At the height of shelter-in-place, I found myself driving down 4th Street in San Rafael. I was virtually the only person on the road. I drove by several newly closed storefronts and came to a stop in front of the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Center. We had opened it in 1999 in part to revitalize the city of San Rafael. Over twenty years later, with the city again in need of our help, I sat there and pondered how we could support the community—but I didn’t have an answer. We had a temple of film that we could no longer fill with people. Still, I held out hope that one day we could gather under the big screen once again.

Now, two years later, with the isolation of lockdown behind us, we are thankful to help bring our community together once again through the beauty of cinema. DocLands 2022 returns to in-person screenings at the Smith Rafael Film Center. Bonding with people as you stand in line, watching three wildly different documentaries in one day, interacting with filmmakers face to face…this is the full DocLands experience. 

The slate of films this year is terrific from top to bottom, with documentaries that push the boundaries of the medium in fascinating ways. My Old School uses stylized animation and a performance by Alan Cumming to tell the bizarre tale of a man who is not what he seems to be. Another hybrid film, Everything Will Change weaves real conversations about current environmental crises into a sci-fi narrative. As always, San Francisco Bay Area filmmakers are represented, with Sara Dosa paying poetic tribute to late volcanologists Katia and Maurice Krafft in Fire of Love, and Marc Shaffer highlighting the stranger-than-fiction life and work of pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge in Exposing Muybridge.

We take great pride in presenting CFI’s sixth DocPitch program, which each year awards funding to five filmmaking teams who pitch their projects to industry and audience juries. In the first 5 years of DocPitch, CFI has awarded $328,000 to documentary filmmakers. This year, we look forward to helping more filmmakers, with $100,000 in award funding for a total of $428,000 awarded in the last 6 years. You, our dear audience, will in great part determine which of these extraordinary filmmakers will receive DocPitch support in 2022.

This year’s program was put together by DocLands director of programming Joni Cooper and her tremendous team, to whom I’d like to issue a heartfelt thank you. That thank you extends to the  filmmakers, who have produced these captivating documentaries that will make us laugh, cry, learn, and grow stronger together—just like old times. 

Mark Fishkin
Executive Director / Founder, California Film Institute