Truth Squads

In the camcorder and YouTube age, we will all truly get our 15 minutes in the spotlight. (Don’t worry, your time is coming.) Take the flamboyantly felonious family slamming the pedal to the metal in Julien Nitzberg’s The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (screening Oct. 17 and 20). Back in those dull days when only great men like presidents and chief justices were considered appropriate subjects for documentaries, this hard-living Appalachian clan wouldn’t have gotten within tobaccy-spitting distance of a camera. The same goes for the equally antisocial (albeit more benign) feline fetishists in Christie Callan-Jones’ Cat Ladies (Oct. 18 and 21). Of course, this is the lure of the annual San Francisco Documentary Festival — the crazy quilt of human nature and obsession. DocFest’s cache of reality checks always includes a few irresistibly entertaining excavations of alternative and underground culture, and one pick to dig into is the flick with the longest title, I Need That Record!: The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store (Oct. 18 and 20) Nothing is — or was — more alternative than Burning Man, and Oliver Bonin’s Dust and Illusions (Oct. 17 and 22) traces its roots from a small, subversive desert getaway staged by the Bay Area’s Cacophony Society into a phenomenon that is equal parts art extravaganza, tribal touchstone, and hipster vacation. It’s not a coincidence that so many of DocFest’s offerings leave the mainstream in the dust.
Oct. 16-29, 2009

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