The SCAD Savannah Film Festival, which takes place each year at the Savannah College of Art and Design 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, has revealed the names of the 10 documentary features that it will highlight on this year’s edition of its popular Docs to Watch panel.
The Docs to Watch gathering, which features discussion about the challenges and rewards of documentary filmmaking, will take place at the Lucas Theatre on the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 25, midway through the 26th edition of the fest, which will run from Oct. 21 through Oct. 28. For the 10th year in a row, it will be presented by The Music news and moderated by yours truly.
The films represented on this year’s Docs to Watch panel — all of which will also screen during the fest, followed by a Q&As with their director(s) — will be:
- 20 Days in Mariupol (PBS), a film about a team of Ukrainian journalists who continue with their work during the Russian invasion of their country, represented by director Mstyslav Chernov
- American Symphony (Netflix), a film about a celebrated musician experiencing his greatest professional success at the same time his wife is facing her greatest personal challenge, represented by director Matthew Heineman (a best documentary feature Oscar nominee for 2015’s Cartel Land)
- Beyond Utopia (Roadside), a film about a South Korean pastor and the people he tries to help escape from North Korea, represented by director Madeleine Gavin
- BS High (HBO), a film about the architect of a high school football scandal that rocked the world of sports, represented by co-director Travon Free (a best live-action short Oscar winner for 2020’s Two Distant Strangers)
- The Deepest Breath (Netflix), a film about star-crossed deep-sea free divers, represented by director Laura McGann
- The Eternal Memory (MTV), a film about a Chilean couple’s experience as one member of the relationship descends into the fog of Alzheimer’s disease, represented by director Maite Alberdi (a best documentary feature Oscar nominee for 2020’s The Mole Agent)
- Kokomo City (Magnolia), a film about the lives of four Black transgender sex workers, represented by director D. Smith
- The Mission (Nat Geo), a film about the efforts of an Evangelical missionary to make contact with one of the world’s most isolated Indigenous peoples, represented by co-director Jesse Moss
- Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple), a film about the life and struggles of the beloved actor, who was stricken at a young age with Parkinson’s disease, represented by director Davis Guggenheim (a best documentary feature Oscar winner for 2006’s An Inconvenient Truth)
- Stamped From the Beginning (Netflix), a film about the history of anti-Black racism in America, represented by director Roger Ross Williams (a best documentary short Oscar winner for 2009’s Music by Prudence and a best documentary feature Oscar nominee for 2016’s Life, Animated)
Over the past nine years, 45 films received best documentary feature Oscar nominations, 18 of which were first highlighted on the Docs to Watch panel, and seven of those ultimately won the best documentary feature Oscar.
“This year marks the 10th anniversary of Docs to Watch, which has been an integral part of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival,” Christina Routhier, the festival’s executive director, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Scott Feinberg and The Music news to celebrate the preeminent documentaries of the year and connect these filmmakers with our audiences and SCAD students. This annual event has elevated our festival to a must-attend for the awards season.”
Each year, more than 63,000 people attend the eight-day festival. This year’s full festival lineup will be announced on October 6. For additional information and tickets, visit filmfest.scad.edu.