As a service to my filmmaker clients, I promote their screenings at festivals and on television and so here is this year’s harvest of nonfiction cinema made by Northern Californians and exhibited by the greatest showcase of the locals: The Mill Valley Film Festival. Get your tickets early as some of these shows are at RUSH already and you can help sell out shows and increase the chance of additional screenings.
BEYOND MEASURE directed by Vicki Abeles
Author and director Vick Abeles brings her second nonfiction feature of education activism to this festival. Her film shows students, educators, and parents actively opposing teaching to the tests and asserting engaged learning in American high schools.
CODE: DEBUGGING THE GENDER GAP directed by Robin Hauser Reynolds
Reynolds is another maker of activist cinema and her subject is women and girls in software engineering. The obstacles abound but are not insurmountable and you meet one martyr but many successes. My favorite scene has PIXAR director of photography Danielle Feinberg describing to a class of girls how she took apart and rebuilt a lawnmower in a class of boys who looked on dumbfounded when her machine roared to life and none of theirs would.
DOGTOWN REDEMPTION directed by Amir Soltani and Chihiro Wimbush
West Oakland, California has a neighborhood called Dogtown named for the strays that accumulate there. It is home to the homeless and their dogs who scrape out a living from shopping cart recycling “redeemed” at Alliance Metals one neighbor describes as a plantation that maintains these desperate people in subsistence. Those that use drugs are criminalized for what is their illness and consequently cannot be hired at a decent legitimate job. And in de-industrialized Oakland these jobs are few or gone. The director’s request for my services was to give his subjects justice. I thought of it as a modern Grapes of Wrath graphic novel while working especially after hearing the trenchant remarks of Ron Dellums who understands the labor history of the area and the people who once picked fruit who now harvest our garbage.
IN DEFENSE OF FOOD directed by Michael Schwarz
Do not come to this screening hungry. The team of Kikim Media present two hours of the observations of writer Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) whose advise haiku “Eat Food, mostly plants, not too much” expands into multiple topics about growing, gathering, cooking, eating food and recovering our health from some of it we have eaten.
One show is already at Rush tickets.
THE NEW ENVIRONMENTALISTS directed by the Mill Valley Film Group
The Mill Valley Film Group return with this year’s winners of The Goldman Environmental Prize and the show includes two other documentaries by John Antonelli including
“The Roots of ‘Ulu” about breadfruit in Hawaii and restoring a healthy diet among the native population.
NIETA directed by Nicolas Villarreal
This program of animation includes a short film by a member of the Academy of Art College faculty. Nieta is beautiful and tender and was a particular challenge for me to corral its hyper luminant colors inside a color space that can be projected or televised. This film is a good argument for the coming Ultra High Definition color gamut called REC 2020 for the non-civilians reading.
SURVIVING SKOKIE directed by Eli Adler and Blair Gershkow
Eli Adler is a Northern California cinematographer who one day was asked to film at Auschwitz. He told the filmmaker, “You have to hire me. My father was at Auschwitz”.
Eli has brought out the story of his father surviving World War Two, genocide of the Jews in Nazi death camps, and then the encounter with American Nazis marching in his new home Skokie, Illinois. Father and son return to Poland as part of the campaign to keep memory alive after the survivors are gone.
The festival includes some real gems I did not work on but I hope to see.
I recommend HOT TYPE directed by Barbara Kopple, about the Nation Magazine now in its150th year as a progressive publication.
Also, go see ROBERT BLY: A THOUSAND YEARS OF JOY, a film about the poet from Haydn Reiss.
Also of interest, A NEW COLOR: THE ART OF BEING EDYTHE BOONE, which was color graded by my colleague Heather Weaver.
The festival will have several panel discussions about the cinema as an industry in a series called Behind the Screens.