Now in its fifth year, the 2021 edition of DocLands Documentary Film Festival, presented annually by the California Film Institute (CFI), returns Friday, May 7 through Sunday, May 16 for a ten-day showcase of documentary film.
This year DocLands Documentary Film Festival will offer both virtual screenings and pre-recorded conversations, as well as a limited number of in-person screenings at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center. The Festival will present 23 feature-length and 13 short documentary films from around the globe, showcasing a variety of genres and a diversity of content.
Early Confirmed Programs include:
DocPitch is a CFI initiative designed to aid filmmakers in completing a documentary film project currently in development. A jury of industry professionals will select five filmmaking teams. Each team will present a virtual verbal pitch and a three-to-five minute trailer. The filmmaker pitches will be available to view by audiences globally. Through viewing the pitches and casting their vote, the audience will decide on one project to receive an Audience Choice Award of $30,000. Following that announcement, an industry jury will present the remaining pitching teams with an additional $40,000 in awards. Funding for this project is made possible with support from the Nancy P. & Richard K. Robbins Family Foundation and Project No. 9 and Members of the California Film Institute Board of Directors.
The DocLands Honors Award is presented to a filmmaker or filmmaking team in recognition of exceptional storytelling within the documentary genre, artists whose films resonate universally, emphasizing our common humanity – no matter the subject. The 2021 recipients of the DocLands Honors award are Academy Award® winning filmmakers Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert (American Factory, 9to5: The Story of a Movement).
AMY TAN; UNINTENTIONAL MEMOIR (dir. James Redford) Section: Wonderlands – In 1989, Amy Tan’s first novel, The Joy Luck Club, was published to great commercial and critical success. With the blockbuster film adaption that followed as well as additional best-selling novels, librettos, short stories and memoirs, Ms. Tan has firmly established herself as one of the most prominent and respected American literary voices working today. Born to Chinese immigrant parents into 1950’s America, it would be decades before Ms. Tan would come to fully understand how her mother’s battle with suicidal tendencies was rooted in a legacy of suffering common to women who survived the ancient Chinese tradition of concubinage. This very legacy, however, has provided Ms. Tan an inexhaustible well of inspiration from which to work her literary magic. An interweaving of archival imagery, artful animation and live performance from Ms. Tan form the basis for this documentary that allows the audience to journey through Ms. Tan’s life and career in vivid, living colors.
BEAR-LIKE (dir. Roman Droux) Section: The Great Outdoors – At the far end of the Alaskan peninsula, for filmmaker Roman Droux a childhood dream comes true. He discovers together with the bear researcher David Bittner the universe of wild grizzlies. The two adventurists face bears at smelling-distance, experience the struggle for survival of a bear family and witness dramatic fighting scenes. Driven by a desire to explore the unknown the film tells a personal story of wilderness, framed in breathtaking pictures of unique creatures.
BIG VS SMALL (dir. Minna Dufton) Section: The Great Outdoors –A modern-day fairytale stretching from monster waves in Portugal to the dark stillness of a far-north, frozen Finnish lake –it’s about power and strength on top of the water and facing demons under it. It’s about trust, it’s about letting go, and it’s about what happens when two elite champion athletes share their extraordinary talents with each other.
CRUTCH (dir. Sachi Cunningham & Chandler Evans) Section: Art of Impact – Crutch chronicles the gravity defying life of Bill Shannon, an internationally renowned artist, breakdancer and skate punk—on crutches.
END OF THE LINE: THE WOMEN OF STANDING ROCK (dir. Shannon Kring) Section: Art of Impact – End of the Line: The Women of Standing Rock is the incredible story of a group of indigenous women who risk their lives to stop the Dakota Access oil pipeline construction that desecrated their ancient burial and prayer sites and threatens their land, water, and very existence. In the process, they must face the personal costs of leadership, even as their own lives and identities are left transformed by one of the great political and cultural events of the early 21st century.
INHABITANTS (dir. Costa Boutsikaris & Anna Palmer) Section: The Great Outdoors – Weaving together histories of colonization with the modern resurgence of Native leadership, this is a story of America’s troubled past & hopeful future. This is a platform to empower Native communities to share their wisdom and expand their influence in decision making about how to steward these lands.
KAREN DALTON: IN MY OWN TIME (dir. Robert Yapkowitz & Richard Peete) Section: Wonderlands – Karen Dalton: In My Own Time explores Karen’s early days in Oklahoma where she experienced the harsh realities of growing up during the Great Depression and follows her through more than two decades at the margins of popular music. With two ex-husbands and two children by the time she was eighteen, she rejected the life of a housewife and set off for New York City. Constantly struggling to find her audience yet too close to her own music to compromise, Karen’s negotiations with fortune and fame were complex, but one thing is clear, she lived the music. While Karen projected a tough exterior, as a musician she was fragile and rife with insecurity. Our film focuses on Karen’s difficulties in pursuing success while trying to maintain a pure relationship with the creative process. Through stories from her closest friends, family and collaborators, combined with Karen’s rarely seen personal journals and poetry. We dive deep into the existential struggles she faced, and that ultimately led to her drug use and an untimely death due to AIDs related illness.
THE NEWCORPORATION: THE UNFORTUNATELY NECESSARY SEQUEL (dir. Joel Bakan & Jennifer Abbott) Section: Art of Impact – From Joel Bakan and Jennifer Abbott, filmmakers of the multi-award-winning global hit, The Corporation, comes this hard-hitting and timely sequel.
The Corporation examined an institution within society; The New Corporation reveals a society now fully remade in the corporation’s image, tracking devastating consequences and also inspiring movements for change.
THE SPARKS BROTHERS (dir. Edgar Wright) Section: Wonderlands – Edgar Wright’s [Baby Driver] first documentary feature, The Sparks Brothers, chronicles the decades-long career and influence of the enigmatic rock pop duo Sparks. With commentary from celebrity fans Flea, Beck, Jack Antonoff, Jason Schwartzman, Neil Gaiman, and more, The Sparks Brothers, takes audiences on a musical odyssey through five weird and wonderful decades with brothers/bandmates Ron and Russell Mael.
YOUTH V GOV (dir. Christi Cooper) Section: Art of Impact – Youth v Gov is the story of America’s youth taking on the world’s most powerful government. Armed with a wealth of evidence, twenty-one courageous leaders file a ground-breaking lawsuit against the U.S. government, asserting it has willfully acted over six decades to create the climate crisis, thus endangering their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. If these young people are successful, they will not only make history, they will change the future.