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With some of the best nationwide film festivals canceled or moving to late summer or fall in the Bay Area, regional indie filmmakers could use support. So let’s watch their movies.
Bay City News Service will put forth five recommendations from documentaries to narratives, and even on to shorts throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
What’s the only requirement? That they’re from Bay Area filmmakers.
“The Rescue List”: San Francisco documentary filmmakers Alyssa Fedele and Zachary Fink shadow the rehabilitation of a group of boys sold — often by their parents — and enslaved to fishermen along Ghana’s Lake Volta. Grippingly told and evocatively shot, the co-directors delve into the boys’ lives as well as the lead rescuer’s harrowing but inspiring backstory — of escaping and then helping others befalling his same childhood fate. Kwame is a true hero. (Available to watch for free as part of PBS’s POV at http://www.pbs.org/pov/watch/rescuelist/video-the-rescue-list/.)
“Searching”: Haven’t had your fill of staring at computer screens? You’re in luck. Former San Jose resident Aneesh Chaganty’s clever Hitchockian pulse pounder for the digital age will more than satisfy. Using only computer screens to relate its twisty tale, the much-hailed “Searching” follows a distraught father (John Cho, in an award-worthy performance) looking for internet clues on what happened to his missing 16-year-old daughter. It will keep you guessing until the end. (Available through Starz and other platforms.)
“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”: One of the best films of 2019 is a lyrical, haunting drama thrumming with a stage-like rhythm as it hits topical dramatic beats on gentrification and racism. Elegantly written, directed and acted, San Francisco filmmaker Joe Talbot’s feature debut memorably plumbs the reality of a San Francisco man (S.F.’s Jimmie Fails) and his buddy (Jonathan Majors) as they take drastic means to return to a family home. (Available on Amazon Prime and various platforms.)
“Sorry to Bother You”: Should you think today’s reality is so crazy and surreal, consider what Oakland filmmaker and musician Boots Riley cooks up. His absurdist cinematic experience — with bows to Anthony Burgess and Kurt Vonnegut — finds an Oakland telemarketer (the versatile LaKeith Stanfield) adopting a “white” voice and becoming a sensation. It’s weird, inventive and wildly unpredictable. (Available on various platforms for a pittance.)
“Life Overtakes Me”: It might be short (around 40 minutes), but San Francisco documentary filmmakers Kristine Samuelson and John Haptas fully immerse audiences into the lives of refugee families relocating in Sweden where their children fall into a fugue, coma-like state due to the horrors they’ve experienced. It’s harrowing to watch, but this Oscar nominee does offer hope, and it’s beautifully filmed. (Netflix)