Hollywood directors test-drive their movies for focus groups in Anaheim. Bay Area documentarians, although not averse to reaching the multiplex masses (even if they're a good deal less shameless about it), show their works-in-progress to their filmmaker peers and, occasionally, the knowledgeable, enthusiastic habitués of Rough Cuts. This longstanding forum involves nonfiction fans in a crucial stage of the moviemaking process by inviting their street-level feedback about confusing exposition, puzzling character motivation, and jarring shifts in tone, among the other hurdles to crafting a dynamic, compelling documentary.
Reflecting the Bay Area's extraordinary reputation for social-issue films, Rough Cuts typically spotlights tough-minded, character-driven pieces, such as Leah Mahan's Louisiana-set Turkey Creek, and Micha Peled's portrait of desperate Indian farmers, Bitter Seeds (opening in a few weeks at the Roxie). Tonight's masterpiece-in-the-making, chosen from a slew of worthy submissions, -- The Idiocratic Life -- offers the first peek at a film likely destined for a national television broadcast. As a bonus, the ticket price includes drinks and appetizers, because nothing makes moviegoers ornerier than hunger and sobriety.