Fellowship Will Provide Training in Advocacy, Communications and Engagement
for Five Filmmaking Teams

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — May 16, 2019, WASHINGTON, DC — AFI DOCS — the American Film Institute's five-day documentary film festival, supported by Presenting Sponsor AT&T as part of its support for underrepresented filmmakers — has announced the five films selected for the fifth annual AFI DOCS Impact Lab in partnership with Raben Impact Entertainment, a division of The Raben Group. The selections for this distinguished fellowship and training program are four feature documentary films — 17 BLOCKS, BORDER SOUTH, GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH and A WOMAN’S WORK: THE NFL’S CHEERLEADER PROBLEM — and the short documentary film ST. LOUIS SUPERMAN.

“We are proud to once again partner with The Raben Group’s Impact Entertainment team for the AFI DOCS Impact Lab,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director, AFI Festivals. “The Impact Lab films highlight incredible stories of people who are making a difference in the world — and these films have the power to bring their stories to audiences here in DC and across the country.”

“This year’s filmmakers and fellows are fierce, compassionate and unwavering in their commitment to use film as a catapult for positive change. They are as diverse as the stories they tell, and I am confident that the Lab will maximize the impact they will have in the world.” Heidi Nel, Principal and Head of Impact Entertainment at The Raben Group and co-founder of the AFI DOCS Impact Lab.

Led by impact strategists Heidi Nel and Charlie Crocker, the AFI DOCS Impact Lab is a competitive fellowship and two-day training program held on June 18-19, the eve of the festival. Designed to empower and elevate filmmakers with unique voices and issue-driven films, the Lab helps creatives generate broader social impact and political change through the power of story and film.

The Lab provides fellows with unique training opportunities in the areas of advocacy, grassroots communications and grasstops engagement. In addition to exclusive training with some of the most sought-after tacticians in the social impact and political space, Lab fellows are connected with policymakers and Congressional aides working on legislation relevant to their films.

The 17th edition of AFI DOCS will run June 19–23 in Washington, DC, and Silver Spring, MD. The Washington Post and Meet the Press are the Primary Media Sponsors.


Synopsis: In 1999, Emmanuel Durant and his family started filming their daily lives. For two decades, the camera recorded ordinary moments, and a cycle of trauma all too familiar with neglected communities in America. Davy Rothbart’s film deftly pieces together a loving and complex profile of the Sanford-Durants, who live just 17 blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

Lab Fellows: Davy Rothbart (Director, Producer) and Krystal Tingle (Impact Producer)

Synopsis: Filmmaker Raúl O. Paz Pastrana spent four years following the migrant routes from southern Mexico to the U.S.-Mexico border. The result is a close-up, nuanced, and highly original view of the migrant experience, one fraught with risk and danger but also comradery, ingenuity and humor.

Lab Fellows: Raúl O. Paz Pastrana (Director) and Cecilia Girón Pérez (Producer)

Synopsis: After the 2016 election, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus toured the south to meet the faith-based communities against LGBTQ rights. The liberal-city folks and the red-state locals speak, confront biases, dine and sing together. GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH seeks to sing an elegy to the cultural divide and find some harmony along the journey.

Lab Fellows: David Charles Rodrigues (Writer, Director) and Bud Johnston (Producer)

Synopsis: Bruce Franks, Jr., is a 33-year-old battle rapper, Ferguson activist and state representative from St. Louis who has overcome unspeakable loss to become one of the most exciting and unapologetic young leaders in the country today.

Lab Fellows: Sami Khan (Director, Producer, Cinematographer) and Bruce Franks, Jr. (Missouri State Representative/Film Subject)

Synopsis: In 2017, The National Football League earned over $14 billion in revenue. NFL cheerleaders, however, earn less than minimum wage–some paid as low as $1.50 an hour. Three courageous cheerleaders risk their careers by leading a historic class-action lawsuit against the NFL, alleging gendered wage theft and egregious labor practices.

Lab Fellows: Yu Gu (Director) and Jin Yoo-Kim (Co-Producer, Impact Producer)

AFI DOCS is proud to have AT&T return as this year's Presenting Sponsor. For more information about the Impact Lab, and for passes and tickets to AFI DOCS, please visit


AFI DOCS is the American Film Institute's annual documentary festival in Washington, DC. Presenting the year's best documentaries, AFI DOCS is the only festival in the U.S. dedicated to screenings and events that connect audiences, filmmakers and policy leaders in the heart of our nation's government. The AFI DOCS advisory board includes Ken Burns, Davis Guggenheim, Chris Hegedus, Werner Herzog, Barbara Kopple, Spike Lee, Errol Morris, Stanley Nelson, D A Pennebaker and Frederick Wiseman. Now in its 17th year, the festival will be held June 19-23, 2019, in landmark Washington, DC, venues, Landmark Theatres E Street Cinema and at the historic AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD. Visit and connect on,, and

About the American Film Institute

The American Film Institute was established by presidential proclamation in the White House Rose Garden, and launched its national mandate on June 5, 1967 — to preserve the heritage of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI's founding Trustees included Chairman Gregory Peck, Vice Chairman Sidney Poitier, Francis Ford Coppola, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Jack Valenti and George Stevens, Jr., as Director.

*About AT&T

AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is a diversified, global leader in telecommunications, media and entertainment, and technology. It executes in the market under four operating units. WarnerMedia’s HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. divisions are world leaders in creating premium content, operate one of the world’s largest TV and film studios, and own a world-class library of entertainment. AT&T Communications provides more than 100 million U.S. consumers with entertainment and communications experiences across TV, mobile and broadband services. Plus, it serves nearly 3 million business customers with high-speed, highly secure connectivity and smart solutions. AT&T Latin America provides pay-TV services across 11 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean, and is the fastest growing wireless provider in Mexico, serving consumers and businesses. Xandr provides marketers with innovative and relevant advertising solutions for consumers around premium video content and digital advertising through its AppNexus platform.

AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc. Additional information is available at © 2019 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. AT&T, the Globe logo and other marks are trademarks and service marks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies. All other marks contained herein are the property of their respective owners.

AT&T Communications is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T). Learn more at

About Raben Impact Entertainment

Raben Impact Entertainment, a division of The Raben Group, works with leading artists, philanthropists, and entertainment companies to shift narrative, change culture, and influence policy through dynamic campaigns and activations, strategic partnerships, and smart messaging. We believe in the immense power of storytelling to touch hearts and minds and catalyze social change. We are committed to representative media—both in front of and behind the camera—and work with creatives dedicated to the same.

About The Washington Post and Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership

The Washington Post is an award-winning news leader whose mission is to connect, inform, and enlighten local, national and global readers with trustworthy reporting, in-depth analysis and engaging opinions. It combines world-class journalism with the latest technology and tools so readers can interact with The Post anytime, anywhere.

The Washington Post Press Freedom Partnership is an ongoing initiative that aims to highlight organizations working vigilantly to promote press freedom and raise awareness of the rights of journalists worldwide. Learn more at

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd is where newsmakers come to make news — setting the political agenda and spotlighting the impact Washington decision-making has on Americans across the country. It is the #1 most-watched Sunday public affairs show for the 2017-2018 season, reaching more than three million viewers every Sunday and millions more through social, digital and on-demand platforms. Meet the Press brings its authority and influencer interviews to MSNBC with MTP Daily weekdays at 5 p.m. ET and to the 1947: The Meet the Press Podcast. It’s the longest-running show in television history, recently expanding its brand to include a political short-documentary film festival in collaboration with the American Film Institute. Chuck Todd is the political director of NBC News and the moderator of Meet the Press; John Reiss is the executive producer.


Elizabeth Ward, AFI DOCS PR, 202.339.9598, [email protected]

Ryan Lattanzio, American Film Institute, 323.856.7619, [email protected]