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Jerry Brown: The Disrupter - 8th SFFILM Doc Stories program lineup
Jerry Brown: The Disrupter directed by Marina Zenovich

San Francisco Film Festival (SFFILM) unveiled the program lineup for the 8th edition of the documentary film showcase Doc Stories headlined on opening night with the documentary Jerry Brown: The Disrupter directed by Marina Zenovich.

9 documentary feature films and 12 short films make their debut in the Bay Area, including portraits of renowned individuals such as Louis Armstrong, Nan Goldin, former Governor Jerry Brown, and Robert Downey Sr., along with inspirational stories about the French Laundry’s original owner Sally Schmitt, the first female mayor in Afghanistan, Zarifa Gahfari, and a motley crew of Wisconsin-based flagmakers.

“Documentaries take us to new and challenging territories, often revealing secrets about ourselves as we share the experience of watching them together,” said Jessie Fairbanks, SFFILM Director of Programming. “This year’s program is filled with iconoclasts, both known and still under the radar, and presents a breadth of films at the forefront of Documentary, leading the charge towards what the genre can be”

FILM PROGRAM

All That Breathes
Shaunak Sen, India/UK/USA 2022, 94 min
Beautifully attuned to poetic detail in word, sound, and visual presentation, this Sundance prizewinner tells the story of two Muslim brothers who have spent most of their lives tending to injured animals, particularly black kites. Pollution and extreme heat in Delhi have rendered the air quality so poor that birds literally fall from the sky, and siblings Nadeem and Saud Shehzad have outfitted their less-than-spacious garage as a place to treat and care for these injured creatures. This unforgettable film juxtaposes humorous moments like a spontaneous game of cricket with the darker existential threats posed by climate change and Prime Minister Modi’s Islamophobic restrictions.

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed – CENTERPIECE
Laura Poitras, USA 2022, 117 min
Nan Goldin is renowned for her vivid, vérité portraits; frames of ordinary people captured in their glamorous and messy lives. Originally a fringe post-punk creative, Goldin built a dazzling career in cinema and photography while wrestling with grief, violence, and trauma. When addiction to OxyContin threatens her life, Goldin turns her piercing gaze to the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma and profiteers of the opioid crisis. Art and activism blend together in this incendiary profile, as one woman strives to reconcile her past while holding the powerful accountable. Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, this complex exploration of a singular artist’s life, work, and perseverance is impossible to forget.

In Her Hands
Tamana Ayazi, Marcel Mettelsiefen, Afghanistan/USA 2022, 93 min
Zarifa Ghafari is one of the few women ever elected to government in Afghanistan. With grit and determination, she strives to shift perspectives in a patriarchal society. Under constant threat of assassination, Zarifa and her family are faced with an impossible decision when American troops withdraw and the country collapses into Taliban rule. Filmed over the course of two years, this mesmerizing profile of the acclaimed human-rights advocate—frequently featured with her loyal bodyguard and an irascible Talib commander—brings into sharp focus the lives thrown into chaos during the events of August 2021. Executive produced by Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, In Her Hands is a reminder of the necessity of defiance in the face of adversity.

Jerry Brown: The Disrupter – OPENING NIGHT
Marina Zenovich, USA 2022, 95 min
Governor Jerry Brown has had a storied political life, and Marina Zenovich’s tremendous portrait of him captures the highs and lows, augmented by present-day interviews with her protagonist. Ahead of his time in many ways, especially as an environmentalist, he is the longest-serving governor in the history of California, who eliminated the state’s billion-dollar deficit and enacted historic environmental and criminal justice reforms. From his early days in San Francisco as the son of Governor Pat Brown to his current work around climate change and nuclear threats, Zenovich’s timely film proposes a hopeful alternative to the current political morass.

Lakota Nation vs. United States
Jesse Short Bull, Laura Tomaselli, USA 2022, 120 min
The Black Hills in South Dakota are sacred land to the Lakota people. Long desired by the American government for resources and dominance, this territory remains vital to the Oyate. Written and narrated by the immensely talented poet, Layli Long Soldier, and executive produced by Mark Ruffalo and Marisa Tomei, this searing documentary fuses stunning visuals, spoken words, intimate interviews, and archival footage to craft a shocking counternarrative of colonial history. The deliberate pacing of this powerful film forms a holistic story of a land, moving viewers through centuries of betrayal, extermination, and assimilation to present day activism with the Landback Movement. In addition to demanding recognition and justice, the filmmakers celebrate the Lakota Nation with this profound testament to resilience.

Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues – COMMUNITY SCREENING
Sacha Jenkins, USA 2022, 104 min
Louis Armstrong is rooted in our collective memory as a legend, but few understood the man. Viewed by his contemporaries as a sellout for white audiences, Armstrong is also considered to be one of the greatest musicians of all time who left an indelible mark on the art of jazz. In Sacha Jenkins’s fluid and vivid profile, Armstrong is all that and more—an icon who refuses to be categorized. With his own words from personal audio diaries and letters, Pops relays political views and a deep resentment towards the establishment, along with jokes and ditties. Set to an explosive soundtrack with appearances from Nas, Wynton Marsalis, and the voice of Dizzy Gillespie, Black & Blues is an arresting portrait of a legend we only thought we knew.

Mickey: The Story of a Mouse
Jeff Malmberg, USA 2022, 89 min
Walt Disney famously stated that “it all started with a mouse.” Director Jeff Malmberg has put together a loving tribute to one the most recognizable icons of all time. Malmberg presents Mickey’s legacy as being rooted at the forefront of art and culture throughout his life. In Steamboat Willie, Mickey stars in the first animated film with synchronized sound. As the decades pass, he constantly evolves, often reflecting advances in technology and dramatic changes in society. His influence can be seen in everything from overseas wars to counter-culture movements. We’ll hear from the talented artists who have brought Mickey to life and also see a brand-new Walt Disney Animation Studios hand-drawn animated short, Mickey in a Minute. Come enjoy with the whole family! Recommended for ages eight and up.

New York Times Op-Docs
93 min
Op-Docs is the New York Times’ award-winning series of short-form documentaries by independent filmmakers. Always a Doc Stories highlight, this year’s selection explores the artistry behind the French Laundry, Mardi Gras traditions, a unique neurological condition that prevents the brain from processing faces, the complexity of entrepreneurial endeavors in contemporary China, along with ruminations on life and loss that expose a universal hope for a beautiful future.

Sansón and Me
Rodrigo Reyes, Mexico/USA 2022, 83 min
Bay Area filmmaker Rodrigo Reyes reimagines the framework for documentary reenactments with this powerful story of a young man whose life is irretrievably altered by the carceral system. Reyes first encounters Sansón Noe Andrade when he serves as a language interpreter during the 19-year-old’s murder trial and subsequently writes that he’d like to tell the young man’s story in a film. Since Reyes isn’t permitted to film Sansón, he finds an actor to play the part and uses members of the extended Andrade family in Mexico to fill out other roles. The end result is a wide-ranging elegy of a life burdened by cycles of crime and poverty, an unexpectedly intimate friendship, and a bold step forward in documentary form.

Shorts Block: Human Exposure
100 min
This eclectic group of joyous shorts uses immersive, kinetic visuals to take a fresh look at the human condition around the world. A former Italian street gang from Brooklyn reflects on the concept of community, a motley crew of flagmakers in Wisconsin challenge the definition of patriotism, a loving wife and son recount caring for an ailing loved one, while a father flees into the sea in a desperate attempt to emigrate, and ethereal reflections on erasure in both Canada and Croatia make powerful arguments on the importance of documentation. Featuring animation, essays, claymation, found footage, and archival work, each piece contemplates the fragility of life as exposed by film.

Sr. – CLOSING NIGHT
Chris Smith, USA 2022, 89 min
This loving portrait of filmmaker Robert Downey Sr. captures his life and body of work in its uncompromising singularity. Over the course of several interviews with director Chris Smith, Sr. discusses moving from the world of underground cinema to mainstream Hollywood, the difficulties of parenting in an environment rife with temptations, and his various romantic relationships. His son Robert Downey Jr. (a co-producer of the film) provides loving and meaningful context, eliciting personal stories from a life well-lived. These conversations are deftly juxtaposed with clips from several of Sr.’s films, including his beloved, must-see satirical masterpiece Putney Swope (1969).

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