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Savannah Film Fest: ‘Docs to Watch’ Panel, New Doc Award and Special Doc Screenings Announced (Exclusive)

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The SCAD Savannah Film Festival, which takes place at the Savannah College of Art and Design each year shortly before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences votes to determine its Oscar shortlists, and which has become a premier showcase for documentary programming, in particular, has revealed the names of the 10 documentary features that it will highlight on this year’s edition of its celebrated Docs to Watch panel.

The one-of-a-kind Docs to Watch gathering, which features discussion about the challenges and rewards of documentary filmmaking, will take place at the Lucas Theater on the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 26, midway through the 25th edition of the fest, which will run from Oct. 22 through Oct. 29. For the ninth year in a row, it will be presented by The News84Media and moderated by yours truly.

The films represented on the panel will be:

  • All That Breathes (HBO), represented by director Shaunak Sen
  • Bad Axe (IFC), represented by director David Siew
  • Descendant (Netflix), represented by director Margaret Brown
  • Fire of Love (Nat Geo), represented by director Sara Dosa
  • Good Night Oppy (Amazon), represented by director Ryan White
  • Last Flight Home (MTV), represented by director Ondi Timoner
  • Moonage Daydream (Neon), represented by director Brett Morgenan Oscar nominee for 1999’s On the Ropes
  • Navalny (HBO Max), represented by director Daniel Roher
  • Retrograde (Nat Geo), represented by director Matthew Heinemanan Oscar nominee for 2015’s Cartel Land
  • The Return of Tanya Tucker (Sony Classics), represented by director Kathleen Horan

Christina Routhierthe executive director of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival, the nation’s largest university-run film festival, also confirmed to THR that the fest is expanding its documentary-related programming in several different ways.

For one, the fest will begin annually presenting a special honor at the start of the Docs to Watch gathering: the Daring Documentarian Award, to a courageous documentary filmmaker whose work is making a difference in the world. The first recipient will be the Russian filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky “in acknowledgment of the courage that it took to put himself in harm’s way in order to show the world what was happening in Ukraine, initially with his 2015 Oscar-nominated documentary Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom and again with its 2022 sequel Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.”

The 10 films on the Docs to Watch panel and Freedom on Fire (which recently premiered at the Venice and Toronto film festivals and is still seeking US distribution) will all be screened during the fest, followed by Q&As with their filmmakers and two other docs will also receive special screenings at the fest, Routhier announced.

Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down (Briarcliff), a documentary about former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — who was shot in the head in 2011, survived and has since worked tirelessly to combat gun violence — will be shown at the Lucas Theatre, followed by a Q&A with its Oscar-nominated directors. Julie Cohen and Betsy West (RGB) and Giffords herself.

And 38 at the Garden (HBO), a documentary short about former NBA player Jeremy Lin‘s extraordinary 2012 season and what it meant to the Asian-American community, will also be shown at the Lucas Theatre, followed by a Q&A with its director. Frank Chi and its Oscar-winning producer Travon Free (Two Distant Strangers).



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