American Documentary Film Festival



The American Documentary Film Festival (commonly referred to as AmDocs) is a 501(c)3 non-profit entity, operating under a fiscal sponsorship of the Institute For Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI).  Founder Teddy Grouya desired to create a forum to celebrate and promote documentary film - and the independent filmmakers around the world who bring knowledge and awareness through their stories about real people and issues.  It all started in 2011 when the festival was created.  Palm Springs was the perfect venue for AmDocs, which is located just 90 minutes east of Hollywood and has a proven track record of viewing audiences that support independent film.


The first festival was held in April 2012, with Academy Award-winning Director, Screenwriter and Producer, Oliver Stone being honored on Opening Night with the "Filmmaker Who Makes A Difference" award and the screening of his provocative documentary "Commandante."  In its inaugural year, AmDocs screened 80 international films in a single theatre in Palm Springs.


Since then, AmDocs has grown exponentially each year, with annual honorees including Dionne Warwick, Peter Coyote, Peter Bogdanovich, Joe Berlinger and Jamie Redford.  The 2013 Festival was the first to feature animated film entries. 


The 2015 Festival screened 120+ thought provoking, entertaining and unforgettable films set across six screens in theatres in Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert, attracting thousands of visitors over the Festival's five day period, as well as over 150 filmmakers and industry guests from all across the U.S. and around the world.


While relatively young, AmDocs has already established important credentials, being recognized internationally as an important venue for filmmakers, being named by MovieMaker Magazine as one of the five coolest documentary film festivals in the world!  Over 1600 films were reviewed for screening consideration in the past year, coming from Argentina to Zimbabwe and across the U.S.


Most recently, AmDocs initiated a new and unique film festival alliance, the North-South Doc Network, in which several important international film festivals provide access to films within each of the participating festivals programs, thereby creating a formal circuit of festivals that select films will get to screen at.


In support of its commitment to further documentary film awareness and education, AmDocs also carries out a variety of outreach activities, including the AmDocs Film Fund Pitch Competition.  U.S. documentary filmmakers are eligible to participate in the Pitch Competition and submit proposals to compete for financing for new projects, as well as works currently in progress.  Film Funds such as this are rare in the U.S. and AmDocs is proud to be able to provide this support.   Past recipients included films that went on to be shortlisted for the Oscars as well as win television's Emmy.


AmDocs is made possible through the generosity of individuals, foundations and businesses that support it by making contributions, buying tickets and providing in-kind services and materials.  The Festival is grateful for this support and looks forward to having film lovers join us each year in Palm Springs.



About Our Team


The staff and advisory board of the American Documentary Film Festival ("AmDocs") are a collection of long-time filmmakers, artists, business owners and supporters of the arts and education. 

Festival Director:


Theodore “Teddy” Grouya is the Founder and Director of the American Documentary Film Festival, as well as President of Cinema Arts Magic, a film production company based in Palm Springs, California. Teddy has been working on and off in the entertainment industry since 1981. He received his BA from UCLA, studying motion picture/television and history. After graduating, he worked on several Hollywood films and as well as directing a live television telethon. From there, Teddy went to Australia where he received his MA from the Australian National University in International Relations.  Teddy then worked for the U.S. Embassy in Australia and then went to Washington D.C., where he was a program specialist at USIA for the Fulbright Program, as well as helping to design world-wide university affiliations. Teddy was later recruited to go back to Australia to head the U.S. contingent’s protocol office at the World’s Fair. Upon leaving the government, he went to work in film, producing and directing several award-winning independent movies, in both the documentary and narrative fields.



Associate Programming Officer:


Dr. John Osborne has a Ph.D in Theology and has taught English, humanities and film studies.  With John's education and breath of film festival experience, AmDocs continues to be a world leader in film programming.


Advisory Board Members:


Joel Douglas was literally born into the motion picture industry. Joel is the son of legendary award-winning actor Kirk Douglas and younger brother of Academy Award-winning actor and producer Michael Douglas. He started two film studios, one in Mexico -- Studio Corazon -- and the other in Nice, France -- Studio la Victorine. He has won two Directors Guild of America awards, for production on One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Romancing the Stone. The Palm Springs resident has recieved numerous career awards.​


Cyrus Nowrasteh has worked in the motion picture and television business for over 25 years, credited as a writer, producer, and director. He has won two PEN awards, a Golden Satellite Award, Orson Welles Award, and a Freedom of Expression award. His credits include La Femme Nikita, The Day Reagan Was Shot, The Path to 9/11, and The Stoning of Soraya M, the award-winning feature film released by Lion’s Gate (2009).

David Kaminski has been involved with documentary filmmaking during the past decade and is the executive producer of the Academy Award-nominated, Still Kicking: The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, and No Subtitles Necessary, for which he received an Emmy nomination. His film, Paint Me A Future, won a special jury prize at the Palm Springs International Festival of Short Films. He has been vice-chair of the PSIFF and a programmer for Italian Cinema and Cinematography.


David Permut has enjoyed a successful career in the movie business over the last 30+ years as a prolific film producer.  In 2009, he was nominated for an Emmy (Best Made for TV Movie) for Prayers for Bobby, starring Sigourney Weaver. In 2009, he co-produced with Ben Stiller, for Disney, the documentary The Boys: The Sherman Brothers about Richard and Robert Sherman.


Lynne Stephenson is the Executive Assistant to the Publisher and President at The Desert Sun newspaper, the Coachella Valley's largest daily publication.  A longtime area resident, Lynne is a contributor to many charitable causes in the Valley, including as President of the United Way, and has a storied history dedicated to supporting the cultural arts in Southern California. 


Paul Szynol is an attorney and a filmmaker. For the last decade and a half, he has concentrated his practice on intellectual property matters (particularly media and technology), and has advised filmmakers, artists, start-ups, and multi-billion dollar multinationals on a wide range of transactions. Paul’s documentary films have been featured on the New York Times Op-Docs, the New Yorker, and the Atlantic, and his films and photos have been shown at festivals and galleries internationally. In the past, Paul was a software developer and a drummer, and he still plays Pearl drums, and tinkers with Java libraries. After clerking for the Hon. Judge Pfaelzer in the Central District of California, Paul was an associate at O’Melveny & Myers in San Francisco and Morrison Foerster in New York City. He was also an in-house counsel at Bloomberg. He’s a graduate of Columbia University (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa), where he studied history and philosophy, and Yale Law School, where he focused on free speech and intellectual property.


Cynthia Kane created DOCday on Sundance Channel, shepherded over 150 international and U.S. co-productions for public media at ITVS, and at Al Jazeera America oversaw Kartemquin’s series Hard Earned –(2016 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award), Albert Maysles’ final work, In Transit, Leon Gast’s Sporting Dreams, Barbara Kopple’s Shelter, Jennifer Maytorena Taylor’s Daisy and Max, Michelle Shephard and Patrick Reed’s Guantanamo’s Child, Marc Levin’s Freeway: Crack in the System.  With gbgg productions and Les Film de l’Après Midi, Kane executive produced, New Eyes, director: Hiwot Admasu Getaneh, (Venice, TIFF, Rotterdam.)

In 2016, Kane joined forces with former NYC Film Commissioner Cynthia Lopez as creative consultants for Zeva Oelbaum and Sabine Krayenbühl's Letters from Baghdad about the extraordinary life and times of Gertrude Bell.  Cynthia currently she works with East Village Entertainment and Women Make Movies.


Peter Bogdanovich is a multiple award-winning filmmaker, writer, actor and historian.  


Joe Berlinger is an Oscar nominated filmmaker whose works cover a wide spectrum of story lines from exploitation of oil in the Amazon to his famous trilogy of the West Memphis Three.  Joe's most recent work was behind the scenes with "Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru."