Documentary

Blurry portrait

'Llyn Foulkes One Man Band' takes on an inscrutable artist

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Frameline leftovers: Audience Award-winning Barney Frank doc 'Compared to What'

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Pride's Pink Saturday offered a dynamic final morning of the massive 38th annual Frameline, the world’s largest film festival devoted to LGBT films. Compared to What: The Improbable Journey of Barney Frank, a doc that gives an intimate look into the private and political life of the recently retired iconic Congressman, screened to a packed and cheering crowd at the Castro Theater.

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Inspiring doc 'Keeper of the Beat: A Woman's Journey into the Heart of Drumming' airs on KQED

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“I would get the comment ‘Gosh, you play really good for a girl,’” Barbara Borden admits in the introduction of Keeper of the Beat, which chronicles her lifelong passion for drumming. The documentary, by San Francisco's David L. Brown, airs Sun/6 on KQED

The Always brand's empowering #LikeAGirl ad campaign made the rounds on the internet this week, but Borden’s musical sojourn, discouraged for a female at the time, is decidedly more inspiring (especially since it’s delivered by a badass drummer and not a corporation). 

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Puff piece

Music-manager doc 'Supermensch' doth gush too much

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Sometimes a movie can only be called a gift — a gift intended for somebody other than the viewer. Clearly a film is a vanity project if its primary intent seems to flatter its maker. But what about when it's a love letter from one rich, entitled celebrity to another? Then the vanity grows complicated, not least by the fact that we're expected to pay for the privilege of watching one ass kiss another.Read more »

Home brew

New docs probe where the heart is — and isn't

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cheryl@sfbg.com

FILM Jose Antonio Vargas' grandparents — who raised him in Mountain View after he was smuggled into America at age 12 from the Philippines — expected him to grow up, blend in, and live a perfectly ordinary life in his new country. He'd work a "menial job," as both of them had, and eventually legalize his immigration status by marrying an American woman.Read more »

Life through the lens

Ross McElwee brings 'Photographic Memory' to the PFA

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Lost in space

A new doc reveals 'the greatest film never made' -- Jodorowsky's 'Dune'

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FILM It's so seldom a film of major scale and budget is made without at least some standard commercial aspirations — however misguided — that the rare exceptions seem as curious, improbable, and wonderful as unicorns. (And about as useless, any bottom-line-oriented producer might say.) We're not talking Heaven's Gate (1980), Ishtar (1987), or Battlefield EarthRead more »

Shooting straight

An actor prepares for several comebacks in 'Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me'

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Constructing change

Despite bureaucratic frustrations, an innovative high-school program elevates lives in 'If You Build It'

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arts@sfbg.com

FILM Two of the most deep-rooted national-character-defining American tropes are a) that we are a profoundly self-reliant people, and b) the Horatio Alger myth that anyone can go from "rags to riches" if they have a good heart and a tireless work ethic.Read more »

Brutal murder, wrenching trial: HBO's must-see doc "The Cheshire Murders"

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It was, people said, Connecticut's version of the In Cold Blood murders. In July 2007, Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, 11-year-old Michaela and 17-year-old Hayley, were murdered by a pair of strangers — Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky, who'd picked the family at random — while patriarch William Petit lay bound and beaten in the basement of their suburban home. He survived; the women perished either at the hands of their attackers or in the fire the men set to cover their tracks.

Clearly, the bare facts of the case — which took place in Cheshire, Conn., a bedroom community near New York City — are horrific enough, without considering any of its other elements. But The Cheshire Murders, created for HBO's Summer Documentary Series by married filmmaking team Kate Davis and David Heilbroner (2010's Stonewall Uprising), reveals that the deaths may have been preventable if only police had intervened; a frantic bank teller dialed 911 after observing a frightened Jennifer Petit withdrawing a large sum of money for the waiting Hayes. Or, perhaps the family would have been spared if Komisarjevsky and Hayes, men with long rap sheets, had been more closely monitored by their parole officers and drug counselors — or had received better mental-health care during their respective troubled childhoods.

But all the "what if" scenarios in the world can't restore three lives — or fill the void felt by those they left behind. Using revealing interviews that explore the many facets of the case, deft editing, and a sensitive yet questioning tone, The Cheshire Murders is a both thought-provoking and disturbing viewing experience. I spoke with Davis and Heilbroner ahead of the film's Mon/22 HBO debut. Read more »