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DocFest 2013 Entry #1: “Escaramuza: Riding From the Heart” and “Elena”

Escaramuza: Riding From the Heart

Escaramuza_Vanessa_tx700two-stars1By now I have learned a thing or two about the joys movies can bring when entering the theatre having zero expectations. Most importantly, I’ve learned that it’s always best to just allow a film’s direction to go wherever it pleases and not try and will it to veer down the path I’d rather see it go. Inevitably, trying to control a film’s direction as if it were my very own Choose Your Own Adventure book has always led to disappointing viewing experiences. Even if the movie is exceptional, the moment you start wishing it to go a certain way the end result will be failure. Take for example last night, when I went to see Bill Yahrauslatest documentary.

I knew nothing of the film’s subject matter, Mexican-American women known as escaramuza charras who compete in a rodeo sport that involves riding horses in intricate criss-cross patterns while donning some flashy hand sewn outfits. Yet, for some reason watching a documentary on a subject entirely new to me wasn’t enough to satisfy my cinematic jollies. I wanted intense drama. I wanted laugh-out-loud moments. I wanted eccentric individuals acting odd. Instead, what I got was an honest look at these women’s passion of this time-honored traditional Mexican sport. Why that didn’t satisfy me, who knows. Read More…


DocFest 2013 Capsule Reviews: “Fall and Winter” and “Furever”

Fall and Winter

image-83119-fullthree-stars15What would a documentary film festival be without yet another look at the disastrous effects of our Earth caused by human’s irresponsibly selfish ways? Though set to an eye pleasing picturesque rural pacing and some soft spoken earnestness from some very wise interviewees, the film still offers no actual tangible global solutions to our crisis. However, it does do a terrific job at further raising consciousness to those ignorant of the direction Earth is heading, and that in itself makes this a film of importance.

Showtimes for Fall and Winter: Saturday, June 8th at 9:00pm (Balboa Theatre)

Sunday, June 9th at 9:00pm (Roxie Theatre)

Tuesday, June 11th at 9:00pm (Aquarius Theatre – Palo Alto) Read More…

DocFest 2013 Capsule Reviews: “Sparks: A Burning Man Story”, “Elena” and “Fuck for Forest”

Sparks: A Burning Man Story

sparkburningmanstory-600x340 two-stars1Sparks felt mostly like the camera operators from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire were given a break from their day jobs, a huge budget, a sound recorder at a rave, and a bunch of helicopters to shoot a dance party-o-rama video of Burning Man. The film seems to have no idea what it is trying to be – a documentary on the inner sanctum, or a rave music video, with atrocious throbbing techno-dance or cheesy pop music that does not fit the subject matter. In the end it is just a frustrating, sensationalist mess to watch.

Showtimes for Spark: A Burning Man Story – Thursday, June 6th at 7:00pm (Roxie Theatre)

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Eight Noteworthy Docs Coming to SF DocFest 2013 + A New Documentary Blog

bannerdoc13-620x350As I write this, two weeks have passed since this year’s DocFest lineup was officially announced, and in another two weeks – June 6th, to be exact – San Francisco’s 12th annual film festival of all things non-fiction will begin.

By now, I’m sure most of the die hard cinephiles, as well as those who have just been craving some quality cinematic portraits of truth have already copped their printed schedule and have marked it up accordingly. After doing some schedule dissecting of my own, I have whittled down this year’s 43 programs to eight noteworthy docs. Hopefully, come closing night (June 23rd), my predictions as to what was worth seeing will have proven to be accurate. To see the list follow this link to Filmbalaya’s new no-frills blog ( dedicated solely to documentaries that Adam is interested in. Enjoy.

Our Guide to SF Docfest 2011

Documentaries! Documentaries! Documentaries!  With so many documentary films playing at this year’s Docfest the task of choosing which films to see and which ones to avoid could be a daunting one.  Worry not, my fellow Bay Area lovers of non-fiction, Filmbalaya is here to help.  Hopefully our subjective guide will help you plan your viewing schedule.  Rest assured, we were not given any compensation from any outside parties when rating these films.  It just so happens that this year’s festival, from what we’ve seen so far is compiled of a lot of worthwhile films, which explains most of the films getting a 3 star or higher rating.  Click on the movie’s title to read review

The After Party (The Last Party 3) – “A fusion of emotions that culminate in exceptional documentary making” – Cal Jeralin

First Position: A Ballet Documentary – “An impressive debut that was able to bring to light both the stories of 6 child dancers being pushed to their limits, and the grueling practices that goes on behind-the-scenes” – Adam Cuttler

General Orders #9 – “Reminded me of Terrence Malick’s contrast of images and narration…  Unique, and unlike anything I’ve seen” – Tom Ellis

Oil City Confidential – “Unless you hate music or are a bad person, GO SEE THIS MOVIE!” – Sarah Tell

Scrapper – “Scrapper has that same apocalyptic dread felt in Mad Max with the suspense and danger that went with The Hurt Locker” – Adam Cuttler

Where Soldiers Come From – “A moving and powerful documentary that successfully makes you feel acquainted with the people you view” – Tom Ellis

Bob The Monster – “a journey of transformation into one of the most controversial drug counselors in America” – Cal Jeralin

Dirty Pictures – “An educational trip through the accomplishments of a mad scientist in search of discovering the secrets of the human mind” – Cal Jeralin

Donor Unknown – “Like most character study documentaries, it’s always a bonus when the person of focus is just outside the realms of “normality” – Adam Cuttler

Heavy Metal Picnic – “1980’s Metal rules!” – Adam Cuttler

Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians – “The hypocrisy between good Christian morals and gambling are a big part of the movie… Holy Rollers is thought provoking film presented in a very casual and non-arrogant way” – Adam Cuttler

How To Start A Revolution – “A film about the extremely relevant and strangely not well known pamphlet by Gene Sharp instructing people on the basic elements of how to perform a successful revolution” – Tom Ellis

Tell Your Friends! A Concert Film! – “The next best thing to seeing a live comedy show would be seeing one on-screen within the lightly intoxicated safety of a Roxie Docfest loving crowd” – Adam Cuttler

Unlikely Treasures – “A brief watch that plays more like a pilot episode for a spin-off of A&E’s Horders – a great show, by the way” – Adam Cuttler

Peep Culture – “A gimmicky social media experiment where a man broadcasts his life 24 hours 7 days a week” – Adam Cuttler

Announcing SF Docfest 2011

Non-fiction films of fan stand up! 2 weeks of nothing but documentaries are just around the corner. There are over 70 films airing this year, practically guaranteeing at least something for somebody, even those who claim to not like documentaries. Really though, in a time where reality shows reign king of the tele I find it hard to believe that someone wouldn’t be interested in documentaries. Plus, this year the programmers seem especially keen on attracting the younger generation to the movies and is offering an all-you-can-see pass for just $25 to those 21 and under!

According to the press release, here’s just a hint of what you can expect to find at this year’s festival: “Egyptian belly dancers; California summer campers; the puppeteer behind Elmo; kids that run off to join the circus or want to become ballerinas; international hip hoppers; Christian card counters; English punk rockers; artists; yoga practitioners; new soldiers; compulsive collectors; stand-up comics; Tetris masters; and animator Bill Plympton.  Plus we take a delightful wander around Berlin in the Fall.”

As always stay tuned to Filmbalaya at least a week in advance as we start to preview the films for you and give you our take on what are the must-sees and what you should avoid.

Follow the jump for ticket info and the full schedule Read More…

Docfest 2010 Begins October 14, That’s The Truth

Klaus Nomi in the cult classic rockumentary, Urgh! A Music War. See it at Docfest

When most fans of fictional film think of documentaries, the word “boring” immediately arises.  If ever the case was to be made for just how non-boring and highly entertaining documentaries are capable of being, look no further than San Francisco’s Docfest.

As the old saying goes, Truth is stranger than fiction, and this year’s festival is sure to prove that to both non-believers of the documentary format and to those, like myself, who prefer it and already know such sayings to be true.

So, rather than escape into the world of make-believe, why not escape into the world of reality… well, reality as seen through the editor’s and director’s vision that is.

Enough thanks can not be given to the always handsome, Lord Byron, for whose coining of the phrase, “Truth is stranger than fiction” enabled me to make my brief point as to why documentaries should be seen.  Thank you, my Lord.  Ticket and full schedule info after the jump

Read More…

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