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5 Documentaries to Watch at the 2017 Austin Film Festival

Documentaries can be informative, emotional and fun to watch. There are a number of them playing at the Austin Film Festival, running October 26 through November 2, 2017. They cover topics as varied as sports, race, gender, art, politics, education and more. Here are the documentary features that we think will be must-see non-fiction films.

“Beauty and Ruin”

A documentary feature focused on Detroit, Michigan, “Beauty and Ruin” questions the value of art as culture rather than currency in a time when debt and division abound. The downfall of Detroit is well-known to many Americans, but the fight over the artwork in the city’s Institute of Art is a lesser-known story, one which partially unfolds in this film.

Screenings: Friday, October 27 at 1:00 PM at Alamo Drafthouse Village and Tuesday, October 31 at 6:30 PM at Galaxy Highland, Screen 10.

“Mr. Fish: Cartooning From the Deep End”

Mr. Fish is a cartoonist who has been published in The LA Weekly, The Village Voice and several other well-known publications. He is an outspoken editorial cartoonist who refuses to give up his creativity and his voice, despite how hard that can be in a dying industry. While not completely lighthearted, this film is likely to be one of the more humorous documentaries at the festival.

Screenings: Saturday, October 28 at 4:45 PM at St. David’s Episcopal Church, Bethell Hall and Wednesday, November 1 at 4:00 PM at Galaxy Highland, Screen 10.


Wilma Mankiller was the first female principal chief of the Cherokee Nation when she took her office in 1985. The documentary feature named after her uses archival footage and interviews to show the story of her as an activist: working with the Black Panthers, getting involved in the Alcatraz occupation movement and bringing visibility to the Cherokee Nation.

Screenings: Thursday, October 26 at 7:30 PM at St. David’s Episcopal Church, Bethell Hall and Sunday, October 29 at 9:15 PM at Galaxy Highland, Screen 10.

“Triumph: The Untold Story of Perry Wallace”

Documentaries about sports and overcoming adversity are fairly common, and there are several others playing at this year’s Austin Film Festival; however, this one stands out. Narrated by Academy Award Winner Forrest Whitaker, “Triumph” explores the barriers broken by Perry Wallace, the first African American to play college basketball in the deep south in the 1960s. This is a story of faith, of struggling, and of hope.

Screenings: Friday, October 27 at 7:00 PM at the Rollins Theatre presented by Sprint and Monday, October 30 at 1:00 PM at the Alamo Drafthouse Village.

“Fail State”

This documentary puts the spotlight on higher education in the United States, focusing on for-profit colleges and the rising debt of the American college student. Director and co-writer Alexander Shebanow speaks with journalists, politicians, attorneys, college and university presidents and more to get to the bottom of this education crisis.

Screenings: Saturday, October 28 at 12:30 PM at the State Theatre and Wednesday, November 1 at 1:30 PM at the Galaxy Highland, Screen 8.

The Austin Film Festival furthers the art and craft of filmmaking by inspiring and championing the work of screenwriters, filmmakers, and all artists who use the language of film to tell a story. You can get tickets and more information on the full schedule of films, panels and more here

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