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.
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 →
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.