David Lynch, Russian Drivers, And Manual Typewriters

Watching director David Lynch at work on Blue Velvet is one of the joys offered by this year’s edition of the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival. Even if you’re not a David Lynch fan, the festival still has over ten days of intriguing films that are worth catching.

Besides the David Lynch film, here are nine other suggestions for films to check out. They include documentaries about a treasure trove in the Rocky Mountains, a working vacation that turns into an endurance test, and a film that’ll make you think three times about driving on Russia’s roads.

Blue Velvet Revisited

In 1985, young German filmmaker Peter Braatz accepted an invitation from director David Lynch to document the making of Lynch’s new project, Blue Velvet. Given unrestricted access, Braatz compiled hours of behind-the-scenes footage. While some of Braatz’ footage eventually wound up in a limited distribution documentary, the majority (70%) has never been seen until now. Under a score composed and performed by Cult With No Name, Tuxedomoon, and John Foxx, take an impressionistic behind the camera look at one of the 1980s’ greatest films and its director, David Lynch.

Bogalusa Charm

Director Steve Richardson crafted this cinematic look at his hometown of Bogalusa, Louisiana. The town’s residents call it a “stink town” thanks to the paper mill that’s the town’s major employer. But Bogalusa’s thorny history also includes Jim Crow-era racial segregation. Yet the film’s also a tribute to the people happy to call Bogalusa home. They include a woman who’s run a charm school for ladies for 27 years, the salty-tongued owner of a roadhouse, and old fans of the town’s football team.

California Typewriter

In the digital age, is the manual typewriter outdated tech? Doug Nichol’s film wittily argues for the revolution being typewritten. The film intertwines three stories: those of a Berkeley repair shop, a Canadian typewriter collector, and a Bay Area artist. In addition, manual typewriter devotees such as Tom Hanks, Sam Shepard, and David Mc Cullough sing the praises of the tool. Nichol’s documentary is a paean to the joyfully noisy rhythmic collision of metal, ink, and paper.

Hotel Coolgardie

Are there some authentic experiences that are worth passing on? Finnish travelers Lina and Steph take a three month job tending bar at the Hotel Coolgardie to replenish stolen travel funds and live among the locals. But the Australian outback bar lies halfway between the country’s largest gold pit and an incredibly isolated city. What begins as a lark soon turns into an endurance test for the two Finns. When they’re not dealing with their boss’ putdowns, they have to fend off sexual advances from the local men. Being in the middle of nowhere soon goes from a novelty to a possibly big mistake.

The Lure

Errol Morris executive produced this true tale of 21st century treasure hunting. In 2010, eccentric millionaire and art dealer Forrest Fenn buried a treasure cache worth millions somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The Fenn Treasure was up for grabs to whoever could find it. The only clues to its location lay in a cryptic poem. Tens of thousands of people have searched for the treasure, but not all of them are motivated by avarice.

The Reagan Show

Relive the Reagan presidency through this compilation of archival footage. See how a former actor took on the biggest role of his career: Leader of the Free World. Whether you admire Reagan or damn him, the viewer will admit how thin the line can be between showmanship and politics.

The Road Movie

Daylight robberies in the middle of gridlocked traffic, threatened road rage via sledgehammer, and driving through a raging forest fire: these are some of the sights captured on Russian drivers’ dash-cams. Director Dmitrii Kalashnikov assembled this film from dash-cam footage uploaded to YouTube. The results paint a sometimes absurd, sometimes horrifying but frequently profanity-laden portrait of life on Russia’s highways.


The inhabitants of a tiny hill town in Tuscany have for decades have a unique way of dealing with town issues. Every summer, they put on a play in the town piazza where they play themselves and dramatize the latest town crisis. Everything from near-annihilation by the Nazis to increasing commercialization of their land has been dramatized over the years. But in an age of digital connection, will this tradition continue?

True Conviction

The new film from DocFest Nonfiction Vanguard Award recipient Jamie Meltzer follows an unusual Dallas, Texas detective agency. Its three founders are innocent men who served decades in prison before being exonerated of their crimes. Their agency takes on cases of men who have been wrongfully imprisoned. Meltzer’s film not only looks at the agency’s struggles against the Texas criminal justice system, but also the detectives’ own personal struggles. (Note: This writer helped Kickstart this film into existence.)

The Work

The DocFest Centerpiece film’s setup is as spare as its title. Viewers are in a single room inside Folsom State Prison. Three men from the outside facilitate a four-day group therapy retreat with a group of Level Four prisoners. Each prisoner will take turns doing a public deep dive into their past. The rawness and revelation of the prisoners’ journeys affect the free men and will challenge viewers’ ideas about the nature of rehabilitation.

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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