Do Savannnah

Check out carefully curated top documentaries at SCAD Savannah Film Festival

  • Step team members Tayla Solomon, Cori Grange, and Blessin Giraldo, from the documentary film “STEP” are show on Jan. 20 at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times/Contour by Getty Images)
  • “Cries from Syria” screens at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 30 as part of the “Docs to Watch” series at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival.
  • “Icarus” closes the “Docs to Watch” series at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival at 3:30 p.m. Oct. 30.
  • “Jane,” a film about researcher Jane Goodall, will kick off the SCAD Savannah Film Fest’s “Docs to Watch” series at 11 a.m. Oct. 28.

Check out carefully curated top documentaries at SCAD Savannah Film Festival

25 Oct 2017

The Docs to Watch series has become one of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival’s most popular offerings.

“You’ve got films dealing with an incredible assortment of topics relevant to the world today,” says Scott Feinberg, awards columnist for The Hollywood Reporter, who moderates Docs to Watch. “We’ve got ‘Chasing Coral,’ about how climate change is irrefutably happening and how it’s affecting coral around the world and how it affects so many other things.

"‘Cries from Syria’ looks at the crisis unfolding there. ‘The Final Year’ shows us how Obama’s security team dealt with the problems they faced.

‘Risk’ is by the woman who got first access to Ed Snowden,” Feinberg says. “In this one, she got incredible access to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange."

The Docs to Watch series is sponsored annually by The Hollywood Reporter and focuses exclusively on 10 of the top documentaries for the year. Last year’s Academy Awards Best Documentary Feature winner, “O.J.: Made in America,” participated in the Docs to Watch panel.

All 10 documentaries are carefully curated by the festival, Feinberg says.

“I consult with them and share the goal of wanting the best ones to be at the festival,” he says. “The root of the idea of doing a documentary sidebar as part of the festival lineup came about because a very important part of film was not being highlighted adequately by the other film festivals.

“We realized the timing of the Savannah Film Festival is the perfect time to highlight documentaries because of the voting for the documentary Oscar. There are well over 100 in the running, and none of the voters could possibly see all of them.

“We have to whittle it down to a short list of 15,” Feinberg says. “This highlights 10 movies that are absolutely worth their time.

“It’s not to tell voters how to vote, but it’s to ensure that good documentaries are given attention so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.”

Industry guests will participate in a question-and-answer session for their respective films, while the directors will join a panel moderated by Feinberg on Oct. 29.

Among the guests expected to attend this year are directors Evgeny Afineevsky of “Cries from Syria,” Greg Barker of “The Final Year,” Bryan Fogel of “Icarus,” Yance Ford of “Strong Island,” Amanda Lipitz of “Step,” Brett Morgen of “Jane,” Jeff Orlowski of “Chasing Coral,” Laura Poitras of “Risk,” John Ridley of “Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992” and Ceyda Torun of “Kedi.”

Feinberg is a loyal fan of the SCAD Savannah Film Festival.

“A festival doesn’t stay around 20 years unless it’s doing something right,” he says. “It’s gotten better and better.

“I can think of no better advertisement for the city of Savannah and SCAD than this event, which brings in remarkably talented people from around the world who see what Savannah and SCAD are all about. The festival has been willing to invest in making that possible.

“People turn out for these events,” Feinberg says. “It’s become a cycle that allows us to continue. All the parties involved — the parties who put on the festival, the SCAD community — all of them can be very proud of how well the festival has turned out.”

All of the festival’s series are especially strong, Feinberg says.

“This year, there is a remarkable collection of talent coming throughout the festival,” he says. “That includes John Boyega, who a month later is going to be seen by more moviegoers in what may be the most widely seen movie of all time.”

Boyega will be in Savannah to be recognized for “Detroit,” an art house movie about civil unrest in 1967 Detroit. But many fans are also eager to see Boyega in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” opening Dec. 15.

Robert Pattinson, the popular actor from the “Twilight” series, will also be recognized for an art house film, “Good Time.”

“Then there are veterans like Patrick Stewart and Holly Hunter,” Feinberg says. “We’ve also got films celebrating the 20th anniversary. We are going to do a great Docs to Watch panel.”

Having a documentary accepted into the series is an honor.

“From talking to artistic director Christina Routhier, these days, people really clamor to be invited to have their films represented on that panel,” Feinberg says. “They know the festival has a good track record of bringing in good documentaries.

“A lot of the films have been on the panel and gone on to be nominated for the Academy Award,” he says. “That’s been the case for most years.”


Passes for the 2017 SCAD Savannah Film Festival are available at, 912-525-5050, or at Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St. Go to for a complete schedule.