2017 AFI DOCS capsule feature documentary reviews

2017 AFI DOCS capsule feature documentary reviews

The 15th edition of AFI DOCS (starting June 14) will feature a slate of more than 100 films from 28 countries. Several of these documentaries were recently screened at the 43rd Seattle International Film Festival. Here are capsule reviews based on their screenings at SIFF 2017.

'City of Ghosts'

Brutal, urgent and shocking. The latest from "Cartel Land" director Matthew Heineman offers an unflinching look at a band of Syrian citizen journalists fighting an information war against the Islamic State. These men - not journalists by trade - risk their lives to show the world the horrors inflicted upon their home city. This unyielding film shows the intense emotional toll the journalists endure as their friends are assassinated and their own lives are targeted. (Score: 5/5)


This intimate documentary is a tender portrait is filmed with an observant, fly-on-the-wall perspective that makes the audience feel as if they are sitting in the room with Dina and her fiance. It's funny without being exploitative and moving in some very surprising ways (especially as Dina's past is slowly revealed). It's an empathetic look at the challenges they face as a people living with disabilities and as a newlywed couple starting a life together. (Score: 4/5)

'The Farthest

In an age where NASA always seems to announce the discovery of another new distant planet, it seems weird to consider a time when scientists didn't know much about even Jupiter or Saturn. "The Farthest" takes a step back to offer context - that within a lifetime, humans went from sending no objects beyond the Earth to sending a pair of probes beyond the most distant planets. "The Farthest" is an inspiring love letter to scientific curiosity and a pioneering spirit. (Score: 4/5)

The Force'

From the opening moments, "The Force" establishes a taut, unrelenting tension in Oakland. The camera crew follows officers on unassuming dispatch calls - any one of which can easily turn into something much more serious and deadly. It presents a department eager to win back the public' trust and a cynical community weary of a police force with a history of abusing power. This timely and intense documentary is a master class in editing. (Score: 3/5)

'The Reagan Show'

Equal parts absurd, hilarious and uncomfortably prescient, "The Reagan Show" offers a candid look at the Gipper, told in his own words. It reveals how Reagan used the media to carefully manufacture his own public image - while painting a portrait of a President who smiled at the camera while talking out of the side of his mouth. For a film created entirely from decades old TV footage, this film is uncomfortably timely and relevant. (Score: 3/5)


Timely and important, "Step" makes a strong case for the incalculable opportunities afforded by an education. This great doc works as a coming-of-age story, an examination of the education system and an analysis of socio-economic inequalities. And the stakes could not be higher - if any of the featured subjects fails to get into a college, they could be doomed to repeat the mistakes of their parents. This great film chronicles strong girls becoming strong women. (Score: 5/5)

'The Work'

At point one point in this film, one of the subjects sums up this unflinching documentary best: "This is ugly ass shit." Emotionally gripping and at times hard to watch, this is a complete deconstruction of macho self-reliance and an arresting look at coping with trauma. "The Work" is not merely a bunch of guys dredging up long-buried pain and talking about it - these men confront that pain. This is an exorcism. (Score: 5/5)

Interview: 'The Farthest' director Emer Reynolds

Interview: 'The Farthest' director Emer Reynolds

'Endless Poetry': Seattle International Film Festival movie review

'Endless Poetry': Seattle International Film Festival movie review