The full AIFF2020 Virtual Festival program will be released on April 30, but here’s an advance peek at 10 of the feature film titles you can look forward to seeing from May 22 – June 14. Films will, in most cases, be introduced by the filmmakers and followed by Q&A’s with the directors. While sheltered at home, you will be carried abroad to Ethiopia, India, Sudan, Mexico, Iceland…and to New York, Los Angeles, and Yamhill, Oregon. Yamhill is the birthplace of Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times writer and our guide through Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope.
1. Aggie (Director: Catherine Gund)
Aggie explores the nexus of art, race, and justice through the story of art collector and philanthropist Agnes “Aggie” Gund. 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. The film opens with Aggie selling Roy Lichtenstein’s “Masterpiece” for $165 million to start the Art for Justice Fund. The proceeds from one of the highest grossing artworks ever sold fuel a monumental effort to reform the American criminal justice system and end mass incarceration. 2020 Sundance Film Festival selection. VIEW TRAILER.
2. Anbessa (Director: Mo Scarpelli)
Ten-year-old Asalif and his mother have been displaced from their Ethiopian farmland by the construction of a condominium, but ferocious hyenas lurk in the dark forest nearby. To fight back against all that threatens his family, Asalif “transforms” himself into a lion (“anbessa” in Amharic) and finds the strength to deal with the tides of change and violence that are usurping his family, his country, and his own identity. VIEW TRAILER.
3. Happy Cleaners (Directors: Julian Kim and Peter S. Lee)
Immigrant parents and first-generation kids battle over cultural traditions while undergoing assimilation to an adopted homeland. Mr. and Mrs. Choi own and operate Happy Cleaners, the family dry cleaning business.They work diligently to support themselves and their children for whom they have high hopes and aspirations. But the family dry cleaning business–the very source of the family’s income as well as the symbol of all their hopes –is in jeopardy and the Choi Family members must react quickly. VIEW TRAILER.
4. Identifying Features (Director: Fernanda Valadez)
Magdalena hasn’t heard from her son in months—not since he left their home to cross the border into the United States. The authorities want her to sign her son’s death certificate, but she knows she need to find out the truth first. So begins her odyssey across Mexico, though areas of violence and desolation, chasing any available lead despite being warned not to publicly ask such questions. Grappling with the painful issue of migrants disappearing on their way to the U.S., writer/director Fernanda Valadez’s ambitious feature debut employs a tremendous economy of film language as it traverses across a varied contemporary Mexican landscape. 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Audience Award: World Cinema Dramatic. VIEW TRAILER.
Shot over two-and-a-half years, this creative documentary focuses on several eccentric dog lovers and in the process paints a kaleidoscopic picture of the Bengali city of Kolkata. These men and women have found meaning and purpose in their shared mission to care for neglected street dogs, who have existed in the towns and villages of India for thousands of years. For some this mission is enough, while for others, dreams of a better life are always near. VIEW TRAILER.
In a time of growing polarization, Americans still share something in common: 640 million acres of public land. Held in trust by the federal government for all citizens of the United States, these places are a stronghold against climate change, sacred to native people, home to wildlife, and intrinsic to our national identity. But today, despite support from voters across the political spectrum, they face unprecedented threats from extractive industries and the politicians in their pockets.
When he was only eight, Guor Mading Maker (known as Guor Marial) ran from capture in war-torn Sudan to eventually seek safety in the US. In his new life, Marial began running again, participating in high school track and field and qualifying for the 2012 Olympics. But because Marial would not represent Sudan and newly formed South Sudan was not recognized by the International Olympic Committee, , he had to fight to compete independently.. Runner depicts his difficult and triumphant journey from refugee to world-renowned athlete, told in intimate interviews with gorgeously animated flashbacks of his upbringing, culminating in a heart-wrenching reunion with his parents after a 20-year separation.
Set against the spectacular landscape of Iceland, this magical realist documentary follows Ragnhildur “Ragga” Jónsdóttir, a grandmother and “seer” who has the ability to communicate directly with a parallel realm of elves, or huldufólk (hidden people), invisible spirits of nature whom over half of Iceland believe exit. Ragga is enlisted by government officials, businesses, and individuals to consult the elves to learn where they can and cannot develop land. When the elves call upon her for help, , she enters a political battle to save an ecologically important lava field set to be razed by road construction, just one of the many needless, reactionary projects spurred by Iceland’s sensational financial meltdown in 2008. VIEW TRAILER.
Tera Wong delivers Chinese food for her mother’s struggling restaurant located in the “Low Bottoms,” an infamous Los Angeles project. Everyone around her, including her unpredictable brother, are financially trapped in this crime and violence-ridden neighborhood. That is until Tera takes a job from the local drug kingpin, moving his “product” inside her takeout food boxes. With the cash rolling in, Tera intends to move the family restaurant to the suburbs and go clean. But then things go wrong.
Early each morning, Nicholas Kristof would board the No. 6 bus and ride through the hills and valleys of Yamhill, Oregon, to get to his local public school, along with his closest childhood friends and neighbors. But today, nearly a quarter of the kids who rode that bus with him have died. Pulitzer Prize-winning happened. They quickly find themselves at the heart of a much bigger story about those who fall through the cracks of America, destroyed by poverty, addiction, suicide, and homelessness. In this boots-on-the-ground, intensely personal journey, they find inequality is killing millions of American every year. VIEW TRAILER.