ICYMI: AFI DOCS Forum Panels on Netflix’s CRIP CAMP and ATHLETE A – American Film Institute


ICYMI: AFI DOCS Forum Panels on Netflix’s CRIP CAMP and ATHLETE A

This year’s AFI DOCS Forum brought together filmmakers, industry leaders, journalists, film subjects and activists for thought-provoking and informative discussions, including two AFI DOCS Forum panels featuring Netflix films: CRIP CAMP: A DISABILITY REVOLUTION and ATHLETE A.

Winner of the 2020 Sundance Audience Award, CRIP CAMP: A DISABILITY REVOLUTION is a rare combination of personal story, cultural touchstone, and policy-focused documentary. In the DOCS Forum panel titled CRIP CAMP’S Ongoing Disability Revolution, moderated by Natalie Bullock Brown, filmmakers Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht, along with  Andraéa LaVant and Storm Smith, discussed the long-range planning behind the film’s impact campaign.

“We put out a call for people to run the campaign and Stacey [Park Milbern] and Andraèa [LaVant] proposed to do it together and are such an incredible combination of having really deep experience in grassroots organizing and advocacy, but also having communications experience and a real passion for and interest in culture shift and culture change in media,” said Newnham.

Lavant added, “I would say the biggest thing we brought to the campaign is the lived experience as disabled folks, but not only as disabled folks both Stacey and I representing multiple identities. Me as a black disabled woman, her as a queer biracial woman with physical disabilities. That is what first and foremost tied us and committed us to the film.”

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, the filmmakers established the Crip Camp Impact Campaign to ensure that activists, storytellers, and cultural influencers of the future can continue the vital work that CRIP CAMP champions.

CRIP CAMP: A DISABILITY REVOLUTION is now streaming on Netflix. Watch a clip now:


In anticipation of the release of their film ATHLETE A on June 24 on Netflix, filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk joined the DOCS Forum for the panel event The Maximum Impact of Athlete A: When Documentary Filmmakers Team Up With Investigative Journalists, moderated by writer/director Tom McCarthy.

“There is healing in this film that is very tangible and there is inspiration, moving on, and the reclaiming of the love of the sport,” said Cohen. “As storytellers it is very hard to descend into the deep pit of despair over and over again, so it was moving to us narratively that there was a way to actually highlight these incredible truth tellers and also have some inspiration at the end of the film.”

Speaking to the Forum audience, the film’s directors, author and victim advocate Rachael Denhollander, 2000 USA Olympian bronze medalist Jamie Dantzscher and journalists Marisa Kwiatkowski and Steve Berta shed light on the collaboration with the investigative team at The Indianapolis Star, who uncovered the massive sexual abuse scandal at USA Gymnastics involving team physician Dr. Larry Nassar, and described the challenges involved in exposing the hidden world of one of the most exclusive and tight-lipped organizations in amateur athletics.

Kwiatkowski recalled, “The first day that article was published, we were inundated with emails and phone calls who said, ‘I really need you to look at this person who abused me’ or ‘I really need you to look at this coach who I’ve heard things about.'”

On approaching the film and the complex subject, Shenk said they focused on “every single link in the chain” including key survivors, the chief investigator and the prosecutor.

Denhollander added, “We value something else more than the people in those organizations. Until attorneys change that, until institutional leaders change that, and until we as a community change that, the needle is not going to move. It goes down to what we value every time.”

Watch the trailer for ATHLETE A:

With real-world impact – and ensuring that activists, storytellers, and cultural influencers of the future continue to have a voice and create change – these films and filmmakers embody the best in documentary filmmaking.

Netflix is a proud sponsor of AFI DOCS 2020.


Top Row – CRIP CAMP (L to R): Andraéa LaVant, James LeBrecht, Nicole Newnham, Natalie Bullock Brown
Bottom Row – ATHLETE A (L to R): Steve Berta, Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk, Tom McCarthy

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