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AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Film Festival - Overview

Basic Details, including Venue, Mission, History and Programs


AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Film Festival - Overview

AFI Silverdocs Marquee

AFT Silverdocs

Festival Dates and Venue

AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Film Festival, better known simply as Silverdocs, takes place annually for seven days during June in Silver Spring, Maryland. The key venue is the AFI Silver Theatre, the American Film Institute's flagship theatre and one of the premier film exhibition spaces in the United States. Other venues include regional art house cinemas and the Discovery Communications World Headquarters.


Silverdocs is dedicated to fostering the power of documentary films to enhance our understanding of the world. The annual festival celebrates independent thinking and generates global media attention for films that express the diverse voices and free expression of independent storytellers from around the world. Based in the National Capital Region, where important global and national issues are the daily business, Silverdocs is marked by its relevance, broad intellectual range, and wide public appeal.

International Documentary Conference

Silverdocs also presents its concurrent 5-day International Documentary Conference, the largest professional conference of its kind in the U.S. The conference explores the business of documentary filmmaking with 1,200 industry participants and 80 workshops, seminars and networking events. The Conference brings together business leaders, filmmakers, broadcasters, distributors and funders from both established and emerging media markets.

Silverdocs History

Silverdocs was established in 2003 through a unique alliance between AFI and the Discovery Channel, the festival's Founding Sponsor. In the ensuing years, the festival has evolved into one of North America's most important documentaries film festivals, and has attracted many notable participants, including Ted Leonsis (AOL Vice Chairman Emeritus and documentary filmmaker), former Vice President Al Gore, BET Co-Founder Sheila Johnson and Academy Award-winning filmmakers Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, Barbara Kopple, and Alex Gibney, among others. The 2008 Festival presented 108 films selected from 1,702 entries, included 27 significant premieres and welcomed over 21,000 attendees. All six 2009 Academy Award-nominated documentaries screened at Silverdocs 2008. Of these, The Garden and Smile Pinki were Silverdocs World Premieres.

Program Categories, Honors and Awards

Silverdocs bestows awards valued at over $80,000 in cash and prizes. Awards and Grants include:

  • Ace Documentary Grant
  • Cinematic Vision Award for Short and Feature
  • Music Award
  • Sterling Award for Short and Feature (US and World Competitions)

Additionally, Silverdocs presents its signature program, the Charles Guggenheim Symposium, honoring the legacy of artistic excellence, profound respect for humanity and democratic values of the late four-time Academy Award-winning Charles Guggenheim. Past Guggenheim honorees include Albert Maysles, Spike Lee, Jonathan Demme, Martin Scorsese and Barbara Kopple.

More Silverdocs Festival Essential Information

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