DC/DOX Festival launches with free documentaries

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the new DC/DOX Festival (Part 1)

A brand new documentary film festival is launching Wednesday night in The District.

The DC/DOX Festival will be held at Landmark Atlantic Plumbing Cinema on V Street Northwest.

“DC/DOX is a brand-new launch event. Really looking at ensuring a platform here in Washington, D.C., for documentary broadly and to reflect on the very large range and depth of that genre,” co-founder Sky Sitney told WTOP. “We are kicking it off this June 15 with a launch event, which is signaling a major festival coming this time next year.”

The one-night-only event includes six features and one short documentary.

The short film is the timely Watergate documentary “The Martha Mitchell Effect.”

“We’re coming up on … the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in,” Sitney said. “Many know Martha as the wife of Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell. … Martha was a bold, loud-spoken, eccentric, iconoclastic speaker. Many will remember her calling out the dirty tricks of the administration. She was what we’d call today ‘gaslit’ for what she said.”

As for the features, don’t miss the harrowing childbirth documentary “Aftershock.”

“This film is just extraordinary,” Sitney said. “It’s a very important film that looks at the maternal health crisis and, frankly, its disproportionate impact on families of color, closely following two families where there was a preventable death of two young women in childbirth. … It follows their two bereaved partners … who become reluctant activists.”

You can also see the free-speech journalism documentary “Endangered.”

“This is chronicling a year in the life of four journalists in presumably democratic countries where freedom of the press is historically a given: Mexico, Brazil and perhaps surprisingly the United States,” Sitney said. “It’s looking at the way in which press is rapidly deteriorating, misinformation is proliferating and brazen suppression from world leaders.”

Music fans will appreciate “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song.”

“Often when we see a music documentary, especially for someone as iconic as Leonard Cohen, it’s an overview of their entire life … but this is really focusing on the remarkable trajectory of his most iconoclastic ‘Hallelujah,'” Sitney said. “This is a song that had many different chapters and was picked up by many different artists, including Jeff Buckley.”

Music fans will also enjoy the international heavy-metal documentary “Sirens.”

“This follows the Middle East’s first all-female heavy metal band … in Beirut,” Sitney said. “This film is such an affectionate look at the friendships, the love, the unbelievable raw, sheer talent of these women who make up this fantastic band called Slave to Sirens, and what it is to be a woman in this time and place largely misunderstood by society.”

You can also see the powerful criminal justice documentary “Riotsville, USA.”

“This film is almost entirely constructed out of archival material … excavating the racist government crackdown on Black Americans in the late ’60s by looking at footage that was taken as National Guardsmen were trained in constructed fake towns known as Riotsvilles, often on military bases, and participants, extras, played the roles of rioters,” Sitney said.

Last but not least, check out the high-tech robotics documentary “Sophia.”

“A.I., artificial intelligence, through the lens of a specific robot, who is perhaps the most recognized humanoid robot, Sophia,” Sitney said. “It follows the inventor, David Hanson, who is on a quest to bring consciousness and compassion to Sophia, to see if that’s even possible. … The future of A.I., if we can engineer empathy, what it means to be human.”

Tickets are free, but you are encouraged to reserve them online ahead of time.

“We are so thrilled to be able to bring this extraordinary lineup of documentary films here to the nation’s capital,” Sitney said. “We have the filmmakers or film subjects moderated by some of our leading journalists in the area. It’s an opportunity to pull back the curtain behind the process of making these films. … We hope you’ll all join us for this launch.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the new DC/DOX Festival (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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