SF DOCFEST 2021
First show: June 03
SF DocFest is an annual festival devoted to documentary cinema. Since 2001, this two week-long event has brought the most weird and wonderful aspects of real life to the big screen.
100% of ticket sales from the festival’s live screenings benefit The Roxie!
“Docfest offers a zippy blend of politics, music, social issues and youth-oriented subcultures. The good news is that DocFest promotes documentaries as a vibrant, irreverent form of entertainment to a younger demographic, blasting the notion of educational films to smithereens. There’s no room for anything approximating — watch it, I’m about to blaspheme – the obsessively measured and utterly somnambulant musings of Ken Burns.” – Michael Fox, KQED
Please read our health and safety protocols and precautions.
Thursday, June 3
6pm Summer of Soul
OPENING FILM. In his acclaimed debut as a filmmaker, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents a powerful and transporting documentary—part music film, part historical record—created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion. Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just one hundred miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Marcus Garvey Park. The footage was never seen and largely forgotten – until now. SUMMER OF SOUL shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music during times of unrest, both past and present. The feature includes never-before-seen concert performances by B.B. King, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Stevie Wonder and more. DIRECTOR: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.
OPENING NIGHT PARTY: SUMMER OF SOUL ROLLER DISCO at Church of 8 Wheels, 554 Fillmore Street (@ Fell) Thursday, June 3rd, 8-10pm
Signal the reopening of the city and the return of live events by strapping on some skates. Jam to SUMMER OF SOUL tunes at the roller disco with other film festival goers and documentary fans after watching the award-winning opening night film. This event is open to the public. Film+Party tickets are $30. Party Only tickets are $15 and may be purchased at the venue until sold out. Skates will also be available for rent for $5/pair.
Friday, June 4
THE TASTE OF DESIRE is an epic documentary in which the oyster symbolizes our desires in life. Through captivating characters, this bold film examines the complexity of human desire: our relationship to the world around us and ultimately what lengths we will go to find satisfaction. DIRECTOR: Anja Dziersk.
Impulses charts Peter Baron’s longstanding goal of opening the Impulse Room, a jazz club in the Bay. From the construction of the club to its opening, we’re introduced to a variety of Bay Area musicians and the persistent way that art forms like jazz never truly die, they shift and mold as people discover and honor its originators and pioneers. DIRECTOR: Rogelio Abraldes.
Saturday, June 5
1:30pm Local Legacies Shorts Program
Celebrate the power of San Francisco’s legacy residents. Highlighting the beautiful and off-the-cuff people that make the city what it is. Including: High As A Kite, My Neighbor, Miguel, Weekend At Gus’, and The Art We Know, Stoned Cold Poetry. Followed by Q&A.
Keeper of the Fire is a documentary exploring the life and work of activist poet Alejandro Murguia, a writer passionately involved with the struggles of his times. Following in the footsteps of the Beat poets and inspired by the rich tradition of Latin American literature, Murguia fights for social justice with his words and his deeds. One of the celebrated Mission Poets, he has championed revolutions in Latin America, led cultural and educational programs in San Francisco and campaigned against rampant gentrification nationwide all while winning two American Book Awards and becoming the first Latino to serve as Poet Laureate of San Francisco. DIRECTORS: David L. Brown, Raymond Telles, Louis Dematteis.
The Lucky Ones is a poignant Bay Area based love story of Alexander and Timothy (daughter of writer Ishmael Reed), a married couple diagnosed with schizophrenia. Their life together gives a glimpse into what it means to survive with a mental disorder and how one unexpected event can upend their already precarious world. DIRECTOR: Debra A. Wilson.
Followed by Q&A.
7:10pm Tell Them We Were Here
Tell Them We Were Here focuses on eight Bay Area artists making politically motivated, socially conscious, anti-commercial artwork. The film touches on the disappearing cultural communities through gentrification and economic instability and celebrates an intertwined art community that has flown just below the radar, but influenced generations. DIRECTORS: Keelan Williams and Griff Williams. Followed by Q&A.
Sunday, June 6
4:30pm See Me Shorts Program
A triumphant look as brave souls standing against racism and proudly proclaiming, “I AM HERE, SEE ME”. Including: Moving Meditation, Truth And Reconciliation, Yello, Blackness Is Everything, Confluence, For The Sake Of Old Times, Legacy: reimagining the city, as our own. Followed by Q&A.
The focus of the enlightening documentary False Alarm is an event that many may remember: the ballistic missile alert that was mistakenly sent to the 1.4 million residents of Hawaii in January, 2018. But most are not aware of the impact it had on the people of Hawaii, nor the concerning and largely unaddressed implications of this blunder. Director Nick Lyell captures the diverse reactions to the surreal and traumatic morning when families, soldiers, and tourists were forced to confront an unthinkable reality—an incoming nuclear missile. Just as pressing are bigger issues concerning militarism and colonialism in a state that was once its own sovereign nation. False Alarm provides varying perspectives on the situation in Hawaii, including voices of both military members and Native Hawaiians. DIRECTOR: Nick Lyell.
Along the scorching southern border in Arizona, only an estimated one out of every five missing migrants is ever found. Águilas is the story of one group of searchers, the Águilas del Desierto. Comprised largely of immigrant Latinos, once a month these volunteers — construction workers, gardeners and domestic laborers by day — set out to recover the missing, reported to them by loved ones often thousands of miles away. DIRECTORS: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Maite Zubiaurre
Wednesday, June 9
Fresh off its world premiere at SXSW, Luchadoras is an intimate portrait of three courageous female wrestlers (luchadoras) from Ciudad Juarez who, despite being surrounded by machismo, redefine the image of women in Mexico. Short statured Mini Serinita dreams of becoming a full-time Luchadora and leaving the factory work that disenfranchises so many women for good. From her house, Lady Candy can see the U.S. Border where her daughters were taken but, due to visa regulations, can never cross it. And, Baby Star, a young single mother who was a Lucha Libre Star at an early age, is ready to make her comeback. DIRECTORS: Paola Calvo, Patrick Jasmin.
7:30pm The Face of Anonymous
Commander X (a.k.a. Christopher Doyon) spent time on the streets around the world hiding from the FBI, but this infamous hacktivist feels most at home on the internet where he gained notoriety. Through his affiliation with Anonymous, the purposefully elusive online network responsible for corporate takedowns and political disruption, Commander X had a platform to espouse his beliefs and befriend powerful figures like Julian Assange. He takes credit for crippling credit card companies that were attempting to sideline Wikileaks and claims a role in the Arab Spring as well. It’s completely reasonable to be skeptical as to why an outspoken Doyon wants to spill the beans about his exploits and expose a group that safeguards its secret identity. But in an era when online conspiracies proliferate widely despite being under immense scrutiny, there may not be a better time to hear from someone who’s been at the vanguard of this information age. DIRECTOR: Gary Lang.
Thursday, June 10
Guinea Pig Diaries shows us firsthand the special bond between humans and their pet guinea pigs, revealing stories much more compelling than we could have ever imagined. Our relationship with this small furry animal has been part of the “domesticated pet” culture for centuries. But it is through this unique film that audiences get a rare and unfiltered look into the lives of this often misunderstood rodent and the interesting people who adore them, breed them, show them, and rescue them. Through each of these personal stories we reveal that it is in fact the guinea pigs who often liberate and heal the souls of the very people who believed their purpose was to care for these small and wondrous creatures. DIRECTORS: Olympia Stone, Suzanne Mitchell.
7:10pm Dear Mr. Brody
VANGUARD AWARDEE. A psychedelic journey into the heart (and bank account) of Michael Brody, Jr, the hippie-millionaire who offered the world peace and caused a frenzy when he publicly announced a $25 million giveaway to anyone in need. A gesture that immediately put Brody and his wife into the spotlight also caused mobs of people to camp on their lawn and flood their mailboxes. Fifty years later, 12 boxes of these letters pleading for Brody’s help were discovered—unopened. Director Keith Maitland follows his 2016 acclaimed film, Tower, with Dear Mr. Brody, a documentary journey that takes audiences through the life of Michael Brody, Jr., and those individuals that wrote letters asking for his help. DIRECTOR: Keith Maitland.
Friday, June 11
It’s a never-ending flow. All day long, people come to the reception desk at the Lost and Found Office. They want to retrieve their belongings, they’re in a hurry. But finding what has been lost is not an easy task. It requires time. The time it takes to wait for their turn and fill out the paperwork at reception. Time to explain what has been lost. Time to find the item in the warehouse and send it back with the freight elevator. It’s best to surrender to the wait and indulge in the telling of what kind of setback, accident or misfortune has caused our loss, and brought us to this place. DIRECTOR: Laura Lamanda.
Over the course of two years in California City, a huge, eerie planned city in the desert that is cut off from Los Angeles by a mountain range, Victoria unfolds, en passant, a city map that eludes orientation: we see time passing, sandy streets being tended to, kids on their way to school and hanging out. Out of documentary images and phone videos taken by Warren, the protagonist, virtual views and a voiceover of his diary entries, an image of the city and a city of images are formed in parallel. The construction of reality becomes visible here, as does its potential for the poetic: a turtle race in the desert sand, fountains that gush from burst pipes, memories of Los Angeles surfacing during a virtual stroll with Google Maps, black holes as gateways to another galaxy. DIRECTORS: I. Tollenaere, L. De Ceulaer, S. Benoot. Followed by Q&A.
Saturday, June 12
2:40pm Anton: Circling Home
At 80 years old, artist Anton van Dalen seems to have it all: a prolific career, a house in New York’s East Village, a large family, and a pigeon coop where he lovingly cares for his flock of birds. But the veneer conceals a complex story of war, migration, family rupture, and regret. Exploring themes of belonging, forgiveness and future, Anton: Circling Home is a tender portrait of an artist, and a meditation on what it means to be home. DIRECTORS: Dennis Mohr, Morgan Schmidt-Feng & Katy Swailes. Followed by Q&A.
4:50pm Fruits of Labor
Fruits of Labor is a coming of age story of Ashley, an American teenager in California, who dreams of graduating from high school and going to college. Tensions build as Ashley’s family struggles with poverty and the threat of family separation due to increased deportations in her community. A lyrical meditation on adolescence, nature and ancestral forces, the film asks, what does it mean to come into one’s power as a working young woman of color in the wealthiest nation in the world? DIRECTOR: Emily Cohen Ibañez. Followed by Q&A.
7:20pm Surviving the Silence
In the early 1990s, a highly-decorated colonel was forced to expel an Army hero for being a lesbian. What no one knew at the time was that the same colonel was herself a closeted lesbian. Decades later, this truth is exposed in all of its complexity, and the three women involved come together again to contemplate those events and their impact. Along the way, two of the women candidly revisit their life together and how they found love against a backdrop of impossible choices. By film’s end, they find something even more important and unexpected—their own voices as out and proud lesbians, later-in-life social activists, and dynamic role models for others. DIRECTOR: Cindy L. Abel. Followed by Q&A.
Sunday, June 13
3:30pm Clean Slate
Striving to stay sober, recovering addicts Josh and Cassidy write their traumatic life events into a short film screenplay. The project is jeopardized when Cassidy relapses and is kicked out of the faith-based drug recovery center where the two men have lived for years. The aspiring filmmakers struggle to restore faith in each other, their families, and themselves, all while making a movie about their turbulent road of recovery. DIRECTOR: Jared Callahan.
6:30pm The Sparks Brothers
CENTERPIECE FILM. How can one rock band be successful, underrated, hugely influential and criminally overlooked all at the same time? A band that has been in the background of almost every art form across the last 50 years, Sparks is your favorite band’s favorite band, and soon to be yours too. Growing up in the ’60s, Los Angeles brothers Ron and Russell Mael thrived on a heavy diet of popcorn matinees and pop music until the spotlight of school talent shows launched them on a musical journey that has so far spawned 25 studio albums, along with adulation from artists across the musical spectrum. In his documentary debut, acclaimed filmmaker Edgar Wright (beloved for his films Baby Driver, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and Shaun of the Dead) brings five decades of invention to life through nutty animations and interviews with a who’s who of cool, and by digging deeply into the band’s rich, career-spanning archive. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, this charming love letter to innovation, music and two rebel artists takes us on a mood-elevating musical odyssey guaranteed to delight the faithful and create a whole new fanbase for this uniquely talented duo. – HotDocs. DIRECTOR: Edgar Wright.
Wednesday, June 16
5pm Workhorse Queen
By day, Ed Popil worked as a telemarketer in Rochester, New York for 18 years. By night, he transformed into drag queen Mrs. Kasha Davis, a 1960’s era housewife trying to liberate herself from domestic toil through performing at night in secret – an homage to Ed’s mother. After seven years of auditioning to compete on RuPaul’s Drag Race, Ed Popil was finally cast onto the TV show and thrust into a full-time entertainment career at the late age of 44. Workhorse Queen explores the complexities of reality television’s impact on queer performance culture by focusing on the growing divide between members of a small town drag community – those who have been on television, and those who have not. DIRECTOR: Angela Washko.
7:30pm Alien on Stage
An amateur theater group, lead by a crew of bus drivers, spend a year creating a stage adaptation of Ridley Scott’s science fiction classic, Alien. Having never done anything like it before they find ingenious solutions to pay homemade homage to the original film. However, the show is a crushing flop, but fate gives them a second chance to find their audience. Whilst still adjusting to the idea that their serious show is actually a comedy, the group is suddenly whisked from their village hall to a London West End theater to perform this accidental masterpiece for one night only. With wobbly sets, awkward acting and special effects requiring ‘more luck than judgment’, this is the touching and hilarious underdog tale about a unique bus driving crew who become space heroes. DIRECTORS: Lucy Harvey, Danielle Kummer.
Thursday, June 17
Marking Bangarra Dance Theatre’s 30th anniversary, Firestarter tells the story of how three young Aboriginal brothers — Stephen, David and Russell Page — took a newly born dance company and, alongside its founders and alumni, turned it into a First Nations cultural powerhouse. Through the eyes of the brothers, Firestarter explores the loss and reclaiming of culture, the burden of inter-generational trauma, and – crucially – the power of art as a messenger for social change and healing. DIRECTORS: Wayne Blair, Nel Minchin.
7:40pm Kid Candidate
CLOSING NIGHT FILM. In 2018, 24-year old Hayden Pedigo released a Harmony Korine inspired spoof video declaring his candidacy for Amarillo city council. After the video goes viral in the local community, Pedigo is inspired to actually run for council in the small Texas town. With a goal of upending the status quo and ousting the county’s corrupt incumbent politicians, the young experimental musician and filmmaker makes a name for himself – not just for his bizarre campaign, but for reaching out to the local communities that have suffered the most in Amarillo. While still keeping a humorous and light-hearted tone, Kid Candidate goes beyond Pedigo’s political run and looks at issues of race, income inequality and gentrification in small-town America. DIRECTOR: Jasmine Stodel.
Please read our health and safety protocols and precautions.
SF DOCFEST 2021: Upcoming Showtimes