"Earth" is an experimental documentary that illustrates how excavators convert topography for different purposes. (Photo courtesy of KimStim)

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With some of the best nationwide film festivals canceled or moving to late summer or fall in the Bay Area, indie filmmakers could use some support. So let’s watch their movies.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bay City News Foundation will put forth five recommendations from documentaries to narratives, and even shorts, that have Bay Area ties.

This week — in honor of Earth Day (April 22) — we spotlight documentaries related to our environment and natural world, including one that while not having local connections, does benefit a Bay Area independent theater.


“Leaning into the Wind”: Filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer’s 2002 documentary “Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working with Time” nurtured us with its transcendental pilgrimage into the world and meditative work of nature artist Goldsworthy. Rideselsheimer reunited with Goldsworthy for this enriching 2018 overview of Goldsworthy’s most recent projects — including one at San Francisco ‘s Presidio — while also creating a portrait of an artist in his later years. A beautiful piece of filmmaking. (Available on various platforms.). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQYGbfVfpm0


“Earth”: This intriguing, distinctive documentary insightfully surveys excavators, miners and builders from throughout the globe as they work on projects that reshape and change terra firma to better suit “progress” and — in one case — try to prevent more environmental and potential public harm. The prize-winning documentary from Nikolaus Geyrhalter exposes the hazards of altering Earth through its stark visuals and concise interviews. (Virtual screening to benefit the Roxie, https://vimeo.com/ondemand/earthroxie.)


“The Story of Plastic”: San Francisco filmmaker Deia Schlosberg delves into one of the gravest environmental concerns of today — plastic — and what viable next steps are needed to reduce the globe’s suffocating addiction to it. This eye-opener received its world premiere at last year’s Mill Valley Film Festival and will air at 2 p.m. April 22 on the Discovery Channel. It gets the job done, convincing us that we need to find better solutions and find them now. https://www.storyofplastic.org/ 


“The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”: If you’re in need of an uplifter that celebrates connections with nature, Judy Irving’s beloved 2003 film is a must. Irving follows San Francisco musician Mark Bittner, and his close attachment to South American parrots roosting in his neighborhood and how that relationship with the colorful birds broadens and enriches his life. Expect to get a lump the size of a boulder in your throat. (Available via Kanopy.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6Ob4-s4Xms


“Guardian” is an evocatively photographed documentary about a vanishing profession to catalog the number of salmon. (Image courtesy of Courtney Quirin)

“Guardian”: With its stunning cinematography of the breathtaking British Columbia coastline combined with the personal accounts from the two people cataloging the sparse salmon numbers there, San Francisco-based documentarian Courtney Quirin sends an alarming and sobering view of the dwindling counts. As those figures dovetail,  two old-school “guardians” solider on, realizing their jobs are as endangered as the species they’re counting. It’s a gorgeous film about a fading practice that preserves and protects the natural world and is a casualty of shifting political winds. (Available on various platforms.). https://www.guardianthedoc.com/watch-the-trailer.html