DocLands Documentary Film Festival unveiled the lineup for the 2nd annual Festival, taking place May 3 to 6, 2018; and that includes 43 documentary films from 10 countries, the inaugural DocLands Honors award presentation to award-winning filmmaker and photographer Louie Psihoyos (The Cove, Racing Extinction, The Game Changers), along with special programs.
DocLands will host the World Premieres of 16 Bars with director Sam Bathrick, and film subjects Todd “Speech” Thomas of hip-hop group Arrested Development (Tennessee, Mr. Wendell), Teddy Kane and Loretta Simmons-Jackson attending, and Olompali: A Hippie Odyssey with filmmakers director Gregg Gibbs and producer Maura McCoy attending.
Additional films premiering at the Festival include the US Premiere of DugOut; the North American Premiere of Have You Heard from Johannesburg: Oliver Tambo with director Connie Field in attendance; and the California Premieres of Anote’s Ark with director Matthieu Rytz and former president of Kiribati/film subject Anote Tong; The Guardians with directors Tessa Moran and Ben Crosbie attending; Into Twin Galaxies: A Greenland Epic; and Shiners with director Stacey Tenebaum and film subject Kealani Lada attending.
Festival Sections include The Great Outdoors, films that transport us outside to truly appreciate, explore, and ultimately compel us to save and conserve our environment and the wilds of our one precious and precarious planet; Wonderlands, films that lift our spirits through stories of joy, wonder and possibility; and Art of Impact, films that engage and spark action by sharing stories that open our eyes to the global community and its disparate cultures, politics, personal narratives and biographies.
Additionally, the Festival is host to DocLife, an interactive industry forum consisting of three programs, DocPitch a program designed to connect filmmakers and their ideas to funders, distributors, philanthropists, fellow filmmakers and future audiences, DocTalk an intimate conversation focusing this year on the story enhancing power of music, and an experiential workshop, Metamorphosis Journey, that explores transformation in the face of planetary emergency.
Big Nights – Opening | Closing | DocLand Honors Award
ANOTE’S ARK – California Premiere
Former president of Kiribati and film subject Anote Tong joins director Martthieu Rytz for the Festival’s Opening Night film Anote’s Ark. Climate change is no abstraction to the people of Kiribati, a series of low-lying atolls in the central Pacific Ocean that are being swallowed by the rising sea. Photographer-ethnologist Matthieu Rytz’s exquisitely shot film portrays the slow, dignified demise of an entire culture—soon to be global refugees. Rytz and Tong will take part in an on-stage conversation and audience Q&A following the screening.
Opening Night Party following screening and onstage conversation will be held at the San Rafael Elks Lodge.
16 BARS – World Premiere
In Sam Bathrick’s transformative film, Todd “Speech” Thomas of hip-hop group Arrested Development is involved with a unique rehabilitation program in Richmond, Virginia, helping prisoners write and record their own songs. The filmmaker lovingly follows four inmates battling cycles of incarceration and addiction. Through superbly produced recording sessions, the men reach out from behind bars to bring their poignant stories to life through music.
Director Sam Bathrick will be joined on-stage by film subjects Todd “Speech” Thomas of hip-hop group Arrested Development (Tennessee, Mr. Wendell), Teddy Kane and Loretta Simmons-Jackson following the premiere of 16 Bars for an on-stage Q&A and special performance featuring Speech and Kane.
Closing Night Party following the screening, onstage conversation, and special performance will be held at Art Works Downtown.
DocLands Honors Award
Presented to a filmmaker in recognition of exceptional storytelling within the documentary genre, an artist whose films resonate universally, emphasizing our common humanity – no matter the subject.
The inaugural DocLands Honors Award is presented to iconic photographer and award-winning filmmaker Louie Psihoyos (The Cove, Racing Extinction, The Game Changers) for his dogged determination and tenacity in exposing wrongs and expanding awareness. We also show our appreciation for his astounding efforts in outreach, bringing some of our most pressing environmental and social issues to a worldwide audience.
An experiential workshop, lead by award-winning filmmakers and certified coaches, Nova Ami and Velcrow Ripper, explores transformation in the face of planetary emergency. Participants move through the stages of Chrysalis, Crisis, Catharsis, Symbiosis and Metamorphosis, personalizing this arc, and applying it to their own lives. Short films representing each of the stages are integrated throughout the workshop.
Five filmmaker teams with feature documentary projects currently in development will present a three minute verbal pitch, three-to-five minute trailer and participate in a ten-minute Q&A with an audience comprised of potential funders, distributors, fellow filmmakers and the general public. All members of the audience will be given a ballot prior to the presentations and will vote for their favorite pitch. Winning project will receive a $10,000 cash prize.
Story Arc, Music Arc – Do The Follow the Same Beat?
The story-enhancing power of music and score is palpable in the films that stick with us. But how do you achieve this sought-after influence and emotion? Join our panelists for an intimate conversation as they share their strategies for hitting all the right notes.
- Alexandria Bombach, ON HER SHOULDERS
- Connie Field, HAVE YOU HEARD FROM JOHANNESBURG: OLIVER TAMBO
- Louie Psihoyos, RACING EXTINCTION
- Velcrow Ripper, METAMORPHOSIS
- Todd “Speech” Thomas, 16 BARS
DocLands Full Program – Features
16 Bars (dir. Sam Bathrick) Section: Art of Impact – In Sam Bathrick’s transformative film, Todd “Speech” Thomas of hip-hop group Arrested Development is involved with a unique rehabilitation program in Richmond, Virginia, helping prisoners write and record their own songs. The filmmaker lovingly follows four inmates battling cycles of incarceration and addiction. Through superbly produced recording sessions, the men reach out from behind bars to bring their poignant stories to life through music.
Albatross (dir. Chris Jordan) Sections: Art of Impact/The Great Outdoors – Shot on Midway, a remote North Pacific atoll and home to the world’s largest albatross colony, this film captures extraordinarily intimate footage of the birds, and features a hauntingly beautiful score. Yet, as the birds feed their young, we learn of a hidden danger that implicates us all. Watching Albatross may well change your life.
Anote’s Ark (dir. Matthieu Rytz) Sections: Art of Impact/The Great Outdoors – Climate change is no abstraction to the people of Kiribati, a series of low-lying atolls in the central Pacific Ocean that are being swallowed by the rising sea. Photographer-ethnologist Matthieu Rytz’s exquisitely shot film portrays the slow, dignified demise of an entire culture—soon to be global refugees—while sounding a clarion call for meaningful political action.
Ask The Sexpert (dir. Vaishali Sinha) Section: Wonderlands – Gynecologist Mahinder Watsa writes a popular Mumbai sex advice column, and, at 91 years of age, he has heard it all. But whether in person or in print, he does what he’s always done: deliver witty, nonjudgmental truths about sexual health. Not everyone agrees with his usual prognosis — “it’s normal” — and India’s vocal conservatives lay bare just how much more work Watsa has yet to do.
Becoming Who I Was (dirs. Chang-Yong Moon, Jin Jeon) Section: Wonderlands – Padma Angdu is a rosy-cheeked young Rinpoche, or reincarnation of a spiritual master. Under the care of a local lama, Urgyan Rickzen, in the remote mountainous Ladakh region of southern India, Padma must eventually re-join his monastic order in Tibet. With delicately intimate moments and breathtaking aerial cinematography, this is a masterpiece of epic proportions.
Drawn Together (dir. Harleen Singh) Section: Art of Impact – From comics to cosplay, diverse and progressive artists such as Keith Knight, Vishavjit Singh, and Eileen Kaur Alden are breaking new ground. This survey highlights exciting changes in cartooning.
Mr. Fish: Cartooning From The Deep End (dir. Pablo Bryant) – One of the world’s greatest editorial cartoonists finds his acidic equal-opportunity political critiques are too hot to handle in today’s ever-shrinking, increasingly cautious publishing marketplace.
DugOut (dir. Benjamin Sadd) Section: The Great Outdoors – The vibrant green Ecuadorian Amazon, bursting with life, is the star of this eco-adventure. With generous help of a local Huaorani family, two young British men set out to make a traditional dugout canoe and row it down a river. It’s an arduous journey, but this duo is all charm as they encounter the taste of howler monkey, overcome G.I. woes, and evade unfriendly darts.
Finding Hygge (dir. Rocky Walls) Section: Wonderlands – What is hygge? A colorful cast of characters share humorous, surprising and often deeply philosophical thoughts about this Danish concept in a delightful, heartwarming film. Ranked among the happiest people in the world, Danes share their secrets about loving life. The moral of the story? Maybe we all have a little hygge, even if we’re not Danish.
The Guardians (dirs. Tessa Moran, Ben Crosbie) Section: Art of Impact –Every year majestic Monarch butterflies make their way on a 3,000-mile journey from Canada to their winter home in the ancient forests of Michoacán, Mexico, and it is here that the struggling community of Donaciano Ojeda strives to preserve the delicate balance between humans and nature. Like the millions of monarchs that also call this forest home, their survival depends on it.
Have You Heard From Johannesburg: Oliver Tambo (dir. Connie Field) Section: Wonderlands – A religious man heading a secular movement, a pacifist commanding its army, Oliver Tambo was a man of many contradictions who largely orchestrated a revolution that shook institutionalized racism to its core. This is a thrilling portrait of a towering yet little-remembered figure by Berkeley-based director Connie Field, who adds an essential chapter to her original eight-hour epic series.
Into Twin Galaxies (dir. Jochen Schmoll) Section: The Great Outdoors – Two pro kayakers and a polar expert set out on the “most epic expedition ever” across Greenland in this incredible real-life adventure. Their goal is an unknown river canyon they’ll run to the ocean—but first there are weeks of treacherous cross-country travel by hoof and kite-ski, in gale-force winds. It’s a perilous, visually stunning journey.
The King (dir. Eugene Jarecki) Section: Wonderlands) – A road trip ostensibly tracing the rise and fall of Elvis Presley, director Eugene Jarecki outlines the deep fallacies in the story America tells about its greatness. Driving around the country in the singer’s 1963 Rolls-Royce accompanied by an articulate array of celebrities, musicians, and political pundits, Jarecki’s captivating documentary searches for a truer tale, one that might still allow for an American Dream.
McQueen (dirs. Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui) Section: Art of Impact/Wonderlands – This superb film traces designer Alexander McQueen’s meteoric rise to stardom from his first forays into tailoring to worldwide fame as a fashion icon. Through touching interviews and dazzling footage of McQueen’s fashion show extravaganzas, the documentary expertly weaves the tale of a tortured man whose universe of designs reflected not only the beauty he saw in the world, but his own dark side.
Metamorphosis (dirs. Nova Ami, Velcrow Ripper) Sections: Art of Impact/The Great Outdoors – What is our capacity for change? It’s a prescient question given a whole new spin in Nova Ami and Velcrow Ripper’s striking film. The answers here are eye opening, the visuals mesmerizing, and the sound bewitchingly portentous as it evokes Earth’s final breaths. Does the change we’re facing offer us an opportunity for transformation? This film gives us a chance to discover—and accept—the wonder of impermanence.
Minding The Gap (dir. Bing Liu) Section: Art of Impact – Set in blue-collar Rockford, Illinois, director Bing Liu’s fresh and discerning film follows a group of his skateboarding friends. In between the excellent skate scenes, Bing unearths some deeper truths affecting all three buddies. An unorthodox filmmaking style and unique access make this film about skateboarding, friendship, and acceptance as uplifting and heartwarming as it is gritty and honest.
Olompali: A Hippie Odyssey (dir. Gregg Gibbs) Section: Wonderlands – “Turning on, tuning in, and dropping out, a group of kindred spirits calling itself the “Chosen Family” in the late ’60s built its base camp 30 miles north of San Francisco. Clothing was optional, authority disdained, and weed widely distributed. Peter Coyote narrates this warmly reflective story, which crosses paths with tragedy–as well as the Grateful Dead, Hells Angels, and the Diggers–as it celebrates the spirit of invention.
On Her Shoulders (dir. Alexandria Bombach) Section: Art of Impact – The plight of the Yazidi community, who face mass extermination at the hands of ISIL extremists, is told elegantly through delicately lit interviews and the selfless lobbying of 23-year-old reluctant activist, Nadia Murad. Although the toll of retelling her own harrowing story is clearly evident in her face, Murad refuses to rest lest the atrocities continue to go unnoticed by those who may be able to help.
Pick of the Litter (dir. Don Hardy, Dana Nachman) Section: Wonderlands – In Pick of the Litter, we follow five dogs, from the moment they are born through the intense two-year program that will prepare them to become working guide dogs and unite with their blind partners. The stakes are high and not every dog will make the cut, but those who graduate will all go on to provide life-changing services for those in need.
Racing Extinction (dir. Louie Psihoyos) Sections: Art of Impact/The Great Outdoors – Scientists believe we are in the sixth major extinction event in the planet’s history, and unlike the previous five, this one is being caused by humankind. Half of all species are threatened with annihilation by the end of this century, and Academy Award-winning director Louie Psihoyos’ remarkable film tackles this monumental challenge by focusing on activists, scientists, and artists dedicated to saving those without a voice—the vanishing species of our globe. Psihoyos has created an ode to life on our planet with a documentary that takes us on an unforgettable visual journey.
The Rescue List (dirs. Alyssa Fedele, Zachary Fink) Section: Art of Impact – Ghana’s Lake Volta, the most massive man-made lake in the world, is also the site of a monumental human rights failure: the selling of area children into slavery. This riveting, gorgeously photographed documentary by Bay Area filmmakers Zachary Fink and Alyssa Fedele chronicles the brave efforts to find these children, bring them to safety, and return them to their families of origin.
A River’s Last Chance (dir. Shane Anderson) Sections: Art of Impact/The Great Outdoors– One of the most diverse rivers in the United States, the Eel, ran dry in 2014, for the first time in history. Once victimized by logging, damming, and drought, the Eel faced new challenges in the new century from some of California’s favorite commodities: wine and weed. This urgent and compelling documentary makes a renewed case for regulation and collaboration in protecting this vital resource.
Saving Brinton (filmmakers Tommy Haines, John Richard, Andrew Sherburne) Section: Wonderlands – An eccentric collector and the self-appointed local historian of a small town in Iowa stumbles upon a cache of old dusty film reels that will end up consuming him for more than thirty-two years. The treasure trove he discovers in a farmhouse basement includes a collection of magical films from cinematic pioneer George Méliés long thought to be lost to cinematic history.
Shiners (dir. Stacey Tenenbaum) Section: Wonderlands – Shoe-shiners from New York to Tokyo, often invisible to the disdainful eye of the public, get the spotlight in a film directed with compassion and skill. These illusive artists speak of class differences, job satisfaction, and the meaning of life. Just as the shoe-shining philosophers bring pleasure and conversation to their clientele, this entertaining and polished film has never a dull moment.
Soufra (dir. Thomas Morgan) Section: Art of Impact – Mariam Shaar lives in a refugee camp just south of Beirut. When she and other enterprising women refugees resolve to grow a small catering business, named Soufra, or “spread” in Arabic, obstacles emerge. As a bevy of colorful, mouthwatering food parades by, we find ourselves rooting for Mariam’s success and her courage reminds us that every refugee has a dream for a better life.
Three Identical Strangers (dir. Tim Wardle) Section: Art of Impact – Bobby, David, and Eddy—triplets who find each other by chance in their late teens—generate heartwarming headlines in the 1980s. Their three identical smiles, mop-top heads, and wide shoulders charmed the public almost as much as the circumstances of their reunification. But we soon learn a far-fetched story that goes much further than their exultant initial encounter.
The Valley of the Wolves (dir. Jean-Michel Bertrand) Section: The Great Outdoors – With unabating good humor and infinite patience and enthusiasm, filmmaker and wildlife enthusiast Jean-Michel Bertrand keeps himself—and us—amused as he spends months amid the magnificent beauty of a remote valley in the French Alps searching for a family of wolves he believes (with all his heart) have established a den there.
Wall (dir. Cam Christiansen) Section: Art of Impact– Adapted from the 2009 monologue by renowned British playwright and screenwriter David Hare, Wall ruminates over the terminology, philosophy, and reality of what Israelis call a “security fence” and Palestinians “an apartheid wall.” Canadian animation filmmaker Cam Christiansen employs a largely black-and-white canvas as a malleable, clarifying backdrop for Hare’s journey of inquiry about the barrier’s implications for Middle East peace.
Won’t You By My Neighbor? (dir. Morgan Neville) Section: Wonderlands – “Love is the root of everything: all learning, all parenting, all relationships. Love or the lack of it.” These are the wise and seemingly prescient words of Fred Rogers, the originator/host of public television’s, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Speaking to children as equals on any topic in an open and unruffled manner, he taught tolerance above all else. He was one of a kind, a man whose teachings are even more relevant today.
DocLands Full Program – Shorts
Colors of Change (dir. Jenny Nichols) – Through the eyes of an artist, a scientist, and an Inuit Elder, we experience Greenland’s beauty as it tackles climate change.
Dear Erik (dir. Bryan Wetzel) – A lark quickly becomes an obsession for an eccentric collector of personal letters received from stars of Hollywood’s Golden Era.
The Last Honey Hunter (dir. Ben Knight) – After being visited by a spirit in his dreams, Maule Dhan Rail is determined to pass along a dangerous generations-old Nepali tradition.
Little Fiel (dir. Irina Patkanian) – This unique short animated documentary is based on and features the sculptures of a Mozambican artist whose creations comment on war, resistance, and hope.
My Irnik (dirs. Matthew Hood, François Lebeau) – Deep within the Arctic, a young father teaches his son about his ancestral Inuit heritage and the value of shared adventures.
Objector (dir. Molly Stuart) – Torn between love of country, family, and her dedication to Palestinian rights, a young Israeli woman refuses her military service.
Person of the Forest (dirs. Melissa Lesh, Tim Laman) – In the vanishing lowland rainforests of Borneo, a team of environmentalists seek to understand the unique cultural behavior of wild orangutans before it’s too late.
Plant (dirs. David Zlutnick, Flavia Cassani) – From seed to harvest, a cinematic look at the beauty of a small, family-run cannabis farm in California’s famed Emerald Triangle.
The Reason to Live (dir. Boyoung Kim) – An optimistic street musician busking in San Francisco shares inspirational stories of music, transformation, and making people smile.
Spark Plug Cowboys (dirs. Kramer Herzog, Leonard Marcel) – Rally car enthusiasts, friends since their 1950s, meet weekly in downtown San Rafael to reminisce about their daredevil days.
Surviving International Boulevard (dir. Sian Taylor Gowan) – The complex reality of domestic child sex trafficking is revealed through the experiences of two local women from Oakland, California.
Swan (dirs. Laetitia Jacquart, J.P. Dobrin) – As the loudspeaker announces 15 minutes until the start of the show, a ballet soloist prepares to dance.
Water Town (dir. Maya Craig) – The city of Weed embarks upon a David vs. Goliath battle to win back their water rights from a large timber company.
Wrangling Russia (dir. Ilie Mitaru) – Seemingly out of place, four American cowboys take on the task of training Russian ranchers as they set out to resurrect the local beef industry.