documentary film

Preserving culture with music

Dec 15, 2014

Good music can be uplifting, it can be healing, it can get you out of the house and on your feet, dancing. A new documentary film, “This Ain’t No Mouse Music,” tackles another side of music: how it can act like oral history, preserving unique cultures that could disappear.

  In a village in northern Bengal there are no silver bells or cockle shells. But there are pretty maids all in a row. Some 50,000 of them including 17-year-old Monica Burman. She grows bottle gourds, spinach, hyacinth beans. But this is no ordinary kitchen garden. It’s drawn the attention of an Oscar winning filmmaker Megan Mylan.

She won an Oscar for a short documentary called Smile Pinki the same year Slumdog Millionare swept the awards.  Her new short film "After My Garden Grows" brings her back to India.

Sandip Roy met Mylan and Monica at a hotel in Bengal.

Judy Irving

Documentary filmmaker Judy Irving's movie "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" was a love letter to San Francisco and some of its most colorful residents. Now, Irving has turned her camera toward another local bird: the California brown pelican. The new film "Pelican Dreams" has its world premiere is tomorrow (Friday) night at three Bay Area theaters.

The celebrated documentarian joined KALW's Ben Trefny in studio to talk about her latest work.

Starting Thursday night, Marin County hosts the 37th annual Mill Valley Film Festival. The event has grown from a small regional affair into a destination event with international prestige. It’s screened five out of the last six Academy Award winners for Best Picture, but also showcases many local independent filmmakers. This year there’s an especially strong showing by local documentarians – more than half of the 24 documentaries on offer have some kind of Bay Area connection.

This year’s film program also includes a special tribute to Robin Williams, a longtime friend and attendee of the festival. One of the documentaries features three performers that came of comic age alongside the iconic star in San Francisco’s fertile stand-up scene in the 80s.

Sutro Baths, Wells Fargo, Stern Grove… What these San Francisco icons have in common is they were all founded or developed by Jews.  Jewish people have been living in San Francisco since the beginning of this great city, and that’s the topic of a new documentary called American Jerusalem.

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