It's Only Life After All
It’s Only Life After All directed by Alexandria Bombach

DocLands Documentary Film Festival 2023 taking place Wednesday, May 10 through Sunday, May 14, announced the full lineup of in-theatre programming and in-person filmmaker conversations at the Smith Rafael Film Center in downtown San Rafael.

The festival opens with It’s Only Life After All directed by Alexandria Bombach, a raw film archive, and intimate present-day verité documentary of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls – the iconic folk rock duo.

In addition to hosting the North American premieres of Marcel Barrena’s Brother Horse (Hermano Caballo) and Dylan Howitt’s The Nettle DressDocLands will host the US premiere of Katja Esson’s Razing Liberty Square and West Coast premieres of Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before the Sun, The Arc of Oblivion, Coldwater Kitchen, Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, Into the Ice, Mom & Dad’s Nipple Factory, No Legs. All Heart., Yukon, A White Dream, plus the California premieres of Bobi Wine: The People’s President, The Lady Bird Diaries, and Victim/Suspect. The Bay Area premieres include, And Still I Sing, Fashion Reimagined, Immediate Family, Lovely Jackson, and OKAY! (The ASD Band Film).

Award-winning director Dawn Porter will be presented with the DocLands Honors Award, for her determination to bring to light the stories behind some of the most remarkable American artists, politicians, humanitarians, and social justice activists. Celebrating her work, the program will include an on-stage conversation, presentation of the DocLands Honors Award, and the California premiere screening of her groundbreaking new documentary The Lady Bird Diaries.

Full List of Films at 2023 DocLands Documentary Film Festival

Director: Banchi Hanuse | Canada 2023 • 89 Minutes | Strand: The Great Outdoors
An intimate and thrilling portrait of a young Siksika woman and the deep bonds between her father and family in the golden plains of Blackfoot Territory as she prepares for one of the most dangerous horse races in the world… bareback.

AND STILL I SING – Bay Area Premiere
Director: Fazila Amiri | Canada 2022 • 90 Minutes | Strand: Art of Impact
Language: In Dari/Farsi with English Subtitles
In-Person: Director Fazila Amiri
Amidst the United States and Taliban peace negotiations, Afghanistan’s controversial pop star and activist Aryana Sayeed mentors hopeful contestants on the hit singing TV series Afghan Star, including the only two female singers, Zahra Elham and Sadiqa Madadgar. As their hopes and dreams of becoming national singers begin to manifest into reality, the Taliban returns to power, reversing twenty years of progress for women’s rights. Amidst the fear and panic caused by the fall of the Afghan government, each woman must make a harrowing escape from Kabul into exile while the US fully evacuates.

THE ARC OF OBLIVION – West Coast Premiere
Director: Ian Cheney | US 2022 • 105 Minutes | Strand: Wonderlands
Language: In English, French, and Spanish with English subtitles
The Arc of Oblivion explores a quirk of humankind: in a universe that erases its tracks, we humans are hellbent on leaving a trace. Set against the backdrop of the filmmaker’s quixotic quest to build an ark in a field in Maine, the film heads far afield – to salt mines in the Alps, fjords in the Arctic, and ancient libraries in the Sahara – to illuminate the strange world of archives, record-keeping, and memory. Playfully weaving stop-motion animation, spellbinding cinematography and fascinating interviews from the director’s inner circle and experts in the fields of science, culture and art – including documentarians Werner Herzog and Kirsten Johnson – The Arc of Oblivion reveals how nature inspires the human drive behind filmmaking.

Directors: Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, Joe Peeler | US 2023 • 98 Minutes | Strand: Art of Impact
In-Person: Director Joe Peeler, Subject Angel Ellis
When the Muscogee Nation suddenly begins censoring its free press, a rogue reporter fights to expose her government’s corruption in a historic battle that will have ramifications for all of Indian country.

BOBI WINE: THE PEOPLE’S PRESIDENT – California Premiere (National Geographic Documentary Films)
Directors: Christopher Sharpe, Moses Bwayo | US 2022 • 114 Minutes | Strand: Art of Impact
In Uganda’s 2021 presidential election, music star, activist, and opposition leader Bobi Wine, together with his wife Barbie, rallies his people in a dangerous fight for freedom from President Museveni’s oppressive 35-year regime.

Director: Marcel Barrena | Spain 2022 • 73 Minutes | Strand: Wonderlands
Language: In Catalan, Spanish, and English with English subtitles
In-Person: Subject Santi Serra
This family-friendly delight profiles renowned Catalan horse wrangler Santi Serra, whose exceptional gift for communicating with animals is the foundation of a unique training program based on strong bonds of friendship. Director Marcel Barrena shows us how Serra’s work has a lasting impact on both animals and humans.

COLDWATER KITCHEN – West Coast Premiere
Directors: Brian Kaufman, Mark Kurlyandchik | US 2022 • 90 Minutes | Strand: Art of Impact
In-Person: Director Brian Kaufman
For 30 years, soft-spoken chef Jimmy Lee Hill has run a highly regarded culinary training program out of a prison in Coldwater, Mich., offering incarcerated men a renewed sense of purpose through the craft of fine dining — everything from foie gras to lobster. Coldwater Kitchen follows Chef Hill and three of his students — one facing a life sentence, another battling an opioid addiction, and a third returning to the city where he once dealt drugs — as they navigate the woes of incarceration and the difficulties of transitioning back into society.

Director: Matthieu Rytz | US 2022 • 93 Minutes | Strand: The Great Outdoors
Directed by Matthieu Rytz (Anote’s Ark, Sundance 2018), this exquisite fly-on-the-wall environmental doc is also a gripping and up-to-the-minute tale of geopolitical, scientific, and corporate intrigue that exposes the destructive machinations of a secretive organization empowered to extract massive amounts of metals from the deep seafloor. Narrated by Jason Momoa, Deep Rising illuminates the vital relationship between the deep ocean and sustaining life on Earth.

Director: Becky Hutner | UK 2022 • 100 Minutes | Strand: Wonderlands
Fashion designer Amy Powney of cult label Mother of Pearl is a rising star in the London fashion scene. Raised off-the-grid in rural England by activist parents, Amy has always felt uneasy about the devastating environmental impact of her industry. When she wins the coveted Vogue award for the Best Young Designer of the Year, which comes with a big cash prize, Amy decides to use the money to create a sustainable collection from field to finished garment and transform her entire business. Over the following three years, her own personal revolution becomes the precursor of a much bigger, societal change.

Directors: Michèle Stephenson, Joe Brewster | US 2023 • 102 Minutes | Strand: Wonderlands
In-Person: Directors Joe Brewster & Michèle Stephenson
Through intimate vérité, archival footage, and visually innovative treatments of her poetry, Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project pushes the boundaries of biographical documentary film by traveling through time and space to reveal the enduring influence of one of America’s greatest living artists and social commentators.

IMMEDIATE FAMILY – Bay Area Premiere
Director: Denny Tedesco | US 2022 • 102 Minutes | Strand: Wonderlands
In-Person: Director Denny Tedesco, Musicians Leland Sklar, Russ Kunkel
Following in the footsteps of 1960s session icons, The Wrecking Crew, musicians Leland Sklar, Danny Kortchmar, Russ Kunkel, and Waddy Wachtel backed iconic singer-songwriters of the 70s, 80s, and beyond, creating some of the most recognizable tunes in rock music. In this entertaining follow-up to his acclaimed documentary “The Wrecking Crew,” director Denny Tedesco reveals the machinery behind the booming era of the singer-songwriter when the talents of these four musicians were in furious demand. The foundations of their enduring friendship, formed on the road and in studios, is recalled with dynamite clarity —reminisced with fondness through intimate interviews with the players themselves, as well as the memories of some of music’s most iconic voices. Including legendary needle drops and commentary from superstars like Carole King, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Keith Richards, Don Henley, David Crosby, Jackson Browne, and Phil Collins, Immediate Family is a backstage tour of rock history.

INTO THE ICE – West Coast Premiere
Director: Lars Ostenfeld | Denmark 2022 • 85 Minutes | Strand: The Great Outdoors
Language: In English & Danish with English subtitles
Despite many years of research, we still do not know exactly how fast the Greenland ice sheet is melting. This is the question director Lars Henrik Ostenfeld hopes to answer when he set out on an expedition with three of the world’s leading glaciologists. The journey will take them 180 meters into one of the major “Moulin” holes in the ice sheet – further than any human has ever gone before.

Directors: Bethann Hardison, Frédéric Tcheng | US 2022 • 114 Minutes | Strand: Art of Impact
In-Person: Director Frédéric Tcheng & Director/Subject Bethann Hardison
Fashion revolutionary Bethann Hardison looks back on her journey as a pioneering Black model, modeling agent, and activist, shining a light on an untold chapter in the fight for racial diversity.

IT’S ONLY LIFE AFTER ALL (Opening Night Film)
Director: Alexandria Bombach | US 2023 • 123 Minutes | Strand: Wonderlands
In-Person: Director Alexandria Bombach
Blending 40 years of home movies, raw film archive, and intimate present-day verité, a poignant reflection from Amy Ray & Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls – the iconic folk rock duo. A timely look into the obstacles, activism, and life lessons of two queer friends who never expected to make it big.

Director: Elaine Sheldon | US 2023 • 85 Minutes | Strand: The Great Outdoors
In-Person: Director Elaine Sheldon
The cultural roots of coal continue to permeate the rituals of daily life in Appalachia even as its economic power wanes. The journey of a coal miner’s daughter exploring the region’s dreams and myths, untangling the pain and beauty.

THE LADY BIRD DIARIES – California Premiere (DocLands Honors – Dawn Porter)
Director: Dawn Porter | US 2022 • 100 Minutes | Strand: Wonderlands
In-Person: Director Dawn Porter, Producer Kim Reynolds
From award-winning filmmaker Dawn Porter comes The Lady Bird Diaries, a groundbreaking all-archival documentary film about Lady Bird Johnson, one of the most influential and least understood First Ladies. The feature film looks at the 123 hours of personal and revealing audio diaries that Lady Bird recorded during her husband’s administration. The film reveals Lady Bird as an astute observer of character and culture and a savvy political strategist. It recasts her crucial role in LBJ’s presidency and brings viewers behind the scenes of one of the most tumultuous and consequential periods in modern American history.

Directors: Jesse Short Bull, Laura Tomaselli | US 2022 • 120 Minutes | Strand: Art of Impact
In-Person: Directors Jesse Short Bull & Laura Tomaselli
It is the most sacred place on earth, the birthplace of the Lakota that has shaped thought, identity, and philosophy for the Očéti Šakówiŋ since time immemorial–the life-giving land known as the Black Hills. Yet with the arrival of the first Europeans in 1492, the sacred land has been the site of conflict between the people it has nurtured, and the settler state seeking to exploit and redefine it in its own image. This powerful new documentary is a searing testament to the strength of the Oyate and a visually stunning rejoinder to the distorted image of a people long shaped by Hollywood. Lakota Nation vs. United States is a lyrical and provocative testament to a land and a people who have survived removal, exploitation, and genocide–and whose best days are yet to come.

LOVELY JACKSON Bay Area Premiere
Director: Matt Waldeck | US 2022 • 104 Minutes | Strand: Art of Impact
In Person: Director Matt Waldeck & TBC Subject/Producer Rickey Jackson
America’s longest wrongfully held exonerated prisoner, Rickey Jackson, returns to the prison where his 39-year journey of survival began and guides his younger self from death row to freedom. A true story about the triumph of hope, forgiveness, and perseverance through the darkest and most hopeless of circumstances that begins in violence and ends with love.

MOM & DAD’S NIPPLE FACTORY – West Coast Premiere (DocLands 2022 DocPitch Finalist)
Director: Justin Johnson (a.k.a. JustinSuperstar) | US 2022 • 90 Minutes | Strand: Wonderlands
In-Person: Director Justin Johnson (a.k.a. JustinSuperstar), Subject Randi Johnson
When Randi is diagnosed with breast cancer, her husband Brian, a conservative Midwest family man, embarks on an extraordinary journey to boost her morale, which turns into a homespun prosthetic nipple business, all while staying under the radar from their friends, their church, and their five children.

THE NETTLE DRESS – North American Premiere
Director: Dylan Howitt | UK 2022 • 68 Minutes | Strand: Wonderlands
In-Person: Director Dylan Howitt, Subject Allan Brown
Textile artist Allan Brown spends seven years making a dress by hand just from the fiber of foraged stinging nettles. This is ‘hedgerow couture’, the greenest of slow fashion but also his medicine. It’s how Allan survives the death of his wife and how he finds a beautiful way to honor her. A labor of love in every sense, it is a modern-day fairytale and hymn to the healing power of nature and slow craft.

NO LEGS. ALL HEART. – West Coast Premiere
Director: Pablo Durana | US 2023 • 89 Minutes | Strand: The Great Outdoors
In-Person: Director Pablo Durana
After years of addiction, struggle, and coming to terms with his accident, André Kajlich became the first double amputee wheelchair athlete to complete the Race Across America, a bone-crushing 3,082-mile bike race that spits out 50% of able-bodied racers. This takes an intimate look beneath the forces that allowed André to endure the pain and carve his own path.

OKAY! (The ASD Band Film) – Bay Area Premiere
Director: Mark Bone | Canada 2022 • 86 Minutes | Strand: Wonderlands
OKAY! (The ASD Band Film) follows the members of the ASD Band as they embark upon the difficult journey of writing and recording their first album, and ultimately performing their first public show. Along the way we delve into the deep corridors of their lives, as they learn to navigate a world foreign to them by finding strength in others who share the same challenges. Life on the spectrum has many individual challenges, but together, anything is possible.

Director: Mark Fletcher | Austria 2022 • 72 Minutes | Strand: The Great Outdoors
Using stunning underwater footage, Patrick explores the fascinating nature of the sperm whale, attempting to shine a light on its intelligence and complexity, as well as highlighting its current and past relationship with humankind.

RAZING LIBERTY SQUARE — US Premiere (Closing Night Film)
Director: Katja Esson | US 2023 • 82 Minutes | Strand: Art of Impact
In-Person: Director Katja Esson, Subject Samantha Quarterman, Producer Ann Bennett
Miami is ground-zero for sea-level rise. When residents of the Liberty Square public-housing community learn about a $300 million revitalization project in 2015, they soon discover that this sudden interest comes from the fact that their neighborhood is located on the highest and driest ground in the city. Now they must prepare to fight a new form of racial injustice – Climate Gentrification.

VICTIM/SUSPECT — California Premiere (Netflix)
Director: Nancy Schwartzman| US 2023 • 90 Minutes | Strand: Art of Impact
In-Person: Subject/Producer – Rachel de Leon, subject Amanda Pike
On her first solo investigation, journalist Rae de Leon travels nationwide to uncover a shocking pattern: Young women tell the police they’ve been sexually assaulted, but instead of finding justice, they’re charged with the crime of making a false report, arrested, and even imprisoned by the system they believed would protect them.

YUKON, A WHITE DREAM – West Coast Premiere
Director: Mathieu Le Lay | France 2021 • 53 Minutes | Strand: The Great Outdoors
Language: In French with English Subtitles
In love with images and the cold, the wildlife photographer Jérémie Villet travels alone through the white deserts of the northern hemisphere with his pulka and his telephoto lens, looking for animals that survive in extreme cold. Carried by adventures and unique human and animal encounters, this film allows us to enter the photographer’s intimacy and to approach with delicacy, this changing world.

Directors: Sarah McNair-Landry, Erik Boomer| Canada 2022 • 13 min. | Strand: The Great Outdoors
Precedes the feature film, Yukon, A White Dream
Traveling throughout the remote landscape of Baffin Island with its stunning cliffs and whitewater rivers, Erik Boomer and Sarah McNair-Landry take you on an Arctic adventure you won’t soon forget.

Director: Tyler Schiffman | US 2023 • 24 min | Strand: The Great Outdoors
Precedes the feature film, Patrick and the Whale
Grant Downie, a generational sea urchin diver, has spent his entire life working in the kelp forests of California. He now struggles to make ends meet as the disappearing kelp forests have forced him to rethink his profession and come to terms with a new future. He has now dedicated his life to finding a solution to save California’s kelp forests and restore his livelihood.

Director: Colin Arisman | US 2023 • 30 min. | Strand: The Great Outdoors
Precedes the feature film, Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before the Sun
As wolves repopulate Washington State, and rural communities believe these wild carnivores are killing their cattle, can range rider Daniel Curry prove that coexistence between ranchers and wolves is possible?

WALKING ON CLOUDS (Caminhando sob as nuvens)
Director: Renan Kamizi | Brazil 2021 • 7 min | Strand: The Great Outdoors
Language: In Portuguese with English subtitles
Precedes the feature film, No Legs. All Heart.
Rafael Bridi’s truly awe-inspiring feat – balancing 6,236 feet in the air on an inch-wide slackline – earns him a place in the Guinness World Records.

Directors: Maia Wikler | US 2022 • 29 min. | Strand: Art of Impact
Precedes the feature film, Invisible Beauty
As they seek to defend their sacred homelands in the Arctic, 19-year-old Quannah Chasinghorse and her mother Jody Potts-Joseph also work to break the barriers of Indigenous representation in the high-fashion world.


Opening Night Film – IT’S ONLY LIFE AFTER ALL
Screening Wednesday, May 10 @ 7:00 PM
On-stage conversation with director Alexandria Bombach
Opening Night Party will be held at the Elks Lodge in San Rafael

Special Screening + Reception – IMMEDIATE FAMILY
Screening Saturday, May 13 @ 6:30 PM
On-stage conversation with director Denny Tedesco and musicians Leland Sklar & Russ Kunkel
Reception to follow at Lotus Cuisine of India in San Rafael

Screening Sunday, May 14 @ 7:00 PM
On-stage conversation with director Katja Esson, Subject Samantha Quarterman

DocLands Honors – Award-Winning Director Dawn Porter
The DocLands Honors Award is 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 program will include an on-stage conversation with Dawn Porter, a presentation of the DocLands Honors Award, and the California Premiere of Porter’s groundbreaking documentary The Lady Bird Diaries. A reception will follow the program in honor of Porter.

DocPitch – Fundraising Forum
The California Film Institute’s virtual documentary pitching forum DocPitch is returning for its seventh year to DocLands Documentary Film Festival. With support from the Nancy P. & Richard K. Robbins Family Foundation and Resonance Philanthropies DocPitch will award five independent documentary filmmakers cash awards totaling $100,000 to aid in completing their feature-length (70+ min.) documentary film projects currently in the early-to-late stages of completion.

2023 DocPitch Finalists:

Pitching: Director Pallavi Somusetty, Producer Debra A. Wilson
Coach Emily (w.t.) is a feature documentary that follows Emily Taylor, an Oakland-based Black and queer rock climbing coach, as she battles systemic racism in her professional and personal life. Through her Brown Girls Climbing program, Emily trains young girls of color, including her own daughter, as they resist discrimination in the climbing world and work to define themselves in the outdoors.

Pitching: Directors/Producers Rashaad Newsome and Johnny Symons
A Black queer artist collaborates with global vogue dancers and cutting-edge technologists to transform a historic military building into a space for renewal, innovation, and celebration.

Pitching: Director Kevin Truong
A 70-year-old Vietnamese American refugee living in Oregon writes down her life story, indelibly shaped by the War in Vietnam. As she shares what she has written with her filmmaker son, they begin separate but parallel journeys confronting the traumas of their past and the emotional divide in their present.

Pitching: Writer/Director Emily Cohen Ibañez, Producer Sara Dosa
Orquídea is a kaleidoscopic tale of the political and ecological life of orchids in Colombia. The story is told through people who care for orchids in the jungle and the orchid’s perspective itself.

Pitching: Director Paige Bethmann
Ku Stevens dreams of becoming an elite runner, but he struggles to balance the sport’s glorified individualism and the values of interconnectedness he was raised with on the reservation. When thousands of Native children’s remains are discovered, Ku reckons with his family’s dark past while running toward his future.

The filmmaker pitches will be available to view by audiences globally on Thursday, April 27 at 10:00 AM (PT). Voting for the Audience Award will be open through Thursday, May 11 at 11:59 PM (PT). Four Industry Awards and one Audience Award will be announced Sunday, May 14.

Through viewing the pitches and casting their vote, the audience will decide which project will receive the $45,000 Audience Award. The additional $55,000 will be awarded to the remaining four film teams through a juried selection.

DocTalk – Reimaging Activism in Film

Activism in film can be conveyed in many forms. Filmmakers may choose to use current events or individuals to bring unresolved issues to light while others decide history speaks for itself. Many filmmakers choose the traditional documentary form to impart issues that are close to their hearts, while others lean toward more subtle or hybrid filmic measures to spark an audience to action. Whatever the form, these filmmakers are reimagining a different world through their immense creativity in film.


  • Fazila Amiri, Director And Still I Sing
  • Katja Esson, Director Razing Liberty Square
  • Joe Brewster/Michèle Stephenson, Directors Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project
  • Justin Superstar, Director Mom & Dad’s Nipple Factory
  • Elaine Sheldon, Director King Coal
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