- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 20, 2003

The American Film Institute and Discovery Communications Inc., the parent company of the Discovery Channel, became neighbors in Silver Spring recently. The organizations plan to capitalize on the proximity by sponsoring an annual documentary film festival, Silverdocs. Highlights of the inaugural series, scheduled for June 18 through 22 at the AFI Silver Theatre, were announced yesterday during a teleconference shared by administrators of both organizations.

The opening-night presentation will be Richard Schickel’s “Charlie: The Life and Art of Charles Chaplin,” a biographical tribute that is having its world premiere this week at the Cannes Film Festival. A Silverdocs jury has selected 70 titles from more than 1,000 entries to be screened during the five-day showcase in Silver Spring.

Political topics will be emphasized June 19, and there will be a symposium, hosted by Mark Halperin of ABC News, to discuss two selections dealing with the 2000 national election. The chosen feature, “Only in America,” is a profile of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, the Democratic Party nominee for vice president in 2000. A thematically compatible short, “We Wuz Robbed,” from Spike Lee, recalls the concession-speech dilemma of Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore.

June 20 has been designated “sports night.” Steve Sabol, the president of NFL Films, will discuss one of his recent compilations, “Tight on the Spiral,” at a symposium with Washington Post reporter David Maraniss, the author of a recent biography of Vince Lombardi, “When Pride Still Mattered.”

The late Charles Guggenheim, whose documentary company was based in Washington for decades, will be honored at an inaugural Charles Guggenheim Symposium the evening of June 21. The event will include the local theatrical premiere of his final production, “Berga: Soldiers of Another War,” an account of how American soldiers captured during the Battle of the Bulge were conscripted for slave labor by the Nazi regime.

In addition to members of the Guggenheim family and surviving soldiers, the participants in the symposium will include former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti and New York Times foreign editor Roger Cohen.

Those who participated in the teleconference were Nina Gilden Seavey, festival director; Jean Picker Firstenberg, AFI director and chief executive officer; John S. Hendricks, chairman and chief executive of Discovery Communications; Donald A. Baer, senior executive vice president for strategy and development at Discovery; and James Hindman, co-director and chief operating officer of the AFI.

Mrs. Seavy anticipates that being next door to Washington will gain the festival “a unique position to engage policymakers, journalists, issue experts, elected officials and activists” in order to “explore, challenge and honor documentaries and the ideas behind them.” Mr. Hendricks expects that Silver Spring will become “one of the principal destinations for audiences to gather and enjoy the very best documentary productions in the world.”

For detailed information about festival programs and tickets, consult the AFI Web site, AFI.com, in the weeks ahead. The AFI Silver Theatre is at 8633 Colesville Road, two blocks from the Silver Spring Metro station. For general information about programming and membership, call 301/495-6720.

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