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DC/DOX Film Festival Explores the Modern National Anthem and More

On June 15-18, the inaugural DC/DOX will showcase a diverse lineup of 60 documentary screenings, including five acclaimed films that center around music. DC/DOX, which provides a platform for “powerful, timely stories in our nation’s capital,” will be held at premier venues throughout Washington, D.C. See the full schedule here.

A press photo of DC/DOX film festival
Photo courtesy of DC/DOX Film Festival

A quest for greater equity, inclusion, women’s rights, police reform, and more are among some of the most pressing challenges that we face as a country. Throughout history, creatives have served as a medium of social change through their art, and this holds true today.

DC/DOX co-founders and industry veterans Jamie Shor and Sky Sitney launched their documentary film festival to “bring together innovative visions, bold voices, and truth seekers” through non-fiction film as a means to create community and greater understanding, as well as highlight the connection between the past, present, and future that individuals everywhere have a role in shaping.

Alchemical Records had an opportunity to connect with award-winning composer Kris Bowers (Bridgerton, When They See Us, King Richard) and GRAMMY-winning music producer Dahi (Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Big Sean, Madonna, Post Malone), who co-produced the documentary Anthem, which premieres at DC/DOX on June 16.

A press picture of Anthem documentary
Anthem - Photo courtesy of DC/DOX Film Festival

“The Star-Spangled Banner,” written in 1814 using the melody of an old British tune, “evokes a range of emotions from patriotic pride to cynicism and terror.” But what would a modern-day national anthem sound like?

Directed by Peter Nicks, Anthem follows Bowers and Dahi as they embark on a musical journey across the United States to explore what the country’s national anthem might be if it were written in today’s time, reflecting the full American experience.

When asked to describe the process that they used to create a final product that was broadly representative of the 334+ million individuals who live in the United States, Bowers and Dahi shared that first and foremost, they were intentional about listening.

“We strove to include people who have those differing viewpoints, roots, and histories with this country in conversations about this endeavor, and in the creation of the song itself,” said Bowers. “The idea behind this project is to highlight and hold space for the complexity of those different experiences, and to see if there’s a way to find common ground and create something beautiful out of that dialogue: understanding, new insights, and a song.”

“Our process was to travel to as many places as we could and just honestly listen to people and their stories, and learn about the origins of the music that they grew up listening to and learning and partaking in,” added Dahi. “I think that was our job, first and foremost, is to listen and to take what they are sharing with us and try to have that influence the reimagining of a new anthem or a new song because we knew that voices and opinions and being heard was going to be a huge factor of trying to make people connect to each other through a song.”

The duo’s cross-country journey takes them to Detroit, home of the Motown sound and civil unrest; Clarksdale, the birthplace of the blues; Nashville, the country music capital of the world; New Orleans, where jazz bands preserve a unique musical legacy; Tulsa, where Native American musicians share their story through dance; and San Francisco, where Latin American culture and activism thrive.

Conversations with musicians in each of these cities naturally lead Bowers and Dahi to deeper discussions about race, history, and national identity, culminating with recording a new anthem that reflects the America we know today.

Creating a new anthem is an undertaking that most individuals would find daunting to say the least. Kris Bowers notes that he was inspired by the engagement and enthusiasm of the communities they partnered with – almost as if the country was waiting for its new song to be written. “My favorite thing about this film are the beautiful conversations, and the insights that come from them,” said Bowers.

“I was surprised by how much being completely open to the process led to the beauty I feel proud of in this project,” he added. “We didn’t go into this with any preconceived notions of what we thought might come out of the conversations, and/or what we thought the song ‘should’ sound like. I think being open to wherever this journey would take us, made it possible to create something organic.”

“I think that the opinions and stories are connected to the music and that is an opportunity to show how we all are different, but connected to a larger theme around who we are and what we are becoming,” said Dahi.

Per Dahi, recognizing the importance of culture in daily life is perhaps the biggest takeaway that audiences should expect to gain. “I believe that culture is our greatest currency because we have such a diverse group of people in the world,” he explained.

“I think it’s important to recognize that since we are in this time of great diversity, it’s important that voices be heard and shared voices be connected to make a better life for each other, ourselves, and our children that will come after us. Everybody has a seat at the table, and we all need each other in various ways. I hope that people can take a small part of that into their experiences from the film.”

Intrigued to hear the outcome, our country’s modern-day anthem? Go see the premiere of Anthem on Friday, June 16, at 7:30 p.m. EST at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here. Attendees will have an opportunity to meet with the artists.

Anthem premieres June 28 on Hulu.

A press picture of Maestra documentary
Maestra - Photo courtesy of DC/DOX Film Festival

Additional Music Documentaries Featured at DC/DOX This Weekend


Friday, June 16, 2:30 p.m.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

Go behind the scenes of Alicia Keys’ “She Is The Music” songwriting camp in this revealing look at the music business.

Get Tickets

It’s Only Life After All

Sunday, June 18, 2:15 p.m.

Edlavitch Jewish Community Center of Washington, D.C.

Blending 40 years of home movies, raw film archive, and intimate present-day verité, a poignant reflection from Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls – the iconic folk-rock duo.

Get Tickets


Sunday, June 18, 4:00 p.m.

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

Five incredible women from around the world, who are boldly breaking glass ceilings in the male-dominated world of orchestral conducting, take center stage in Maestra, filmmaker Maggie Contreras’ directorial debut.

Get Tickets


Cynthia Gross

Cynthia Gross is a freelance writer and award-winning spiritual pop artist based in Maryland. With more than a decade of experience as an executive ghostwriter, she understands the power of each individual’s voice to create positive, meaningful change.

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