Gridlock along the film festival circuit these next couple weeks creates a bounty of Bay Area opportunities for cinephiles.
Starting this Thursday, the 45th Mill Valley Film Festival and the Green Film Festival of San Francisco kick off with both running through Oct. 16. And then there’s the 5th Annual Drunken Film Festival in Oakland. We couldn’t pull a tab on that this week, but we’ll tell you what’s brewing there by pointing you to the lineup: https://www.drunkenfilmfest.com/oakland-2022-program.
For now, let’s take a cinematic dip into two different pools, each swimming with Bay Area-connected goodies. Next week, we’ll come up with even more recommendations for both the Mill Valley Film Festival and the Green Film Festival.
The Mill Valley Film Festival is a magnet for celebrities and upcoming Oscar contenders. But most of all it’s an expansive banquet filled with delicious indie gems, 145 temptations within this year’s slate.
The fest kicks off Thursday with the star-studded “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” (director Rian Johnson, actors Kate Hudson, Leslie Odom Jr. and Kathryn Hahn will attend) and concludes with another Netflix release, the fact-based thriller “The Good Nurse” (actor Eddie Redmayne, director Tobias Lindholm and former UC-Berkeley student and football player Nnamdi Asomugha are slated to appear). For tickets, some of which are at rush, and a full lineup, wander over to mvff.com.
Here are a few Bay Area-centric features and documentaries to get you started.
Few writers can so poetically and eloquently describe their personal culinary adventures with the beauty of the late M.F.K. Fisher. In “The Art of Eating: The Life of M.F.K. Fisher,” San Francisco director Gregory Bezat sprinkles passages from Fisher’s writing into a lovely broth that simmers with observations from top chefs Alice Waters, Jacques Pepin, Ruth Reichl and many others. (7 p.m. Oct. 11 at the Smith Rafael; 2 p.m., Oct. 13 at the Sequoia in Mill Valley)
Grammy-award-winning blues sensation and Oakland resident Xavier Dephrepaulezz, best known as Fantastic Negrito, works on an upcoming record and talks with great candor, as well as with others who know him best, about his traumatic childhood and his career that went into directions he never anticipated. Oakland’s Yvan Iturriaga and Francisco Nunez Capriles co-direct “Fantastic Negrito: Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?” (7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; 3 p.m. Oct. 16, Lark Theater)
In director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s informative and important documentary “The Grab,” a Bay Area journalist unearths one of the most daunting stories he’s ever covered. He and others at the Emeryville-based nonprofit The Center for Investigative Reporting take a seven-year deep dive into a shattering global problem: the snatching of land, food, and water from various countries and the role of secretive organizations and corporations. “The Grab” follows reporter Nathan Halverson as he launches an investigation into one story that snowballs into yet another and another. It’s a terrific documentary that demands to be seen. It also celebrates investigative, vetted and responsible journalism. (6 p.m.; Oct. 7 and 1 p.m. Oct. 10, the Sequoia)
It’s short (not even clocking in at one hour), but Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman’s look at the uproar about a mural over at San Francisco’s George Washington High School that’s been up since 1936 covers a debate that sparked global interest. While “Town Destroyer” doesn’t take sides and does a fine job of covering both opinions – those that say the mural is historical and we need to learn from it and others who say it triggers more trauma and is a stain on the school. You can hear more in a panel discussion at the 8 p.m. Oct. 8 screening at the Sequoia. (Also screens at 1:15 p.m. Oct. 14 at the Smith Rafael and 1:45 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Roxie in San Francisco.)
Prolific Berkeley filmmaker Rob Nilsson’s “Faultline” wraps up his fictional “Nomad Trilogy” on the odyssey of the unhoused with this world premiere that centers on a missing rancher. (7:30 p.m., Oct. 11 Smith Rafael)
For a bit of inspiration – and who can’t use a gallon of that right now? – beeline to Dawn Mikkelsen and Keri Pickett’s documentary “Finding Her Beat,” a crowd pleaser about female performers taking center stage in Taiko drumming. It’s not just a rousing event but an historic occasion. San Jose Taiko drummers P.J. Hirabayashi and Yurika Chiba appear in the film. (noon, Oct. 9 at the Sequoia and 11 a.m. Oct. 11 at the Sequoia; also available to stream starting Thursday)
The festival is always noted for its celebration of Bay Area musical artists, and Berkeley filmmaker Kathryn Golden shines a spotlight on not only the performances and life of Grammy-nominated percussionist and San Francisco native John Santos, but his dedication to activism. “Santos – Skin to Skin” screens at 5:15 p.m., Oct. 8 at the Sequoia; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14 at BAMPFA and 4 p.m., Oct. 16 at the Roxie; it’ll also be available to stream)
Speaking of the Roxie, it’ll be the hot spot to take in the numerous prime selections during the second Green Film Festival of San Francisco. To order tickets, for a full lineup both virtual and in-person screening, visit https://sfgreenfest2022.eventive.org/welcome
The opening night film is from the Bay Area’s Nancy Svendsen. “Pasang: In the Shadow of Everest” is the inspirational true story of Nepali climber Pasang Lhamu Sherpa who attempted four times in the ‘90s to scale Mt. Everest. While she wasn’t permitted to attend school, she went on to create a trekking company in Kathmandu. This is her story. (Screens: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 5)
Another documentary that certainly piqued my interest is Bay Area filmmaker Luke Griswold-Tergis’s “Pleistocene Park.” The “Centerpiece” selection concerns Russian scientist Sergey Zimov on a quest in the Siberian steppes to bring back ecosystems that once covered huge swaths of territory from Spain to Canada and were called the Mammoth Steppe. His own steps in making that happen are said to be radical. (6:15 p.m., Oct. 7)And the fest’s Closing Night feature “Into the Weeds” is guaranteed to be a conversation starter. It focuses on Vallejo’s Dewayne “Lee” Johnson’s legal tussle with the agrochemical company Monsanto. Director Jennifer Baichwal chronicles how Johnson noticed his health suffering and how he traced it to a herbicide he had been using, suspecting that it might be the cause. (6:15 p.m., Oct. 13)