GlobeDocs returns with a whopping slate of 19 features and 15 shorts on a vast array of topics, from NASA Mars rovers to Massachusetts wild turkeys. There are also some common themes: Two films look at recent events in Afghanistan (“Retrograde,” “Afghan Dreamers”); two deal with crises surrounding prescription drugs (“As Prescribed,” “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”); and two more follow people rehabilitating wild animals, albeit on opposite sides of the world (“Wildcat,” “All That Breathes”).
The lineup is presented below, alphabetically. For more information about films screening at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brattle Theatre, or online, visit globe.com/filmfest.
The murder of 20-year-old soldier Vanessa Guillén in 2020 at Fort Hood, in Texas, brought national attention to the epidemic of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military. Director (and former Globe employee) Andrea Patiño Contreras explores the pervasive issue in this impassioned documentary, which hinges on the experience of Karina López, a soldier and sexual assault survivor who faced retaliation after reporting the incident to commanders. The film highlights the systemic roots of the problem, and the essential work that needs to be done to protect women and hold abusers accountable.
Screens virtually. A recorded Q&A with the director follows, moderated by Globe reporter Jenna Russell.
The first documentary from Ramin Bahrani (2005′s “Man Push Cart”) opens and closes with an ominous image: the subject, Richard Davis, turning a gun on his own torso and pulling the trigger. In each case, Davis, the founder of a body armor company called Second Chance, is wearing a bulletproof vest of his own design; his stunts are intended to prove the vest’s efficacy. Anchored by revealing interviews with the cocksure entrepreneur, Bahrani’s profile takes us deep into Davis’s life and career, unveiling a dubious history of hubris, megalomania, and deception. If Davis is a paragon of American individualism, Bahrani shows its sweeping collateral damage.
Screens virtually. A recorded Q&A with the director follows, moderated by Globe reporter Billy Baker.
The Afghan Dreamers were a team of six girls who banded together in Afghanistan to create an all-female robotics team. Together, they traveled around the world participating in competitions and drawing international media attention. When director David Greenwald and producer Beth Murphy began filming the group in 2019, peace talks between the Taliban and the United States were underway. But soon, the young women and their families were forced to flee Afghanistan or risk persecution by the Taliban. An uplifting ride until it spirals into turmoil, the film proves the rewards of nurturing young women’s minds and the necessity of preserving their freedoms.
Screens virtually. A recorded Q&A with the director follows, moderated by Globe reporter Anissa Gardizy.
All That Breathes
This observational documentary takes place in New Delhi, where two Muslim brothers have taken it upon themselves to rescue and rehabilitate injured black kites, a common bird of prey in the region. Director Shaunak Sen paints an arresting picture of a city seemingly on the verge of a climate apocalypse, with poor air quality and water teeming with pollution and waste. Amid the plight, the men go about their work clear-eyed and with a devoted sense of purpose.
Screens Oct. 15 at noon at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. A recorded Q&A with the director follows, moderated by film critic Ty Burr.
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Massachusetts native and renowned artist Nan Goldin receives an alluring retrospective in Laura Poitras’s composite film, which interweaves oral history with archival footage and slide shows of Goldin’s photographs. This exquisite profile dives into Goldin’s troubled childhood and draws connections between her activism during the AIDS crisis and her contemporary efforts to hold Big Pharma accountable for the opioid overdose epidemic. Poitras and Goldin know that money buys influence, but art has a commanding power all its own.
Screens Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre.
Holly Hardman’s documentary explores the potential harm of a class of medications often prescribed for anxiety and insomnia called benzodiazepines (or benzos), such as Xanax, Ativan, and Valium. She interviews people who did not abuse their prescribed drugs but still experienced severe withdrawal symptoms or had difficulty tapering off of the medication. The film also tracks a bill that several patients and activists are trying to get passed in Massachusetts. This legislative battle offers a narrative through-line in the film; the group’s efforts to recruit doctors in the campaign is a central struggle.
Screens virtually, followed by a recorded Q&A with the director, moderated by Globe reporter Felice J. Freyer.
Several recent movies capture the crisis of restricted abortion access — “Happening,” “Never Rarely Sometimes Always,” “Unpregnant” — but none zeroes in on the front lines of the debate around reproductive justice as precisely as Cynthia Lowen’s chilling documentary, which spotlights a faction of anti-abortion crusaders. According these women screen time is not the same as giving their ideas credence, however, and Lowen makes use of subtle editing cues to infuse scenes with skepticism, irony, or alarm.
Screens virtually, followed by a recorded Q&A with the director, moderated by Globe reporter Laura Crimaldi.
Nina Menkes delivered her lecture “Sex and Power: The Visual Language of Oppression” to audiences around the world before adapting it for the screen in this edifying essay. A longtime filmmaker, Menkes seeks to communicate how the rhetoric of cinema — framing, camera movement, lighting — reflects male hegemony and can reinforce sexist practices in Hollywood and beyond. At one point, Rosanna Arquette recalls a shot in Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours” in which the camera ogles her bare body after she’s dead. Apparently, even female corpses aren’t safe from the male gaze.
Screens virtually, followed by a recorded Q&A with the director, moderated by Globe correspondent Loren King.
Butterfly in the Sky
Ask anyone who learned to read in the ‘80s or ‘90s what they recall from the era’s public broadcast offerings and they’re bound to mention the PBS classic “Reading Rainbow.” This precious piece of tele-literary history receives an evocative tribute in Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb’s documentary, which features interviews with the show’s creators, kid book reviewers, and trailblazing host, LeVar Burton. A love letter to the show, it does not shy away from the conflicts that inevitably arose — like a producer’s umbrage at Burton for altering his facial hair between seasons.
Screens Oct. 15 at 2:30 p.m. at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, followed by a recorded Q&A with the directors moderated by Globe Assistant Arts Editor Brooke Hauser.
Good Night Oppy
Those familiar with the Pixar favorite “Wall-E” won’t have any trouble seeing the rapturous draw of a film about NASA Mars rovers. Deputed to the Red Planet in 2004, the adorable twin robots (who helped inspire Wall-E’s design) were only expected to live for three months. Instead, Spirit and Opportunity (Oppy for short) peregrinated around the planet for years, taking photos and searching for signs of water. This modern epic from Ryan White takes us inside NASA to chart the rovers’ lifecycles as witnessed by the brilliant science minds in their orbit.
Screens Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, followed by a Q&A with the director, moderated by Boston Globe Media CEO Linda Henry.
Lakota Nation vs. United States
Written and narrated by the Oglala Lakota poet Layli Long Soldier, this lyrical documentary tells the story of the Lakota Nation in three parts: “Extermination,” “Assimilation,” and “Reparations.” The directors, Jesse Short Bull and Laura Tomaselli, frequently use a collage effect, mingling landscape imagery and testimonies from members of the Lakota or Dakota Nation (two Native subcultures) to create a rhapsodic portrait of a people striving to reclaim the sacred land and culture unjustly stripped from them.
Screens Oct. 15 at 1:30 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre. A live Q&A with the directors follows, moderated by Globe correspondent Natalia Winkelman.
Last Flight Home
In this meditative film, the director Ondi Timoner (2004′s “Dig!”) turns her camera on an intimate chapter: the weeks leading up to the day her father, Eli Timoner, has chosen to end his life on his own terms. In what is at once a biography and an inquiry into mortality, Timoner records over 15 days in the California living room where Eli, confined to a hospital bed, shares his final conversations with loved ones. With humor, warmth, and pathos, Timoner documents the difficult process of wishing her father well on the next steps of his journey.
Screens Oct. 15 at 11 a.m. at the Brattle Theatre. A virtual Q&A with the director follows, moderated by Globe reporter Robert Weisman.
Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues
Many people have striven to characterize the jazz legend Louis Armstrong. But in this film, director Sacha Jenkins proves that the most surprising chronicler of Armstrong’s life is Armstrong himself. This absorbing collage portrait draws from the musician and singer’s own audio diaries, which he taped diligently during his lifetime. These private moments find the virtuoso speaking candidly about America’s white power structures and systems of exploitation; he recounts one story about a racist sailor who told Armstrong that he was the only Black person he liked.
Screens Oct. 14 at 8:30 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre. A recorded Q&A with the director follows, moderated by Globe reporter Tiana Woodard.
No Time to Fail
Many of us felt stressed during the 2020 election, but perhaps none felt the pressure as acutely as the day’s unsung heroes: the poll workers and election officials. In this rousing film, the directors Sara Archambault and Margo Guernsey trail a team of Rhode Island election administrators through the pandemonium. The documentary pulls back the curtain on the hundreds of hours of labor that go into organizing a successful voting period — including one official who took it upon himself to hand-deliver mail-in ballots to voters who were quarantining with COVID-19.
Screens Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. A live Q&A with the directors follows, moderated by Globe reporter Edward Fitzpatrick.
Pray for Our Sinners
Filmmaker Sinéad O’Shea returns to her hometown of Navan, Ireland, to interview elderly residents about the painful social protocol they endured as children and young adults. Corporal punishment in schools was commonplace, women were second-class citizens, and the Catholic Church reigned supreme. Especially harrowing are the stories O’Shea elicits from a woman who got pregnant as an unmarried teenager and was forced into a mother and baby home run by Catholic nuns. The film is a cogent oral history, but it’s also a call to arms to protect those most vulnerable.
Screens Oct. 16 at 4 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre. A live Q&A with the director follows, moderated by Globe correspondent Loren King.
The director Matthew Heineman, whose COVID-response documentary “The First Wave” played last year at GlobeDocs, returns with an equally absorbing window into a dangerous and restricted domain. Opening in a chaotic scene at the Kabul Airport in August 2021, the film soon rewinds to chronicle the final nine months of America’s mission in Afghanistan. Heineman embeds with American and Afghan troops to record eye-opening war scenes. The most distressing aspect of this story, though, is that we know its unhappy ending; the documentary’s title articulates the sense of sliding downhill.
Screens Oct. 15 at 4:30 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre. A live Q&A with the director follows, moderated by Globe correspondent Natalia Winkelman.
The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile
“Delta Dawn,” about a 41-year-old woman pining after a former lover, isn’t the song you would peg for a 13-year-old aspiring country singer. But that dissonance is just the thing that skyrocketed Tanya Tucker to fame in the 1970s. Fast forward to 2019, when the filmmaker Kathlyn Horan chronicled the creation of “While I’m Livin,’” Tucker’s first album of original material in nearly two decades. Tucker and Brandi Carlile, who produces the record, butt heads frequently — Tucker’s a wild card, Carlile’s a planner — and their tense dynamic over a frenzied string of studio sessions and performances makes for a thrilling ride.
Screens Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre. A live Q&A with the director follows, moderated by Globe correspondent Maura Johnston.
Turn Every Page
The enduring bond between a pair of congenial New Yorkers forms the heart of Lizzie Gottlieb’s publishing-world documentary. One of the duo is her father, the renowned book editor Robert Gottlieb; the other is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Caro. Literary collaborators for decades, the pair are currently racing against the mortal clock — Gottlieb is 91, Caro is 86 — to finish the fifth and final volume of Caro’s sprawling biography, “The Years of Lyndon Johnson.” Literary and punctuation pedants, rejoice: The documentary devotes a whole section to quarrels over semicolon usage.
Screens Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre. A live Q&A with the director follows, moderated by Globe contributing editor Kate Tuttle.
The extraordinary story of a young man and his best friend, an ocelot named Keanu, comes alive in Melissa Lesh and Trevor Beck Frost’s documentary. Harry Turner was struggling with PTSD from his time serving as a British soldier in Afghanistan when he relocated to the Peruvian Amazon. Living in makeshift huts in the jungle, he began working with a conservation organization to rescue, rehabilitate, and reintroduce wild animals into the rain forest. Lesh and Frost capture astonishing wildlife footage — including shots of an ocelot cub taking on a snapping caiman and a poisonous spider — but their true achievement lies in the touching intimacy of this human interest story.
Screens Oct. 16 at 1:30 p.m. at the Brattle Theatre. A virtual Q&A with the directors follows, moderated by Globe reporter Brian MacQuarrie.
A Jamaica Plain basketball court becomes a work of rubber art in “BasketArt Court.”
Immerse in the colorful worlds painted by self-taught artist David Riley in “The Beautiful Worlds of David Riley.”
“The Flagmakers” grapples with issues of American identity through interviews with a diverse group of workers at the country’s largest manufacturer of American flags, located in Wisconsin.
Ever daydreamed about living off the grid? Take a rejuvenating dose of “Heart Valley,” which traces a day in the life of a Welsh shepherd who cares for more than 100 black-spotted sheep in relative isolation.
The buzzing of thousands of bees opens “Huneebee,” about a girl who finds respite in a beekeeping organization after being bullied in school.
Two wheelchair basketball stars discuss the power of sports to unite and inspire in “Iron Sharpens Iron.”
Linnea Herzog, a professional neuroscientist who writes and performs rock music in her spare time, draws connections between brain waves and sound waves in “Linnea’s Brain.”
A young woman from the Congo recounts a story of personal trauma in “More Than I Want to Remember,” which unfolds in exquisite line-drawn animation.
“Nuisance Bear” assumes the point-of-view of a Canadian polar bear as it wanders through an industrialized town full of wildlife officers tasked with keeping bears out.
In 1967, two brothers from Needham hitched a cart to their family’s Shetland pony and journeyed hundreds of miles to the World’s Fair in Montreal. In “Pony Boys,” they recall the adventure.
A Massachusetts community rallies to help those in need in “Raising the Floor,” which chronicles the toll the pandemic took on the city of Chelsea.
The daughter of Michael Thompson, who was incarcerated in 1994 for selling marijuana, fights for his clemency in “The Sentence of Michael Thompson.”
“Shattering Stars” charts the life and career of the Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar through animated sequences that intermingle drama with pedagogy.
A young father who makes his living through carpentry and snow plowing in the Boston area discusses how changes in climate have affected his work in “Snow Money.”
What’s with all the turkeys? “Turkey Town” elucidates the recent surge in the wild turkey population in Massachusetts, and talks to locals and experts about their impact.
Due to a reporter’s error, an earlier version of this article misstated the relationship between a subject in “The Sentence of Michael Thompson” and Thompson. The subject in the short film is his daughter. The Globe regrets the error.