SF IndieFest Presents: Doc Fest
First show: June 01
“Welcome to SF DocFest, the beloved annual compendium of odd, unusual nonfiction films from every nook and corner of our bizarro country and beyond. Waving off the pedigreed, high-profile docs that premiere at Sundance, get theatrical releases (or these days, national virtual releases) and chart a course for the Academy Awards, SF DocFest’s programmers opt for poignant, intimate works that miss the mainstream by dint of their iconoclasm and/or lack of a marketing hook.” –KQED
Wednesday June 1
Tells the story of the historic trial following the tragic incident at Pier 14 in San Francisco–when a young woman named Kate Steinle was killed by the ricochet of a bullet accidentally fired by an undocumented immigrant, José Ines García Zaraté. The incident sparked a political and media firestorm–spearheaded by the anti-immigrant rhetoric of presidential candidate Donald J. Trump–that rattled the nation, exploited the tragedy of a family, and demonized an innocent man in the process. Against this backdrop, RICOCHET follows the ensuing trial. The defense is led by a team from the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, led by SF Public Defender Jeff Adachi, and featuring Chief Attorney Matt Gonzalez and Francisco Ugarte, Managing Attorney of their Immigration Defense Unit.They must overcome not only the prosecution in this case, but also the court of public opinion warped by political agendas and false media narratives. Special guests in attendance for a Q&A.
Directed by Jeff Adachi, Chihiro Wimbush. 78 minutes.
8:45 Eternal Spring (Opening Night Film)
Facing denunciations of their banned faith in the Chinese state media, an engineer named Liang and a hulking grain worker called “Big Truck” execute a bold and perilous plan to hack into state television. In the aftermath, police raids sweep Changchun City, and illustrator Daxiong (Justice League, Star Wars), is forced to flee. He arrives in North America, blaming the hijacking for worsening a violent repression. But his views about the TV hijacking are challenged when he meets the lone surviving participant to have escaped China, now living in Seoul. Daxiong uses his art to retrace the event–bringing to life an unprecedented story of defiance, harrowing eyewitness accounts of persecution, and an inspiring tale of determination in the face of injustice.
Directed by: Jason Loftus, 86 minutes.
and SFGOVTV Portraits: Frank Jang
For over 20 years, Frank has documented San Francisco and Chinatown with an eye for not just taking pictures, but with the goal of telling the City’s many stories and preserving its history.
Directed by Jennifer Low, Jeffrey Gee Chin. 10 minutes.
Thursday June 2
6:30 The Fragmentations Only Mean …
An audiovisual landscape of the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Museum, located in the California high desert. In 1986 Noah Purifoy (1917- 2004) retired from his position of many years on the California Arts Council and moved to a remote desert site north of Joshua Tree National Park, where, over the last eighteen years of his life, he created an ambitious series of over a hundred assemblage sculptures which sprawl over acres of the harsh, arid land, and address issues of North American history, race relations, social justice, contemporary philosophy, and human interactions with and impact upon the environment.
Directed by Jesse Lerner, Sara Harris. 71 minutes.
and Above and Below
Tsherin Sherpa, devoted Tibetan Buddhist artist, trained by his father in the art of traditional Tibetan Buddhist thangka painting, moves to San Francisco from Kathmandu and reinvents himself to fit in with his surroundings. In doing so, he skyrockets a career as modern artist, and launches the next wave in Tibetan contemporary art.
Directed by Sheri Jan Brenner. 34 minutes.
8:45 Roots of Fire
A story about musicians pushing the boundaries of a type of American roots music known as Cajun Music. Amidst shuttered rural dance clubs and encroaching globalization, five award-winning musicians in Louisiana push against stereotypes of the American South and move the music of their ancestors forward. But their fans are getting older and the language is fading away. Will their efforts be enough to save a dying community?
Directed by Abby Berendt Lavoi, Jeremey Lavoi. 84 minutes.
and Telos or Bust
Ascended masters, new religions, inner earth cities, crystals and lost continents. Immerse yourself in the confluence of strange myths and beliefs of the citizens of Mount Shasta, California.
Directed by Brad Abrahams. 15 minutes.
Friday June 3
6:30 It Came From Aquarius Records
Tells the story about the San Francisco based independent record store, Aquarius Records. Having closed in 2016 after 47 years, this small apartment-sized store championed local, underground, independent, and challenging music to the masses – most memorably with their infamous bi-weekly, college essay-length, new-release lists. Six years in the making, interviewing collectors, musicians, and store owners, the film has a very personal angle, with lots of behind-the-scenes footage (and drama) that shows both the joy and excruciating stress that comes with running — and closing — a store like this, helped in no part by the changing city around them.
Directed by Kenneth Thomas. 109 minutes.
Steve ‘Spaz’ Williams is considered a pioneer in computer animation. This intimate account examines his life story and events surrounding the historical moment when digital dinosaurs walked onto the silver screen in Jurassic Park. Steve and a chorus of expert witnesses recount a dramatic tale of rebellion and revolution at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic in the early 1990s– a time when creating realistic creatures with a computer was considered impossible. Decades later, Steve struggles to reckon with his chaotic past. Special guests in attendance.
Directed by Scott Leberecht. 86 minutes.
and Into the Archives: Billy X
In an unassuming house in Sacramento, one of the most comprehensive private collections of Black Panthers material sits on the shelves of original Party member and archivist William “Billy X” Jennings. During the summer of 2021, creative technologist Damien McDuffie worked with Billy to curate an exhibition of Black Panther newspapers brought to life with augmented reality. Featuring rare images of Tupac Shakur, Maya Angelou, and many other familiar faces, Into The Archives gives you a glimpse at the historical archive and one of the first efforts to bring the Black Panthers into the metaverse.
Directed by Damien McDuffie. 10 minutes.
Saturday June 4
12:00 Shorts 1: Bay Area Resilience
A collection of short films including:
innocence. Directed by Goran Zaneti, Skyler Glover. 21 minutes.
Reopening Roxie Directed by Daniel Parris. 10 minutes.
Rooted Directed by Arne Ray Johnson, Shane King. 24 minutes.
The Mission Directed by Hélène Goupil. 18 minutes.
2:00 Tony Cakes
A man with a troubled past finds redemption in building his own bakery.
Directed by Tony Holman, Vida deKayla. 11 minutes.
Queering Yoga tells the story of 6 Queer/Trans/QTPOC yoga teachers and their personal stories of healing, transformation, and yoga journey. The film embraces an intersectional lens to explore identity, personal, and community transformation. This film has been created with Queer/Trans/QTPOC filmmakers and allies, along with Queer/Trans/QTPOC yoga teachers.
Directed by Ewan Duarte. 45 minutes.
A conversation between a cisgender person and a trans person. About one trying to learn what’s queer and how is it like to be a trans man.
Directed by Yumo Zhang. 4 minutes.
In 1980, Gloria Karamañites became the first black woman to win the Miss Panama competition, despite pageant officials maneuvering to deny her the crown. Reflecting on this history, her daughter Lamar meets characters who watched the competition live, and talks to friends and family who knew Gloria then and now, ultimately painting a vivid portrait of a country struggling with its own identity.
Directed by Lamar Bailey Karamañites, Pascale Boucicaut , David Felix Sutcliffe. 28 minutes.
4:15 Clarissa’s Battle
Single mother and organizer Clarissa Doutherd is building a powerful coalition of parents. They’re fighting for child care and early education funds, desperately needed by low and middle income parents and children across the country. Driven by her own experience losing child care and becoming unhoused with her infant son, Xavier, she seems to be everywhere at once – at hearings, election rooms, and rallies from Oakland, California to Washington, D.C. But juggling this work with raising her son pushes Clarissa into a personal health crisis far too common among stressed, working mothers, especially women of color. When the lockdown pushes more families into desperate circumstances, Clarissa and her coalition redouble their efforts, with the stakes higher than ever. Clarissa’s Battle gives us insight into an erupting movement, as communities across the country follow Clarissa’s successes, setbacks and indomitable resilience. Special guests in attendance for a post-screening Q&A.
Directed by Tamara Perkins. 86 minutes.
An immersive observational film that follows a small group of young environmental activists as they undertake a tree-sitting campaign to stop one of the largest logging companies on the West Coast from clear-cutting a northern California redwood forest.
Directed by Derek Knowles & Lawrence Lerew. 17 minutes.
6:30 Keep the Cameras Rolling: The Pedro Zamora Way
The true story of a pandemic; politics; misunderstanding and prejudice; the impact of the media; and, most importantly, AIDS activist Pedro Zamora, his life, his joy, and his influence, as told by people who knew and loved him, and by those who witnessed the strength of his commitment and its impact. Pedro refused to give in to the disease he knew would kill him, demanding throughout his decline and hospitalization that MTV “keep the cameras rolling.” While he died on November 11, 1994 at the young age of 22, his insistence on his way with bravery, humanity, and love truly changed the world. …this is the true story—the true story of AIDS activist Pedro Zamora’s way. Special guests, Pedro’s Real World – San Francisco co-stars Judd Winick and Pam Ling, in attendance for post-screening Q&A.
Directed by Stacey Woelfel, William T. Horner. 98 minutes.
8:45 We Were Hyphy
A love song to the artists, dance, music, slang, clothes and, most importantly of all, the people who came of age during the Hyphy Movement. We were there, we were hyphy.
Directed by Laurence Madrigal. 84 minutes.
Turfin is a short documentary giving a brief glimpse into the world of the Bay Area street dance called, Turf Dancing.
Directed by Latiece Brown. 8 minutes.
Sunday June 5
12:00 Shorts 2: What Remains
A collection of short films including:
Our Very own Emperor Directed by Jake Slaughter. 10 minutes.
The Black Panther Party Art Directed by Silvio J Carrillo. 13 minutes.
The Game God(s) Directed by Adrian L. Burrell. 19 minutes.
The Last Call for Alcohol ! Directed by Martin Francis Reade. 27 minutes.
What Remains Directed by Ginger Yifan Chen. 4 minutes.
2:00 Shorts 3: Keepin’ On
A collection of short films including:
Every Hundred Miles (across America with Robert Frank) Directed by Kirk A LeClaire. 18 minutes.
Contents Inventory Directed by Irene Lusztig. 31minutes.
Anchored Out Directed by Katie Bernstein & Clara Mokri. 26 minutes.
A People’s History of Cement Directed by Kyle Baker, Colin Rosemont. 13 minutes.
4:15 Jack Has a Plan
Jack has a plan. And in the final hours of that plan, Jack will have a party with his friends, spend some time telling his wife how much he loves her, and finally, he will take a cocktail of medication custom-designed to end his life peacefully and painlessly. For the last 25 years, Jack has been given “six months to live” due to a malignant brain tumor. How then is it possible for someone to be terminally ill for two-and-a-half decades? This predicament propels Jack on a quest to reconcile with his mother, find his biological father, and prepare for a dignified exit strategy. Despite its emotional subject, JACK HAS A PLAN is something of a revelation. The film is both intimate and moving, as the filmmaker and the subject weigh the implications and questions that arise from seeing this “project” to its natural conclusion, and provide a compassionate, entertaining, and surprisingly uplifting universal story that invites an audience along to reflect on the most serious topic of life—death.
Directed by Bradley Berman. 73 minutes.
After Tim’s work-related stroke leads to troubling signs of memory loss, his son Michael returns home to Montana. As they spend the most time together since Michael’s childhood, they reckon with the past that haunts Tim. Meantime is a deeply personal exploration of memory, guilt, labor, and the attempt to preserve the fleeting.
Directed by Michael T Workman. 18 minutes.
6:30 In the Bones (Centerpiece Film)
IN THE BONES is a lyrical documentary that explores the personal and political by interweaving the lives of 12 characters living in Mississippi during a legislative session in which equal pay for equal work and abortion rights are being decided. Although set in three distinct regions of Mississippi, IN THE BONES is a much broader exploration of our culture, an unsettling portrait of America that shines a light on the weight women live under in this country and also the resilience expressed in everyday acts of survival.
Directed by Kelly Duane de la Vega & Zandashé Brown. 93 minutes.
8:45 Born In Chicago
Narrated by Dan Aykroyd, Born In Chicago is a soulful documentary film that chronicles a uniquely musical passing of the torch. It’s the story of first generation blues performers who had made their way to Chicago from the Mississippi Delta and their ardent and unexpected followers – middle class kids who followed the evocative music to smoky clubs deep in Chicago’s ghettos. Passed down from musician to musician, the Chicago blues transcended the color lines of the 1960s as young, white Chicago musicians apprenticed themselves to legends such as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. A Ravin’ Film presented by Shout! Studios and Out The Box Records. Born In Chicago was directed by Bob Sarles and John Anderson, produced and edited by Bob Sarles, co-producer and story editor: Christina Keating. Produced and written by Joel Selvin. Featuring: Barry Goldberg, Nick Gravenites, Harvey Mandel, Sam Lay, Charlie Musselwhite, Elvin Bishop, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Bob Dylan and Keith Richards.
Directed by Bob Sarles, John Anderson. 77 minutes.
and The Space Between Us
Sarah Crowell and Keith Hennessey are both dancers, teachers, and activists in the Bay Area. They have known each other for nearly 30 years. But they’ve never collaborated or connected deeply, until now. The Space Between Us is a radical experiment in the power of bearing witness, inviting vulnerability, and sharing movement, in a time of social distancing and racial reckoning.
Directed by Gabriel Diamond. 6 minutes.
Monday June 6
6:30 The High Rock
The High Rock is an immersive documentary about a unique summer camp and the landscape of childhood. Spanning decades and generations, the film explores our primal connections to nature and enduring bonds with one another. The perspective of children and their innate intelligence drives the story and leads to a deeper contemplation of our shared humanity. Cool Camp is a liberating and transformational experience that imprints on campers and carries over into their adult lives. It’s a journey of discovery and a look back at that brief period in all our lives – the precious summers of youth.
Directed by Ellen Moore. 82 minutes.
and Food Broker: Doris
Doris spent her youth along the train tracks of Arizona where her mother welcomed hobos on route to California into their home for a hot meal, medical aid, and pleasant company. The absence of a home was not sinful or dirty. Every traveler in Doris’ childhood had a face, a story, a future. Doris’ mother instilled in her a belief in the sanctity of hospitality, and Doris has spent the past 70 years honoring that great tradition.
Directed by Justine Suh, Lo Lam. 13 minutes.
8:45 Other Like Me – The Oral History of COUM Transmissions & Throbbing Gristle
The grey and depressing British industrial town Hull was a suitable place for a nihilistic avant-garde collective, which at the end of the 1970s aggressively confronted every conceivable taboo: sex, pornography, violence and self-mutilation. But COUM Transmissions was only the beginning. Led by the artists Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti, COUM soon mutated into the visionary, transgressive and absolutely uncompromising industrial/noise band Throbbing Gristle, who were famously named ‘the wreckers of civilisation’ by a shocked conservative politician. Throbbing Gristle reinvented music by destroying it, and has to this day set an untouchable standard of radical otherness. The many rare archival clips already speak for themselves, but Other, Like Me is an oral history narrated by the former members on screen for the first time.
Directed by Marcus Werner Hed, Dan Fox. 80 minutes.
Tuesday June 7
6:30 The Assassination & Mrs. Paine
85-year-old Ruth Paine lives quietly in a Quaker retirement home in northern California. But she will always be haunted by her connection to the JFK assassination. As a key witness and friend of Marina and Lee Harvey Oswald, Mrs. Paine has been a suspect of conspiracy researchers for nearly six decades.
Directed by Max Good. 100 minutes.
8:45 I Get Knocked Down
The untold story of Leeds-based anarcho-pop band Chumbawamba. Founding band-member Dunstan Bruce is 59, and he is struggling with the fact that the world seems to be going to hell in a handcart. Twenty years after his fall from grace, Bruce is angry and frustrated, but how does a retired middle-aged radical get back up again? In this punk version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Dunstan is visited by the antagonistic ghost of his anarchist past – his alter ego, ‘Babyhead’ – who forces him to question his own life, sending him on a search for his long-lost anarchist mojo. Following Bruce’s personal voyage of rediscovery, redemption, and reawakening, I GET KNOCKED DOWN acts as a call to arms to those who think activism is best undertaken by someone else.
Directed by Dunstan Bruce, Sophie Robinson. 88 minutes.
Wednesday June 8
6:30 Song of Salt
Set in an isolated mining town on the outskirts of Death Valley, SONG OF SALT is an immersive glimpse into the struggles and celebrations within a tight-knit community as its residents, suspended between the past and the future, face the present realities of an eroding economy.
Directed by Emma Baiada, Nicolas Snyder. 96 minutes.
8:45 Better Living Through Chemistry
If it weren’t for the hypocrisy of drug prohibition, everyone would know these names: Sasha Shulgin was a chemist who discovered nearly 200 psychedelic substances, including MDMA. His wife and co-author, Ann Shulgin, is a lay therapist and a pioneer in the field of psychedelic psychotherapy. Their house and Sasha’s lab are on a few acres known as “The Shulgin Farm.” This is the story of how Ann met Sasha, and how their chemistry has given humanity a chance to evolve.
Directed by Connie Littlefield. 88 minutes.
Thursday June 9
6:30 With This Breath I Fly (Closing Night Film)
At the height of the international occupation of Afghanistan, two women—Gulnaz, raped and impregnated by her uncle, and Farida, on the run from an abusive husband—are imprisoned on charges of “moral crimes” by an Afghan justice system that is supported by billions of dollars of aid money from the European Union. WITH THIS BREATH I FLY follows these two courageous women fighting for their freedom against a patriarchal Afghan society, while exposing the complicity of the European Union in censoring their voices, and how the international press—and the documentary itself—forever alters the course of their lives.
Directed by Sam French, Clementine Malpas. 78 minutes.
and un barco para me mama
A mother recounts her two border crossings.
Directed by Susana Canales Barrón. 7 minutes.
8:45 Objects (Closing Night Film)
A fifty-year-old clump of grass, a sweater that once belonged to a French actress, and a forty-year-old sugar egg have become emotional treasures for the unique characters in Vincent Liota’s endearing, entertaining, and existential film. An NPR correspondent (Radiolab’s Robert Krulwich), a literary author, and a graphic designer let us in on the secret life of the special objects they keep as a way to preserve memories, conjure experiences, and find meaning in their lives.
Directed by Vincent Liota. 63 minutes.
and Judy’s Thoughts
“In 1981, my beautiful, vivacious and sexy mom left her final thoughts on a cassette tape a few weeks before she died of a rare cancer. For 39 years, I couldn’t bring myself to listen. I kept that tape with me through every move, but I was too afraid of the emotions it would make me feel. Until now. During the pandemic, I finally pressed play. What I heard were words so powerful …so personal…so intimate…so universal… that I knew I needed to collaborate with my mother, Judy, to bring you her story about living…dying…and, most importantly, loving. Together we take you down a secret path into a world most of us don’t talk about.” – Melody Gilbert (SF DocFest alumni and prior NonFiction Vanguard Award recipient)
Directed by Melody Gilbert. 12 minutes.
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SF IndieFest Presents: Doc Fest: Upcoming Showtimes