Wednesday, September 22, 2021

GlobeDocs Film Festival Announces 2021 Film Lineup


Boston’s only all-documentary film festival returns in-person and online October 13-17

September 22, 2021 (Boston, MA) - The GlobeDocs Film Festival presented by Cross Insurance is pleased to announce the full film slate for its seventh season, running both in-person and virtually October 13-17. Over the course of 5 days of non-fiction programming, GlobeDocs Film Festival celebrates documentary film from award-winning journalists, filmmakers and guests from around the globe.

This year’s festival continues the tradition of highlighting important stories and recognizing Boston as a touchstone of the non-fiction film world with its lineup of 26 films, which includes 17 feature-length documentaries and 9 shorts. The two shorts programs in particular, Community + Local (72 minutes) and Pioneers (71 minutes), feature stories from the local Boston community as well as stories about trailblazers from around the globe. The festival programming, curated by Lisa Viola, Director of Programming for GlobeDocs, foregrounds distinct perspectives, diverse communities and BIPOC voices, covering a range of topics including public health, the arts, LGBTQ+ issues, racial injustice, and politics. 

The 2021 season will open with JULIA, directed by award-winning directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen (RBG). The documentary brings Julia Child, the legendary cookbook author and television superstar, to life and traces her 12-year struggle to create and publish the revolutionary Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) and her rapid ascent to become the country’s most unlikely television star. 

This year’s Centerpiece Film, ATTICA, is the latest film from Emmy-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson. Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the uprising, the documentary examines the shocking Attica prison uprising, featuring revelatory interviews and archival footage. Closing the festival is Douglas Tiorola’s BERNSTEIN’S WALL, which is an intimate and moving portrait of American musical icon, Leonard Bernstein.

Screenings will be followed by in-person or virtual discussions with filmmakers, moderated by an incredible list of Boston Globe journalists. Festival-goers will also have the opportunity to vote for the annual Audience Award which is awarded to one feature film and one short film. 

“In our seventh year of GlobeDocs, it is with great pride that we continue to share true stories from filmmakers capturing honest moments, large and small, through documentary film,” said Linda Henry, CEO of The Boston Globe and Executive Director of the Film Festival. “This year, we’re overjoyed to be able to gather the community in person once more while prioritizing safety, and also engaging our dedicated audiences near and far through our virtual programming.” 

“We are thrilled to announce our slate of films for the 2021 festival and return to in-person programming this year. The exceptional lineup of these 26 documentaries bring forward stories from around the globe as well as work from acclaimed filmmakers that highlight our city of Boston,” said Lisa Viola, Director of Programming for GlobeDocs. “With our hybrid festival, we are pleased to elevate these films with a unique opportunity to engage audiences both in-person, locally, and beyond the region.” 

The lineup for the 2021 GlobeDocs Film Festival presented by Cross Insurance is listed below:

Opening Night Film


New England Premiere

2021, USA, 95 minutes

Directed by Julie Cohen & Betsy West

Produced by Betsy West, Julie Cohen, Justin Wilkes, Sara Bernstein, Holly Siegel

JULIA brings to life the legendary cookbook author and television superstar who changed the way Americans think about food, television, and even about women. Using never-before-seen archival footage, personal photos, first-person narratives, and cutting-edge, mouth-watering food cinematography, the film traces Julia Child's 12-year struggle to create and publish the revolutionary Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) which has sold more than 2.5 million copies to date, and her rapid ascent to become the country’s most unlikely television star. Betsy West and Julie Cohen (award-winning directors of RBG) have crafted an empowering story of a woman who found her purpose – and her fame – at 50, and took America along on the whole delicious journey.

 Centerpiece Film


2021, USA, 120 minutes

Directed by Stanley Nelson

Produced by Stanley Nelson, Traci Curry

On Sept. 9, 1971, inmates at the Attica Correctional Facility took 39 guards as hostages, demanding more humane treatment and better conditions. For four days, the world watched as news cameras covered the story from both the outside and inside the prison. Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the uprising, Emmy-winning director Stanley Nelson and producer/co-director Traci Curry’s ATTICA examines one of the most shocking incidents in U.S. history. With revelatory interviews with former prisoners, family members of hostages, and journalists – along with archival footage and never-before-seen tapes – ATTICA goes beyond the headlines to capture the personalities, emotion, and tragedy in a wake-up call about the need for prison reform and the responsibilities of justice.

 Closing Night Film


2021, USA, 100 minutes

Directed by Douglas Tirola

Produced by Susan Bedusa

Douglas Tirola’s thrilling documentary of famed composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein expertly tells the story of an immigrant son from Boston who became a phenom as the visionary and exuberant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and the face of classical music for the nation. Bernstein matched his passion for music with an unyielding commitment to political engagement while wrestling with his hidden sexuality. Crafted using Bernstein’s own voice almost exclusively turns the maestro’s life story into a call to action for artists and the people that believe in the arts to create change in our society with the goal of bringing freedom and respect to all people.


2021, USA, 93 minutes

Directed by Liz Garbus

Produced by Dan Cogan, Mridu Chandra, Evan Hayes

Adventurer, filmmaker, inventor, author, unlikely celebrity and conservationist: For over four decades, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his explorations under the ocean became synonymous with a love of science and the natural world. As he learned to protect the environment, he brought the whole world with him, sounding alarms more than 50 years ago about the warming seas and our planet’s vulnerability. In BECOMING COUSTEAU, two-time Academy Award nominated filmmaker Liz Garbus takes an inside look at Cousteau and his life, his iconic films and inventions — and the man who inspired generations to protect the Earth.

In English and French with English subtitles.


2021, USA/UK, 96 minutes

Directed by Rex Miller, Sam Pollard

Produced by Beth Hubbard, Anna Godas, Rex Miller, Steven Cantor, Jamie Schutz, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe

Directors Rex Miller and Sam Pollard explore the enduring legacy of tennis great and humanitarian Arthur Ashe and CITIZEN ASHE is as elegant, meaningful, and poignant as the life he lived. Ashe’s widow, brother, friends from his childhood in Richmond to his Grand Slam tournament playing and coaching days, as well as confidantes that nurtured his personal evolution from sports legend to global activist, describe the key events that shaped Ashe’s quiet determination to ‘use what he had to do what he could.’ 


2021, USA, 66 minutes

Directed by Brooke Pepion Swaney

Produced by Brooke Pepion Swaney, Jeri Rafter, Kendra Mylnechuk Potter

Kendra, an adult Native adoptee, reconnects with her birth family, discovers her Lummi heritage, and confronts issues of her own identity. After seeking out her birth mother April, also a Native adoptee, Kendra eventually returns to her Native homelands; both women navigate what it means to be Native, and to belong to a tribe from the outside looking in. This singular story represents many affected by the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Indian Adoption Project. DAUGHTER OF A LOST BIRD delicately explores the gray area of ethics surrounding transracial adoption, specifically Native American adoption. 


2021, USA, 89 minutes

Directed by Brandon Kramer

Produced by Lance Kramer

In a divided America, TV host and activist Van Jones works across party lines on landmark criminal justice reform and a more humane response to the addiction crisis. While trying to pass a bipartisan bill that would bring thousands of incarcerated people home early and working with a polarized Congress, Jones is condemned by the right for his progressive beliefs — and by the left for working with conservatives. THE FIRST STEP reveals an intimate portrait of an activist’s isolation and internal struggles as he fights to make change in a divided nation drawn into a historic struggle for freedom and justice. 


2021, US, 94 minutes

Directed by Matthew Heineman

Produced by Matthew Heineman, Jenna Millman, Leslie Norville

The “first wave” of COVID-19 ravaged the city of New York from March through June 2020. Through Matthew Heineman’s signature approach of character-driven cinema verité, THE FIRST WAVE documents those harrowing four months, embedding with a group of brave healthcare workers at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, as they risked their lives in the epic battle to keep the virus at bay. With poignancy and intimacy, the film unflinchingly bears witness to the rarely seen reality of a hospital overwhelmed by COVID — the emotional and psychological toll on the medical professionals, the patients fighting for their lives and the families waiting, hoping for them to come home.


2021, Denmark/France/Sweden/Norway, 90 minutes

Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen

Produced by Monica Hellström, Signe Bryge Sørensen

FLEE tells the incredible story of Amin Nawabi as he grapples with a painful secret he has kept hidden for 20 years, one that threatens to derail the life he has built for himself and his soon to be husband. Recounted mostly through animation to director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, he tells for the first time the story of his extraordinary journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan and his struggle to find the true definition and meaning of home. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary World Cinema at Sundance. In English, Danish, Russian, Dari and Swedish with English subtitles.


World Premiere

2021, USA, 95 minutes

Directed by David Grubin

Produced by David Grubin

FREE RENTY tells the story of Tamara Lanier, an African American woman determined to force Harvard University to cede possession of daguerreotypes of her great-great-great grandfather, an enslaved man named Renty. The daguerreotypes were commissioned in 1850 by a Harvard professor to "prove" the superiority of the white race. The images remain emblematic of America’s failure to acknowledge the cruelty of slavery, the racist science that supported it and the white supremacy that continues to infect our society today. The film focuses on Lanier and tracks her lawsuit against Harvard, and features attorney Benjamin Crump, author Ta-Nehisi Coates and scholars Ariella Azoulay and Tina Campt. 


2021, USA, 99 minutes

Directed by Alison Klayman

Produced by Jaye Callahan, Alison Klayman, Kyle Martin

1995 was the year of Alanis Morissette. Her groundbreaking album “Jagged Little Pill” delivered a rawness and emotional honesty that resonated with millions. Featuring intimate interviews with Alanis herself and exclusive archival material, JAGGED explores how she came to be the empowered woman so many admire, and what happens when a 21-year-old becomes a worldwide phenomenon. Director Alison Klayman (Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, The Brink) has crafted a riveting exploration of a young woman’s meteoric rise through the music industry while staying true to herself.


2021, USA, 78 minutes

Directed by Vivian Kleiman

Produced by Vivian Kleiman, Justin Hall

Five scrappy queer comic book artists journey from DIY work and isolation to the cover of Time Magazine and the international stage. NO STRAIGHT LINES invites Alison Bechdel (Fun Home), Jennifer Camper (Rude Girls and Dangerous Women), Howard Cruse (Gay Comix), Rupert Kinnard (B.B. And The Diva) and Mary Wings (Come Out Comix) to share their stories and observations on everything from the AIDS crisis and workplace discrimination, to the search for love and a good haircut. Their work and personal stories are sure to make you laugh, but also make you think about the challenges and triumphs encountered and overcome along the way.


2021, France/USA, 94 minutes

Directed by JR

Produced by Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes, Dallas Brennan Rexer, Marc Azouley

An inside exploration into the work of legendary French artist JR, whose large-scale

photographs have covered structures across the globe for almost two decades.

Named one of TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2018, JR exhibits freely in the streets of the world, pasting huge portraits of anonymous people in unexpected places. His work is about raising questions, seeking an encounter between the subject and the passer-by. Using his projects as a bridge to span our many cultural divides, PAPER & GLUE beautifully explores art’s greater ability to challenge perspectives and unite communities. In English, French, Portuguese and Spanish with English subtitles. 


2021, USA/UK, 114 minutes

Directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin

Produced by P.J. van Sandwijk, John Battsek, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin

THE RESCUE chronicles the dramatic 2018 rescue of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach, trapped deep inside a flooded cave. Academy Award-winning directors and producers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (Free Solo) reveal the perilous world of cave diving, the bravery of the rescuers, and the dedication of an entire community that made great sacrifices to save these young boys. With exclusive access and never-before-seen footage from the rescue, the film tells the story of the imagination, determination and unprecedented teamwork displayed during this heroic edge-of-your-seat mission with life-or-death stakes. In English and Thai with English subtitles. 


2021, USA, 81 minutes

Directed by Pacho Velez

Produced by Pacho Velez, Joe Poletto, Cathy Tankosic, Sam Roseme

Alternately humorous and touching, SEARCHERS draws on encounters with New Yorkers of different races, genders, ages, social classes, and sexual preferences, as they navigate their preferred dating apps, searching for their special someone. The characters, including the director himself, wade through apps, using their instincts and experience to decode dating profiles while narrating their decision-making process. These portraits capture the variety of sexual and romantic experiences available online, as well as the diverse community of people seeking them out set against the backdrop of a bustling New York City enduring its COVID-19 summer. 


2021, USA, 85 minutes

Directed by Jerry Resius, Beth Levison

Produced by Beth Levison

Dark clouds hang over the cornfields of Storm Lake, Iowa, which has seen its fair share of change in the 40 years since Big Agriculture came to town. Residents there confront a changing community as global forces threaten their precarious existence. Enter Pulitzer-prize winner Art Cullen and his family-run newspaper, The Storm Lake Times. Day-in and day-out, the Cullens deliver local news and biting editorials on a shoestring budget for their 3,000 readers. Come hell or pandemic, they’ll fight to preserve this town they call home. Directors Levison and Resius embed with Cullen to give a real-time look at quality journalism that is at risk, yet willing itself to survive as there’s simply too much at stake.


2021, USA, 118 minutes

Directed by Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler

Produced by Jeffery Robinson, Emily Kunstler, & Sarah Kunstler, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Andrea Crabtree, Vanessa Hope, Susan Korda, Katharine Nephew, Jayashri Wyatt

Interweaving lecture, personal anecdotes, interviews, and shocking revelations, criminal defense and civil rights lawyer Jeffery Robinson draws a stark timeline of anti-Black racism in the United States, from slavery to the modern myth of a post-racial America. After many years as a practicing lawyer, Robinson started looking at our Nation’s background and was shocked by how deeply encoded white supremacy and the oppression of Black Americans is in that history. For the past 10 years, Robinson has been sharing what he learned. In WHO WE ARE: A CHRONICLE OF RACISM IN AMERICA, Robinson is asking all of us to examine who we are, where we come from, and who we want to be.

 2021 GlobeDocs Film Festival Short Films


2021, USA, 10 minutes

Directed by Whitney Skauge

Produced by Caley Shannon

“If a bad actor can be president, why not a good drag queen?” Witness the story of drag queen Joan Jett Blakk. 


2021, USA, 9 minutes

Directed by Dawn Neptune Adams, Maulian Dana, Adam Mazo, Ben Pender-Cudlip, Tracy Rector

Produced by Adam Mazo, Ben Pender-Cudlip, Tracy Rector

Three Penobscot families decide to enter the building where their ancestors' death warrants were signed. BOUNTY lifts the veil on the reality and brutality of settler colonialism with Boston's Old State House as its hub.


2021, USA, 29 minutes

Directed by Ryan White

Produced by Christopher Leggett, Rafael Marmor, Conor Fetting-Smith, Jessica Hargrave, Marc Gilbar

J.C. Leyendecker was one of the most prominent artists of his time, but his story is largely forgotten. Forced to keep his sexuality a secret, his coded imagery spoke directly to the gay community and laid the foundation for LGBTQ representation in advertising today. Featuring Neil Patrick Harris as the voice of J.C. Leyendecker.


2021, Canada, 16 minutes

Directed by Amar Chebib

Produced by Hayley Morin, Mack Stannard

Joe Buffalo is an Indigenous skateboard legend. He’s also a survivor of Canada’s notorious Indian Residential School system. Following a traumatic childhood and decades of addiction, Joe must face his inner demons to realize his dream of turning pro.


2021, USA, 17 minutes

Directed by Rachael DeCruz, Jeremy Levine

Produced by Rachael DeCruz, Jeremy Levine

A retired office administrator in rural Alabama fights for the health and safety of her often overlooked community, convincing many of the residents in her town to take the covid vaccine.


2021, USA, 14 minutes

Directed by Luisa Conlon

Produced by Jessica Chermayeff, Luisa Conlon

At an LGBTQ retirement home, the annual “senior” prom takes on a whole new meaning – a celebration of the lives and legacies of resistance of the eldest queer generation.


2021, USA, 16 minutes

Directed by Ben Proudfoot

Produced by Abby Lynn Kang Davis, Ben Proudfoot, Brandon Somerhalder, Elizabeth Brooke, Gabriel Berk Godoi, Sarah Stewart

While a graduate student at Cambridge in 1967, Jocelyn Bell made one of the great astrophysical discoveries of the twentieth century. Yet the Nobel Prize was awarded only to her professor and his boss. 


2021, USA, 18 minutes

Directed by Andrew Eldridge

Produced by Elizabeth Eldridge, Andrew Eldridge

Members of the community come together and create an illuminated lantern walk to bring attention to gentrification and housing affordability in East Somerville, Massachusetts.


2021, USA, 12 minutes

Directed by Kaitlyn Schwalje, Alex Wolf Lewis

Produced by Rebecca Stern, Justin Levy

Snowy, a four-inch-long pet turtle, has lived an isolated life in the family basement. With help from a team of experts and his caretaker, Uncle Larry, we ask: Can Snowy be happy, and what would it take?

 The presenting sponsor of GlobeDocs 2021 is Cross Insurance. 

Tickets are now on sale at for both in-person and virtual programming. In-person screenings and discussions will take place at The Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA, and Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA. 

To stay updated on GlobeDocs news and events throughout the year, subscribe to the newsletter here. 

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