Ideas are exchanged at the Filmmaker Connection Luncheon.

In June of this year, Silver Spring, MD will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the SILVERDOCS Film Festival. A joint effort between the American Film Institute and the Discovery Channel, SILVERDOCS is held each year to further the impact of documentary film. But just when you think you’ve heard this story before, “Surprise!” says festival director Patricia Finneran. “Last year, SILVERDOCS audiences took part in the production of a community video diary inspired by Linda Pattillo’s The Breast Cancer Diaries, saw Jim Jarmusch interview the legendary Martin Scorsese [and] heard Al Gore discuss the future of public media.”

Included in the fest’s innovative programming is the SILVERDOCS International Documentary Conference—a networking event with valuable workshops and seminars. The festival’s socially-conscious atmosphere is exemplified by prizes like the Sterling Award in the Feature Film Competition, which singles out moviemakers who have shown their dedication not only to the craft of documentary film, but to the subject matter as well (the 2006 award went to Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s Jesus Camp). This year, Finneran says, audiences should look out for a new featured program, “Beyond Belief: Religion, Politics and Film,” more offerings for the future documentarians (read: students) and further exploration of “how mobile media affects real-life storytelling.”

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Sound Off: Substantive documentary films are becoming more mainstream of late, with An Inconvenient Truth making headlines this past summer and March of the Penguins breaking box office records at the time of its release. What do you think is the most compelling documentary of all time? Talk back in the comments section!