With the "documentary" form having broadened its horizons so much in recent years, getting a little wild and crazy in the process, it can be reassuring that some films in the 12th annual SF DocFest still do proudly retain that old familiar "eat your vegetables" vibe. Or they take it even further, as in the case of Andrew Hasse's affable and enthusiastic Edible City, which has more of a "reclaim abandoned urban space, use it to grow your own vegetables, share them with your community, and then eat them" vibe.
Connectedness is definitely a theme of this year's fest. While Sausalito director David Ainley's The Last Ocean explores the troubled relationship between commercial fishing and the marine ecosystem, Oakland director Emily Wick's Life with Alex explores the scientific and emotional value of interspecies communication. Meanwhile San Francisco director Simone Jude's Public Sex, Private Lives reveals that even porn performers struggle with work-life balance. And, from Stanford professor Jan Krawitz's Perfect Strangers, a chronicle of kidney donation, to Running for Jim, a portrait of a local cross-country coach with Lou Gehrig's disease, it becomes clear that DocFest doesn't skimp on stories of bravery in the face of affliction. Which, perversely, reminds us: Dying is easy; comedy is hard. Marriage is harder. Kate Schermerhorn's After Happily Ever After: A Film About Marriage is recommended.
By virtue of trueness to life, docs often deliver useful insights on how to cope with troubled times. The context of Petey & Ginger is America's financial meltdown, and its subtitle is "A Testament to the Awesomeness of Mankind," so it's easy to suspect some bitter irony is intended there. Note, however, that the film is further described as "a celebration of survival, music, companionship and chaos," and, importantly, that the Petey in question is San Francisco's own Petey Dammit of beloved art-rock outfit Thee Oh Sees. "I have a hard time going outside and talking to people," he says. "I don't have a hard time playing, though." Go ahead and say amen to this testament.
The 12th annual DocFest runs June 6-23 at multiple venues. Tickets are $11 and up. Call 552-5580 or visit sfindie.com.