[UPDATED with Quickie Review:] 12 Local Documentaries Worth a Look at the Newport Beach Film Festival

UPDATE, APRIL 29, 5:15 P.M.: Just finished watching the short documentary on Orange County naturalist Joel Robinson
at Triangle Square and, I gotta tell you, it left me wanting to know more.

Directors Jonathan Formica, Celesta Giaimo, Mj Lat and Alexandra Santoro present an eye-opening look at areas of our little slice of bliss that probably 99 percent of us don't know exists. And they have chosen a truly compelling subject to expose them to us. But this is a case where the messenger was way for interesting than the message, so one hopes this is just the beginning of the cinematic look at the mountain man's unique life.


I don't see anywhere in the NBFF listings where there will be a repeat showing of the doc, but catch it if and however you can. It's a great introduction to a man and lifestyle beyond OC's fast lane.

ORIGINAL POST, APRIL 29, 2:14 P.M.: Sure, the Newport Beach Film Festival has packed among its 420-and-some-odd films short- and feature-length documentaries from all over the world.

Fifty countries are represented with flicks in the festival, and many have screened before at Cannes, Toronto and Sundance.

But the NBFF is also a showcase for locally grown films, including the following 12 documentaries after the jump that sound promising . . .

Mountain Man. Directors Jonathan Formica, Celesta Giaimo, Mj Lat and Alexandra Santoro follow naturist Joel Robinson into the place he escapes crowded Orange County to chill: our backcountry where hidden canyons, waterfalls and freakin' quiet abound. The 14-minute documentary screens as part of the Coping With Your Shorts program at 3:30 p.m. today at Triangle Square.

Breaking Through. It took a village of directors–Maurianna Zingarelli, Dan Duran, Jacob Taylor and Kirsten Moore–to create this documentary short on Costa Mesa-based nonprofit Girls Inc., whose mission is to empower young women. This is illustrated through the stories of at-risk girls like Monique,
the 11-year-old daughter of a woman who'd been teased and ridiculed
throughout her adolescent life. Monique demonstrates the poise and
confidence her mother never possessed–much to mom's surprise and
delight. Shorts Triumphing Over Adversity program 1 p.m. Saturday at Triangle Square.

Lost & Found. It really took a village for this 17-minute short doc
that's also part of the same program. Directors Kiah S. Jones, Jonathan
, Alexander Gaeta, Rob McClelland, Malica Chehrzad and Lauren
–graduates or nearly so of the Dodge College of Film &
Media Arts at Chapman University–share the story of a couple who twice weekly provide an education and stable home to orphans and unwanted
children living on the streets in Botswana. Shorts Triumphing Over Adversity program 1 p.m. Saturday at Triangle Square.

California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown. Well, it's local in the sense that the titular character was our governor, too. Sascha Rice, the late lawmaker's granddaughter, adds her perspective on the amazing life of our current governor's late father, who even Republicans credit with shaping modern California (and they don't always mean that in the negative sense). The feature-length piece also shows the filmmaker struggling with the inherited optimism of her granddad's legacy. 3 p.m. Saturday at the Lido.

Froghouse. Director Gustav Sandegard unveils his nearly 5-minute documentary on the legendary West Newport Beach surf shop that is struggling to remain open due to previously undisclosed zoning changes. Part of the OCC Showcase at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Lido.

Finding Kind. Director Lauren Parsekian's
feature-length documentary follows two young Orange County women who
created the “Kind Campaign” school program that addresses girl-on-girl
bullying. 5:15 p.m. Sun. at Triangle Square.

Ars Medicina: The Art of Healing. Through the UC Irvine Extension program, Hollywood insider Michael Berlin leads a very popular sneak peaks course that has students seeing films and talking with filmmakers before the movies make their mainstream theatrical debuts. He also produced, executive produced and co-wrote with director Michael DeLuca this feature-length documentary on a group of American doctors, surgeons and volunteers who travel to Guatemala to provide lifesaving treatments for the underprivileged. 5 p.m. Mon. at Triangle Square.

James Koch: Sculptor of Found Objects. Long before recycling became politically correct, Sawdust Festival exhibitor James Koch
was transforming scraps of rusted metal and old discarded chunks of
man-made objects into whimsical sculptures. His story is told by his
long-time neighbor, Laguna Beach filmmaker Carole Zavala, who
captures her pal interacting with crowds at the festival and his
94-year-old father in Wisconsin. A 30-minute version of this film
premiered Aug. 20 at the Sawdust Festival. This 18-minute cut was a collaboration with film editor Maryanne Kuzara. Not Your Typical Short Docs program 8:30 p.m. Mon. at Triangle Square.

Almost American. Gloria is a Harvard graduate from Santa Ana who dreams of teaching English literature at a university. All that is standing in her way is her birthplace; she is undocumented. Director Marcos E. Nieves uses Gloria's story to personalize the country's immigration debate and show how many who could be contributing greatly to American society are forced into unskilled professions just so they can remain part of it. Part of the CSULB Showcase at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Sage Hill School, Newport Beach.

On the Grind. Like the country that surrounds it, there are (at least) two Long Beaches: the one the Chamber of Commerce sells near the harbor and the inner city. But the two worlds do at times come together, such as when skateboarding, a predominantly white sport, entered the hood and barrio. Director James Cheeks III's short–which precedes Surfing With the Enemy, a documentary about the struggle to create a surf scene in Cuba from Venice Beach filmmakers Adam Preskill and Scott Braman–shows skateboarding isn't just a way to escape the boredom of suburbia but the dangers of urbia. 5:30 p.m. Tues., Triangle Square.

Hubo. An animator and filmmaker whose films have screened previously at NBFF and around the world, Erick Oh returns with this look at HUBO (KHR-3), a walking humanoid robot with a life-size bipedal frame,
developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and
Technology (KAIST). Jun-Ho Oh, a KAIST mechanical engineering professor who leads the HUBO project, gave his son the filmmaker approval to produce a 3D-animated short on a cute version
of the humanoid robot and his encounter with a not quite typical ball. Part of the UCLA Showcase at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Sage Hill School, Newport Beach.

“Uncaged” Official Trailer from Matt Rodgers on Vimeo.

Uncaged. Orange County College student director Matt Rodgers' documentary short looks at Newport Beach mixed-martial arts fighter Yoko Hamamura preparing for the first professional bout of his life. Visit facebook.com/uncagedthefilm for more. OCC Showcase shorts program 1 p.m. Sunday at Lido Theater; In Search of Shorts program 1 p.m. Thursday, May 5, at Triangle Square.

See also:

Visit newportbeachfilmfest.com for ticket info.

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