Scenes from the films in the 2019 edition of DocLands, set for May2-5.
When Mill Valley Film Festival organizers at the California Film Institute dove into launching the inaugural Doclands documentary film festival two 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.

“Documentaries allow us to take the time to dive into important, human stories, in depth,” MVFF Founder Mark Fishkin wrote to CFI members in a note last month. “DocLands is not just a remarkable collection of films but a way of seeing and hearing the world that can give us a deeper perspective and a greater appreciation for the “wonderland” that still surrounds us.”

DocLands, set for May 2-5 at the CineArts at Sequoia Theatre in Mill Valley and the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, looks to deliver on that promise once again with a slate of 44 films from 14 countries, 36 filmmakers in attendance, a live music show, and an interactive industry forum. It also includes the return of DocPitch and DocTalk programs, geared towards invigorating the business and art of nonfiction filmmaking and building an active, fully supportive community around documentary film.  

The event kicks off with an opening night film and party for Runner, director Bill Gallagher’s story about Guor Mading Maker, who ran from capture in war-torn Sudan when he was only nine to eventually seek safety in the US. In his new life, Maker became a track star, qualifying for the 2012 Olympics but competing independently because the newly formed South Sudan wasn’t recognized by the International Olympics committee and he refused to run for Sudan to take a stand against its oppression. 

DocLands closes with The Weight of Water, director Michael Brown’s film about renowned blind climber and kayaker, Erik Weihenmayer, who will participate in a post-screening Q&A. The film tracks the Weihenmayer, the first blind person to reach the summit of Everest, and the only blind person to climb the highest peak on each of the seven continents taking on an absurdly improbable challenge, as he kayaks the Grand Canyon.

Also on closing night, DocLands has the California premiere of Mr. Jimmy, Peter Michael Dowd’s salute to musical devotion, super fandom, and a marvel of live performance, featuring Akio Sakurai. Sakurai, aka Mr. Jimmy, a devotee of the “frighteningly cool” Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page since he was 16. Sakurai dedicates his life to the ritualistic re-creation of individual Led Zeppelin concerts in their prime touring years of the 1970s. Dowd’s remarkable film finds Sakurai at the turning point of his career: the night when Page himself attends a concert, a moment the performer has been waiting for almost his entire life and one that pushes the performer to exploring his dreams beyond the nightclubs of Tokyo.

Mr. Jimmy will play a short acoustic set during the post-screening Q&A and then heads over the Sweetwater Music Hall, assembling the top Zeppelin tribute masters for touring, performing for the first time in Marin with August Young (of the Aviators) on vocals.

The 411: Doclands documentary film festival is set for May 2-5 at the CineArts at Sequoia Theatre in Mill Valley and the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, featuring a slate of 44 films from 14 countries, with 36 filmmakers in attendance. MORE INFO & TIX. And MORE INFO & TIX FOR THE SWEETWATER EVENT.

Trailer for “The Weight of Water’: