Watch This: Chicago’s DOC10 Film Festival

Next week, Chicago Media Project presents DOC10, an annual film festival that presents the most compelling documentary films of the year over the course of a few days. This year, organizers have partnered with the newly-revamped Davis Theater in Lincoln Square to showcase films covering subject matter from music and film to social justice and true crime.

Much as I’d love to, I can’t fit in all eleven films in four days. But I am going to catch a few, which I’m highlighting here. Join me!

STEP – A 2017 Sundance Film Festival premiere, Step is the inspiring story of a high school step dance team in inner-city Baltimore, each young woman aspiring to success as part of the team and, more importantly, beyond. I see a lot of Brooklyn Castle in this one, which is saying something. That film remains one of my favorite documentaries of all time (and is worth a look if you haven’t seen it). Step received special honors at Sundance, and given the community ties, I imagine it will play well not only with general moviegoers but with schools and step teams across the country, too. The doc was picked up by Fox Searchlight out of Sundance, so look for it in wider release yet this year. Screens Thursday, March 30 – 8pm

CASTING JONBENET – Another Sundance premiere, I’m doubly intrigued by this one. First, as a truecrime narrative about one of the most vexing murders in American history. I’m of an age that I was a kid when the six-year-old beauty queen was found dead, so I remember it only as a slightly spooky scandal. But also, I’m curious to see how the filmmakers bring in a fictional aspect, as they create a set up that they’re seeking to cast a film version of the sad story. This kind of blurred documentary line is more and more common recently with the likes of Kate Plays Christine and others. When done well, as it appears to be here, it makes for an innovative approach to the documentary form. Netflix nabbed this one and have it slated for an April 28 release on their platform; if you’re in Chicago, see it on the big screen before that. Screens Saturday, April 1 at 7p

OBIT – This gem actually premiered about a year ago at Tribeca, and it’s been hot on the festival circuit since then (indie distributor Kino Lorber have secured it a small theatrical release in April). Since Page One, there isn’t a New York Times documentary I’ll pass up, and this one – about the handful of writers on the obituary desk at the Gray Lady – is no exception. It’s the posthumous write-ups from the Times that often prove to be the final word on exceptional lives lived, and the doc infuses those dry words on newsprint with the humanity of the writers behind them. Screens Sunday, April 2 at 4p

Bonus: THE CINEMA TRAVELERS – If I can fit in a fourth film during the compact festival, it’ll be this one (pictured). I have fond memories of zipping over to the next beach during my stay in Goa, India to screen a film on an outdoor patio, plenty of Kingfisher and naan to go around. Granted, that pales in comparison to the experience provided by the traveling movie vendors featured in this documentary, but it’s enough of a connection to pique my interest. According to the synopsis, cinephiles have traveled rural India for over seven decades bringing films to villages once per year. Now, their equipment is deteriorating and their audiences are discovering slick new digital ways to get their content (just like the rest of us, apparently). Screens Saturday, April 1 at 4p

That’s just four of the eleven great films featured in the festival lineup; check them all out and get your tickets here.