As MVFF organizers at the California Film Institute look ahead to this year’s 40th anniversary of the festival, they are rewarding film lovers responsible for those leaps and bounds, launching the inaugural Doclands, a noncompetitive, five-day event from May 10-14 that seeks to spotlight more than 20 documentaries, with music documentaries anchoring its opening and closing nights. All screenings are at the CineArts Sequoia in Mill Valley and the Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.
Given the Grateful Dead’s storied history and deep ties to Mill Valley, the centerpiece event of the festival is the May 14 screening of “Long Strange Trip,” Amir Bar-Lev‘s six-part, four-hour film on the iconic Marin band. The film premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival and was picked up by Amazon Studios – it hits theaters on May 26. The Hollywood Reporter says Bar-Lev “does a commendably thorough job of explaining (the Dead) to anyone with the patience to sit through four hours of musical myth-making.”
For those with the proper amount of stamina to follow a four-hour film with a concert, the Sweetwater Music Hall, co-owned by legendary Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, is hosting a “Long Strange Trip” afterparty featuring Steve Kimock & Friends, including Bobby Vega, Pete Sears, Lebo, John Kimock, Leslie Mendelson and special guests.
Doclands kicks off in San Rafael on May 10 with an opening night screening of “Nari,” director Ginger Shankar’s look at Shankar and her daughter, Viji, Indian music pioneers in the West via their collaboration with the likes of George Harrison. The film leans both on animation and archival footage and the screening will be accompanied by a live score played by musicians Gingger Shankar, Carlo Ribaux and Vivek Maddala.
Doclands’ closing night event centers on “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World,” which chronicles the impact of Native Americans like The Band frontman Robbie Robertson, bluesman Charlie Patton and singer-songwriter Buffy Saint-Marie.
The bulk of Doclands’ lineup is built around three themes: The Art of Impact, which focuses on issues like the Pulitzer Prize, Japanese-American internment during World War II and community revitalization in Detroit; The Great Outdoors, which looks at the state of the Ganges River and chronicles the journey of two paraglider traversing the 500-mile Alaskan Ridge; and Wonderlands, which includes the aforementioned music docs as well as “Brimstone & Glory,” a look at the “pyrotechnic festival in Tultepec, capital of Mexico’s fireworks industry, and its twin attractions of beauty and danger.”