DocPitch at DocLands!

L to R: Zachary Fink, Joni Cooper, Melissa Langer, Catherine Axley, Minette Nelson, David Eckles, Theo Rigby, Alyssa Fedele, S. Leo Chiang, Nancy Kelly, Kenji Yamamoto. Photo © Tommy Lau Photography

This past May, CFI launched its first new festival in 40 years, the inaugural DocLands Documentary Film Festival, an inclusive festival dedicated to building connections and partnerships aimed at invigorating the business and art of nonfiction filmmaking. We felt that now more than ever “truth through storytelling” matters.

“Documentaries have become stars — both as celebrities and shining lights — within the cinema. Audiences have discovered that true life can be much more interesting and mind-expanding than fiction. During DocLands’ first edition, we were embraced and blessed by an entire slate of exceptional documentary films and the filmmakers who bring us truth in complete, well-researched stories. Stories that are told in a myriad of ways in which there aren’t any rules — other than being truthful — because it’s the truth that matters.”
– Joni Cooper, DocLands Director of Programming

An important focus of DocLands is to support our Bay Area and broader community of talented documentary filmmakers and connect them and their ideas to distributors, philanthropists, fellow filmmakers—and future audiences.

This led to the creation of DocPitch, a forum for filmmakers to pitch their in-development documentary film projects and vie for the opportunity to win a cash prize from The Filmmaker Fund, determined by votes from the audience.

Filmmakers showed a 3 to 5 minute trailer and had a 10 minute Q&A with the audience. The audience was comprised of invited funders, organization representatives, distributors and broadcasters, as well as the general public, who were given a ballot prior to the filmmakers’ presentations to vote on their favorite pitch.

And the winner was… Sanctuary by Theo Rigby!

Sanctuary is an hour-long documentary film that interweaves the powerful history of the Sanctuary movement in the 1980’s into the current day struggle for immigrant rights. Today, communities of faith are embracing refugees, providing sanctuary and challenging an immigration system that is deporting more immigrants than ever before.

“DocPitch provided a great venue to present my feature doc Sanctuary to the community, funders and colleagues — and I was thrilled to win the Audience Choice cash prize! I made many meaningful connections at the Festival and hope to one day screen my films at DocLands.” -Theo Rigby, director of Sanctuary

For more information about Sanctuary, visit