Christopher Scott did 13 years of hard time before the actual perpetrator confessed to the crime. Now he heads a Dallas detective agency that investigates wrongful-conviction cases with the aim of freeing other innocent people. In True Conviction (Saturday, June 3 at the Roxie), the new documentary by local filmmaker Jamie Meltzer, the dedicated, emotional Scott does double duty as an emblem of social justice and a compelling character in his own right. That description, as it happens, applies to quite a few of the protagonists in the SF DocFest program.
Since its inception, DocFest (May 31-June 15 at the Roxie and the Vogue, with opening night at Alamo Drafthouse) has compiled a colorful scrapbook of genuine characters in contrast to the current events survey, educational seminar or social-issue forum that defines many documentary series. Gip (June 11) is a profile of an Alabama bluesman-gravedigger-juke joint owner, while Nat Bates for Mayor (world premiere, June 10 and 15) traces the race for Richmond’s top office in 2014 through the titular controversial politician. Another local saga propels the world premiere of Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk (opening night, May 31), while one of local filmdom’s gen-u-ine iconoclasts, Stephen Parr of Oddball Films, screens a two-hour mashup of Sonic Oddities (June 13) from his humongous personal collection.
The aforementioned Jamie Meltzer’s wonderful 2003 doc, Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story (June 4), amasses the greatest collection of unique characters under one roof in the entire festival, for my money. This is a bonus screening of sorts, to celebrate the presentation of DocFest’s Non-Fiction Vanguard Award to the gifted filmmaker and beloved Stanford prof at True Conviction the night before. (Full disclosure: This writer will interview Meltzer onstage after both films.) There are one or two people in Off the Charts you won’t soon forget, which could be said about nearly every film in DocFest. That’s one of the pleasures of scrapbooks.