When Mill Valley Film Festival organizers at the California Film Institute dove into launching the inaugural DocLands documentary film festival several years ago, they did so with the wind of an ever-growing MVFF behind them, as well as the knowledge that documentary filmmaking had taken a quantum leap forward in terms of both quality and popularity. The COVID-19 crisis certainly stifled its continued growth, but as we continue to emerge on the other side, DocLands organizers continue to highlight some of the best documentary filmmaking around.

Mark Fishkin, Founder/Director of the California Film Institute and internationally known Mill Valley Film Festival, and Joni Cooper, DocLands Director of Programming, announced last month the full lineup of films being showcased at the DocLands Documentary Film Festival. This year offering five full days, Wednesday, May 10 through Sunday, May 14, of in-theatre programming and in-person filmmaker conversations at the Smith Rafael Film Center in downtown San Rafael.
Award-winning director Dawn Porter will be presented with the DocLands Honors Award, for her determination in bringing to light the stories behind some of the most remarkable American artists, politicians, humanitarians, and social justice activists. Celebrating her work, the program will include an on-stage conversation, presentation of the DocLands Honors Award, and the California premiere screening of her groundbreaking new documentary The Lady Bird Diaries.
In addition to hosting the North American premiere of Marcel Barrena’s Brother Horse (Hermano Caballo) and the US premieres of Dylan Howitt’s The Nettle Dress and Katja Esson’s Razing Liberty Square; DocLands is excited to also host the West Coast premieres of Aitamaako’tamisskapi Natosi: Before the SunThe Arc of OblivionColdwater KitchenGoing to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni ProjectInto the Ice, Mom & Dad’s Nipple Factory, No Legs. All Heart., and Yukon, A White Dream, plus the California premieres of Bobi Wine: The People’s PresidentThe Lady Bird Diaries, and Victim/Suspect. The Bay Area premieres include, And Still I SingFashion ReimaginedImmediate FamilyLovely Jackson, and OKAY! (The ASD Band Film).
The Festival is host to two interactive industry forums: DocTalk, an intimate conversation with four to five filmmakers; the 2023 topic is Reimaging Activism in Film. Many filmmakers chose the traditional documentary form to impart issues that are close to their hearts, while others lean toward more subtle or hybrid filmic measures to spark an audience to action. Whatever the form these filmmakers are reimagining a different world through their immense creativity in film. And DocPitch, a pitching forum designed to connect filmmakers and their ideas to funders, distributors, philanthropists, fellow filmmakers, and future audiences. This year DocPitch will award a total of $100,000.00 – $45,000 Audience Award, $40,000 juried award, and $5,000 to the remaining three filmmaking teams participating in the DocPitch fundraising forum.
The CAFILM Education team is excited to welcome school groups back to the Smith Rafael Film Center for the annual DocLands Education program, with in-person screenings and filmmaker conversations from Wednesday, May 10 – Friday, May 12. DocLands Education will also continue its virtual program offering online screenings to schools nationwide, paired with, discussion guides, lesson plans, and film analysis toolkits to help integrate the film into classroom curriculum. The online program will be available Monday, May 8 – Friday, May 12, 2023. Also returning this year is the highly popular Filmmakers Go to School program, which connects students with filmmakers from around the world by coordinating onsite visits to schools throughout the Bay Area for live in-depth discussions about their films and the art and craft of filmmaking. Visits will take place in person in Bay Area classrooms or school auditoriums and virtually across the country via Zoom.

The DocLands Honors Award is presented to a filmmaker or filmmaking team to recognize exceptional storytelling within the documentary genre, artists whose films resonate universally, emphasizing our shared humanity – no matter the subject.

Included with the Honors conversation is a screening of her most recent documentary, The Lady Bird Diaries. A groundbreaking all-archival documentary film about Lady Bird Johnson, one of the most influential and least understood First Ladies. The feature film looks at the 123 hours of personal and revealing audio diaries that Lady Bird recorded during her husband’s administration. The film reveals Lady Bird as an astute observer of character and culture and a savvy political strategist. It recasts her crucial role in LBJ’s presidency and brings viewers behind the scenes of one of the most tumultuous and consequential periods in modern American history.

Porter has emerged in the entertainment industry as a leader in the art of storytelling; directing and producing critically acclaimed films and series. A two-time Sundance film festival director, Porter’s work has been featured on HBO, Netflix, CNN, PBS, MSNBC, ESPN, Discovery, National Geographic, and others. Porter’s latest film, “The Lady Bird Diaries,” an all-archival documentary about Lady Bird Johnson will have its California premiere at DocLands following its debut at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival. Her next project “Supreme,” is a four-part docuseries, exploring the history of the United States Supreme Court, the justices, decisions, and confirmation battles that have shaped America. Other current projects include the next installment of the historic civil rights documentary series “Eyes on the Prize” for HBO. Additional credits include “The Me You Can’t See” (Apple TV+), “Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer” (National Geographic), “The Way I See It” (Focus Features, MSNBC), “John Lewis: Good Trouble” (CNN, Magnolia Pictures), “37 Words” (ESPN), “Un(re)solved” (Frontline PBS), and “Gideon’s Army” (HBO).