Alice Street: A Mural Becomes a Movement

BY C.J. Hirschfield

About my home town of Oakland, a recent Washington Post article wrote: “Protesters want to defund the police. Homicides and violence are spiking. In Oakland, ideology and practicality collide.”

It was a wonderful juxtaposition shortly thereafter to watch the excellent new documentary Alice Street, which shows Oakland at its multicultural, peaceful, protesting best.

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The Rim of the World

On making the movie Wilder Than Wild, excerpted from Stories Make the World, Reflections on Storytelling and the Art of the Documentary by Stephen Most.

            People have always used fire to protect human life from nature and to alter what nature provides. A key sequence in the story of humanity and fire is the Industrial Revolution when energy from burning fossil fuels began to drive machines. Within vehicles and factories, generators and outlets, appliances, and innumerable devices, firepower is concealed. As people in increasing numbers leave rural areas and fill cities, they perceive fire more as a threat than a tool. Continue reading

Wilder than Wild: Fire, Forests, and the Future

By Risa Nye

A fine layer of ash drifted through an open window on a recent windy night, covering my desk and keyboard with a reminder, as if I needed one, of the fires that still burn in the Bay Area and beyond. How timely, then, to view Wilder than Wild, a documentary by producer/director Kevin White and writer/producer Stephen Most, which explains and demystifies “megafires” so large they can be seen from space.

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Sometimes Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

By Frako Loden

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.

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ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND- A Review

by C.J. Hirschfield

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The Band (left to right): Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, and Robbie Robertson in ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo © by Elliott Landy.

A good documentary can take a subject we think we already know, and present it in a fuller and more complex context, leading us to a new level of understanding and appreciation. ONCE WERE BROTHERS; ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND does just that, by telling the story of an iconic and pioneering Americana band of five that Robertson describes as “a beautiful thing—so beautiful it went up in flames.” The film, directed by Daniel Roher, also greatly benefits from interviews with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, George Harrison, and many others. Continue reading

Tracking America’s Racial Karma on the Silent Screen

By Louise Dunlap

My first reaction is “No way I’m going to review a film with the name “R——.“ I’ve spent too long telling relatives in the nation’s capital how their team’s name evokes bloody skins of the First People of our continent hunted for bounty. Even though this film acknowledges the R-word as a slur, even though today’s reviewers think it progressive for its time, I’m reluctant. Our history is one white person’s version of Indians after another—with Hollywood in the lead. I don’t want to join the thread.

But then I look at the specs.

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