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With some of the best nationwide film festivals canceled or moving to the late summer or fall in the Bay Area, regional indie filmmakers could use support. So let’s watch their movies.
Bay City News Foundation will put forth five recommendations from documentaries to narratives, and even shorts. What’s the only requirement? That they have Bay Area ties.
“Spaceship Earth”: San Jose native Matt Wolf defies expectations with his documentary about the intrepid band of dreamers involved in the Biosphere terrarium experiment in Arizona. Rather than make a jaundiced overview of the beleaguered project and make his subjects resemble inept buffoons, “Earth” highlights how these smart creative types attempted to create something gloriously grand, even if it failed. With archival footage shot in Oakland and San Francisco, Wolf gives life to these colorful, eccentric characters. It’s one of the best documentaries of 2020 and echoes shelter-in-place orders we know well. (On various platforms and at drive-ins)
“Audrie & Daisy”: The destructive wildfire effect of social media and how it can devastate young lives are the emphasis of San Francisco documentary filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk award winner. Their film tells two true stories — a tragic one about South Bay teen Audrie Pott and another about Missouri teen Daisy Coleman that had a happier conclusion. Powerful and needed. (Streaming on Netflix)
“Crisis Hotline”: San Jose filmmaker Mark Schwab’s low-budget erotic thriller exposes the grim underbelly of the internet and effectively does so with a nice blend of noirish cinematography and shocking plot turns. It’s gripping from the get-go as a desperate man calls a LGBTQ suicide hotline and during the conversation flashes back to how a Silicon Valley transplant (Christian Gabriel) from Nebraska falls for a hot guy (Pano Tsaklas) with money and secrets. It’s too long, but lures you into its disturbing lair. (On various platforms, including YouTube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HBAss2g0bQ
“Saving Face”: Did you fall in love — and who hasn’t? — with San Francisco filmmaker Alice Wu’s superior rom-com “The Half of It”? If yes, be sure to rent her first feature — the ahead-of-its-time “Saving Face” from 2004. Michelle Krusiec and Joan Chen star, playing a daughter and a mom respectively navigating the daughter’s sexuality and mom’s search for a husband. “Face” is set in New York, and Wu’s film was bold and original, and it’s so good it’s worth seeing for the first time or again. (Wu will be spotlighted at the upcoming CAAMFest Online: Heritage at Home. She’ll be in a conversation with festival director Masashi Niwano followed by a watch party of “The Half of It.” (Details: https://caamfest.com/2020/) (“Saving Face” is available for rent on various platforms.)
“Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound”: Documentary filmmaker Midge Costin explores the importance/history of cinematic sounds, and while that might “sound” too inside baseball, it is interesting even for fair-weather movie fans. Numerous Bay Area filmmakers pop up, including Ryan Coogler, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. The best part, though, is seeing how the sausage gets made here — or would that be heard? (On various platforms)