AFI Documentary Festival

AFI DOCS runs June 14–18, 2017, in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD

I have not studied the program in depth, and none of the films that I screened made the festival, but, if you are interested in documentary film, I recommend you buy advance tickets to at least one film. If you do not buy tickets in advance, you will likely be relegated to the stand-by line, which is not as futile as it sounds. Most films screen once in DC and once in Silver Spring.

Here are a few films that did jump out at me:



I note that two films below appear to be showing only once (instead of twice) and also seem to be programed for the smallest theater in Silver Spring (theater 3). Seems like one of the high level programmers thought these were very important films, but not anticipated to appeal to a larger audience.



If you are a serious documentary film buff or an inspiring filmmaker, you may want to check out the AFI Docs Forum. In the past, it has only been for filmmakers and Industry people. You may want to look at the schedule of events. It does not include films (or food) only lectures. It seems like a good deal, although last year all of the forum sessions were streamed live.

A Fast Food Company That Cares for the Environment

Here is an example of a fast food company that sources sustainably raised agricultural products, including Niman Ranch pork.  It has hired small media company to produce a video and an iphone application to tell the story of how industrialized agriculture is destroying the planet.  Watch the video they created (soundtrack by Fiona Apple):

and then what the behind the scenes video:

Anacostia River Trail loop

Today, I completed a very nice loop on the Anacostia River Trail. I ride my bike every day, but I almost never just go out just for a ride.  However, this is a great 40-60 minute loop that anyone can do very easily.  If you live in DC, you should do it at least once.  It is very beautiful!! 

The loop I rode, is highlighted in red.

Anacostia River Trail Loop
Anacostia River Trail Loop

I started at Stanton Park, then went south and then east on Pennsylvania Ave. (passing near Eastern Market, which was not open yet), and then south on 11th St.

I then crossed the river on the brand new 11th St SE bridge, which has a very wide pedestrian walkway.  I then arrived in a part of Anacostia that I had never before visited.  I noticed also a CapitalBikeShare station (Good Hope Rd & MLK Ave SE) and a sign indicating that the Anacostia Metro station was half a mile away.

I then paralleled the river until I got to Benning Road, where there is also a CapitalBikeShare station (Anacostia Ave & Benning Rd NE / River Terrace).

During this stretch, I saw maybe 4-5 runners and some rowers on the river.  It was a gorgeous ride and I recommend it to anyone with a bike or a willingness to get on a BikeShare bike.  It could take you 20-30 minutes going at a very relaxed pace.  It is completely on bike path, no traffic to deal with.

I went east on south side of the sidewalk on Benning Road, and passed the entrance to Kingman Island.  I  then resumed on west side of the River Trail heading south past the Stadium and past the boat houses and yacht clubs where I took these photos:

photo 5

photo 4

photo 3

photo 2

photo 1

For more info see:



I did the loop in reverse today (December 21, 2013) and made this video.


Documented is a new film by Jose Antonio Vargas

The film had its world premier at the AFI Docs Festival last night to a sold out crowd at the National Portrait Gallery.

It chronicles the struggles and efforts of the Pulitzer Prize-winning former journalist, both before and after he outed himself as an undocumented immigrant in the New York Times Magazine. “Documented” chronicles his decision to transform his life. At some point, he could no longer keep his secret. He had become a successful journalist covering political campaigns and appearing on television. He had all the trappings of the American success story, but he lacked permission to be in the United States. He had been brought to the U.S. as a child and had no way to obtain a valid immigration status. And after seeing and speaking with thousands of immigrants in the same situation, he decided to “let the world in” to his secret and decided to become an immigration reform activist/provocateur.


Mr. Vargas has made a compelling film that brings into focus what it really means to be an American. It is not a piece of paper, a birth certificate, a passport, or the luck of being born here. It is a love of country, which Mr. Vargas has in abundance. It is also about hard work and struggle. My Vargas’ grandparents were U.S. citizens and brought him to the USA when he was 12. He became an outstanding student and with the help of dozens of friends, mentors, and surrogate parents, he achieved the American dream. However, the cost of this dream were high, and not being able to be open about his status exacted a toll on his psyche. Seeing other young immigrants struggling to keep their families together and lobby Congress to pass the Dream Act., made him realize that he could use his talents as a writer to help America to peel back the layers and understand the complicated issue of immigration reform. The complexity of the topic has been lost in the political bickering and punditry that characterizes our political system and our society. Sound-bites are particularly inappropriate to understand this complex topic. The film sheds a bright and focused light, like very few other films on this topic. It also highlights his struggle to repair his relationship with his mother, who for twenty years had been trapped half way across the world (in the Philippines) with no way to see her son. The film shows that there are thousands of young adults from all over the world who face the same situation. At one moment towards the end of the film, Mr. Vargas is invited to testify before the Senate. His words are profound and he leaves the Senators with the following question that I think we all must consider thoroughly: “What are you going to do with people like me?” There is not one person who does not recognize how dysfunctional our current immigration system has become. Almost as dysfunctional as our political system. It cannot be acceptable in 21st Century America to have some individuals relegated to the back of the bus, or thrown off the bus after having established such strong roots and allegiances to this country. As Mr. Vargas stated, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions, “but not their own facts.” Before making a decision, one should see this film and lean the facts.

“Granito: How to Nail A Dictator” to air on some public television stations


I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala in the late 1980s.  Since that time, I have tried to stay informed about what is going on there.  It is an amazingly beautiful country with a brutally violent history.  It was with great sadness that I recently learned that the United States will no longer send volunteers to Guatemala and many other Central American countries because of an escalation of drug war violence.

(As an aside, I recommend that you watch for why the drug war is a failure.)

The purpose of this post is to highlight the national distribution of “Granito: How to Nail A Dictator,” which I have heard is an amazing film and will be nationally broadcast on public television stations starting on Thursday, June 28.

However, as I explained in the post below, many public television stations have decided not to air it at all (this seems to be true for WHUT and MPT), and some, like WETA, have decided to air this film only in the middle of the night. 

How is it that Antiques Roadshow can air repeatedly occupying many prime viewing slots and an amazing documentary film is relegated to the middle of the nightSee post below to help correct this problem.

New Peace Corps Promotional video (13 minute)

I’m looking forward to the 50th Anniversary commemoration of the Peace Corps next weekend. There is going to be a story slam, a gathering of Peace Corps authors, a Third Goal Bash, Embassy receptions, and a march to President Kennedy’s Tomb. Below is the latest recruitment video from the Peace Corps. While it is good, it seems to have omitted the traditional refrain, “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love,” which is too bad because it was quite apropos. Also, the video seems to gloss over some of the real challenges of living in the third world. Anyway, its worth watching if you are considering the Peace Corps. Another, more time-intensive way to learn about the Peace Corps is to read some of the books written by Peace Corps volunteers. This is one of my favorites, but there are dozens that I have really liked and none that I have not liked: Under the Neem Tree, by Susan Lowerre (Senegal 1985–87). Without a doubt, the Peace Corps is not for everyone, but if it is right for you, it will be a remarkable, life-changing experience that you will cherish. It will alter your life path in a significant way.

Appropriate Projects

I just donated to a project that is building a water tank at a school in the neighborhood where I used to live in the late 1980s, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer.  At the time, I took this photo. I wonder what these women are up to now?

The project was funded in advance by Appropriate Projects which is an initiative of Water Charity, conceived to slash through the red tape and get projects done immediately.

Access to safe water is a human right, and they are fighting to achieve this goal for every person on this planet. they don’t sit around while people are dying and suffering from illness due to lack of water, contaminated water, and unsanitary conditions.

They use appropriate technology, meaning that the simplest and least-expensive methods are utilized to bring about the biggest impact at the least cost.

They do not deal with studies, reports, evaluations, nitpicking, reviews, administration, overhead, talk, delays, processes, procedures, format, overseeing, micro-directing, or excuses.

They start with the understanding that there are about 8,000 Peace Corps Volunteers stationed in over 74 countries around the globe. Each Volunteer is living in a city or community making a great contribution toward world peace.

Each Volunteer is competent and dedicated, having gone through a rigorous selection process, and having trained for the tasks to be done.

Each Volunteer has identified crucial projects that will affect the lives of those around him, but remain undone due to lack of funds.

Each Volunteer has the skills and capacity to manage the projects and funds, and complete the projects on time and within budget.

The projects submitted to Appropriate Projects by Volunteers are small, but they indeed have a big impact.

At the same time, there are millions of individuals around the globe who would like to do the right thing, to help those in need, and to make the world a better place to live.

Your contribution will bring to being a needed project in a distant place. It will affect the lives of individuals and communities, by letting them have the necessities of life.

Join The fight. Adopt a project.