The festival's best doc, James Longley's Iraq in Fragments, will doubtless never screen on PBS. Made in the year after the American occupation, this stunning three-part picture, shot in three different "fragments" of the country, plays like a Terrence Malick art film, with washes of sound over carefully composed, acutely cut images. The art doesn't hide the grim stories on display that of an 11-year-old boy, for example, cruelly mocked by his boss in a Baghdad where schoolchildren are told they'll "sing a different song if a new president comes."
A new president didn't sing in the U.S. in 2004. An enraging look at voting irregularities in that year's Ohio election is buried an hour into Ian Inaba's American Blackout, otherwise a full-length commercial for Georgia's embattled Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. The controversial representative forecasts her future difficulties with Capitol police when she bridles at not being immediately recognized by them. You like her, but you're shaking your head.
Across the world, Ronit Avni and Julia Bacha's Encounter Point profiles Israeli and Palestinian peace activists who've lost members of their families. They recognize that their "right to hate" offers them "great status," but they're trying something else. It's inspiring to see a Palestinian who lost his brother to an Israeli soldier trying to convince angry men with missing limbs to try nonviolent resistance.
Also doing good in the world are the surprising stars of Adrian Belic's Beyond the Call, three middle-aged duffers traveling the world dispensing aid to forgotten corners of Afghanistan, Cambodia, and elsewhere. Their can-do attitude and gruff humor make them enormously appealing. Equally appealing are overweight, out-of-shape Oakland teens who take up marathon running in Justine Jacob and Alex da Silva's Runners High, caught on tape breaking tape and making their personal bests. This may not be the best festival ever, but it's certainly the most inspirational.
Jonestown: Saturday, April 29, 6:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Sunday, April 30, 7 p.m., Intersection for the Arts (455 Valencia at 15th St., www.theintersection.org); Monday, May 1, 7 p.m., Pacific Film Archive; Tuesday, May 2, 4:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki
Iraq in Fragments: Wednesday, April 26, 6:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Friday, April 28, 9 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Thursday, May 4, 8:45 p.m., Pacific Film Archive
American Blackout: Thursday, April 27, 9 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Friday, April 28, 1 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Monday, May 1, 4:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki
Encounter Point: Monday, May 1, 6:45 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Wednesday, May 3, 3:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki
Beyond the Call: Sunday, April 30, 6 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Thursday, May 4, 3 p.m., AMC Kabuki
Runners High: Thursday, April 27, 10 .a.m., AMC Kabuki; Saturday, April 29, 3:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Tuesday, May 2, 8:30 p.m., El Rio (315 Mission at Valencia, www.elriosf.com)