Film Institute Presents SilverDocs

In this image provided by the American Film Institute (AFI) and Discovery Channel, a scene is shown from the film "Rosita," part of the AFI/Discovery Channel Silverdocs documentary series.
Every June, just as Hollywood is rolling out its summer blockbusters, the American Film Institute offers filmgoers a smorgasbord of something more mind-blowing: reality.

AFI's SilverDocs festival, whose motto is "Life: Now Playing," has become one of the pre-eminent documentary festivals in North America since its launch in 2003.

"Others have been around longer, but in three years we've grown to last for a week with 89 films, and a conference of 400 distributors and filmmakers afterwards," said festival director Patricia Finneran.

The films - features and short subjects from 43 countries - are being exhibited at the AFI Silver Theatre in suburban Silver Spring, Md., through Sunday. The series is co-sponsored by the Discovery Channel.

The festival opens Tuesday night with "Midnight Movies: From the Margins to the Mainstream," an account of how film oddities of the 1970s like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "Eraserhead" broke taboos and reached cult audiences.

"SilverDocs embraces the diversity of the documentary form," said Finneran, from "hard-hitting films that address big ideas ... to music and comedy."