Google Executive Sets World Record

A Google executive who sets a world record by breaking the sound barrier is just one subject of the documentaries screening during the second week of the 15th S.F. Documentary Film Festival (aka S.F. DocFest). Aside from the free-falling man from Google, there are other interesting subjects among the 10 films worth checking out in this year’s S.F. DocFest’s second half.

For example, you can meet competitive duck stamp painters in the Slamdance award-winning The Million Dollar Duck. Or hang out with a man who’s stolen and safely driven subway trains and buses for 35 years in Off The Rails. Or follow a group of women whose small scam is an excuse for politically motivated socializing in Cinequest award-winner The Promised Band.

Whatever you choose to check out among these suggestions, get set to enter worlds you might not think to Google about.

14 Minutes From Earth

On October 24, 2014, 57-year-old Google executive Alan Eustace set the world record for highest human flight and free fall. Accomplishing this feat involved a space suit, a football field-sized balloon, and a sound barrier-breaking 14-minute descent to Earth. This is the story of how Eustace accomplished this world record.

Screens at the Vogue Theatre on June 10 and the Roxie Theatre on June 16

Art Of The Prank

If you wonder whether mainstream media has always been gullible, you need to meet legendary countercultural media prankster Joey Skaggs. Andrea Marini’s entertaining and sometimes jaw-dropping portrait of Skaggs brings back such classic Skaggs hoaxes as the Cathouse for Dogs and the mobile Catholic confession booth. In the present day, Skaggs tries to stage a hoax involving the film festival circuit. Whatever prank Skaggs and friends pulls off, you can be sure it’ll be inventively realized.

Screens June 8 at the Roxie Theatre

The Hollywood Shorties

The Hollywood Shorties was more than the name of a basketball team consisting solely of dwarf actors familiar from film and television. It was a place for these actors to publicly gather in a group. More importantly, this team’s eventual Harlem Globetrotters-like fame would publicly redefine dwarves as more than curiosities.

Screens June 12 and 14 at the Roxie Theatre and June 16 at the Vogue Theatre


Maisie Crow’s powerful documentary offers a 360-degree view of the issues surrounding abortion as it plays out in Mississippi. There’s the state’s sole abortion clinic, struggling to serve its clientele despite anti-abortion protester harassment and laws aimed at impeding the right to abortion. There’s the struggle as seen from the viewpoint of anti-abortion activist Barbara Beavers, who runs a crisis pregnancy center that plays fast and loose with the truth. Finally, there’s April Jackson, a young mother who faces the possiblity of struggling to care for five children if she refuses to have an abortion.

Screens June 8 and 12 at the Roxie Theatre

Kate Plays Christine

One of DocFest’s highlights is Robert Greene’s Sundance award-winning deconstruction of Florida newswoman Christine Chubbick’s notorious on-air suicide. Actress Kate Lyn Sheil is preparing for the role of the ill-fated newswoman by researching Chubbick’s past. But as Sheil meets Chubbick’s co-workers and researches old newspaper accounts, it soon becomes clear how little is truly understood about Chubbick’s act. A fascinating study of both the actor at work and the difficulties of comprehending the past.

Screens June 9 at the Roxie Theatre

Los Punks: We Are All We Have

In the backyards of South Central and East Los Angeles, punk rock is very definitely not dead. Angela Boatwright’s film takes viewers inside this thriving subculture of mosh pits and bands. The viewer meets the Hispanic teens and young adults from different family and social backgrounds who bond together over this thrashing music.

Screens June 11 and 15 at the Roxie Theatre

Lost Landscapes Of Los Angeles — Live!

Archivist Rick Prelinger goes south of San Francisco to the City of Angels for his new collection of lost landscapes. Using home movies and studio outtakes, Prelinger’s presentation takes viewers back to now-vanished sites of 20th century Los Angeles. Audience members are encouraged to discuss what particular landscape or event is captured in the footage Prelinger presents.

Screens June 14 at the Roxie Theatre

The Million Dollar Duck

Google the Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest, and you’ll learn it’s both an effective conservation tool and the U.S. government’s only juried art competition. Watch Brian Davis’ entertaining and even suspenseful documentary, and you’ll meet some of the sometimes quirky folks who take part in the annual competition. These subjects include a trio of brothers who’ve won previous Duck Stamp contests, a decidedly non-representational duck artist, and a woman working in the shadow of her successful painting dog. Winner of both the Jury and Audience Awards for Best Documentary at the 2016 Slamdance Film Festival.

Screens June 8 at the Roxie Theatre and June 11 at the Vogue Theatre

Off The Rails

Darius Mc Collum has earned a reputation as New York City’s transit thief. For 35 years, he has impersonated MTA staff and driven buses and subway trains. At the root of Mc Collum’s acts are two factors: his Asperger’s syndrome and the way the transit system became his safe place in a hostile world. But after having arrested and imprisoned Mc Collum over 30 times, the New York criminal justice system seems no closer to stopping or dealing with the man’s transit thefts.

Screens June 12 at the Roxie Theatre and June 14 at the Vogue Theatre

The Promised Band

How can forming a band be an avenue into exploring Israeli-Palestinian tensions? In Jen Heck’s Cinequest award-winner, the answer comes via a project of Heck’s to get Israeli and Palestinian women to socialize with each other. How the band fits into this project is a testament to the difficulties of overcoming what feels like insurmountable social and political barriers to lowering hostilities between Arabs and Jews.

Screens June 11 at the Vogue Theatre

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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