Arts & Events

What's Up, Docs? 15th SF Documentary Film Festival—June 2-16, 2016

Gar Smith
Thursday May 26, 2016 - 02:11:00 PM

The 15th San Francisco Documentary Film Festival (aka SF DocFest) is revving up its traditional rambunctious roster of party-nights and screenings DocFest with run for two weeks, from June 2-16. This year's line-up includes 32 premieres—including seven world premieres. Screenings are set for the Roxie Theater (16th & Valencia), Vogue Theater (Sacramento & Presidio) and Chinatown's newly restored Great Star Theater (Jackson & Kearny). 

Note: The following list of films is only a small selection of the DocFest's 45 feature-length and 50 short films from 16 countries. Complete information is available online at For more details, contact DocFest at 415-662-FEST or



Opening Night: Don't Call Them 'Surf Bunnies' 

Thursday, June 2 at 8PM at the Great Star Theater.  

This year's DocFest begins with a splash—the World Premiere of It Ain't Pretty, a big screen tribute to the female big wave surfers who are challenging what used to be a traditionally all-male sport by riding the breakers from Ocean Beach to Pacifica and Half Moon Bay. Local filmmaker Dayla Soul (and several of the women surfers who star in the film) will be on hand for the screening. Following the screening, there will be an after-party with the cast and crew. 


Vogue Opening Night Film – 14 Minutes from Earth 

Thursday, June 10 at 7:45PM at the Vogue Theater 

DocFest's opening treat at the historic Vogue Theater features the West Coast premiere of 14 Minutes from Earth, which documents an amazing, odd-ball adventure undertaken by a 57-year-old Google Executive named Alan Eustace. On October 24, 2014, Eustace climbed into a spacesuit and strapped himself to a ginormous balloon that slowly lifted him to the edge of space. And then Eustace took a "great leap for all Googlekind," plunging into nothingness for a 14-minute plunge back to Terra Firma. This now ranks as the world record for the highest flight and free fall human history. 

Centerpiece Film – Kate Plays Christine 

Thursday, June 9 at 7PM at Roxie Theater.  

This new film by 2013 DocFest award-winner Robert Greene, capped the Sundance Film Festival's Documentary Special Jury Award for Writing. Greene's lens shadows actress Kate Lyn Sheil as undertakes the grim challenge of portraying Christine Chubbuck, a TV news anchor who shocked viewers when she committed suicide—live, on air—in 1974. Greene is expected to be in attendance for the West Coast Premiere. 


Closing Night Film – Silicon Cowboys 

Thursday, June 16 at 7PM at Roxie Theater. 

Berkeley filmmaker and Academy Award nominee Jason Cohen's Silicon Cowboys has been selected for the closing screening. These "silicon cowboys" are a trio to Texas engineers who decided—kind of on a whim—to start a new business together. Their first idea was to open a Mexican restaurant. Their second idea was more momentous. They wound up creating the Compaq computer and, in the process nearly toppled IBM, whose computers previously ruled the 1980’s unchallenged. Cohen and some of the Texas "Davids" who challenged the Big Blue "Goliath" will be in attendance. 

Special One-of-a-Kind Cine-Parties 

Saturday, June 3: The Bawdy Caste—a live sing-a-long to the music of Rocky Horror Picture Show. At the Great Star. 

Sunday, June 4: Between the Beats—with some of the SF rave scene's best DJs. At the Great Star. 

Friday, June 10: Prince—Music video sing-a-long to commemorate the Artist Formerly Known As. At the Roxie. 

Saturday, June 11: The Principle—The Dark Room hosts a "Movie Roast" of a "notorious Sun-revolves-around-the-Earth doc." 

Local Filmmaker Highlights 


Daughters of the Forest by SF's Samantha Grant follows a band of youngsters from Paraguay's revolutionary Forest Girls School on their quest to discover how to protect one of the planet's most remote forests. 

San Francisco filmmaker/archivist Rick Prelinger's Lost Landscapes of Los Angeles, goes time-traveling via a rare collection of photo and video archives depicting the Los Angeles of the 1920’s-1960’s. 

Ken Kesey’s son Zane has directed Going Further, an ode to his father’s Prankster legacy. 

French filmmaker Charles Redon’s taut and fraught In California offers a visual and visceral autopsy of his troubled relationship with his ballerina girlfriend as she vies for a place on stage with the San Francisco Ballet. 

Finally, Taggart Siegel and his SF-based company Collective Eye present Seed: The Untold Story, with interviews that elevate the work of the dedicated eco-activists fighting the corporate agenda of Big Seed monopolists in hopes of safeguarding the planet's threatened crop diversity. 

Additional Highlights 

SF's Tracy Droz Tragos returns to DocFest with her HBO documentary Abortion: Stories Women Tell. 

Joey Skaggs, the godfather of the media hoax, is the subject of Andrea Marini’s Art of the Prank


Pablo Alvarez and Tony Massil capture the world of 80-year-old Frank Furko and his 20-pound performing house cat, Pudgie Wudgie, in Frank and the Wondercat

Melody Gilbert's The Summer Help, exposes the summertime travails of international students who flock to US resorts and tourist spots each summer to tidy hotel rooms, clean dishes and cook burritos for vacationing Americans. 

Josh Bishop's Made in Japan provides a peek into the world of Brooklyn artist (and Dungeons and Dragons entrepreneur) Stefan Pokorny in The Dwarvenaut

William Kirkley’s Orange Sunshine illuminates the untold tale of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a cult of hippy-surfers from Southern California that emerged as the world's largest supplier of psychedelic drugs. 

Shawn Stutler’s Rocky Horror Changed My Life steps into the lives of the die-hard "Time-Warp" devotees who have made the Rocky Horror Picture Show the longest-running movie in the history of the galaxy. 

And Jay Cheel captures the improbable tale of two inventors who become so obsessed with H.G. Well’s novel, The Time Machine, that they actually attempt to turn fiction into reality in How to Build a Time Machine

Musical Doc Spotlights 


Angela Boatwright’s Los Punks: We Are All We Have explores the punk rock subculture in the backyards of South Central and East Los Angeles. 

Shaun Colon’s A Fat Wreck is an inspirational salute to the SF-based music label, Fat Wreck Chords. 

Martin O’Brien’s world premiere of Between the Beats travels back to the 1990s when San Francisco was ground zero in the world of rave music. 

And Bobby J. Brown’s serves up a revealing behind-the-scenes/inside-the-band doc called Tear the Roof Off: The Untold Story of Parliament Funkadelic

Non-Fiction Vanguard Award: Sean Dunne 

Friday, June 3 at 7PM at Roxie Theater and the Bad Art Gallery 

"SF DocFest is proud to honor filmmaker Sean Dunne with its 2016 Non-Fiction Vanguard Award. As both a documentary filmmaker and internet phenom, Brooklyn-based Sean Dunne has built a burgeoning reputation for himself with a series of web distributed short and feature films that have demonstrated a strong visual sense and a fascination with everyday people and the extraordinary stories that exist all around us. 

"This award is a celebration of that attitude and Sean Dunne's films that have their own off-beat approach to documenting the human condition. Filming in a guerrilla-style, his interviews have a strangely intimate style as he delves deep into the lives of his subjects that could be categorized as living on the fringes of society. However, his films don't view his subjects as "fringe" and it is instead his empathy and rapport with them that is evident in the (sometimes shockingly) open manner of his subjects on screen." 

Saturday, June 4 at 12PM at Roxie Theater.  

DocFest is screening Dunne’s feature-length doc, Cam Girlz, an intimate exploration of the world of webcam sex workers that reveals the unexpected perks of being a stay-at-home escort. 

Saturday, June 3 at 7PM at Roxie Theater.  

A retrospective of Dunne’s short films—including Trump Rally (2016), Florida Man (2015), The Archive (2011), The Bowler (2010), and Man in Van (2009) will be presented the day before the Cam Girlz screeing. 


General Information about DocFest 

Regular tickets: 12/advance, $13/at the door. All access DocPass: $200. 

For more information visit or contact DocFest at 415-662-FEST or