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San Francisco Film Society Jumps Into Documentary Awards Fray

San Francisco Film Society Jumps Into Documentary Awards Fray

While November’s DOC NYC has announced its full program and influential Shortlist of 15, on the other coast the San Francisco Film Society is curating its own doc program. The inaugural Doc Stories Festival will celebrate the year’s best long and short docs for four days, November 5-8, at the Vogue Theatre. 

The lineup ranges from new, unreleased films to breakouts from the festival circuit. Nearly every screening will include filmmakers and guest Q & As. Doc Stories is presented with support from HBO Documentary Films, Catapult Film Fund and Chicken & Egg Pictures. 
“The historical strength of the Bay Area in documentary filmmaking is a known fact to most industry professionals,” stated SFFS Executive Director Noah Cowan. “Doc Stories is an opportunity to help organize that community and inspire audiences through this vital art form. While the weekend will primarily focus on key films destined for awards consideration, we will also explore developing trends in the field, especially the rise of short form journalism, and gather together the major funders of the region to discuss opportunities for collaboration and how we want the future of documentary filmmaking to bloom.”
Alongside the features, Doc Stories will include a number of short films, including the opening night program of New York Times Op-Docs and “Profiles in Courage: Short Documentaries from HBO,” as well as an early look at work from Laura Poitras’s Field of Vision indie filmmaking unit. “The confluence of journalism, filmmaking and technology that makes San Francisco so vibrant and important to contemporary culture is also a huge driver of Field of Vision,” said Poitras. 
Doc Stories will also feature a one day private Doc Congress, a workshop gathering for a number of documentary funders to discuss emerging trends in the field, present case studies and explore best practices in the current challenging documentary financing and distribution landscape. “The San Francisco Film Society’s Doc Congress represents a wonderful opportunity to dig in and explore to this dynamic ecosystem,” said Simon Kilmurry, Executive Director of the International Documentary Association. 
Here’s the program:

6:15 pm  New York Times Op-Docs  OPENING NIGHT
Filmmakers in conversation with Op-Docs series producer Kathleen Lingo
The New York Times, perhaps the world’s most influential and important media company, has been creating short-form content since 2011 and has also been especially supportive of Bay Area filmmakers. This program runs the gamut from Pentecostal preachers to klezmer-playing Holocaust survivors and celebrates this exceptional fusion of groundbreaking journalism and inspirational documentary filmmaking. (70 min)
8:30 pm  Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom 
Evgeny Afineevsky (Ukraine/USA/UK 2015, 102 min)
This on-the-ground document of the Ukrainian civic uprising that resulted in the departure of President Viktor Yanukovych melds startling footage of events as they unfold with subsequent testimonials from witnesses and participants to create a visceral portrait of historic events and some of the individuals who made up a popular movement. Director Evgeny Afineevsky skillfully manages multiple perspectives and stories to create a coherent and vital rendering of history unfolding moment to moment. 
6:30 pm  Song of Lahore 
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Andy Schocken (USA/Pakistan 2015, 82 min)  Director and special guests in person
Pakistan’s Sachel Studios was founded in 2004 in an attempt to preserve and revive centuries-old musical traditions that faced extinction after the imposition of Sharia law in the ‘70s and more current Taliban pressure discouraging musical performance. When a video of the group’s version of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” performed on traditional Pakistani instruments goes viral online, they get a chance to gain the kind of acclaim that Lahore’s musicians once enjoyed. 
9:15 pm  What Happened, Miss Simone? 
Liz Garbus (USA 2014, 102 min)  Director and special guest in person
After its glorious reception at SFIFF58, the Film Society offers another opportunity to see this extraordinary documentary on the big screen. A full biography filled with candid conversations, interviews, letters and performances, this film is the definitive take on Nina Simone’s life. Paying special attention to her career-jeopardizing choices during the Civil Rights movement and her insistence on justice and unflinching when presenting her surprising weaknesses, What Happened, Miss Simone? is a fitting portrait of an inimitable and powerful artist. 
1:00 pm  Cartel Land 
Matthew Heineman (USA/Mexico 2015, 100 min)  Director and special guests in person
This bold film gives extraordinary access to dangerous and sometimes deadly skirmishes in the Mexico–US drug wars, following vigilante groups on either side of the border as they empower themselves to take action against drug cartels that they feel are endangering their everyday lives. A vivid and sometimes brutal portrait of citizens motivated to take the law into their own hands, Cartel Land reveals fault lines and grey areas in every aspect of the conflict.
4:00 pm  A Conversation with Davis Guggenheim  
Academy Award–winning documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim will participate in an intimate onstage conversation about his documentary work and current film, He Named Me Malala, an intimate portrait of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai and her fight for the rights of girls around the world. Guggenheim has directed some of the most successful documentaries of the last decade and this will be a rare opportunity to hear about his approach to his craft, and thoughts about the documentary form. (70 min)
6:00 pm  Field of Vision  
Series producer AJ Schnack in person
Launched in late September, Field of Vision is a new film unit committed to artistically thoughtful documentaries, rooted in investigative journalism. Created by Oscar winner Laura Poitras (Citizenfour), AJ Schnack (Caucus) and Charlotte Cook, Field of Vision will pair filmmakers with developing and ongoing stories around the globe. Join co-creator AJ Schnack for a selection of original films from the inaugural season and a conversation about the series’ creation and the current state of short-form documentary. (TRT 90 min)
8:30 pm  Janis: Little Girl Blue 
Amy Berg (USA 2015, 106 min)  Director and special guests in person
Most of us are familiar with the iconic Janis Joplin, troubled wild child of the San Francisco music scene of the ‘60s who died tragically of an overdose at the age of 27. Amy Berg goes beyond the legend to present an intimate portrait of a complicated artist, weaving archival material—some of it never seen before—with compelling interviews and Joplin’s reflective letters to friends and family, read with a bright sweetness by Chan Marshall (Cat Power). 
11:30 am  Profiles in Courage: Short Documentaries from HBO  
Filmmakers in person
Ebola in Liberia, LGBT rights in Cuba, a brave Nepalese couple seeking to regain their eyesight. HBO has long been the acknowledged leader in the documentary world, and never more so than now. These inspiring short films—all strong contenders for the Academy’s short list for short documentary films—show the unique global perspective and entertaining storytelling style that make HBO such an important contributor to film culture. (TRT 93 min)
2:00 pm  Thank You for Playing 
David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall (USA 2015, 82 min)  Co-directors in person
When video game developer Ryan Green’s very young son Joel is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, he turns to what he knows best to combat his family’s emotional upheaval—he creates a game. With great emotional power, co-directors David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall create an intimate space for their heart-rending documentary that demonstrates how art and technology can help process grief and combat the various dragons everyone must try to slay. 
4:30 pm  Hitchcock/Truffaut 
Kent Jones (France/USA 2015, 80 min)  Director in person
One of cinema’s most influential books is brought vividly to life in Kent Jones’s enjoyable and expertly constructed documentary that illuminates the careers of and relationship between two of cinema’s greats, Alfred Hitchcock and François Truffaut. Featuring audio recordings of the interview between the two masters, gorgeous film clips and interviews with directors such as Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Olivier Assayas and Martin Scorsese, this is essential viewing for any lover of cinema. 
7:00 pm  Heart of a Dog  CLOSING NIGHT
Laurie Anderson (USA 2015, 75 min)  Director in person
Laurie Anderson’s playful essay film is nominally a tribute to her rat terrier, Lolabelle. In her inimitable way, Anderson takes this canine paean as her center and folds in a world of moving, funny and salient ideas about life, death, love, truth, memory, Buddhism and our four-legged soul mates. Skillfully weaving personal memories with inspired connections to current events and philosophy, Anderson creates a funny and moving meditation for dog lovers and other humans. 

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