What to see at SF Indiefest (virtual, of course)

SF Indiefest is sort of like the Mill Valley Film Festival, except that none of these films will ever be nominated for Best Picture. Few stars will walk down the red carpet. SF Indiefest focuses on films that will almost certainly not become famous.

This festival opened last Thursday. Sorry about that. I’ve been busy. But on the other hand, since this is a virtual festival, all five films I’ve reviewed below can still be streamed. But after February 21, you may never get a chance to see any of them again.

Unintentionally, I screened two comedies and three documentaries. The comedies turned out better.

A- Una Great Movie

I loved this crazy movie, which tells one story inside another. The main, inner story, set in a small Mexican tourist island, is a romance that can’t end happily, despite the beautiful and joyful setting. The outer story, about a struggling screenwriter in Hollywood, is broad, satirical comedy. When agents and producers force her to change her screenplay, the inner, Mexican story changes to fit what those agents and producers want. The protagonists in both stories are played by Black women. Almost everyone in the inner story is Latinx. Of course, the Hollywood producers in the outer story want more white people, and more Mexican stereotypes.

I saw Una Great Movie in 2019 when Mill Valley, for some strange reason, didn’t pick up this movie. At least now you have a chance to see it.

A- Fully Realized Humans

If you’ve experienced pregnancy either directly or indirectly, you’ll find this intelligent comedy very funny and yet also realistic. Jess Weixler and Joshua Leonard (also directing) play a young couple about to have their first baby. (Weixler appears to be truly pregnant in some scenes.) Wanting to be emotionally prepared before parenthood, they go wild. She insists on being on top for anal sex. He wants to be hit in the face. They want to deal with their very problematic parents. Hummus is involved. Rarely does a comedy manage to be this funny as well as realistic.

B+ Playing for Keeps

This barely feature length documentary reminds us of something we know but far too often forget: That play is an important part of being a healthy human. Doctors and scientists discuss how the young learn to discover their bodies and care about others through play. But it’s not just for children; human adults (and other intelligent species) vitally need to play. Along with experts, the film is filled with people hula hooping, dancing, roller skating, enjoying their dogs, playing music, and other forms of joy for all ages. One expert includes reading, but that’s not very cinematic.

C+ Stories I Didn’t Know

I live on Ohlone land, but I know almost nothing about the Ohlone people. This homemade documentary made me want to learn more – even if it’s about the Lakota people in Minnesota. Co-director Rita Davern, who is the center of the film, has a large family with roots in Ireland. But her ancestors took away native land, including the beautiful Pike Island. But Davern wants to know more about the people who were thrown out of their homes. To do so, she works with Sioux educator Ramona Kitto Stately to learn more and try to help the Lakota people. Davern’s clearly a loving person who cares about others, but I could have used less of her and more of the people she’s trying to help.

D+ 499

A 16th-century conquistador (Eduardo San Juan) climbs out of the sea and finds himself in modern Mexico, ready to take over the land and force everyone into Catholicism. But this semi-documentary is worse than it sounds. For the most part, director Rodrigo Reyes looks at the country’s poverty-caused violence, allowing people to talk about their mostly tragic lives. But the documentary sections never get deep enough, while the fantasy conquistador scenes don’t really mesh with the serious stuff – even when someone tells his story to a man in armor.

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