Call the docs

The Clinton 12, Silences , and the Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes doc at the San Francisco Black Film Festival

Now in its ninth year, the San Francisco Black Film Festival continues to expand its scope, with two long weekends of narrative films and documentaries plus several shorts programs. If you didn't catch The Last Days of Left Eye during one of its recent VH-1 airings, it's well worth a look on the big screen. After struggling through years of alcoholism and an abusive relationship (you know, the one where she burned the dude's house down), hip-hop icon Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes found herself, kinda, through rehab and multiple trips to a faith healer in Honduras — the site of her fatal 2002 car accident. Composed mostly of footage shot for a documentary that was in progress when Lopes died, Last Days — directed by Lauren Lazin, an Oscar nominee for 2003's Tupac: Resurrection — offers an unguarded look at the fragile megastar.

Another doc worth checking out is The Clinton 12, a PBS-esque look at the events leading up to the 1958 bombing of the first court-ordered integrated high school in the South. After segregation was outlawed, low-key Clinton, Tenn., saw an uptick in hate (cue the Ku Klux Klan) and played host to a media frenzy as the first day of school approached; a "home guard" was formed by veterans and other concerned Clinton citizens to help keep peace in the city, though the National Guard soon stepped in as well. Even if you don't factor in James Earl Jones's narration (and a dramatic score), Keith Henry McDaniel's film has plenty of gravitas.

Octavio Warnock-Graham's Silences also looks at racial tensions, but on a much smaller scale: within one family, all white except for the filmmaker, the mixed-race product of his mother's short-lived relationship with an African American dancer. In his 25-minute film, Warnock-Graham travels from Ohio to the Bay Area in search of his long-lost father and draws his mother's family into a discussion of what's clearly been an elephant in the room since his birth.


Thurs/7–Sun/10 and June 14–17, most films $10

See film listings for showtimes and venue info

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