The 21st annual San Francisco Documentary Festival (SF DocFest) reels with Bay Area talent amongst its 36 features and 58 shorts.
This week, we take a look at some of the Bay Area highlights in the fest.
The festival will be a hybrid of in-person screenings (at the Roxie in San Francisco) and virtual ones, and it begins Wednesday and runs through June 12. There are two opening features, “Eternal Spring” (https://bit.ly/3x4qI16) from director Jason Loftus on Falun Gong exposing repression in China and “Ricochet” (https://bit.ly/3PTNlNd) from Chihiro Wimbush and the late Jeff Adachi on Kate Steinle’s fatal 2015 shooting at Pier 14 in San Francisco and the outcry and outrage shortly thereafter that even caught the ire of Donald Trump.
Many other nonfiction films with Bay Area ties will be featured. Here are some worth a look.
Most appropriate this LGBTQ Pride Month of June is Stacey Woelfel and William T. Horner’s “Keep the Cameras Rolling: The Pedro Zamora Way,” a lovely testament to the activism, sensitivity and compassion of the late MTV’s “The Real World: San Francisco” star. The Cuban American contracted HIV and heightened the visibility of those afflicted during a political era where few even uttered the word “AIDS,” let alone advocated for intensified research and assistance to patients suffering and losing their lives due to complications from the terrible disease.
Zamora’s 1994 appearance on the fledgling TV series brought awareness and understanding not only to the nation, but also to those housemates who got to know and love the charismatic, immensely likable Zamora. Woelfel and Horner talk to relatives, housemates/friends and show clips from a series that proved to be instrumental in humanizing HIV-afflicted people while exposing the prejudices that existed then and, sadly, even now. The documentary is a fond tribute to Zamora, who achieved so much in his tragically short 22 years. It’ll be available to stream starting Wednesday, with a 6:30 p.m. Saturday screening at the Roxie with members of “The Real World: San Francisco” cast attending for the Q&A afterward: https://bit.ly/3NcqZEX. It’ll also be screening as part of the upcoming Frameline festival. For tickets to the 3:45 p.m. June 20 screening at the Castro, visit https://www.frameline.org/films/frameline46/keep-the-cameras-rolling-the-pedro-zamora-way.
End-of-life movies wherein someone initiates all the steps to curtail their physical and mental deterioration and agony are hard to endure for entirely obvious reasons. Berkeley director Bradley Berman’s “Jack Has a Plan” does choke you up — as it should — but it’s also an oddly life-affirming true story about living your life to the fullest and learning to reconcile with a past no matter how painful it might be. Berman was great friends with Jack Tuller. He intimately chronicles the last three years of the San Franciscan’s life as he moves his plan into place; his wife, Jennifer Carino, by his side. Tuller’s journey takes him to tough places from his past, peeling back family secrets that have haunted him for longer than the 25 years since doctors discovered he had a brain tumor and gave him a dire prognosis. Tuller refuses to have any of that define him. “Jack Has a Plan,” which is being co-presented by SFFILM, receives a California premiere, 4:15 p.m. Sunday at the Roxie: https://bit.ly/3N9eud9. It’s also available to stream starting Wednesday: https://bit.ly/3x5629l.
Fresh off its virtual world premiere at this year’s Cinejoy, the virtual arm of San Jose’s Cinequest, comes Antioch native Laurence Madrigal’s excellent “We Were Hyphy,” a thorough chronicle of the revolutionary born-in-the-East-Bay hyphy movement, which celebrated Bay Area musical artists and culture, and evolved into a hip-hop subgenre that flickered temporarily into the mainstream. Filled with comments from those who helped put the bricks onto the foundation of the movement, “We Were Hyphy” also includes astute observations from the performers of today, those inspired by the movement, as well as experts who give it more context. “Hyphy” speeds through a lot in its short running time, but it doesn’t feel like any one topic is given short shrift. You could stream it, but it’s worth watching with an audience because you might just experience spontaneous cheers and applause seeing this homegrown production with a Bay Area crowd. “We Were Hyphy” screens at 8:45 p.m. Saturday (https://bit.ly/3M6lS7O) and is also available to stream starting Wednesday: https://bit.ly/3PW4Bl6.
Here are a few short takes on other documentaries:
Vinyl lovers will want to spin their wheels over to the Roxie for the 6:30 p.m. Friday showing of Kenneth Thomas’ “It Came From Aquarius Records,” an LP lover’s dream about a former San Francisco institution, the indie record store Aquarius Records. What was the significance of this record store — which shuttered in 2006 after 47 years in the biz — in the Bay Area music scene? Thomas covers it all. For the Roxie screening: https://bit.ly/3m07iEv. And for online: https://bit.ly/3m4Fte0.
Got the blues? Who doesn’t during these devastating times. Should you be in the mood to be uplifted by actual blues music while embarking on a fascinating plunge into musical history that charts the evolution of how the blues moved from the Mississippi Delta to find a thriving home in Chicago, see “Born in Chicago.” “The Blues Brothers” star Dan Aykroyd narrates a doc co-directed by San Franciscan Bob Sarles and John Anderson. It screens at the Roxie at 8:45 p.m. Sunday and is available to start streaming Wednesday: https://bit.ly/3wZbcma.
Berkeley director Max Good has one of the most intriguing features in this entire lineup with “The Assassination & Mrs. Paine.” Consider: He extensively looks into the life of Santa Rosa resident Ruth Paine, an 85-year-old who knew Marina and Lee Harvey Oswald. What were her ties with that duo earlier and while they were involved in JFK’s assassination? Find out when it screens at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday: https://bit.ly/3GChLiG.
With “Jurassic Park: Dominion” on the horizon and “Prehistoric Planet” on AppleTV+ a big streaming hit, our interest in all things dinos are on the rise. Director Scott Leberecht’s “Spaz” taps into that tangentially with a film about the career of Steve “Spaz” Williams, a computer animator who helped bring those “Jurassic Park” critters to life at Lucasfilm in 1993. So why isn’t he more of a household name? Find out when “Spaz” screens at 8:45 p.m. Friday. It also is available to stream starting Wednesday: https://bit.ly/3x3damy.
Also ideal viewing for month of Pride arrives with Sonoma filmmaker Ewan Duarte’s “Queering Yoga,” an insightful focus on the lives and careers of six LGBTQ+ yoga teachers and how they are creating healthy spaces for their yoga practices. The 45-minute feature is being co-presented by Frameline and screens at 2 p.m. Saturday and will be available online starting Wednesday: https://bit.ly/3M4oALi.
For the complete SF DocFest schedule and to order tickets, visit https://sfdocfest2022.eventive.org/welcome.