Pass the remote: Five more films to watch with Bay Area ties

With some of the best nationwide film festivals canceled or moving to the late summer or fall in the Bay Area, regional indie filmmakers could use support. So let’s watch their movies.

Bay City News Foundation will put forth five recommendations from documentaries to narratives, and even shorts. What’s the only requirement? That they have Bay Area ties. Topping this week, two indies that are being released on Netflix, as well as restoration of the feminist Western “A Thousand Pieces of Gold.”

(Photo courtesy of Netflix)

“The Half of It”

A mood-busting alternative to Cole’s unsettling vision is San Jose native/San Francisco resident Alice Wu’s spritely charmer of a love triangle. The often cribbed chestnut “Cyrano de Bergerac” serves as the playground with high schooler Ellie (Leah Lewis) educating jock Paul (Daniel Diemer) on the proper way to woo popular girl Aster (Alexxis Lemire). But it’s also Ellie who’s smitten with Aster. Wu’s character-driven and queer second feature is refreshing and lovely, and gracefully directed and acted. (Netflix)

“I Am Maris: Portrait of a Young Yogi”

Walnut Creek filmmaker Laura VanZee Taylor documents the inspiring true story of how an East Bay teenage girl overcomes anxiety, depression and eating disorders through therapy and yoga — not just as practitioner, but teacher.  It’s a hopeful, intimate hourlong portrait that appeals particularly to youths struggling on the inside and the outside. (Netflix)

(Photo courtesy of Kino International)

“A Thousand Pieces of Gold”

Bay Area filmmaker Nancy Kelly struck gold with her 1990 Western, now presented in a pristine restoration, but few saw it. Here’s the chance.  At the center of her mostly Californian-set Western stands tall the resilient Lalu (Rosalind Chao), a Chinese immigrant fending off men who want to pass her around like she’s an unfeeling commodity.  Kelly’s drama — based on a novel — captures the struggles of being an immigrant and a woman in the Wild West. A handsome Chris Cooper co-stars.


East Bay buddies Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs co-star and co-wrote this energetic poetry-slam-like drama/comedy set in Oakland. Directed with bravado by Carlos López Estrada, Casal and Diggs portray East Bay friends in a changing Oakland — where gentrification, racism and colorful characters roost.  It was one of 2018’s best, most underappreciated films. (Various platforms)

(Photo courtesy of Netflix)

“All Day and a Night”

San Francisco filmmaker, UC Berkeley grad and “Black Panther” co-writer Joe Robert Cole slings at us a gritty, brutal and terrific debut feature — a street-aware powerhouse anchored around the volatile relationship between an Oakland son and his father. Featuring two heart-wrenching performances from two “Moonlight” stars, Ashton Sanders and Jeffrey Wright, Cole’s empathetic but realistic hard-hitter illustrates how machismo and a gang war kills hope and dreams. Tough, but well-made. (Netflix)

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