“For its 12th edition, the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival aka SF DocFest has chosen to withdraw from the Bay Area’s cramped autumn festival calendar and relocate to a spacious sweet spot in between the SF International Film Fest and Frameline,” begins Michael Hawley, who previews a good handful of the festival’s 40 features (there’ll also be three programs of shorts).
Among them is the closing night film, Cullen Hoback’s Terms and Conditions May Apply. “This unnerving exposé on internet privacy and personal data abuse begins with a look at those interminable ‘Terms of Service’ agreements we all click to ‘agree’ without reading. In a cogent and entertaining fashion, Hoback’s film shows how those clicks, combined with a lobbyist-influenced Congress and de-anonymization have dragged us into the chilling era we’re stuck in today. Facebook is now the C.I.A.’s biggest information source and the film’s inarguable conclusion is that any notion of online or telecommunications privacy is officially d-e-a-d.”
The festival opens tonight with Steve Brown and Jessie Deeter’s Spark: A Burning Man Story and, in his big cover story for the Bay Guardian, Steven T. Jones asks, “is this interesting and visually spectacular (if slightly hagiographic) film at least partially intended to shore up popular support for the leadership of Burning Man as the founders cash out of Black Rock City LLC and supposedly begin to transfer more control to a new nonprofit entity?”
Among the docs Cheryl Eddy previews in her SFBG overview is Vivienne Roumani’s Out of Print, “which packs a lot of information into its 55-minute running time. There’s the expected discussion of how self-publishing online has upended the traditional publishing world, but also thoughtful investigations of the importance of libraries, of fair-use access versus copyright laws, and of how reading short snippets online is actually changing the way our brains learn. Chillingly, the film sits down with a group of teenagers repulsed by the idea of library research. Like, who has time to read an entire book on a single subject? ‘I’d rather just Google it,’ one kid shrugs. (That sound you hear is the concept of critical thinking dying a slow, agonizing death.) And it’s not just kids: the film cites a statistic that one out of every four American adults did not read a book in any format in 2012.”
And Caitlin Donohue previews Simone Jude’s Public Sex, Private Lives: “Though it will be judged as such by mainstream audience (not necessarily a bad thing), this is not a documentary on Kink.com, or BDSM porn, or porn at all…. PSPL emerges not as a love letter to, or exposé of, rough sex on camera, but rather a portrait of three extraordinary women, whose singularity dictated, rather than resulted from, their career path.”
“Connectedness is definitely a theme of this year’s fest,” writes Jonathan Kiefer for the SF Weekly. “While Sausalito director David Ainley’s The Last Ocean explores the troubled relationship between commercial fishing and the marine ecosystem, Oakland director Emily Wick’s Life with Alex explores the scientific and emotional value of interspecies communication…. And, from Stanford professor Jan Krawitz’s Perfect Strangers, a chronicle of kidney donation, to Running for Jim, a portrait of a local cross-country coach with Lou Gehrig’s disease, it becomes clear that DocFest doesn’t skimp on stories of bravery in the face of affliction. Which, perversely, reminds us: Dying is easy; comedy is hard. Marriage is harder. Kate Schermerhorn’s After Happily Ever After: A Film About Marriage is recommended.”