20,000 volumes of ancient Tibetan text, the annual Scottish Prison Service hairdressing competition and the struggles of people with bipolar disorder are among the stories that will unspool onscreen at the International Documentary Assn.’s Docuweeks screening series in August.

Seventeen feature films and 11 shorts from 19 countries will play between Aug. 10 and 30 at the Laemmle NoHo 7. Tickets for individual films at the Laemmle NoHo 7 are $11 for general admission, $8 for IDA members and $8 for seniors and children.

Here’s a look at the lineup, with descriptions as provided by IDA:


Feature films

“The Anderson Monarchs”

Director: Eugene Martin

The Anderson Monarchs is about a nationally competitive African American girls soccer club competing, living and thriving in an at-risk urban neighborhood in Philadelphia. Nominated in 2008 by Sports Illustrated as sports team of the year, they were also hailed as “the future of American Soccer” in the London newspaper, the Guardian. The Anderson Monarchs, like their namesake Marian Anderson, are making history. Their remarkable story brings them to a place they only ever imagined in their dreams.

“Defiant Requiem”

Director/producer/writer: Doug Shultz

A memorial concert reawakens the story of an artistic uprising in the Nazi concentration camp, Terezin, where a chorus of 150 inmates confronts the Nazis face-to-face ... and sings to them what they dare not say.

“Digital Dharma: One Man’s Mission to Save a Culture”

Director/producer/writer: Dafna Yachin

When ancient writings of Sanskrit and Tibetan texts vanish during the political turmoil of the 1950s and 1960s, the history of a whole society is in danger of disappearing. Digital Dharma chronicles the 50-year journey of E. Gene Smith, a Mormon from Utah, the unlikely leader of an effort to rescue, preserve and share 20,000 volumes of ancient Tibetan text. It’s the story of one man’s mission that became the catalyst for an international movement to provide free access to the story of a people.


Director: Everardo González

Residents from the ejido (communal land) Los Cuates de Australia in northeast Mexico every year stage a massive exodus to look for water during drought. In this exile, men, women, elders and children wait for the first drops of water to return to their lands, a metaphor of a small town that hides from death.

“Garden in the Sea” (Jardín en el Mar)

Director/writer: Thomas Riedelsheimer

Garden in the Sea is a documentary about art, landscape and environment. Over a period of four years, the director followed Spanish artist Cristina Iglesias to the Mexican Sea of Cortez where she was commissioned to create an underwater sculpture that gradually would help enhance marine life. Expanding the form of a classic portrait, the film talks not only about the role of art but also about human passion, experiences and longings and makes the stunning beauty of our world tangible inviting us to care for it.

“La Source”

Director: Patrick Shen

After an earthquake devastates his beloved country, a Haitian Princeton janitor seeks the support of the privileged community he serves every day and sacrifices everything to revive his lifelong dream to bring what is most fundamental to his village’s survival: clean water.

“Love Free or Die”

Director: Macky Alston

“Love Free or Die"is about a man whose two defining passions are in direct conflict: his love for God and his partner Mark. Gene Robinson is the first openly gay person to become a bishop in the historical traditions of Christendom. His consecration in 2003, to which he wore a bulletproof vest, caused an international stir, and he has lived with death threats every day since. “Love Free or Die” follows Robinson from small-town churches in the New Hampshire North County to Washington’s Lincoln Memorial to London’s Lambeth Palace, as he calls for all to stand for equality –– inspiring bishops, priests and ordinary folk to come out from the shadows and change history.

“The Magic Life”

Director: Nelson Cheng

Three aspiring individuals try to turn their passion into a career. Can they pull off the biggest trick of their lives and become working magicians?

“Of Two Minds”

Director: Doug Blush, Lisa Klein

Take your best day ... and your darkest moment ... and multiply by a million. “Of Two Minds,” from the creative team behind “Wordplay,” “I.O.U.S.A.,” “Superheroes,” and “These Amazing Shadows,” explores the extraordinary lives, struggles and successes of a few of the more than 5 million Americans living with bipolar disorder. “Of Two Minds” puts a human face on bipolar, providing an intimate, painful and painfully funny look at those who live in its shadows ... our parents and children, our friends and lovers ... and ourselves.

“Once In a Lullaby: The PS 22 Chorus Documentary”

Director: Jonathan Kalafer

The PS22 Chorus from Staten Island became a YouTube sensation when their teacher started posting videos of them singing on his blog. At their annual holiday concert they received a surprise visitor: Anne Hathaway was there to invite them to be the featured performance at the 83rd Academy Awards. “Once in a Lullaby” follows the fifth-graders from the streets and hallways in Staten Island to the Kodak Theatre (now the Dolby Theatre) in Hollywood, where creative differences, lost voices and homesickness threaten their performance.

“Out of the Clear Blue Sky”

Director: Danielle Gardner

On Sept. 11, 2001, Cantor Fitzgerald became famous for the worst of all possible reasons: 658 of its employees were missing, presumed dead in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Though Cantor suffered almost twice the casualties of the FDNY, its story was soon pushed aside as the media ambushed Cantor Chief Executive Howard Lutnick, who went from face of the tragedy to pariah within weeks. A true stranger-than-fiction account, unfolding over months and years, the film captures the experience of being caught in the cross hairs of history.

“Ricky on Leacock”

Director: Jane Weiner

The work (on- and off-screen) of legendary filmmaker Richard Leacock, protégé to Robert Flaherty (“Nanook of the North,” “Louisiana Story”), not only influenced generations of filmmakers during his long career but also changed, technically and aesthetically, how movies are made. “Ricky on Leacock” is a cinematic journey that Jane Weiner began as a young filmmaker, during which, over 38 years, she filmed encounters with his friends and contemporaries, including D.A. Pennebaker, Robert Drew, Ed Pincus, Jonas Mekas, Dušan Makavejev and others.

“Trial by Fire: Lives Re-Forged”

Director: Megan Smith-Harris

“Trial by Fire: Lives Re-Forged” celebrates the strength, courage and hope of burn survivors as they reclaim their lives, and their dreams, after the devastating injuries of fire. American hero and “Dancing With the Stars” champion, J.R. Martinez provides context and perspective to the inspirational survivor stories in the film, which also honors the firefighters, doctors and nurses who help them recover. When you forge metal with fire, it becomes stronger. The same is true of the human spirit.

“We Women Warriors” (Tejiendo Sabiduría)

Director: Nicole Karsin

“We Women Warriors” follows three native women caught in the crossfire of Colombia’s warfare, who use nonviolent resistance to defend their peoples’ survival. Colombia has 102 aboriginal groups, one-third of which face extinction because of the conflict. Trapped in a protracted predicament financed by the drug trade, indigenous women are resourcefully leading and creating transformation imbued with hope. “We Women Warriors” bears witness to neglected human rights catastrophes and interweaves character-driven stories about female empowerment, unshakable courage and faith in the endurance of indigenous culture.

“Without a Net”

Director: Kelly J. Richardson

Djeferson, Bárbara, Rayana, and Platini live in a drug-controlled slum of Rio de Janeiro. Their families are struggling, their homes are physically unstable, and everyone they know has dropped out of school. When a big-top circus tent suddenly appears in a nearby parking lot, they decide to take a chance. They learn trapeze, acrobatics, juggling, and contortion, and then audition for the end-of-year show, rehearse and prepare for the curtains to part on opening night. Along the way, “Without a Net” explores the connections between risk, desire, poverty and circus and celebrates the perseverance and resilience of youth in the face of tremendous odds.

“Words of Witness”

Director: Mai Iskander

Every time 22-year-old Heba Afify heads out to cover the historical events shaping her country’s future, her mother is compelled to remind her, “I know you are a journalist, but you’re still a girl!” Defying cultural norms and family expectations, Heba takes to the streets to report on an Egypt in turmoil, using tweets, texts and Facebook posts. Her coming of age, political awakening and the disillusionment that follows mirrors that of a nation seeking the freedom to shape its own destiny, dignity and democracy.


“The A-Word”

Director: Lindsay Ellis

In the fall of 2009, Lindsay Ellis, a 25-year-old graduate student, made the decision to terminate her first pregnancy, finding the decision much more difficult than she anticipated. In this film, she attempts to humanize the experience by exploring both her own and others’ by asking, is there even such a thing as the “right” choice?

“Beauty Culture”

Director: Lauren Greenfield

Beauty Culture explores how feminine beauty is defined and revered, and the consequences for female body image. Through an examination of the photography industry and iconic fashion images, the film investigates our age-old obsession with beauty, its biological origins and the role of the media and technology in narrowing its definition with ubiquitous imagery. Fashion photographers, avant-garde artists, celebrated models, child pageant stars, body builders, teenagers and intellectuals engage in a provocative dialogue about the “beauty contest” of modern life.

“Cutting Loose”

Directors: Finlay Pretsell, Adrian McDowall

Hairdressers poised, scissors at the ready, clients in place. Cutting begins. The salon looks familiar enough, chatter rising above the chopping and blow drying, but the hairdressers have something in common––they’re all serving time in Scotland’s jails. Cutting Loose provides a fascinating snapshot of prison life during the build-up to the annual Scottish Prison Service hairdressing competition. As the competition approaches, we hear the dreams and aspirations of some of Scotland’s most dangerous prisoners as they style the hair of fellow inmates on a daily basis.


Director: Martin Smith

A day in the life of Jimmy McIntosh, MBE, who has tirelessly campaigned for disabled rights since 1972. An incredibly intimate portrait told from Jimmy’s point of view, a wheelchair-bound cerebral palsy sufferer. Nothing stands in Jimmy’s way.

“Kings Point”

Director: Sari Gilman

Director Sari Gilman tells the stories of five seniors living in a typical American retirement resort –– men and women who came to Florida decades ago with their spouses by their sides and their health intact, and now find themselves grappling with love, loss and the prospect of dying alone. A bittersweet look at our national obsession with self-reliance, Kings Point explores the dynamic tension between living and aging –– between our desire for independence and our need for community –– and underscores our powerful ambivalence toward growing old.

“Open Heart”

Director: Kief Davidson

Eight Rwandan children leave their families behind to embark on a life or death journey seeking high-risk heart surgery in Sudan. Their hearts ravaged by a treatable disease from childhood strep throat, the kids have only months to live. Open Heart reveals the intertwined endeavors of Dr. Emmanuel,Rwanda’s lone government cardiologist as he fights to save the lives of his young patients, and Dr. Gino, the Salam Center’s fiercely opinionated head surgeon, who must also fight to save his hospital, Africa’s only link to life-saving free cardiac surgery for the millions who need it.

“The Perfect Fit”

Director: Tali Yankelevich

Ballet shoes may be worn by delicate girls, but they’re crafted by big burly men whose hands tell another story.

“POV’s StoryCorps Shorts”

Directors: The Rauch Brothers

Facundo the Great Ramòn “Chunky” Sanchez recounts how the new kid at school became a hero when his name stumped their teachers.

Eyes on the Stars Carl McNair tells the story of his brother Ronald, an African American kid in the 1950s who set his sights on the stars.

Sundays at Rocco’s Nicholas Petron remembers family dinners at his grandfather’s place and how everything changed when the city made new plans for their neighborhood.

“The Record Breaker”

Director: Brian McGinn

Ashrita Furman holds the record for the most Guinness World Records by one individual, including marks for “Largest Hula Hoop,” “Most Apples Sliced in Mid-Air with a Samurai Sword” and “Longest Distance Bicycling Underwater.” A health food store owner and devotee of meditation, Furman travels the world creating new categories for record achievement. We meet Furman, a singularly driven character, and his merry band of compatriots (including Champ the dog) as he’s about to attempt to climb Machu Picchu on stilts.