In Bay Area Virtual Cinema: June 19 – 25

This week you can go Zoom with James Bond or track and field sensation Guor Marial (but watch the movies first). And speaking about movies, here are seven other films available via virtual cinema – mostly documentaries. Also, two film festivals.

Virtual Festivals

Bay Area theaters with virtual cinema

Special online events

Runner (2019), Rafael, Livestream conversation Friday, 9:00

I haven’t seen this documentary about Guor Marial, who ran away from war-torn Sudan and became a track and field phenomenon. But because of his national situation, he had to fight to get into the 2012 Olympics. You can stream the film via the Rafael website. You can also join in at the Livestream conversation with film director Bill Gallagher Friday at 9:00.

B- Goldfinger (1964), New Parkway, Zoom discussion Saturday, 3:00

The movie: I’ve been a James Bond fan, on and off, for much of my life. But I never understood the huge appeal of the series’ third outing–and the one that popularized Bond in the United States. True, Sean Connery was wonderful in the role he created. But Goldfinger himself is a dull and uninteresting villain. Even worse, Bond spends way too much of the story as a prisoner and does little to help save the day.
The event: First, see the movie before Saturday at 3:00; it’s on all the pay-per-view services. Then, at the appointed time, join on with Zoom. Part of the New Parkway’s Thrillville Movie Club.

New films available

A Picture of His Life (2019), Balboa, Cerrito, Rafael, Roxie, available Friday

Amos Nachoum, a veteran of Israel’s Yom Kippur war, turned his PTSD into something incredible, magical, and insanely dangerous. As an underwater wildlife photographer, Nachoum photographs sharks, sea lions, and other giant predators of the deep, often very, very close (you should check out his photography). This documentary by Dani Menkin and Yonatan Nir follows him as he sets out to do something no one else has ever done; photograph a swimming Polar bear from inside the water. For more information, see my SF Jewish Film Festival report.

Not quite new

A I Am Not Your Negro (2016), Cerrito, Elmwood, Rafael

The African-American experience, summed up in the words of James Baldwin, read by Samuel L. Jackson, while director Raoul Peck provides visual context from old news footage, talk shows, and scenes shot for this powerful documentary. Every American should see I Am Not Your Negro; unfortunately, only those already sympathetic to its message will likely catch it. Read my full review.

A- Whose Streets? (2017), Cerrito, Elmwood, Rafael, Roxie

The police murder of Michael Brown rocked the town of Ferguson, Missouri – and the nation. This incendiary documentary does more than tell you the story. It puts you on the ground – thanks largely to smartphones and social media – with the people who marched, protested, and rioted as their city became a symbol of all that’s wrong with America. Read my full review.

A- Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019), Cerrito, Elmwood, Rafael

I’ve never read a book by Toni Morrison. But then, I rarely read fiction. Nevertheless, I was mostly entranced with her story, as told mostly by the Nobel Laureate herself (she died while this film was in theaters). Of course it’s all very positive, since when she’s not talking, a close friend of hers is. It appears that the people interviewed were encouraged to dress however they want, which gives the film a visual flair. The film left me wanting to read some of her books.

C+ Hail Satan? (2019), Balboa, Roxie

Like the Satanic Temple itself, this documentary has a message to preach, and does so tongue in cheek. The message is a good one: We need to protect the separation of church and state in a government being taken over by fundamentalist Christians. But you get almost the whole point in the first 15 minutes. After that it’s mostly repetition. Read my full review.

Recommended and available

A- 2040 (2020), Rafael, opens Friday

You’d expect a film titled 2040 to bring you into a dystopian nightmare – especially if it’s about climate change. But this documentary is surprisingly upbeat. Filmmaker Damon Gameau sets out to show us the much better world we could live in if only society would make the right decisions. He travels the world, finding technologies and, more importantly, how to use those technologies for the benefit of all. And he does it all with a dash of humor. Read my full review.

Old but recommended

B+ The Grey Fox (1982), BAMPFA, Rafael

With his gentle eyes, bushy mustache, and unique charisma, stuntman-turned-actor Richard Farnsworth carries this Canadian post-western. Farnsworth plays a former stagecoach robber in a world without stagecoaches, so he turns to robbing trains. He’s essentially a kind man in a violent profession, in the wrong century, and yet he manages to find love and friendship. Beautifully shot. You sometimes must remind yourself that this is a work of fiction.