Pass the Remote: Poppy Jasper indies, SFFILM, and ‘Wild Life’

Kris Tompkins enjoys the scenery in Patagonia in the beautiful film "Wild Life." (Jimmy Chin/National Geographic)

Three film festivals in Bay Area this week give movie fans numerous opportunities. Two are rooted in the South Bay — the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival and the Windrider Bay Area film forum — and the biggest, the SFFILM festival, sprawls out into San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley.  

And early next week, Oscar-winning filmmaker Jimmy Chin comes to the area for the opening of the moving “Wild Life,” a documentary on the life, legacy and work of conservationists Kris and Doug Tompkins. Kris Tompkins will join Chin at key screenings. 

The Poppy Jasper International Film Festival from April 12-19 pops with an eclectic mix of features, documentaries, shorts and panels with screenings in Morgan Hill, San Martin, Gilroy, Hollister, and San Juan Bautista.  

The fest opens Wednesday with a Student Filmmaker Showcase at Gilroy’s The District Theater. Thursday, in Morgan Hill, there is a Northern California Showcase, divided into two-hour blocks. The program includes Pleasanton’s Nicole de Meneses’ short “Queer Science” and Oakland’s Nan Su’s “Heartbeat on the Strings.” 

Other Poppy Jasper themed days: Women’s Day at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse (April 14), Mexico Day (April 17) at The Barn at Mission Farm in San Juan Bautista; LGBTQ Day (April 18) at The District Theater in Gilroy and the Granada Theatre in Hollister and the Iran Filmmaker Showcase (April 19) at The District Theater in Gilroy. 

Most of the themed programs feature short films and even videos, but there are a number of special screenings. At 5 p.m. Saturday in Hollister, actor, director and screenwriter Ian Puleston-Davies appears in a Q&A after a screening of his “Bolan’s Shoes,” about a group of friends in 1970s Liverpool and the impact that the car crash that killed glam-rock idol Marc Bolan has on them years later. Leanne Best, Timothy Spall and Mark Lewis-Jones star.  

Other full-length films worthy of a look include “Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game,” a dramedy based on the true story of journalist Roger Sharpe (played by Mike Faist and Dennis Boutsikaris) who, in the ‘70s, challenged the New York City’s ban on pinball. Austin and Meredith Bragg wrote and directed the well-reviewed film that also stars Crystal Reed. It screens at 11 a.m. Sunday at The Barn at Mission Farm in San Juan Bautista.

Mike Faist portrays journalist Roger Sharpe who sought to change a New York law in “Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game.” (Courtesy MPI Original Films)

The indie teen comedy “Antarctica” from director Keith Bearden stars Kimie Muroya and Chloe Levine as best friends drawn into modern and surreal trouble after one attends a party. It screens at 11 a.m. April 15 at the Granada Theater in Hollister.  

These titles also stand out: 

Bradley Berman’s “Jack Has a Plan,” a personal film that documents end-of-life preparations the Berkeley filmmaker’s best friend makes, and wants to see honored. (1 p.m. April 15, Morgan Hill Community Playhouse) 

Abby Berendt Lavoi and Jeremy Lavoi’s documentary “Roots of Fire,” which details efforts of five music artists and others to protect the threatened Cajun musical tradition. (8 p.m. April 15, District Theater in Gilroy) 

For a complete lineup and to purchase tickets, visit 

For those in need of inspiration, at least in cinematic form, the three-day Windrider Bay Area, in its 14th year, serves a heaping cup. Three programs from April 13-15 are at the Menlo-Atherton Center for the Performing Arts.  

The festival opens at 7 p.m. April 13 with a documentary, and salve for these divisive times in which we live. “Refuge” illustrates how people can change, telling the story Chris Buckley, a combat veteran who returns with a hatred for Muslims and then undergoes a transformation when his wife issues him an ultimatum: Drop the KKK or lose his family. He befriends a Muslim physician and refugee. (Buckley, his wife and family and Arno Michaelis, a former white supremacist who helped him undergo his change, appear in a Q&A.) 

“Waterman” chronicles the life of five-time Olympic medalist Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku. (Courtesy The Paragon Agency)

At 7 p.m. April 14, high schoolers attending the Youth Documentary Academy in Colorado Springs screen their films. Filmmaker and former Stanford student Tom Shepard (“Scout’s Hour,” “Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America”), who spearheads the summer project, hosts the program, which includes Mitch Davila-Armendano’s “Blind Sighted,” Olive Van Eimeren’s “Skinned Knees,” Rose Nseya’s “Leaving Africa” and Madison Legg’s “Under the Wire.”

The closing night feature at 7 p.m. April 15 is “Waterman,” which spotlights surfer, swimming Olympic medalist and native Hawaiian Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku. He encountered racism while on the circuit and was hailed not only for being an incredible athlete but being a kind person. “Aquaman’s” Jason Momoa narrates. A Q&A features co-producer Chet Thomas and Steve Hawk, formerly the editor of Surfer and Sierra magazines. 

For tickets and more information,

Meanwhile, the SFFILM festival opens Thursday in a grand, as in Grand Lake Theatre, way when Oakland documentary maker Peter Nicks and co-producer Ryan Coogler bring “Stephen Curry: Underrated” to the East Bay.  The Apple TV+/A24 release chronicles the Golden State Warriors phenom’s career from overcoming obstacles while playing at the liberal arts college Davidson in North Carolina to his 2021-22 nail biter of a season. 

We’ll return next week with a few other films worth checking out. For the schedule and tickets, visit 

For lovers of nature documentaries, and films about protecting precious environments, “Free Solo’s” Oscar-winning Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s latest, the stirring and inspiring “Wild Life,” is essential. Gorgeously shot, it’s about the grand love for adventure and outdoors shared by conservationists Douglas and Kris Tompkins, and their efforts to create parklands in Chile and beyond. Chin discusses the making of the film at Bay Area Q&As including at 5 p.m. April 18 at the Rafael Film Center (with Tompkins also) and 7:30 p.m. April 19 at the Landmark Opera Plaza. “Wild Life” opens April 19 in select theaters and expands April 21. 

For tickets and details, visit or

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