Often relegated to the mustiest corner of the filmmaking world, the documentary genre takes center stage at DocuWeek, an annual showcase of nonfiction filmmaking.
Hosted by the International Documentary Assn., the event is designed to help documentaries, already a tough sell for many theater owners, meet the increasingly stringent requirements for Oscar consideration while raising the genre's profile among the public.
"This year we have to show features twice daily for seven days, so we've rented additional theaters, and for the first time in our 11-year history we're screening in two different locations," says Sandra Ruch, the association's executive director.
In recent years, DocuWeek has also played an important role as a harbinger of awards season success. Of the 17 films that screened at last year's event, three features -- "Deliver Us From Evil," "Jesus Camp" and "Iraq in Fragments" -- earned Oscar nominations, while "The Blood of Yingzhou District" won the Oscar for best documentary short subject. In years before, DocuWeek showcased several films that went on to great success, including "Born Into Brothels," "Darwin's Nightmare" and "Spellbound."
Films to pay close attention to on this year's slate include "Hear & Now," Irene Taylor Brodsky's personal tale about her deaf parents' decision to receive cochlear implants; "Taxi to the Dark Side," a documentary by Alex Gibney ("Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room") about the death of an Afghan taxi driver; Jessica Yu's "Protagonist," an interwoven portrait of four very different men (including a German terrorist and an "ex-gay" evangelist); David Sington's "In the Shadow of the Moon," which features the Apollo astronauts telling their own stories; and separate documentaries about Kurt Cobain and Larry Flynt.
"We are always looking for films that are politically and socially timely. But we also look for films that are entertaining and moving," Ruch says.
DocuWeek, at the ArcLight, 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; and the Landmark, 10850 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; Friday to next Thursday. $9 to $11; passes, $50 to $110. www.documentary.org/ programs/docuweek_07.php