Climate Change, War, Disco in SnagFilms Fest

Second annual online festival designed to open new distribution channels for documentaries

The second SnagFilms SummerFest, which offers free online showings of new documentaries, announced its 2010 lineup on Friday, with screenings of films dealing with climate change, celebrity obsession in Italy, a klezmer hip-hop artist, and American pop culture in the Soviet empire.

The seven new documentaries in SummerFest 2010 will each stream free of charge on, and will be available via the SnagFilms distribution network, which includes AOL, Hulu and Fancast.  The screenings begin on July 16 and will run through September 2. 

VideocracyIn the press release announcing the lineup, SnagFilms founder and chairman Ted Leonsis said the company was designed “to address the bottleneck in distribution for quality documentaries that left many great films unable to reach their potential audience …. ”  SnagFilms, he said, has created “the web’s broadest distribution network,” with almost 100,000 affiliates with SnagFilms widgets on their pages. 

The SummerFest program is designed to open new distribution channels in advance of theatrical distribution, and to help non-fiction filmmakers build a fan base.

The selected films have previously screened at the Toronto, Cannes, Venice, South By Southwest, Hot Docs, and Los Angeles film festivals, and been nominated for British Independent Film Awards and Cinema Eye Awards.

The lineup:

Friday, July 16 – Thursday, July 29: “The Age of Stupid”
Oscar nominee Pete Postlethwaite appears in Franny Armstrong’s film, which uses the conceit of a survivor looking back from a ravaged planet in 2055, wondering why mankind didn’t stop climate change when it could have done so.

Friday, July 23 – Thursday, August 5: “Shooting Robert King”
The Cinema Eye Awards nominee follows King through his career as a war photographer, encompassing three wars and 15 years.  CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen called it “darkly comic.”  

Friday, July 30 – Thursday, August 12: “Disco and Atomic War”
This recent entry at the Los Angeles Film Festival is set in Estonia in the 1980s, when the citizens avidly watched Finnish TV for glimpses of American pop culture, from disco, “Dallas.” When the Soviet Union tried to block all access to Western culture, the film insists, Estonians’ anger helped hasten the demise of the Soviet empire.

Friday, August 6 – Thursday, August 19: “Videocracy” (photo above)
Another work about television and pop culture, director Erik Gandini’s film takes an all-access look at the seedy, glitzy side of Silvio Berlusconi’s Italy, where the culture is obsessed by celebrity and seedy attempts to become famous are the order of the day. 

Friday, August 13 – Thursday, August 26: “A Fighting Chance”
Premiering on SnagFilm before it runs on ESPN this fall, this documentary follows Kyle Maynard, a congenital amputee born without forearms or lower legs who became a nationally-ranked college wrestler, opened the “No Excuses” gym in Georgia and trained to fight in an official Mixed Martial Arts match.

Friday, August 20 – Thursday, September 2: “The ‘Socalled’ Movie”
Socalled  is the name used by Canadian rapper/klezmer/hip-hop artist Josh Dolgin, whose career as “a demented Renaissance man and a multi-cultural mixmaster” is captured through 18 short films from director Garry Beitel. 

SnagFilms was founded and is majority-owned by digital entrepreneur, documentary film producer (“Nanking”), Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals owner and philanthropist Ted Leonsis.  The company is also backed by AOL co-founder and Revolution LLC Chairman, Steve Case; philanthropist and former digital executive Jean Case; operating executive and philanthropic venture capitalist Miles Gilburne; a group led by Ted and Jim Pedas, founders of Circle Films; and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.