If the Oscars should get held next year, expect a flurry of Bay Area documentary makers to be in the running.
From Oakland co-directors Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht’s revelatory “Crip Camp” and on to San Francisco’s Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk with their explosive “Athlete A” — also for Netflix — the Bay Area deserves to be well represented.
They’ll likely get more company from Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine whose “Boys State,” a big winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, starts streaming on Friday and is being shown Wednesday at a San Jose drive-in.
The excellent documentary tops our list of films to see this weekend.
• “Boys State”: A multitude of 17-year-old males and females gather one week every year in a variety of states to create mock state governments, culminating in the election of a governor. This nail-biter follows four 2018 candidates as they seek various offices in a two-party platform. Moss and McBaine’s gripping documentary illustrates the triumphs and failures of democracy, particularly when it focuses on Steven, a young man born of immigrant parents who squares off with a more conservative candidate. All of the main characters come alive in a film that offers realistic hope as it becomes more obvious that today’s adults have gummed up democracy for a future generation. The good news is there are smart youths willing to repair a system in serious need of repair. (Details: Special sneak preview at 8:30 p.m., Aug. 12, at San Jose’s West Wind Capitol Drive-In; debuts on AppleTV+ on Aug. 14.)
• “Roxie Quick Takes”: Bay Area indie theaters have been hit hard during the pandemic, and San Francisco’s Roxie came up with an innovative way to entertain and help keep theaters afloat. It’s their “Quick Takes” monthly program, which features a Zoom conversation with a Bay Area filmmaker. The program kicks off at 6 p.m. Aug. 19 with the multitalented Boots Riley, the influential Oakland musical artist and filmmaker of “Sorry to Bother You.” Other filmmakers set to appear include Bay Area treasure H.P. Mendoza, Cheryl Dunne and more. (To sign up, visit https://www.roxie.com/quick-takes/)
• “Jazz on a Summer’s Day”: Here’s something that will bring music to the ears of jazz fans bummed over the scuttling of Bay Area festivals due to the pandemic. There’s a new 4K restoration of Bert Stern’s 1959 classic jazz concert documentary. Featuring numerous music legends such as Louis Armstrong, Theolonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Anita O’Day, Chuck Berry and Dinah Washington, it’s a delight for the true-blues jazz connoisseur and has been called the greatest jazz documentary ever made. With its stunning restoration, it puts you in the room where this music happened during the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. (Details: Available Aug. 12 via virtual cinema programs at https://bampfa.org/event/jazz-on-a-summers-day and available Aug. 14 at https://www.roxie.com/jazz-on-a-summers-day/ and at https://rafaelfilm.cafilm.org/jazz-on-a-summers-day/ and at https://www.rialtocinemas.com/index.php?location=elmwood&film=2020_jazz_elm)
• “Martin Margiela: In His Own Words”: If you’re more of a fashionista, get your Halston designer threads on and check out this seamless documentary from Reiner Holzemer. It gets into the very fabric of the enigmatic fashion designer’s career, showing the Belgian’s tremendous influence and impact on the world of fashion. Best of all, it reflects the non-spotlight-seeking creative type’s unique style. (Details: Available via virtual cinema programs at https://bampfa.org/event/martin-margiela; https://www.roxie.com/martin-margiela-in-his-own-words/; https://rafaelfilm.cafilm.org/martin-margiela/)
• “2020 DocPitch Fundraising Forum”: Have you ever wanted to be a film critic? Here’s your chance. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the California Film Institute’s DocLands festival has been delayed. But organizers are carrying on with supporting filmmaking projects by presenting $125,000 in cash awards. That’s where you come in. You can evaluate the pitches and determine which proposal gets the cash. There are roughly eight in the running, including Kenji Yamamoto’s “Startup Embassy,” chronicling the hardwired journeys of three tech innovators trying to score big in Silicon Valley. (Details: Official voting starts Aug. 13, http://www.doclands.com/DocPitch/)
• “Jaws” and “Jaws 2”: Bay Area drive-ins wade into terror-filled waters with its own Shark Week program, running through Aug. 16. There are some duds — Blake Lively in the aptly titled “The Shallows” — but one of the best double bills surfaces with Steven Spielberg’s influential suspense thriller “Jaws” and the less-successful sequel “Jaws 2.” You’re gonna need a bigger car to take in all that excitement. Can’t make it Aug. 13? You’re in luck, it’s showing again on Aug. 15. Others worth taking in include “Deep Blue Sea,” a ridiculous 1999 monster shark film that’s as fun as it’s silly. Thank goodness they spared us the torture of watching “Jaws the Revenge” so far. (Details: Both are screening at Concord’s West Wind Solano Drive-In, https://www.westwinddi.com/locations/solano and San Jose’s West Wind Capitol Drive-In, https://www.westwinddi.com/locations/capitol)