2020 Globe Docs Film Festival

September 22, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the 2020 Globe Docs Film Festival is 100% virtual.

Buy virtual tickets to access to movies in the 2020 Globe Docs Film Festival. Boston’s only all-documentary film festival will run virtually October 1-12, 2020.

This year’s virtual festival continues the tradition of highlighting important stories and recognizing Boston as a touchstone of the non-fiction film world with its largest ever lineup of 35 films including four shorts programs. Curated by Lisa Viola, Director of Programming for GlobeDocs, over half of this year’s films are directed or co-directed by women and cover a range of topics including public health, climate change, tech developments, gun violence and the arts.

The 2020 season will open with CODED BIAS, which follows MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini in her investigation into widespread bias in algorithms used in AI. Director Shalini Kantayya will also be honored with the 2020 GlobeDocs Filmmaker Fund Award for creating visionary work in documentary filmmaking. Past recipients include David Abel (LOBSTER WAR), Sue Williams (DEATH BY DESIGN) and Laura Poitras (CITIZENFOUR).

This year’s Centerpiece Film, 9to5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT, is the latest film from Academy Award-winning filmmakers Julia Reichert & Steven Bognar (AMERICAN FACTORY) and tells the story of a group of Boston women banding together to bring change to their workplace environments. Closing the festival is CITY HALL, revered director Frederick Wiseman’s deep dive into the efforts of Boston city government to secure and protect necessary services and activities for residents and visitors.

All screenings will be followed by virtual discussions with filmmakers, moderated by an incredible list of Boston Globe journalists. Festival-goers will also have the opportunity to vote for the annual Audience Award which is awarded to one feature film and one short film.

“Six years after launching, GlobeDocs has grown into a renowned documentary film festival supporting filmmakers and partnering with other organizations to continue to shine a light on documentaries,” said Linda Henry, Managing Director of The Boston Globe and Executive Director of the Film Festival. “We value the importance of truth and engagement in this moment and proudly celebrate the work of these skilled artists.”

“We are thrilled to announce our expanded slate of films for the 2020 festival, which includes exceptional documentaries from around the world as well as new work from acclaimed filmmakers that highlight our city of Boston” said Lisa Viola, Director of Programming for GlobeDocs. “With our virtual festival, we are pleased to elevate these films with a unique opportunity to engage audiences both locally and beyond the region.”

Opening Night Film

CODED BIAS
2020, USA, 90 minutes
Directed by Shalini Kantayya
When MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini discovers that most facial-recognition software does not accurately identify darker-skinned faces and the faces of women, she delves into an investigation of widespread bias in algorithms. As it turns out, artificial intelligence is not neutral, and women are leading the charge to ensure that civil rights are protected. CODED BIAS follows her journey to push for the first-ever legislation in the U.S. to govern against bias in the algorithms that impact us all.

Filmmaker Shalini Kantayya (2020 GlobeDocs Filmmaker Fund Award recipient) has crafted a stunning work about modern society and exploring two crucial questions: What does it mean when artificial intelligence increasingly governs our liberties? And what are the consequences for the people AI is biased against?

Centerpiece Film

9to5: THE STORY OF A MOVEMENT
2020, USA, 86 minutes
Directed by Julia Reichert & Steven Bognar
In the early 1970s, a group of secretaries in Boston decided that they had suffered in silence long enough. Inspired by the Women’s Liberation Movement, they started fighting back, banding together to force changes in their workplaces. Their goals were simple: better pay, job descriptions, respect, advancement opportunities, and an end to sexual harassment. This movement, taking the name 9to5, became national, and inspired Dolly Parton’s iconic song and Jane Fonda’s hit film of the same name. From the Oscar winning directors of American Factory, featuring interviews with 9to5 founders Ellen Cassedy and Karen Nussbaum, actress/activist Jane Fonda and others; this is the untold story of their fight.

Closing Night Film

CITY HALL
2020, USA, 272 minutes
Directed by Frederick Wiseman
City government touches almost every aspect of our lives. Most of us are unaware of or take for granted these necessary services such as police, fire, sanitation, veterans affairs, elder support, parks, licensing of various professional activities, recordkeeping of birth, marriage and death as well as hundreds of other activities that support Boston residents and visitors. CITY HALL, from veteran Boston director Frederick Wiseman, shows the efforts by Boston city government to provide these services. The film also illustrates the variety of ways the city administration enters into civil discourse with the citizens of Boston. Mayor Walsh and his administration are presented addressing a number of their policy priorities which include racial justice, affordable housing, climate action, and homelessness. CITY HALL astutely depicts a city government successfully offering a wide variety of services to a diverse population.

AGGIE
2020, USA, 91 minutes
Directed by Catherine Gund
AGGIE explores the nexus of art, race, and justice through the story of art collector and philanthropist Agnes “Aggie” Gund’s life. Emmy- nominated director Catherine Gund focuses on her mother’s journey to give viewers an understanding of the power of art to transform consciousness and inspire social change. Aggie Gund is internationally recognized for her robust and prescient support of artists—particularly women and people of color—and her unwavering commitment to social justice issues. The film captures Aggie as a true maverick, who demonstrates the unique role and potential of collectors and benefactors to use art to fight injustice.

THE CAPOTE TAPES
2019, UK, 98 minutes
Directed by Ebs Burnough
Truman Capote was a singular figure in the 20th century. He presented himself unapologetically on television at a time when most gay men took pains to avoid scrutiny. His books Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood were bestsellers and critical darlings. THE CAPOTE TAPES delivers a fresh portrait that reinvigorates our understanding of this vital writer.

Among the film’s revelations are newly discovered tapes of interviews that The Paris Review co-founder George Plimpton conducted with Capote’s friends after his death. Filmmaker Ebs Burnough brings an understanding of elite cultural circles from his own distinguished career, which includes a stint in Obama’s White House. He navigates the complexities of Capote’s life with great skill.

ECHOES OF THE INVISIBLE
2020, USA/Poland, 106 minutes
Directed by Steve Elkins
In Russian, Arabic, English and Tuvinian with English subtitles
ECHOES OF THE INVISIBLE interweaves a mosaic of profound quests. A blind man runs alone through Death Valley as journalist Paul Salopek walks 21,000 miles across the world to retrace our ancestors’ migration. Photographer Rachel Sussman struggles to capture the oldest living organisms on the planet while astronomers and physicists attempt to penetrate the furthest depths of time. These ambitious explorers, alongside monks journeying to the earth’s furthest reaches, are connected through their tireless search to touch the human heart in a world of noise and division. ECHOES OF THE INVISIBLE was selected for the 2020 SXSW Film Festival.

ENTANGLED
2020, USA, 75 minutes
Directed by David Abel, Andy Laub
ENTANGLED chronicles the efforts to protect North Atlantic right whales from extinction, the impacts of those efforts on the lobster industry, and how the National Marine Fisheries Service has struggled to balance the vying interests.

There are now believed to be fewer than 400 right whales, making them among the planet’s most endangered species. Between millions of lobster lines and warming waters due to climate change their population has been plummeting and their survival is threatened. The federal government is proposing regulations, which could reduce lobster lines by half in much of the Gulf of Maine and harm the livelihoods of many lobstermen, and has sparked a political backlash. The future of the iconic species hangs in the balance.

FISH & MEN
2019, USA, 85 minutes
Directed by Darby Duffin, Adam Jones
FISH & MEN exposes the high cost of cheap fish in the modern seafood economy and the forces threatening local fishing communities and public health by revealing how our choices as consumers drive the global seafood trade. But, a new movement is underway – an opportunity to return sustainability to both fish and fishermen. Thriving on local communities, pioneering fishermen and celebrated chefs are leading a revolutionary new model, a ‘Catch of the Day’ revival based on local, seasonal, sustainable fish and reconnect us with those who risk their lives to harvest the bounties of the sea. Featuring the owners of Mac’s Seafood on Cape Cod and the Gloucester, Massachusetts fishing community.

I AM GRETA
2020, Sweden, 97 minutes
Directed by Nathan Grossman
In Swedish and English with English subtitles
In August of 2018, Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old student in Sweden starts a school strike for the climate. Her question for adults: if you don’t care about her future on earth, why should she care about her future in school? Within months, her strike evolves into a global movement. Greta, a quiet Swedish girl on the autism spectrum is now a world famous activist. The film team behind I AM GRETA has been following the young activist from her very first day of school strike from her hometown of Stockholm, across Europe with her father, to her sailing to the US to attend the UN Climate Action Summit.

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
2020, USA, 81 minutes
Directed by Carolyn Jones
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY paints a startling picture of our ERs stretched to the breaking point and exposes the extent of our nation’s broken safety net. All of our country’s biggest public health challenges—from COVID-19 to the opioid crisis to gun violence to lack of insurance—collide in emergency departments. Nearly half of all medical care in the U.S. is delivered in ERs and nurses are on the frontlines, addressing our physical and emotional needs before sending us back out into the world. IN CASE OF EMERGENCY follows emergency nurses across the U.S, shedding light on their efforts to help break a sometimes-vicious cycle for patients under their care.

THE LAST ICE
2020, USA, 83 minutes
Directed by Scott Ressler
In English, Inuktitut and Greenlandic with English subtitles
For centuries, Inuit in the Arctic have lived on and around the frozen ocean. Now, as climate change is rapidly melting the sea ice between Canada and Greenland, the outside world sees unprecedented opportunity. Oil and gas deposits, faster shipping routes, tourism, and fishing all provide financial incentive to exploit the newly opened waters. But for more than 100,000 Inuit, an entire way of life is at stake. Development here threatens to upset the delicate balance between their communities, land, and wildlife. Divided by aggressive colonization and decades of hardship, Inuit in Canada and Greenland are once again coming together, fighting to protect what will remain of their world. The question is, will the world listen?

LOS HERMANOS/THE BROTHERS
2020, USA/Cuba, 84 minutes
Directed by Marcia Jarmel & Ken Schneider
In English and Spanish with English subtitles
Virtuoso Afro-Cuban-born brothers—violinist Ilmar and pianist Aldo—live on opposite sides of a geopolitical chasm a half-century wide. Tracking their parallel lives in New York and Havana, their poignant reunion, and their momentous first performances together, LOS HERMANOS/THE BROTHERS suggests what is possible when walls come down, and borders are crossed. A nuanced, intensely moving view of nations long estranged, through the lens of music and family. Featuring an electrifying, genre-bending score composed by Cuban Aldo López-Gavilán, performed with his American brother, Ilmar, with a guest appearance by violin maestro Joshua Bell and the Harlem Quartet.

MAYOR
2020, USA/UK, 89 minutes
Directed by David Osit
In Arabic and English with English subtitles
MAYOR is a real-life political saga following Musa Hadid, the Christian mayor of Ramallah, during his second term in office. Surrounded on all sides by Israeli settlements and soldiers, most people in Ramallah will never have the chance to travel more than a few miles outside their home, which is why Mayor Hadid is determined to make the city a beautiful and dignified place to live. His immediate goals: repave the sidewalks, attract more tourism, and plan the city’s Christmas celebrations. His ultimate mission: to end the occupation of Palestine. Rich with detailed observation and a surprising amount of humor, MAYOR offers a portrait of dignity amidst the madness and absurdity of endless occupation while posing a question: how do you run a city when you don’t have a country?

MEAT THE FUTURE
2020, Canada, 90 minutes
Directed by Liz Marshall
A close-up and personal look at the visionaries risking everything to innovate real meat without slaughtering animals, and without environmental destruction. With animal agriculture occupying roughly 45% of the world’s ice-free surface area, producing more greenhouse gases than cars, the prospect of meat consumption doubling by 2050 is a wake-up call for solutions. The planet’s future may lie with “clean meat,” a food science that grows real meat from animal cells. Billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson, and food giants Cargill and Tyson have invested in the birth of this new industry, instilling confidence that cell-based meat may soon come to market as a sustainable alternative to conventional meat.

MY REMBRANDT
2019, Netherlands, 95 minutes
Directed by Oeke Hoogendijk
In Dutch, English, French with English subtitles
Set in the world of the Old Masters, MY REMBRANDT offers a mosaic of gripping stories in which unrestrained passion for Rembrandt’s paintings leads to dramatic developments and unexpected plot turns. While art collectors show us their special connection with ‘their’ Rembrandt, a French baron puts two Rembrandts up for sale, triggering a hard political battle between the Rijksmuseum and the Louvre. Meanwhile aristocratic Dutch art dealer Jan Six seems to be on the trail of not just one but two ‘new’ Rembrandt paintings. MY REMBRANDT allows for a fascinating insight into what makes the work of this Dutch master painter so special and why his work touches people so deeply.

NASRIN
2020, USA, 91 minutes
Directed by Jeff Kaufman
In Farsi and English with English subtitles
Secretly filmed in Iran for over two years, NASRIN is an immersive portrait of human rights activist and political prisoner Nasrin Sotoudeh and Iran’s remarkably resilient women’s rights movement. Nasrin has long fought for the rights of women, children, LGBT prisoners, religious minorities, journalists and artists, and those facing the death penalty. She was arrested in 2018 for representing women who protested Iran’s mandatory hijab law and sentenced to 38 years in prison, plus 148 lashes. Narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Olivia Colman and featuring acclaimed filmmaker Jafar Panahi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, journalist Ann Curry, exiled women’s rights activist Mansoureh Shojaee, and Nasrin Sotoudeh.

STEELERS
2020, UK, 80 minutes
Directed by Eammon Ashton-Atkinson
In 1995, in a pub in London’s King’s Cross, a group of friends discussed the idea of a gay rugby club. From that casual conversation, the first gay rugby team was born – the Kings Cross Steelers. 25 years later, there are 60 clubs worldwide and once every two years they get together for the world tournament of gay rugby – The Bingham Cup. Eammon Ashton-Atkinson’s heartfelt documentary travels to Amsterdam as the Kings Cross Steelers attempt victory at the 2018 event. Along the way, we get to know some of the team and the coach in an inspiring testament to the power of teamwork and friendship.

US KIDS
2020, USA, 98 minutes
Directed by Kim A. Snyder
They were just regular high-school students — playing sports, studying for finals, goofing off, dancing and dreaming. And then, on Feb. 14, 2018 in just seven minutes, everything changed. In the aftermath of the nightmarish shooting that took 17 lives, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida became something else: traumatized, angry and imbued with unalloyed purpose. Kim Snyder’s remarkable film follows the teens on their journey of political activism and growth after the indelible shooting in a coming-of-age story that manages to be equal parts heartbreaking and hopeful.

2020 GlobeDocs Film Festival Short Films

ABORTION HELPLINE, THIS IS LISA
2019, USA, 13 minutes
Directed by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, Mike Attie
At an abortion helpline in Philadelphia, counselors arrive each morning to the nonstop ringing of calls from women and teens who are seeking to end a pregnancy but can’t afford to. We learn how economic stigma and cruel legislation determines who in America has access to abortion.

ACTIVIZED
2020, USA, 36 minutes
Directed by Eric Stange
ACTIVIZED follows the stories of seven ordinary Americans who, for the first time in their lives, have left their comfort zones and become involved in gun violence prevention, voting rights and immigrants’ rights.

AKASHINGA: THE BRAVE ONES
2020, USA, 13 minutes
Directed by Maria Wilhelm
AKASHINGA follows a women-only team of trained rangers in Zimbabwe, who are revolutionizing the way endangered animals are protected, communities are being empowered, and its members’ own lives are being transformed.

BETYE SAAR: TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS
2019, USA, 8 minutes
Directed by Christine Turner
At 93, there’s no stopping when it comes to the legendary artist Betye Saar.

CHIN UP
2019, UK, 5 minutes
Directed by Joanne Salmon
Following animator JoAnne Salmon’s story, from being 1 in 50,000 babies born with Treacher Collins Syndrome, to currently living her dreams as an animator.

COUP D’ÉTAT MATH
2020, USA, 9 minutes
Directed by Sai Selvarajan
In times of duress nothing adds up. COUP D’ÉTAT MATH is an animated short film depicting four stories that speak to the complex equation of each immigrant’s journey.

DEAR, DREAMER
2020, USA, 10 minutes
Directed by Kristian Melom
A lyrical portrait of the life and work of rising literary star Jason Reynolds as he prepares for the release of his next book.

FLOWER PUNK
2019, USA, 29 minutes
Directed by Alison Klayman
Japanese artist Azuma Makoto has sent his floral sculptures into space and sunk them to the bottom of the ocean, but most of the time, he thinks about the life and death of flowers.

THE GREAT TOILET PAPER SCARE
2019, USA, 10 minutes
Directed by Brian Gersten
The untold story of a notorious incident involving Johnny Carson, a lot of toilet paper, and millions of fearful Americans.

LOCKSHOP
2020, USA, 11 minutes
Directed by Cara Feinberg
Patty Maestranzi’s family has run the same two-room lockshop in South Boston for nearly a century. Three generations in, she and her siblings are the last in line, and when they close up shop at 100 years, they’ll take one of the last pieces of Old Southie with them.

THE MAGIC OF CHESS
2019, USA, 5 minutes
Directed by Jenny Schweitzer
Filmed at the 2019 Elementary Chess Championships at the Nashville Opryland resort, a group of children share their uninhibited, philosophical insights about the benefits of chess.

ME & MY ROBOT
2020, USA, 38 minutes
Directed by Mark Decena
ME & MY ROBOT follows 18 teams from 10 different countries as they head to Thailand for the 2018 World Robot Olympiad. Not just a story about winners and losers, we witness children from around the world working through the common language of engineering — harnessing its power to solve the world’s most complex problems.

MY FATHER THE MOVER
2020, South Africa, 12 minutes
Directed by Julia Jansch
The daughter of an African dance teacher learns the African electronic Gqom movement to alleviate her sorrows and find joy.

MYRTLE SIMPSON: A LIFE ON ICE
2019, USA, 35 minutes
Directed by Leigh Anne Sides
Myrtle Simpson was awarded the Polar Medal over fifty years after she became the first woman to cross the polar ice cap covering Greenland. Myrtle’s life has taken her around the globe blazing her own, unique trail and today, at 90, she continues to explore the world around her.

RISING POWER: BUILDING AN INTERSECTIONAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES
2020, USA, 17 minutes
Directed by Sharmeen O’Baid-Chinoy
RISING POWER brings us to Madison, Wisconsin, where we meet community organizers and the co-directors of Freedom, Inc. What began as a sexual assault support group has grown into an organization at the forefront of battles over education reform, police brutality, land access and ownership, women’s safety and security, and mental health.

WITH DAD
2020, USA, 29 minutes
Directed by Soren Sorensen
WITH DAD documents the work of Massachusetts photographer Stephen DiRado during his father’s twenty-year mental decline and eventual death from Alzheimer’s Disease.

WORCESTER 6: HEROES REMEMBERED
2020, USA, 21 minutes
Directed by David Shilale
On December 3, 1999, six firefighters from Denis Leary’s hometown of Worcester were killed in the Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire. In response, the actor founded the Leary Firefighters Foundation. WORCESTER 6 marks the 20th Anniversary of the fire and honors those who were lost on that fateful night.

City Hall Trailer