Pass the Remote: Ocean film fest, music in movies, DocLands

"The Impossible Wave" looks at Fernando Aguerre's efforts to make surfing an Olympic sport. (Courtesy International Ocean Film Festival)

The International Ocean Film Festival washes to Bay Area shores this week and next with short and feature-length titles that illustrate our somewhat tricky relationship with the sea and suggest ways we can become better stewards of it. 

Turning 20, the festival is launching its in-theater experience after a three-year absence due to the pandemic. On Thursday, the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael presents a preview of three films in the festival, which officially runs April 13-16 in Cowell Theater in San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center. 

This week, Pass the Remote plunges into the Rafael program as well as covers what’s coming in May at DocLands (the lineup was unveiled this week). Also find out why we’re hopelessly devoted to one particular sing-along in San Francisco and get the lowdown on how to join other rockers to hear Metallica’s latest album in a theater, before it’s released.

Three short- to mid-length documentaries make up an appetizing meal at the International Ocean Film Festival on April 6 in San Rafael. 

The program begins at 7 p.m. with the 20-minute “Truluck” by directors Matt Cannon and Jake Smallwood. It celebrates a sea change its main subject, Steve Truluck, had regarding his profession. Truluck fell in love with Scotland when he moved there for his career. He eventually ditched that job and became a window cleaner, which eventually led to a new calling: developing a bond with whales and dolphins and helping others do the same. How did it come about? You’ll have to see the film.  

The 39-minute “WindShipped,” director Jon Bowermaster’s account of how Capt. Sam Merrett and a crew restored the 64-foot Apollonia sailboat and then used it as a cargo carrier using only sustainable energy, also screens.   

The final film of the night is the 40-minute “The Impossible Wave,” which chronicles Fernando Aguerre’s 27-year-long effort to get surfing recognized as a sport in the Olympics. Directors Jay Johnson and Jessica Johnson will be on hand to discuss the film, which promises to feature top-notch surfing and cinematography.  

For those who want to view the festival in San Francisco, here are a few films that pique interest: the 18-minute “The Shark With a Thousand Names,” about whale sharks in Indonesia (April 13); the 30-minute “I Want Sun,” a deep gaze at the Caribbean island Roatan’s fragile ecosystems and the strain of tourism (April 13); the 98-minute “Deep Rising,” featuring “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa, which critically analyzes so-called “green” energy efforts (April 13); the 16-minute “Gender Outlaw, a bodysurfing story,” about surfer Tyler Wilde from Manhattan Beach, who found tremendous support from students and friends while transitioning (April 14); and the world premiere of “Cold Refuge,” Judy Irving’s (“Pelican Dreams,” “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”) fourth feature delving into what motivates Bay Area swimmers to take cold plunges, and the benefits from doing so (April 16).  

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Should your cinematic calendar be filling up, better pencil in May 10-14. It’s when the annual DocLands Documentary Film Festival comes to the Smith Rafael Film Center. 

Award-winning documentary filmmaker Dawn Porter (“John Lewis: Good Trouble,”  “The Way I See It”) is being presented with the DocLands Honor Award “for her determination in bringing to light the stories behind some of the most remarkable American artists, politicians, humanitarians, and social justice activists.” In addition to an onstage conversation, her latest feature “The Lady Bird Diaries,” an all-archival documentary on Lady Bird Johnson, screens. 

There’s also the West Coast premiere of directors Brian Kaufman (slated to attend) and Mark Kurlyandchik’s “Coldwater Kitchen,” which takes an immersive look into a Michigan prison’s program to train inmates to become chefs. 

Bradley Leonard plates food at Chef Jimmy Lee Hill’s culinary training program at Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Mich. Leonard is part of the feature-length documentary “Coldwater Kitchen.” (Brian Kaufman/Courtesy DocLands)

The festival also includes the U.S. premiere of the intriguing “The Nettle Dress,” director Dylan Howitt’s (slated to attend) profile on textile artist Allan Brown (slated to attend) and his “hedgerow couture,” in which he takes seven years to fashion a dress out of foraged stinging nettles. 

The closing feature is the U.S. premiere of “Razing Liberty Square” by director Katja Esson (slated to appear). It’s a thought provoker on how a $300-million revitalization project at Miami’s Liberty Square public housing development made way for a new form of racial injustice called climate gentrification.   

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Those in the mood for nostalgia and belting out a song or two can put on a poodle skirt and bobby sox, or jeans, a bright-white T-shirt and a pleather jacket and strut their stuff like a Pink Lady at the Roxie in San Francisco at 6:30 p.m. Friday for “Sing-Along Grease.” The Friends of the Castro Theatre Coalition is sponsoring a screening of the beloved 1979 musical starring the late Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. 

More music-themed movies are in store in the near future:  

“What the Hell Happened to Blood Sweat & Tears”: Director John Scheinfeld (who will appear at the Smith Rafael along with drummer Bobby Colomby) describes the wild story of how the group’s 1970 tour behind the Iron Curtain stirred up a political hornet’s nest. (7 p.m. Friday at the Smith Rafael; also at the Balboa in San Francisco and Elmwood in Berkeley). 

“Little Richard: I Am Everything”: Lisa Cortés’ documentary examines the influential career of the genre-defiant musician and his role in paving the way for Black queer rock n’ roll. (April 11 at the Smith Rafael, the Roxie in San Francisco and many Bay Area cineplexes; in more theaters and ondigital April 21)  

“Metallica: 72 Seasons”: Want to be one of the first Metallica fans to hear the band’s new album “72 Seasons”? Head over to the “global listening party” at 7 p.m., April 13 at the Smith Rafael. Prepare for one loud and raucous experience. 

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