AFI Docs Film Festival Will Go Virtual Amid Pandemic

The fest's 18th edition is set to run June 17-21 and will kick off with Sundance's Grand Jury doc winner 'Boys State.'
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Doc filmmaker Morgan Neville at the 2015 edition of AFI Docs

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, the 18th edition of AFI Docs, the American Film Institute's annual celebration of documentaries, will take place as planned from June 17-21 — only this year not at theaters in Washington, D.C., but rather, for the first time, exclusively online.

"AFI is committed to the documentary art form in the best of times and in the most challenging of times," Michael Lumpkin, the director of AFI Festivals, said Tuesday in a statement. "Now more than ever, we are dedicated to supporting extraordinary films because the world needs stories that educate, inspire hope and remind us of humanity's strength. AFI Docs is here to help."

Films will be available for home viewing at docs.afi.com. Opening night will feature Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss' Boys State, which centers on a group of teenage boys at a mock government program. The Sundance Grand Jury doc winner, which was acquired at the fest for a doc-record $12 million by A24 and Apple, will be followed by a virtual Q&A with the filmmakers and subjects.

The rest of the festival program, which will be announced June 10, will be divided into sections — special presentations (screenings to be followed by conversations and Q&As), features, cinema's legacy (historically notable docs about landmark moments in American political history), shorts and AFI Docs Forum.

The AFI Docs advisory board includes Ken Burns, Davis Guggenheim, Chris Hegedus, Werner Herzog, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson and Frederick Wiseman.