DocLands Plans for Virtual 2021 Film Festival

DocLands Documentary Film Festival, hosted by the California Film Institute, brings compelling true-life films to Marin each spring, though the festival will look quite different when it returns in 2021.

While 2020’s festival was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s event is staying on schedule while it adapts to the ongoing health crisis, and the fifth annual DocLands Documentary Film Festival will be held virtually May 7–16.

The festival is also currently accepting submissions from documentary filmmakers via upload through the FilmFreeway submission platform. The festival’s programming emphasizes new works in both documentary features and shorts; and each year, DocLands strives to engage a diverse audience with its films.

When DocLands returns virtually in May, it will build upon the innovative online programming that was introduced during 2020. Those innovations included “DocTalk From Home,” a springtime online showcase featuring the films and filmmakers that were meant to be in the 2020 festival. Following that digital venture, DocLands hosted the online “DocPitch” forum to support filmmakers with documentaries in production this past fall.

The 2020 DocLands Documentary Film Festival finally ran virtually this past October in tandem with the Mill Valley Film Festival, which also adapted to the pandemic with online and outdoor screenings for its 43rd year.

That virtual version of the 2020 DocLands festival boasted three categories of programming. ‘Art of Impact’ included films that tell stories from the global community and its disparate cultures. These stories engage in politics, personal narratives and biographies; and they aim to spark social justice action. ‘The Great Outdoors’ featured films that transport virtual audiences outside to explore and inspire conservation efforts to save the environment. ‘WonderLands’ featured a selection of films full of joy, wonder and possibility.

“It was such a privilege and honor to have my most recent film (Current Sea) at DocLands Documentary Film Festival,” says filmmaker Christopher Smith in a statement. “Despite the difficult situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the team at DocLands put together an unforgettable experience, one that I will cherish for a long time.”

Now planning for an accessible and inclusive virtual festival, the organizers are keeping open the possibility of limited in-theater screenings available while offering virtual access to those unable or unwilling to travel.

Submissions for the 2021 DocLands Documentary Film Festival are open for new works in documentary features (60-plus minutes), mid length films, and short films. The early deadline is Feb. 1, 2021; final deadline is Feb. 12. Rules and regulations are available on FilmFreeway and filmmakers can submit a film for consideration via upload there.

With DocLands, the Mill Valley Film Festival and the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, the nonprofit California Film Institute continues to celebrate and promote local and international films with its online endeavors. The Smith Rafael’s “Rafael @ Home” virtual screening series offers stay-at-home audiences several films available for streaming, including a special presentation of the newly released documentary film A Trusted Space: Redirecting Grief to Growth, featuring leading experts in trauma-informed education, which screens online with an accompanying panel discussion of local educators on the pandemic’s effects on schooling.

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Charlie Swanson
Charlie Swanson is a North Bay native and an arts and music writer and editor who has covered the local scene since 2014.
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