Today, SFFILM announced the program for their ninth annual documentary film showcase Doc Stories. The four-day program runs November 2–5, 2023 and includes 10 features, two shorts programs, and a very special tribute to the late trailblazing filmmaker, Julia Reichert. Several films will also be available for a limited streaming window November 6–7.
“This year’s line-up explores the powerful effects of institutional erasure and the unlimited possibilities of human determination,” said Jessie Fairbanks, the Director of Programming at SFFILM. “Documentaries offer a critical space in which audiences can contemplate challenging world issues, core ideological beliefs, and stories of inspiration. We are elated to host so many formidable documentarians who craft nuanced and thrilling stories that encompass these complex topics, while continuing to evolve the form of non-fiction storytelling.”
The 2023 Doc Stories selections explore a wide range of topics—professional and creative triumph, personal hardship and frailty, and the multi-generational impacts of human-made systems of control—through the most thrilling and incisive narrative nonfiction filmmaking this year. Opening Night is Matthew Heineman’s highly acclaimed American Symphony, featuring an intimate look into Grammy-winning musician, singer, and songwriter Jon Batiste. The Centerpiece film Copa 71 comes in hot off its debut at TIFF, telling the lost story of the first Women’s World Cup in soccer. Closing Night marks Wim Wenders return to SFFILM with his latest work Anselm, a 3-D presentation of the life’s work of astounding contemporary artist Anselm Kiefer. SFFILM is thrilled to welcome celebrated documentary filmmakers like Lisa Cortés, Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss, Kaouther Ben Hania, Roger Ross Williams, dream hampton, and many more.
“Hosting Doc Stories each fall is a highlight for SFFILM,” said Anne Lai, the Executive Director of SFFILM. “It is a celebratory moment to welcome filmmakers from around the world and create the space where singular stories expand the minds and hearts of San Francisco’s intelligent and curious audiences.”
Tickets for film programs both in-person and streaming are $16–$30 for SFFILM members, $20–$35 general. SFFILM Ticket Packs are good year-round. Ticket 6-Packs are $95 for SFFILM members, $115 general, and Ticket 10-Packs are $145 for SFFILM members, $175 general. An all access Doc Stories Cinevisa is $300. Senior (62+)/Student/Disabled tickets are $19. Additional ticket pricing and policies can be found at our box office, now open online at sffilm.org.
Doc Stories screenings on Thursday (Nov. 2), Saturday (Nov. 4), and Sunday (Nov. 5) will be at the historic Vogue Theatre at 3290 Sacramento Street in San Francisco’s Presidio Heights neighborhood served by Muni Lines 1, 2, 38, and 43. Screenings on Friday, November 3 will be at the Premier Theater at the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio at 1 Letterman Drive. Transit options include Muni Line 43 and the Presidio GO Shuttle.
Doc Stories is presented by Katie Hall and Tom Knutsen. Lead support is provided by Heidi Castelein, and Lisa and Kenneth Jackson. Major support is provided by National Geographic, Netflix, and Apple Original Films. Additional support is from ESPN Films 30 for 30, The New York Times, Laureate Bart Lounge, Secret Sauce Media, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and Participant Media.
American Symphony—Opening Night
Matthew Heineman, USA 2023, 94 min
Filmmaker Matthew Heineman is no stranger to complex topics, but his most recent documentary may be his most profound film to date. Profiling the creative polyglot Jon Batiste, this is not your typical music documentary. It is a complicated, joyous, and layered story about insurmountable challenges and awe-inspiring intimacy. It begins with Batiste at the peak of professional success, newly minted with an Oscar and preparing a bold composition for Carnegie Hall—a symphony that aims to deconstruct the historical canon of American music and revisit expunged sounds and artists. Just as this sonic jubilation starts to coalesce, Batiste and his partner, writer and musician Suleika Jaouad, learn her leukemia has returned. As Batiste prepares for Carnegie and the Grammys and Jaouad navigates her treatment, the pair continues to create new art and find quiet moments of reflection. Heineman weaves together the public and the private in this cacophonous and illuminating tale of universal joy and personal triumph.
Thursday ∙ Nov 2 ∙ 6:30 pm PT ∙ Vogue
Director Matthew Heineman is expected to attend. Additional guests to be announced.
American Symphony is not available to stream.
Wim Wenders, Germany 2023, 93 min
Anselm Kiefer is one of our most important contemporary artists, and Wenders’ stunningly beautiful portrait of the man and his work must be seen on the big screen—in glorious 3-D—to be fully appreciated. Called “A master of subtle irritation” by an early critic, Kiefer’s talents were nevertheless recognized at an early age, and Wenders manages to portray the life and work in crisp and informative fashion. Keeping things in the family, the director uses his own grand-nephew to play Kiefer as a boy and the artist’s son to play him as a young man, while in the present, Kiefer himself cycles around his enormous atelier, naming off artworks as he passes by. And what an astonishing breadth of artistry they represent, captured here in nearly tactile fashion. As he did with the masterful Pina (2011), also in 3-D, Wenders has found the perfect form to suit his subject, and the viewer is left gaping in admiration.
Sunday ∙ Nov 5 ∙ 7:30 pm PT ∙ Vogue ∙ Presented in 3-D
Director Wim Wenders is expected to attend.
Anselm is not available to stream.
Rachel Ramsay, James Erskine, UK 2023, 90 min
Rousing and infuriating, Copa 71 unearths 50-year-old footage of the first forgotten women’s World Cup series that took place in Mexico in 1971. Six countries participated—Argentina, Denmark, England, France, Italy, and Mexico—and the filmmakers interview representatives from each team to reflect on the difficulties they encountered as female athletes as well as the tremendous joy they got from playing. Interspersed with their recollections are thrilling sequences of the matches themselves as well as the sexist and short-sighted legislation and opinions of powerful organizations like FIFA that tried to keep the women off the field. Executive produced by Serena and Venus Williams, who understand a thing or two about women in sports, Copa 71 reclaims and recenters a pivotal event in athletic history and will hopefully provoke change in a domain where white men still hold much of the power.
Saturday ∙ Nov 4 ∙ 6 pm PT ∙ Vogue
Directors Rachel Ramsay and James Erskine are expected to attend.
Copa 71 is not available to stream.
Kaouther Ben Hania, France/Saudi Arabia/Germany/Tunisia/Cyprus 2023, 107 min
Innovative in form and piercing in content, Four Daughters tells the story of the titular Tunisian quartet and their unflinching, unforgiving, immensely complicated mother. This is a woman who bludgeoned her husband on their wedding night and used the blood as proof of consummation while at the same time being a horrifically strict parent, afraid that her girls will turn into “sluts.” Now young adults, the women reflect on their turbulent upbringing with laughter and tears, and director Ben Hania employs the radical device of sometimes having actresses play the daughters to enact difficult scenes from their lives. Where the story goes is utterly surprising, sometimes shocking, and always riveting while also being a potent reminder of the difficulties facing Arab women in conservative cultures. The film was the co-winner of the prestigious Golden Eye award for Best Documentary at Cannes.
Saturday ∙ Nov 4 ∙ 3 pm PT ∙ Vogue
Director Kaouther Ben Hania is expected to attend.
Four Daughters is available to stream.
Little Richard: I Am Everything—Community Screening
Lisa Cortés, USA 2023, 98 min
Brilliant and complicated, Richard Wayne Penniman (aka Little Richard) has never received the full picture treatment…until now. In this electrifying and kinetic film that definitively positions Little Richard as the true originator of rock and roll, Lisa Cortés explodes the music industry’s whitewashing of a magnetic and singular performer while also presenting his contradictory life in all of its shades. Blending archival footage with insightful commentary from Nona Hendryx, John Waters, Tom Jones, and many others, the film takes viewers on a roller coaster ride of Richard’s life. As he careens from obsessions including sex, God, and of course music, he also bridles against an industry that refuses to acknowledge his contributions to it. Thank goodness his legacy now has this film and the music he left behind to restore his place in history once and for all.
Little Richard: I Am Everything will be offered as a community screening, free and open to the public. Attendees must RSVP for tickets at [sffilm.org].
Thursday ∙ Nov 2 ∙ 3 pm PT ∙ Vogue
Director Lisa Cortés is expected to attend.
Little Richard: I Am Everything is not available to stream.
Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine, USA/India 2023, 104 min
“God has an adventure out there for me,” teenager John Chau writes in his journal. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest with a dedication to survival and adventure stories, Chau’s Christian fundamentalist ideology leads him on a very curious quest. Reading about the Sentinelese, a small tribe of people who live on the remote Andaman Islands and whose territory is off limits to visitors, John develops a plan to bring religion to their community. Featuring readings from John’s journal and animated renderings of some of the events of his life, this even-handed and empathetic documentary also profiles historians and former missionaries who comment on the complexities and pitfalls of missionary work. A poignant letter from John’s father (read by an actor) to the filmmakers comments on the difficulties of raising a child who one disagrees with but seeks to understand. And this seeking nature is the essence of what Moss and McBaine undertake in this dramatic and thoughtful film.
Friday ∙ Nov 3 ∙ 8:30 pm PT ∙ Premier
Directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss are expected to attend.
The Mission is not available to stream.
New York Times Op-Docs
Op-Docs is the New York Times’ award-winning series of short-form documentaries showcasing some of the freshest new work by independent filmmakers. Curated from the current library of NYT Op-Docs titles, SFFILM hand-selects five films that thematically resonate with present circumstances. This year’s group includes stories about the instrumental use of art as both a source of healing and a medium to understand one’s place in the world. The block includes refugees of war-torn Ukraine and Somalia, a Detroit community displaced by climate catastrophe, twin brothers separated by their different perceptions of the world, and two nations divided by a sea of ideology. We hope you will join us for this beloved festival event.
Friday ∙ Nov 3 ∙ 6:00 pm PT ∙ Premier
Delve into the creative process of a Somali immigrant’s innovative way of addressing his past traumas.
Douwe Dijkstra (Netherlands 2022, 29 min)
A candid look at twin brothers and their relationship, with one coming to terms with his brother’s cognitive disability.
Justine Martin (Canada 2022, 14 min)
Follows two teenage Ukrainian refugees who channel their grief through artistry.
Ruslan Fedotow (Hungary/Belgium 2022, 20 min)
A fluid and poetic examination of the impact of climate change on a Detroit community.
dream hampton (USA 2022, 9 min)
Island In Between
The international conflict between Taiwan and China, as seen through a peculiar vantage point on an island between both nations.
S. Leo Chiang (Taiwan 2023, 20 min)
Directors are expected to attend.
New York Times Op-Docs is available to stream.
Irene Lusztig, USA 2023, 93 min
Kaleidoscopic in form and wry in its content, Richland is about two small towns in southeastern Washington state that share an interesting history—they manufactured weapons-grade plutonium for over 40 years. Now decommissioned, the Hanford site is the largest environmental cleanup in the country, and the residents of the two cities nearby are dealing with (ahem) the fallout. From schoolkids mulling over whether or not their mascot should remain a mushroom cloud to a woman investigating a spate of neonatal deaths from the period of nuclear materials production, this wide-ranging doc is as much about community as it is about soil toxicity. Even as an older couple states that they don’t fish in local waters, they attest to the fact that it’s a wonderful place to live. And it’s also a testament to Lusztig’s talents that she has made such an entertaining and nuanced film about our country’s nuclear past.
Friday ∙ Nov 3 ∙ 3:30 pm PT ∙ Premier
Director Irene Lusztig is expected to attend.
Richland is available to stream from 12:01 am PT Monday, November 6 through 11:59 pm PT Tuesday, November 7, 2023.
Shorts Block: Ideology vs. Identity
Featuring a unique group of shorts that explores the chasms in ideology and identity on national and personal level. Each film underscores how individual actions can challenge and reshape societal norms through five tales of inspiration. With intimately told stories, these films will take you on a journey through the kitchens of Mexico City, the snow-laden plains of the Alaskan wilderness, the electoral process in Arizona, the playgrounds of American cities, and the judicial halls that oversee womens’ rights. Every short film is filled with voices that speak to the very fabric of the tumultuous times we live in and the ways in which the human spirit remains unconquerable.
A Maricopa County Supervisor witnesses the crippling effects of election denialism and its impact on American democracy.
Daniel Lombroso, Paul Moakley, (USA 2023, 22 min)
Black Girls Play: The Story of Hand Games
The rhythmic hand games of Black girls across the US that have influenced the national music landscape and beyond.
Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson (USA 2023, 18 min)
The nationwide struggle of Jewish communities and interfaith leaders as they challenge the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Paula Eiselt (USA 2023, 23 min)
Apayauq Reitan’s races to become the first out trans woman in Alaska’s legendary Iditarod sled dog competition.
Zeppelin Zeerip (USA 2023, 16 min)
A mouth-watering presentation of Ana González Serrano’sY Mexico City restaurant and her fight for equality in a male-dominant culinary landscape.
Jessica De La Torre (Mexico 2023, 12 min)
Sunday ∙ Nov 5 ∙ 1:30 pm PT ∙ Vogue
Directors are expected to attend.
Shorts Block: Ideology vs. Identity is available to stream from 12:01 am PT Monday, November 6 through 11:59 pm PT Tuesday, November 7, 2023.
Caroline Suh, Cara Mones, USA 2023, 90 min
The “Me Too” movement resulted in numerous mea culpas, not all of which were heartfelt. Louis C.K.’s response to accusations is an interesting case in point. When the story of his sexual harassment broke, it initially seemed that the extremely successful comedian, who admitted that the stories were true, might actually be interested in learning and growing as a person. Nine months later, he returned to the stage with jokes that instead revealed a man doubling down on bad behavior. This powerful documentary gives voice to the nuanced experiences of three women who tried to expose C.K.’s bad behavior and the backlash they faced. It charts how an open secret evolved into a national news item and features compelling and humorous interviews and comedy clips. With stark lucidity, the film also highlights that it is almost exclusively women who speak out about sexual misconduct, while their male peers often say little or nothing at all—a “sorry” state of affairs, indeed.
Saturday ∙ Nov 4 ∙ 12:30 pm PT ∙ Vogue
Directors Caroline Suh and Cara Mones are expected to attend.
Sorry/Not Sorry is available to stream.
Stamped from the Beginning
Roger Ross Williams, USA 2023, 85 min
Adapting Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning history of the same name, Roger Ross Williams tackles the history of racist imagery, policies, stories, and institutions that deform American society. The film also dismantles several myths that deny Black people their own agency and legacy in artistic and political realms. From the origins of slavery to Black Lives Matter, Williams uses a comprehensive range of archival footage, animation, and reenactments alongside piercing interviews with academics, politicians, and Kendi himself to expose how racism demeans and disfigures everyone. Portraits of Harriet Jacobs, who writes the first slave narrative by a woman, and Ida B. Wells, who conducts invaluable research on lynching while it’s happening around her, are just two of the compelling stories portrayed. The film also points the way forward, proposing the active disposition required to develop an anti-racist mentality that could be key in healing our communities.
Saturday ∙ Nov 4 ∙ 8:30 pm PT ∙ Vogue
Director Roger Ross Williams is expected to attend.
Stamped from the Beginning is not available to stream.
Story & Pictures By
Joanna Rudnick, USA/Mexico 2023, 84 min
Children’s picture books have brought creativity, joy, and a deeper understanding of the world equipped for all ages. Story & Pictures By, presents the history of children’s literature and how it has been a tool to both present a mirror of society and a dream of a limitless future. We follow three authors—Christian Robinson, Yuyi Morales, and Mac Barnett—who are pushing boundaries while also being at the forefront of a current “golden age” where stories and protagonists have greater diversity and broader representation. These authors reveal the magic and complexity of life by exploring topics of immigration, LGBTQ rights, race, incarceration, and class. Using charming animation and rare archival interviews of beloved authors, viewers will be delighted to rediscover timeless classics such as Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon in a new and dynamic light. Come enjoy with the whole family!
Recommended for ages 8 and up.
Sunday ∙ Nov 5 ∙ 10 am ∙ Vogue
Director Joanna Rudnick is expected to attend.
Story & Pictures By is available to stream.
A Tribute to Julia Reichert: A Woman’s Work
In December of 2022, the documentary community lost the brilliant, warm, and tenacious filmmaker Julia Reichert. A tireless advocate for womens’ rights, workers’ rights, and mentor to a legion of documentarians, Reichert’s influence and generosity of spirit cultivated a global network of social crusaders who continue to shape the documentary genre today. As a director she was nominated four times for the Academy Awards, and won an Oscar for American Factory (2019), which she co-directed with her life partner Steven Bognar. Reichert helmed Growing Up Female (1971), Union Maids (1976), and Seeing Red: Stories of American Communists (1983)—all with Jim Klein; also A Lion In the House (2006), The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant (2009), and 9to5: The Story of A Movement (2020), among many other projects. A champion of collective work with deep ties to the Bay Area, Reichert’s life will be celebrated with clips of her films, guest speakers, and a special new work-in-progress presentation about Reichert from Bognar.
A Tribute to Julia Reichert: A Woman’s Work is being offered as a community celebration, free and open to the public. Attendees must RSVP for tickets at sffilm.org.
Sunday ∙ Nov 5 ∙ 4 pm PT ∙ Vogue
Thursday, November 2 – Vogue
3 pm PT – Little Richard: I Am Everything—Community Screening (98)
6:30 pm PT – OPENING NIGHT: American Symphony (94)
Friday, November 3 – Premier
3:30 pm PT – Richland (93)
6 pm PT – New York Times Op-Docs (92)
8:30 pm PT – The Mission (104)
Saturday, November 4 – Vogue
12:30 pm PT – Sorry/Not Sorry (90)
3 pm PT – Four Daughters (107)
6 pm PT – CENTERPIECE: Copa 71 (90)
8:30 pm PT – Stamped from the Beginning (85)
Sunday, November 5 – Vogue
10 am – Story & Pictures By (84)
1:30 pm PT – Shorts Block: Ideology vs. Identity (95)
4 pm PT – A Tribute to Julia Reichert (100)
7:30 pm PT – CLOSING NIGHT: Anselm (93) presented in 3-D
3290 Sacramento Street (at Presidio)
Premier Theater at Letterman Digital Arts Center
1 Letterman Dr # B