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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Class Action Park: A Crazy Ride

By C.J. Hirschfield

The huge success of the Tiger King documentary series showed that we love watching a story about a park that is badly run by an eccentric/unsavory person, is dangerous, and ends up being an unqualified train wreck. The new HBO Max documentary Class Action Park may be about a waterpark and not an exotic zoo, the basic elements are the same, but its death count is much higher. It is a story of greed, corruption, coverups, bankruptcy, the 1980s, and ironically, some really good times as well.

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JAZZ ON A SUMMER’S DAY

by Dick Fregulia

I’m feeling like there’s not much to look forward to these days, so I am enjoying rediscovering the past much more. One of the better experiences I’ve had with that lately is viewing the sparkling new 4K restoration by IndieCollect of the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival documentary, Jazz on a Summer’s Day.

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River City Drumbeat: An Urban Heartbeat

By C.J Hirschfield

Many fine films tell the story of charismatic teachers who change lives, and they serve to inspire.  The new documentary River City Drumbeat is one of these films. Promoted as “a story of music, love and legacies,” it follows a dynamic African drumming corps for kids founded and taught by the magnetic Edward “Nardie” White as he prepares to turn the operation over to a successor after a 30-year run in urban Louisville, Kentucky.

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