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How D.C. Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Documentary

In Washington, it’s OK to love documentary films.  

Hollywood features are glamorous and fun for everyone, but Washington’s unique political character make documentaries a natural fit for the city’s public-service-oriented population. The AFI Docs film festival, as well as other gatherings, use the moving picture medium to discuss nonfiction topics with fanfare.  

And while several venues in the District and its surrounding ‘burbs are showing the nine Best Picture Oscar nominees from now until the March 2 Academy Awards broadcast, it’s the National Archives that is the only place that is screening the five Documentary Feature nominees, and for free, to boot .  

This is a real service, considering that many of these flicks are only in theaters for a short period of time before turning over. It’s not that they’re unavailable on demand or on DVD or Blu-ray Disc, it’s always best to see feature films as they were intended, on the big screen. The Archives’ 290-seat William G. McGowan Theater fits that bill nicely. Being a public forum, it’s first-come, first-serve, so get there early for any showings.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m. “20 Feet From Stardom” 90 minutes. PG-13.
  • Thursday, Feb. 27, 7 p.m. “The Act of Killing” 122 minutes. Unrated.
  • Friday, Feb. 28, 7 p.m. “The Square” 104 minutes. Unrated.
  • Saturday, March 1, 7 p.m. “Dirty Wars” 86 minutes. Unrated.
  • Sunday, March 2, 4 p.m. “Cutie and the Boxer” 82 minutes. R.

The Archives is also screening the Documentary Short Subject nominees, all on Sunday, March 2 at 11 a.m., and lasting 166 minutes.  

Documentary Short Subject Nominees

  •  “CaveDigger” 39 minutes. Unrated.
  • “Facing Fear” 23 minutes. Unrated.
  • “Karama Has No Walls” 26 minutes. Unrated.
  • “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” 38 minutes. Unrated.
  • “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” 40 minutes. Unrated.

The Archives is also showing some fictional Oscar nominees. The Live Action Short Film nominees and the Animated Short Film nominees, will be screened free as well. The five Live Action nominees will be shown Saturday, March 1 at noon, for a 97-minute program, and the five Animated Short Film nominees will be shown at 3:30 p.m. for a 71-minute program.

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