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Docfest Offers Severed Foot Fight & More

Think documentaries are only the cold boring things you see on the major broadcast networks or PBS? Then you need to check out the 14th edition of the amazing San Francisco Documentary Film Festival (aka DocFest). The festival comes from the same folks who do the San Francisco Independent Film Festival and the Another Hole In The Head Film Festival, so quirkiness is part of the DocFest curatorial DNA. This year’s festival has already started with a tribute to the late great Tower Records directed by Colin Hanks, aka Tom Hanks’ son. But DocFest continues until June 18 at the Roxie and Vogue Theaters. Here are some suggestions on what to catch.

(T)error–The DocFest Closing Night film and Sundance Jury Prize winner takes viewers into the world of an anonymous undercover FBI operative who’s both informant and agent provocateur. Unfortunately for him, he soons find himself squeezed between the consequences of past secrets and FBI handler pressure.

Batkid Begins–If you didn’t make it down to Cinequest for the Bay Area premiere of this film about the incredible wish-come-true for young Miles Scott, now’s your chance to see the behind-the-scenes story of how San Francisco got turned into Gotham City for a day. Catch this touching film before its theatrical release and the in-production Hollywood fictionalization.

Danny Says–Danny Fields went from being a Phi Beta Kappa whiz-kid to a punk pioneer. Along the way, his taste and opinions regarding rock and punk eventually put him way ahead of his contemporaries’ cultural curve. His life involved encounters with Lou Reed, the Ramones, the Doors, and even Andy Warhol. Meet the man whose ear for the future of rock and punk proved prescient.

Finders Keepers–The DocFest Centerpiece film concerns a man who discovers the used barbecue grill he bought at a North Carolina auction contains a severed human foot. Before he can cash in on the media frenzy surrounding his discovery, a struggling addict and amputee recognizes the foot as belonging to him and wants it back.

I Am Thor–Not a portrait of the Marvel Comics character, this is instead a portrait of Jon Miki Thor. The ex-bodybuilder frontman for the 1970s – 1980s theatrical rock band Thor, he never tasted rock stardom before he retired. A decade of a highly unsatisfying normal life later, Thor decides to mount a comeback which he hopes will finally win him the fame that eluded him earlier in life.

In Country–You’ve probably heard of or seen Civil War or Revolutionary War re-enacters. But you probably haven’t encountered Vietnam War re-enacters until now. Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara’s film introduces you to the Iraq War veterans, combat enthusiasts, and even a former South Vietnamese Army officer who deliberately re-live this unpopular war.

Made In Japan–A Japanese country-western singer may sound like a weird joke. But as Josh Bishop’s heartwarming offering in DocFest’s Music Showcase section shows, subject Tomi Fujiyama is very much the real singing deal. In fact, Fujiyama has been dubbed Japan’s Queen of Country-Western. Now her fondest wish is to make a return appearance on the Grand Ol’ Opry stage nearly five decades later.

The Sandwich Nazi–Salam Kahil, the titular sandwich fascist, may sound like a real-life version of “Seinfeld”‘s notorious Soup Nazi. Rude customers and customers who talk on cellphones in Kahil’s store will have no sandwiches made for them. But does the Soup Nazi also pepper his food-making with sex-heavy anecdotes? Kahil does, as he used to be a Lebanese sex hustler. But this film goes into more serious territory than Kahil’s talking about sex.

Sympathy For The Devil – The True Story of the Process Church of the Final Judgment–A documentary portrait of a church that’s been the source of endless conspiracy theories given their worship of both Christ and Satan. The Process has been allegedly linked to everything from the Charles Manson killings to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Now former church members take viewers inside the history of the church and reveal its secrets.

Three To Infinity: Beyond Two Genders–What if transgender was not the outer limit of thinking about the issue of gender? Lonny Shavelson’s DocFest offering introduces viewers to the world of genderqueers, gender neutrals, and other ways of thinking about and living with gender that will expand the audience’s mental boundaries beyond the male-female dynamic. Well, maybe not the mental boundaries of the Mike Huckabees of the world, which are permanently sealed off.

Readers may want to check out these or some of DocFest’s other offerings. Whether they choose to rock out at the Prince sing-a-long show or learn the story of a plow horse transformed into an award-winning show jumper (Harry And Snowman), the realities captured in DocFest’s films will prove more entertaining or original than the usual Hollywood test-marketed pablum.

For readers seeking more information about DocFest films and obtaining advance tickets, go here.

About the Author

I'm a film reviewer for the Beyond Chron blog. Agnes Varda and Hirokazu Kore-eda are among my favorite filmmakers. I occasionally break down and watch a good action film...but don't tell anyone.

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