Thanks to the SF Documentary Film Institute and the Kabuki Theaters for showing all the Oscar nominated short and feature-length documentaries over three days (ensuring everything shows both as a matinée and an evening screening), and for free! You just have to reserve your seats early, and you can only do that in person at the box office, not online.
Anyway, I only had time for the shorts program, but it was pretty cool, and there was one filmmaker there; Amanda Micheli, director of "La Corona". Her film was first, and followed the competition behind a beauty pageant in Columbia. Specifically, a beauty pageant in a women's prison in Columbia. It's an interesting story, but the inmates put it together themselves and it's a break in the dreary routine of prison. A fascinating character driven documentary, with no real agenda other than introducing us to some interesting people (for example, there's no judgment on why they're in prison or whether the beauty pageant is a good or bad thing). Here's a pic of Amanda Micheli:
At the Q&A, she revealed she also made the feature "Double Dare" about stuntwomen (especially Zoe Bell), which is one of my favorite documentaries. So I'm now declaring her a great documentarian, definitely someone to watch, and I'm rooting for her at the Oscars.
There were also three competing films. Here they are:
"Salim Baba"--a film very much about film. Salim Muhammad owns an ancient (1897) hand-cranked film projector, and lets his neighbors in the slums of Kolkata, India view little scraps of film in it. He could be rich if he sold the thing to a collector, but it's his prized possession and the only way most of his neighbors could ever see any film. So he holds on to it.
"Sari's Mother"--Sari is a ten year old Iraqi boy. Sari has AIDS. It's hard enough getting treatment there, and the American occupation has only made things worse. Very, very sad.
"Freeheld"--If "La Corona" doesn't win, I sure hope this does. In New Jersey, each county is administered by a council of "freeholders". The state has granted every county the right to decide whether or not employee health benefits extend to same-sex partners. Many counties have decided yes. But Ocean County has said no. That's a pity for Laurel Hester, a long-serving police detective who's now dying of cancer. Her story galvanizes the community so that every freeholder meeting is full of protesters demanding they change their policy. Even when neighboring counties change their policy based on her story, they still hold firm. They're slammed every day in the press, and finally a call from the governor sets them on the right path. It's an emotional race against death.