Homer Doc Fest returns with films that seek to enlighten

  • Homer Theatre owner Jamie Sutton, wearing special glasses, introduces Werner Herzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams,” the first digital 3-D film shown at the 55-year-old theater for the 2011 Homer Documentary Film Festival. (Photo by Michael Armstrong, Homer News)

Next week, Homer film buffs will escape reality for an hour or two during the weeklong 14th annual Homer Documentary Festival, but organizer Jamie Sutton has nothing but documentaries on his mind for far longer than a week. The film festival starts at 6:15 p.m. Sept. 21 with a gala opening night showing of “An Incovenient Sequel: Truth to Power.”

He poured over annotated pages of film lists last Thursday, searching for the most updated version, scrolling past list after list of films that didn’t quite make the cut.

Homer Theatre owners Sutton and his wife, Lynette, have been treating Homer to the weeklong documentary festival for the past 13 years, and they’re not about to stop now. Even with the theater for sale, Sutton said he thinks there’s a possibility of making the continuation of the festival a condition of its sale.

“There are issues in the world to which nothing speaks better than a documentary film,” he said.

Sutton doesn’t’ source his documentaries from just anywhere — he hits up all the major documentary festivals in the country, and some in Canada, to find the ones he thinks will be just right for the festival. He gets film lists from Toronto Film Festival, Montreal, Tribeca, the American Film Institute, the LA Film Festival, the festivals in Mill Valley and San Francisco, and from festivals in Seattle and North Carolina.

From there, he goes about parsing out which films are highest in quality — that is, which were well made — and which films are of broad enough interest to appeal to the majority of people coming to the Homer festival.

“The second (thing) is that it’s a topic that is of interest,” he said.

“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” comes 10 years after former vice-president Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and details where the country is at in terms of climate change now and the state of the energy industry. It’s the film Sutton chose to screen at the gala this year at the opening of the festival, and its subject matter is that which many people have been aware of for years.

While one of the keys to a successful festival is picking films that are of broad interest and tell a good story, Sutton said documentaries provide the opportunity to bring to light issues that people in a small, relatively removed town like Homer might not otherwise know about.

“One of the great rolls of documentaries is to just enlighten people about subjects that they wouldn’t know about unless they saw this documentary, and yet it’s important,” he said.

A documentary on this year’s docket that calls this concept to mind for Sutton is “Step,” which details the senior year of several members of a high school step dance team in Baltimore, Md.

“I mean, do we really care? But in a fascinating way, we really do care,” he said.

While seemingly unrelated to anything people in Homer would relate to, Sutton said their story of hard work to achieve their dreams is right in line with the struggles many kids face.

This year’s lineup boasts a mix of feel good films — the music documentaries “Score” and “Monterey Pop” — and those dealing with some of today’s most relevant issues worldwide. “City of Ghosts” takes viewers behind enemy lines in Syria, following a group of citizen journalists as they face the realities of standing up to ISIS. “Bending the Arc” details how a group of doctors and activists 30 years ago working to save lives in rural Haiti grew into a fight to bring high quality healthcare to poor countries.

Others are simply intriguing. “Sacred” was shot by more than 40 filmmakers and explores what faith means and looks like to different people in different cultures around the world.

Sutton views films as the most powerful and accessible medium. They are able to be so compelling because they join together all of the art forms, from the visual to the musical.

For more information on the festival and to watch trailers of the documentaries, visit homerdocfest.com.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@homernews.com.

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