UTG at AFI: 10 Films You Need to See at AFI Docs Film Festival


AFI Docs, the East Coast’s premiere documentary film festival starts tomorrow in Washington, DC, and here at UTG we’re excited to cover it and give you the scoop on what will be some of the best documentaries that 2013 has to offer. With a few world premieres and exclusive screenings, we’ve collected a list of films that we’re excited to see at this year’s festival that we think you should keep your eye on.

Click through the break to see what made our list!

12 O’Clock Boys

Baltimore is a notoriously dangerous city, and this film gives us the story of Pug, a 13-year-old boy who wants to join the 12 O’Clock Boys, a dirt bike gang that roams the streets of Baltimore. From the trailer, the film looks visually stunning, but also appears to provide a really intimate look into a youth culture that recognizes their own mortality.

The Act of Killing

What will be the festival’s most disturbing documentary, The Act of Killing tells the story of the leaders of Indonesian death squads. Now what makes this film unique is that instead of having the leaders reflect on their methodology behind their gruesome murder sprees, the directors get the leaders to reenact exactly how they did it. Described as both haunting and unforgettable, The Act of Killing is most certainly going to shake up every viewer in the theater, no matter what their tolerance for violence is.


Spawned out of the death of a SeaWorld trainer by a killer whale, Blackfish dives deep into the practices of SeaWorld and how they were able to brush this untimely death as an accident. If the trailer alone doesn’t convince you to the intensity of Blackfish, you probably do not have a pulse. This is a must-see at AFI Docs, and I urge that you go see this on the big screen, because there is sure to be some pretty amazing cinematography.

Expedition to the End of the World

I’m personally a little partial to films about the environment due to the real life beauty that is captured for the big screen, but Expedition to the End of the World looks absolutely gorgeous in its portrayal of a crew of scientists and artists who are traveling through Northeast Greenland’s melting ice cap. In what AFI Docs calls “a film about the environment that doesn’t preach yet makes you think,” this film should provide a serene look into a dying area of our world, with a little bit of Metallica as the soundtrack.

The Kill Team

Documentaries about war and its effects are pretty standard fare these days, but The Kill Team tells the unique story of a platoon stationed in Afghanistan who were charged with murdering in the Middle East for fun. This most certainly won’t be for the faint of heart, but will give a different angle of the power of the media and the struggle it takes to tell the truth

Life According to Sam

Having an East Coast premiere at AFI Docs, Life According to Sam tells the hard-to-watch story of Sam Berns, a child afflicted with a disease known as Progeria. This fatal disease causes children to age at a very accelerated rate, making them become physically old in a matter of years. Life According to Sam is said to be incredibly moving, and considering the subject matter this will probably be one of the heavier films of the festival.

Mistaken For Strangers

Are you a fan of The National? Chances are you nodded your head yes. This documentary tells not as much of The National on tour, but moreso of the relationship between lead singer Matt Berninger and his brother, Tom. Tom is the director of the film, and traveled with the band to see what his brother does on the road, and is most likely the most intimate look you will ever get at one of the biggest indie bands in the industry today.

The Punk Singer

We’d be remiss if we didn’t have some of the music documentaries on the list. The Punk Singer is a detailed look at feminist icon Kathleen Hanna, lead singer of riot grrrl band Bikini Kill. Featuring interviews with people all over the music industry, this is a must-watch for anyone interested in both punk music and the feminist movement.

Rent a Family Inc.

One of the stranger films of the festival, Rent a Family Inc. gives a look into the Japanese company “I Want to Cheer You Up Ltd.” The company provides actors to all different types of people to stand-in as family, friends, bosses, or whatever you can think of for all sorts of events. If you need a break at the festival and want to watch something a bit lighter, this is probably the film for you.

Running from Crazy

A look into an iconic American family, Running From Crazy follows Academy Award nominated actress Mariel Hemingway, the granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway. The story explores Mariel’s complex family history, which was riddled with all sorts of mental illness. When we think of Hemingway, we immediately think of Ernest, but this film aims to show the effects of mental illness in the entirety of the family, which could provide for a very eye-opening documentary.

For up to the minute coverage of AFI Docs, follow Tyler Osborne on Twitter for how much he loved (or hated) each film as he walks out of the theater.

Are you excited about the festival? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tyler Osborne

Live in DC, grew up in PA. I specialize in writing, filming and taking pictures about punk, pop-punk, and hardcore music, and I also have a huge background in film as well. When not on the site, i'm running my own internet radio show, ToZ's Edge Radio (www.facebook.com/tozedgeradio). I also love stage diving and goldfish.
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