The American Documentary Film Festival Review - Taking over Palm Springs

Director Joe Berlinger with director of the AmDocs and Film Fund Teddy Grouya. Photo courtesy of the American Documentary Film Festival facebook.

From comedy and dramas to horror and documentaries - the history of cinema goes back decades. Over the years many film festivals showcase and celebrate filmmakers, actors, and crew in order to honor the power of storytelling through film. There is one more film festival that perfectly does just that - The American Documentary Film Festival (AmDocs).

Now it its fifth edition the AmDocs takes place in beautiful Palm Springs, and is a film festival that continues to push the envelope on how a film festival is defined. As Teddy Grouya, director of the AmDocs and film fund, stated, "AmDocs (is)  seeing the bigger picture, one film at a time and where art meets reality".

From March 30th till April 4th the film festival showcased films at two different venues: The Camelot Theater and The California State University at San Bernardino : Palm Desert Campus.

While all the films delivered a different concept, I found the ones below to be exceptionally intriguing.

Photo courtesy of Faces of Santa Ana facebook.

Faces of Santa Ana:

This film follows a painter Brian Peterson.  In a world built on negative energy it's difficult to always see the "good" in people. Taking his skills to canvas Peterson decodes to portray the "elephant in the room". "Many people don't discuss homelessness or are afraid to talk to homeless people", Peterson stated. Through the streets on Santa Ana Peterson has created bonds and memories with the homelesswhen all they needed was love and the security of having a "friend". The money sold from the paintings go to help that particular person. He has bought vans, food, and more in order to spread kindness and cheer through his big heart and willingness to help others.

#BeRobin The Movie:

From an actual #BeRobin event! Photo courtesy of #BeRobin The Movie facebook

The late Robin Williams has affected so many people in our society. To some he was a father, a husband, a comic but to everyone he was a friend. After experiencing such loss comedian Margaret Cho decided to spread the message, "Don't grieve Robin, Be Robin.". Through spreading awareness about homelessness and mental health Cho has assisted in raising money as well as donating much needed items such as clothing, food, and items needed for personal hygiene to those in need. Based on the mantra, "if you need - take. If you have - give," #BeRobin the movie can help reconnect society and restore hope.

Brothers Keeper:

A film that needs no introduction, Brothers Keeper, was directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. The documentary was filmed in 1992 and has achieved many accolades ever since.

Brilliantly following the trial of The Ward Brothers (four brothers who lived in poverty on their 99 acre farm in a two-bedroom shack in Central New York that did not have running water or toilet), who's life shattered when one of the boys was found dead in the bed he shared with his brother Delbert. Through confessions and retraction the boys, who were once shunned by society, had the community believing in and supporting them. 

"A documentary doesn't have to be about some social issue or history lesson. You can just go out there and capture reality as it's unfolding and tell a human story," Berlinger explained. "This film launched our careers. It was a fairy tale story - we gambled everything we had."

Following the murder mystery of The Ward Brothers the film displays larger social issues, poverty, as well as the American justice system.


It was a great weekend filled with documentaries that brilliantly showcased a variety of pressing issues in today's society - unapologetically. For a complete list of films click HERE. Congrats to the filmmakers for once again shedding light and creating films that continue to inspire.

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