DCIFF Spotlight: Vikram Jayanti, veteran documentary filmmaker


Vikram Jayanti is best known for his high profile feature documentary portraits of cultural icons: usually individuals of extraordinary accomplishment, such as Abraham Lincoln, Muhammad Ali and Garry Kasparov – and sometimes characters of some notoriety, such as Phil Spector and Uri Geller.  His feature documentaries are marked by their combination of intellectual seriousness and cinematic narrative energy.

As a director, Jayanti’s awards include two films he made for BBC Arena: THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF PHIL SPECTOR (Royal Television Society, Best Arts Documentary 2009) about the legendary record producer’s trial for murder, and JAMES ELLROY’S FEAST OF DEATH (Royal Television Society, Best Arts Documentary 2001) about the controversial crime writer’s search for the killer of his mother.

Two films which he’s worked on as a producer have won Oscars: WHEN WE WERE KINGS (1996 Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary), about Muhammad Ali’s Rumble in the Jungle with George Foreman, and BORN INTO BROTHELS (2005 Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary) about the children living with their prostitute mothers in the slums of Calcutta.

Several of Jayanti’s documentaries have had successful theatrical releases, with five premiering at the Sundance Film Festival and five others at the Toronto International Film Festival. We are honored to invite Vikram Jayanti to DCIFF 2015, to screen 3 of his films and lead a masterclass.


The Secret Life of Uri Geller – Psychic Spy?

Thursday, February 26 @ 6pm
90 mins / UK / 2013 

Bticket_smalluy your Tickets HERE or at the door
$10 / Jack Morton Auditorium, George Washington University

From the Sheffield Doc Fest: “Many of us have a vague recollection of him as an eccentric spoon bender with rich and famous friends. Indeed, Uri Geller has made a fortune through his entertaining psychic demonstrations over forty years. But to a number of international intelligence communities Uri Geller is a valuable commodity — as a psychic spy. Geller was already working for the Israeli military when he came to the attention of the CIA, who were astounded when he passed their psychic tests with flying colors. For an upcoming BBC documentary, director Vikram Jayanti interviews Geller and some former high ranking officials who took Geller very seriously, and pieces together the story of his role in a host of intelligence capers. A self-proclaimed Bond fan, Geller revels in the secrecy of his covert operations. But he is happy to reveal how he obtained his surprise Mexican citizenship: by pinpointing where to drill for oil.”


Friday, February 27 @ 2pm
87 mins / USA / 2009

ticket_smallReserve your Tickets HERE or just come and join us!
Free Admission / MLK Library, Penn Quarter

From the NY Times: “The agony and ecstasy of the Last Race on Earth comes to the screen as filmmaker Vikram Jayanti follows legally blind twenty-three year old Rachael Scdoris while she trains to race in her third Iditarod. A 1,100 mile dog sled race set against the snowy backdrop of the Alaskan wilderness, the Iditarod takes fifteen days to complete and isn’t for the faint of heart. Fortunately, despite her handicap, Scdoris is more than up to the challenge. The man serving as Scdoris visual interpreter in the race is Joe, a noted Iditarod champion in his own right. As the viewer becomes better acquainted with Scdoris and her family, we witness how the racer’s inspiring tenacity and courage helps her to remain focused despite the distractions all around.”

Watch the Snowblind trailer here.

JElllroyames Ellroy’s Feast of Death

Saturday, February 28th @ 8pm
90 mins / UK & USA / 2001

ticket_smallBuy your Tickets HERE or at the door
$9 / District Architecture Center


From the NY Times: “A crime writer best-known for his novel {-L.A. Confidential}, James Ellroy is one of the more eccentric and intense figures on the American literary scene. After numerous articles and E! documentaries, his personal story is well-known. When he was ten years old, his mother was murdered by an unknown assailant. This event became an obsession for him, shaping the brutally dark underworlds he envisions in his work, particularly his book {-Black Dahlia}, based on a famously unsolved murder of a young starlet found in a vacant lot in 1947. Following up on his Academy Award-winning When We Were Kings, Vikram Jayanti follows Ellroy through his grisly obsessions and eventful life. The core of the film is centered around a series of dinners he has with a few of his cop buddies, eating steak and discussing murders. Along the way, Ellroy is seen visiting the site of Kennedy’s assassination, through his Kansas City home, and through his favorite L.A. seedy nightspots.”

Watch an excerpt here.