2009 DocFest Program Info

Posted by sfindie July 24, 2009 1741 views

American Artifact: The Rise of American Rock Poster Art

Merle Becker

US, 2009, 90 min

This tasty tour takes off with the birth of the iconic rock poster, when artists like Stanley Mouse and Victor Moscoso put the SF scene on the map. But the art didn’t end with the psychedelic ’60s—it’s been ripped off, cut up and Xeroxed, and now re-imagined for the best bands in the world.

As Becker discovers, we’re in the midst of a 21st-century rock poster art movement: designers everywhere are silk-screening posters inspired by their local scene, the music of our time, and the spirit of our era. With Bay Area luminaries Chris Shaw, Winston Smith, Chuck Sperry, Ron Donovan and many more.


Another Planet

Ferenc Moldovanyi

Hungary, 2008, 76 min



Apology of an Economic Hitman

Stelios Kouglou

Greece, 2008, 90 min



BAY AREA SHORTS: the people and places of the SF experience

The Secret Life of Beards—6:13 The kind you grow on your face.

Ansonia Hostel—4:30 A filmic doodle of multi-national hilarity.

Thrift Town: Get Used—10:00 The Mission landmark of recycled fashion.

Shelter—6:30 The leader of the dome movement has moved on.

Lone Wolf—5:30 Freedom of the press!

Scraper Bike King—12:00 Baby Champ and his rad bike movement

SF Mess— 30:00 The story of the bike messengers.


Between The Folds

Vanessa Gould

US, 2009, 56 min

A star of the festival circuit, with tons of awards and sizeable buzz, this paean to the craft of paper folding is a best bet for science geeks and art lovers alike. Called “A rare delight for the senses,” and “filmmaking at its most wondrous,” Between the Folds chronicles the stories of ten fine artists and theoretical scientists who have abandoned careers and scoffed at hard-earned graduate degrees to forge unconventional lives as modern-day paperfolders. Together, they reinterpret the world in paper, creating a wild mix of art, science, creativity, and meaning.

WITH: Among the Giants


Cat Ladies

Christie Callan-Jones

Canada, 2009, 60 min, West Coast Premiere


Margo finds that caring for her three cats fills the void of profound loneliness. Jenny, a real estate agent, uses her 16 cats as an excuse for not getting out there and finding love. Diane, a once-successful banker, fills her schedule by rescuing abandoned cats… But how many is too many? Callan-Jones presents the delicate balance of the “cat lady” psyche, taking us beyond stereotypes to explore the extreme edge of pet ownership and deeply felt emotions. Might we all be just one “cat” away from our own obsessive addiction? –Silverdocs

WITH: Mouse Race!



Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman

US, 2008, 84 min


It was a cautionary tale invented to keep them out of the abandoned buildings that remained of the Willowbrook Mental Institution. Cropsey was supposedly an escaped patient who would come out late at night and snatch children off the streets—sometimes with a hook for a hand, other times with a bloody ax. But in 1987, Jennifer Schweiger, a 13-year-old with Down syndrome, disappeared from their community. For Zeman, Brancaccio, and the other kids of Staten Island, their urban legend became real. …The reality [the filmmakers] uncover in this uniquely hair-raising documentary is more terrifying than any urban legend. –David Kwok, Tribeca Film Fest


Drums Inside Your Chest

Stephen Latty

US, 2008, 63min

Drums Inside Your Chest is a performance poetry concert film offering a raucous new vision of contemporary America poetry. Inspired by the spontaneity and energy of rock concert films, Drums beats with the humor, dirt, song and fire of seven award-winning poets and a vaudevillian magician host. Featuring Amber Tamblyn, Beau Sia, Buddy Wakefield, Derrick Brown, Jeffrey McDaniel, Mindy Nettifee, Bucky Sinister & Rob Zabrecky.

Stay after the screening for readings/performances by some of the poets from the film!


Dust and Illusions

Olivier Bonin

US, 2009, 90 min

Here in the Bay Area, it’s hard to remember that Burning Man is supposed to be a counter-cultural event. With 50,000 participants a year, has Black Rock City outgrown itself? With fantastic original and unseen footage dating from the 70’s, plus interviews with John Law, Larry Harvey, The Flaming Lotus Girls, Chicken John, Pepe Ozan, and many more influential collaborators and artists, Dust & Illusions takes a lovingly critical look at Burning Man. From the philosophies that fueled its creation to the present-day challenges of producing the largest “counter-cultural” event in North America, Dust and Illusions argues that the true meaning of the festival is still up for grabs.


Finding Face

Patti Duncan and Skye Fitzgerald

US, 2009, 68 min


At 16, Tat Marina was a beautiful star of Phnom Penh’s karaoke scene. Smitten, Cambodia’s Undersecretary of State coerced her into a secret relationship. When she was horribly burned with acid by his wife—in public—the government did nothing, beginning a surge in “revenge mutilations,” mostly targeting women and almost always unpunished. A few speak out against the culture of impunity for violence against women, but survivors of acid attacks are shunned. Marina is granted US asylum. After extensive surgeries, she tries to overcome her self-image, and risks further retribution in an attempt to achieve justice.

WITH: Take My Hair



Robert McFalls

US 2008, 52 min


Homegrown is the inspiring true story of a family “living off the grid” in the heart of urban Pasadena, California. They harvest over 6,000 pounds of produce on less than a quarter of an acre, while running a popular website that is known around the world. The film is an intimate human portrait of what it’s like to live like “Little House on the Prairie” in the 21st Century. With music by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason (known for their haunting theme in Ken Burns Civil War series) Homegrown is ultimately a family story. It’s about what lead them to where they are today, what changed them and what keeps them together.


Houston We Have A Problem

Nicole Torre

US, 2009, 84 min


Plenty of docs investigate the industry, but in Houston we get schooled on oil by the very guys who make it happen: the small oilmen whose wildcatting ventures make up 80% of Big Oil’s supply—the good old boys. Candid and often very funny interviews both defend their drillin’ ways and confess their own culpability. How do these players plan to ride out oil’s inevitable downfall? Why do offshore drilling structures only produce a drop in the bucket of world demand? Why did one woman’s oil war inspire a Hollywood film? Featuring Sen. Harry Reed, T. Bone Pickens, Neil Bush and more petroleum CEOs than you can shake a stick at. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll yell at the screen.


I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of The Independent Record Store

Brendan Toller

US, 2009, 77 min

Another festival-circuit favorite in our lineup is I Need That Record!, which asks why over 3000 independent record businesses have closed in the past decade. Is it the greedy record labels? Big box stores and e-commerce? Boring radio? Lame “stars’? Toller takes indie music’s pulse via our favorite record stores. Featuring: Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Ian Mackaye of Fugazi, Noam Chomsky, Mike Watt of the Minutemen, Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group, Chris Frantz of the Talking Heads, composer Glenn Branca, Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers, punk author Legs McNeil, photographer Bob Gruen, and indie record stores across the U.S. of A!


Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison

Bestor Cram

US, 2008, 87 min


January 13, 1968. In a year of historical change, Johnny Cash’s concert at Folsom State Prison and the ensuing album became a symbol of the late ‘60s and transformed his career. Drawing from rock photographer Jim Marshall’s stark images of that day, rare archival footage, and exclusive interviews with participants and observers, the film traces the (rocky) road to the concert, and the torrent of stardom and political debate that followed. What remains is one of the greatest live albums ever made, cementing Cash as one of America’s greatest troubadours and advocates for prison reform.



Jenna Rosher

US, 2009, 77 min


Eddie’s a San Francisco native right out of Scorcese: Kids hanging on the corner, up to no good, that was the life. After a long run of managing various acts (including the first and only topless band The Ladybirds) and a short-lived a stab at acting (he attributes his failures to three nose jobs), Eddie finds his calling: the Belasco Theater Company, his non-profit musical theater group for kids. Documenting the last two seasons of Eddie’s company, Junior explores the ins and outs of the biz, the bittersweet taste of retirement, and the meaning of “the good life.”


Marina of the Zabbaleen

Engi Wassef

Egypt, 20009, 70 min

Set in the Muqqattam village in Cairo, where Coptic Christians from rural Upper Egypt make their living as garbage collectors and recyclers, Marina of the Zabbaleen introduces us to the world of seven-year-old Marina, a girl who spends her days riding flying elephants and befriending mystical pigeons. Director Engi Wassef and cinematographer Rob Hauer transform this gritty landfill village into a beautiful, dreamlike portrait of family, childhood, and spirituality. –National Geographic



Geralyn Rae Pezanoski

US, 2009, 83min


Winner of the Audience Award at this year’s SXSW festival, Mine is about animal lovers of all stripes: the inspiring animal rescuers who leap into action in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; the heartbroken owners forced to abandon their pets; the shelter workers who try to bring about miraculous reunions; and the adopters who may have to give their new pets back to their original New Orleans owners. It’s a compelling, character-driven story that challenges us see the way we treat animals in our society as a reflection of how we treat ourselves—and each other.


Nursery University

Marc Simon

US, 2008, 90 min

And you thought getting into college was hard! In post-9/11 New York City, a baby boom has turned the preschool admissions process into a blood sport. With more than 20 applicants for every available spot, $4,000 consultants are hired and teams are recruited just to acquire application forms. Cue the tears, hysterics and breakdowns—and that’s just the parents! …Enjoy the insanity in this sweeter look at the social issues and the little darlings at the centre of all the fuss. -Myrocia Watamaniuk, HotDocs


October Country

Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher

US, 2009, 80 min


October Country is a beautifully rendered portrait of an American family struggling for stability while haunted by the ghosts of war, teen pregnancy, foster care and child abuse. This vibrant and intimate documentary examines the forces that unsettle the working poor and the violence that lurks beneath the surface of American life. Shot over a year from one Halloween to the next, the film uses rich visual metaphors and floats through multiple storylines to present an all-American family: wholly unique, but also sadly representative of the struggles of our working class.  Winner of the 2009 SILVERDOCS Grand Jury Prize


Off and Running

Nicole Opper

US, 2009, 76 min


Avery is a typical Brooklyn teen living in an atypical, United Nations-style melting pot. Her adoptive parents are white Jewish lesbians, her younger brother is Korean, her older brother is mixed-race, and she is black. Though her household is loving, she can’t quite quell her curiosity about her biological African-American roots. The decision to contact her birth mother sparks a complicated exploration of race and identity… Off and Running is a unique and very American coming-of-age story that delves into the psyche of race through a fresh and careful dissection of a family’s struggle. -Sara Nodjoumi, Tribeca Film Festival


Only When I Dance

Beadie Fenzi

Brazil/UK, 2008, 78 min

This documentary follows a crucial year in the life of Isabela and Irlan, two aspiring ballet dancers, as they travel between two worlds: both literally—from Brazil to New York City in dance competitions—and figuratively. Many feel that the likes of Irlan Santos da Silva and Isabela Coracy, two poor black kids from the favelas, don’t belong in the elitist world of ballet. Despite the constant prejudice and doubt, both are determined to follow their ambitions. With their incredible talent (beautifully and excitingly captured on film), supportive parents, and tough mentor, can they make it?


Pop Star on Ice

David Barba and James Pellerito

US, 2009, 85 min


Johnny Weir is the most compelling athlete you’ve never heard of. …Notorious for his joyfully inappropriate conduct at press conferences and his uncompromising personality and sense of style, Weir’s antics both on and off the ice are hard to ignore. Pop Star follows a season of Weir’s uneven trajectory toward top skating honors as he ricochets between flawless performances and absolute failures. …From his rocky relationship with the trainer who knows him too well, to his inability to fully commit to his talent, this tightly constructed documentary showcases Weir as a fierce competitor who could one day take the gold. –Seattle IFF


Proceed and Be Bold!

Laura Zinger

Italy/US, 2009, 98 min


Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. used to be a pretty average guy, a successful computer programmer at a telecommunications company. But he quit to teach himself the letterpress, and now he’s a renowned artist and hero to all the design geeks who’ve rediscovered letterpress printing. But his art isn’t merely in the design of his sought-after books and posters. A man who likes to wear denim overalls everyday has got a sly sense of humor, and Amos uses it to make some pretty interesting statements about race: mailing his subversive “Nappygrams” to unenlightened folk, for instance. (Warning: Proceed and Be Bold! will make you want to take up the letterpress.)


Rabbit Fever

Amy Do

US, 2009, 85 min


Work In Progress

In our first-ever rabbit documentary, Rabbit Fever follows a colorful collection of impressively competitive and undeniably quirky competitors as they strive to win the top title at the National American Rabbit Convention—an event that draws more than 20,000 rabbits in one building, the largest mass of rabbits in the world. While adult members of the rabbit habit compete for “Best In Show,” the teenage enthusiasts quest for the even more coveted “Rabbit King” and “Rabbit Queen” titles.


Shooting Robert King

Richard Parry

UK, 2008, 80 min


I was fucked up before I even went; that’s why I was so good at it.” –Robert King

Though war photographers have often been captured onscreen, no film has followed a career trajectory as closely as Shooting Robert King. Director Richard Parry has been intermittently checking in with photographer Robert King, from his start in Bosnia to his breakthrough work in Chechnya to his struggles embedding in Iraq. His portrayal of King’s personal and professional growth is reminiscent of Michael Apted’s Up series—only under fire. –Toronto Int. Film Fest


Speaking in Code

Amy Grill

US, 2009, 90 min, West Coast Premiere


For Speaking in Code, Amy Grill and husband David follow their favorite electronic DJs from techno festivals in Barcelona to warehouse parties in hometown Boston, profiling the scene and chasing dancefloor nirvana. Like all the best docs, this straightforward concept gets way more interesting in practice, when acts like Modeselektor blow up overnight, the huge Wighnomy Brothers might be breaking apart, and Grill’s own marriage crumbles on-camera. As Amy struggles to complete her film, David becomes so distant (trying to make techno happen in the unlikely city of Boston), that his on-camera interviews become some of the only times they talk.


The Earth Is Young

Michael Gitlin

US, 2009, 58 min

The Earth Is Young is a rare film that uses a mesmerizing and serene experimental style to document one of Christianity’s most controversial concepts: that our earth is no older than mankind. Gitlin juxtaposes interviews of Scientific Creationists with the slow and patient work of young paleontologists, and the strange, shimmering life in a drop of pond water. Bordering on a kind of science-fiction film, The Earth Is Young is an essay about the nature of science, and about the tools, both physical and ideological, with which one builds a model of the world.

WITH: The King of America


The Entrepreneur

Jonathan Bricklin

US, 2009, 94 min


If you’re a documentary filmmaker like Jonathan Bricklin, you could hardly have a more slam-dunk subject than dad Malcolm Bricklin, famous importer of the Yugo and Subaru, maker of the infamous “Bricklin SV-1” automobile, and onetime millionaire, as he races around the world chasing one last deal. And it’s a big one! The movie chronicles Bricklin’s, um, let’s just say “awe-inspiring” negotiating style, from private meetings with his investors to epic negotiations with executives of China’s leading automobile manufacturer, and ending with a nail-biting, down-to-the-11th-hour conclusion. Produced by Morgan Spurlock of Super-Size Me.

WITH: Sell It To The Hedge Funds

The Great Contemporary Art Bubble

Ben Lewis

UK, 2009, 90 min

Art critic and filmmaker Ben Lewis spent 2008 following the booming contemporary art market, from its peak in May until its collapse in October. That unprecedented craze for contemporary art, in which works by Andy Warhol, Francis Bacon, and Mark Rothko sold for record-breaking prices, climaxed in September 2008 when art by Damien Hirst sold for $198 million in an unprecedented auction at Sotheby’s. And Lewis was there to catch it all. Only somewhat justified by a “passion” for art, it’s an extraordinary world of speculation, secrecy, and some pretty unusual market practices.


The Philosopher Kings

Patrick Shen

US 2009, 70 min, West Coast Premiere


Some people perform jobs that are considered inspirational. We call these people teachers, doctors and community organizers. Other people perform jobs that are disdained. We call them lawyers and car salesmen. And there are people who do the kind of work that we would prefer not to think about at all. We call them janitors. …In a nod to Plato, Shen shows us the difference between having an education and possessing knowledge by spotlighting the artists, humanitarians and thinkers who clean up—but do not study at—some of the US’s finest institutions of higher learning. …Shen transforms these personal mini-narratives into a larger conversation about the job of being human. –SilverDocs


The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia

Julien Nitzberg

US, 2009, 84 min

Bringing the WTF to this year’s DocFest is the truly awesome White family, the infamous Appalachian clan known for misdeeds as impressive as their family tree: shoot-outs, robberies, gas-huffing, drug dealing, pill popping, murders. They’ve got their pride, the Whites; Jesco’s a tap-dancing star, and do we detect a note of self-satisfaction in their own notoriety? Because it’s hard to believe they forgot the cameras were rolling when they got out the drugs for grandma’s birthday party. If you’re born a White, you’ve got a decision: either live the lifestyle or try to live it down. But, as they put it, “At least people know who the fuck we are.”


Trimpin: The Sound of Invention

Peter Esmonde

US 2009, 77 min


Artist/inventor/engineer/composer Trimpin shuns the hype and hyperbole of the commercial art world—yet his freewheeling sculptures and outrageous musical experiments are cherished by museums all over the planet. Filmed over two years, this cinéma vérité documentary feature follows the artist/inventor as he devises a perpetual motion machine, builds a 20-meter tower of automatic electric guitars, and collaborates with the Kronos Quartet on an outrageous world premiere. The film will delight anyone interested in the mysteries, pitfalls, and sheer joy of creative experiment.


Vampiro: Angel, Devil, Hero

Lee Gordon Demarbre

Canada, 2008, 91 min


Vampiro is BIG, even in the larger-than-life universe of Mexican wrestling. And for a while, Ian Hodgkinson, who plays the glamorous Vampiro, seems to have it all: arena shows, sex-symbol status, gorgeous girl. Like he’s put his patchy background and a disadvantaged youth in small-town Canada behind him. But after two decades in Lucha Libre showbiz, some of the glitter might be wearing off. Vampiro is the story of a star at the end of his career, still putting on a show, looking for his next move, and trying to put back together some of the life he lost along the way.


Waiting for Hockney

Julie Checkoway

US, 2009, 78 min


Back in the ‘90s, illustrator Billy Pappas had a portrait idea to wow the world. The only problem was that it would require a 20x magnifying glass to draw, for seven hours a day, for the next eight and a half years. After four years, he creates a sling system to overcome arm fatigue. After five years, his family and friends fear for his sanity. On top of this near-impossible endeavor, he’s determined to show his masterpiece to the famous and reclusive modern artist David Hockney, the one person that Billy believes can justify a decade of work. A film of both nail-biting suspense and pure old-fashioned grit.


We Said, No Crying

Assaf Sagi Gafni

Israel, 2009, 48 min, World Premiere

At DocFest we have a special affinity for intimate films—the rare ones that aren’t about anyone particularly newsworthy and yet tell a story so real and relatable that it sticks with us. We Said, No Crying starts out like many home movies do: recording a young couple’s decision to start a family. Following the ups and downs of two extremely likeable people, the film showcases not just the high drama of making a new life, it also documents a love affair you’d be lucky to find at the multiplex.

WITH: Story of My Cancer


Whats the Matter With Kansas?

Joe Winston and Laura Cohen

US, 2009, 90 min


Documentarian Joe Winston takes the premise of Thomas Frank’s 2004 book of the same name—namely that the GOP got working- and middle-class Midwesterners to vote Republican when it wasn’t in their fiscal self-interest—and puts it to the test. Checking in with a varied group of Kansans a few years later, he provides an often-surprising look at how they’re feeling in the wake of two George W. Bush terms and a failed economy.


WORLDWIDE SHORTS: Snapshots of life in five different countries

Everyday People – 5 min. Big, big stars from England.

Sweat – 15 min. A Finnish sauna champion.

The Flying Shepherd – 26 min. Just kickin’ it on the farm in Romania.

Story of A Businesswoman – 20 min. It’s a man’s world in Japan.

Songs From the Tundra – 24 min. The Even people, hunters of remotest Russia.


Youth Knows No Pain

Mitch McCabe

US, 2009, 90 min


Director Mitch McCabe investigates America’s nip and tuck obsession and the $60 billion-a-year anti-aging industry in Youth Knows No Pain. McCabe, herself the daughter of a plastic surgeon, interviews a colorful cross-section of doctors, experts and beauty devotees. It’s hard to resist that siren song of youth, it seems, no matter the price tag; and the director finds herself caught up in the culture of self-critique and aspiration. Filmed across the United States over the course of two years, McCabe’s deeply personal project offers both a humorous and disturbing insight into modern society.