Sitney is festival director of AFI Docs, the Washington-area documentary film festival running Wednesday through June 23.

Can you tell us about the festival?

The festival has been around for 11 years; it's a film festival dedicated exclusively to documentary films. We show a wonderful range of work in that genre, often accompanied by filmmakers and subjects themselves. Every year we honor a major documentarian. We've done Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme, Spike Lee, and this year it's Errol Morris, who won an Oscar for "The Fog of War."

What's new about the festival this year?

Over the past decade, it has taken place almost exclusively in Silver Spring. This year, we're expanding significantly into D.C. We'll be in the Penn Quarter, National Mall area at sites like the National Portrait Gallery, Newseum and National Archives. Rather than just talk with the filmmaker, we're dedicating a day to panels where the film is a starting point from a 30,000-foot view of the issues.

How can the public get tickets?

You can purchase tickets online at or at any of the venues in Silver Spring or D.C.

How has the audience for documentaries changed in recent years?

The environment and audience for nonfiction is much bigger than it's been in the past. There are a lot of factors, and quite frankly, nonfiction has dominated television -- for better or worse. There have been some blockbuster documentaries, too. If they were scripted, we'd call them far-fetched; what's wonderful about documentaries is that they can also be profoundly entertaining. The distinctions between fiction and nonfiction are blurring more and more.

Why not just watch these movies on your couch?

There's something heightened in the experience of the festival, an opportunity to see a film in advance -- and an audience brings a collective excitement. People want to put aside their typical routine and be a part of something.

- Brian Hughes