Longtime word nerds like myself have been delighted by recent documentaries that celebrate letters and the wondrous ways they can be arranged. Films include Obit, about New York Times obituary writers, Wordplay, which covered a major crossword puzzle tournament, as well as Spellbound and Spelling the Dream, which welcomes us into the stressful world of spelling bees.
Clearly, it was only a matter of time before the “magic little puzzle” of palindromes—words, phrases, and sentences that read the same backward and forward—were thrust into the spotlight. The new documentary The Palindromists turns out to be much more of a “wow” than a “huh?”, palindromic words used to judge contestants in the World Palindrome Championship, around which the film is centered.
What if health providers and practitioners prescribed ceremonies, rituals, festivals and other community activities as medicine to treat trauma? The excellent new documentary A Place To Breathewould argue that distressed refugees, in particular, would benefit greatly, and the film effectively argues this route as a way to foster resilience.
The tagline for DocFest, the 19th San Francisco Documentary Festival, is “Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction”—a saying we all appreciate more than we’d like during these days of COVID-19, wildfires, racist domestic terrorism and unhinged presidential campaigns. But however much we might want to hide from some of these truths, we still relish a good documentary that tells it like it is—or at least when we’re feeling more fragile, brings back fond memories or confirms our biases. SF DocFest gives you a chance to do all that with 49 new documentaries, easy to watch from home with the website’s clearly worded instructions. Here are ten that you might choose from.
Celebrate African American cinema and the African cultural Diaspora through a diverse collection of films – from emerging and established filmmakers. The San Francisco Black Film Festival presents movies reinforcing positive images and dispelling negative stereotypes while providing cinema artists from the bay area in particular and around the world in general, a forum for their work to be viewed and discussed.
For more than 20 years audiences have gathered to experience these movies but this year the festival has been reinvented as “Virtually, It’s Possible” uploading new movies twice a day through August 2, 2020 on the San Francisco Black Film Festival website.
For year people have asked where my house of worship was and my answer has always been, “In a movie theater.”And for 40 years the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival has been bringing people together—those who belong to a synagogue, the unaffiliated and everybody else interested in fascinating stories, social justice discussions, and often controversial narrative and documentary movies from around the globe.
The 2014-15 @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz exhibit, held at the now decommissioned and notorious prison, drew nearly 900,000 visitors, generated over 90,000 postcards to political prisoners all over the world, and illustrated the power of art when presented outside of a traditional museum or gallery setting.