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Checking for "Stickiness" at the Roxie Theater's DocFest's

Stolen Seas

Real life pirates in Thymaya Payne's Stolen Seas.

Anyone who's worked in media in the last few years is surely familiar with the concept of "stickiness." According to the gospel of modern media, it's a certain X-factor that guides the spread of the news, ideas, and even governs which personal narratives tend to rise to the top in celebrity circles. Stickiness determines which narratives flourish and which die on the vine, and is ultimately more important to the spread of a story than its falsehood or veracity.

First introduced in Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point," the concept has come to define the way most industry analysts look at stories in the media, and has been adopted as truth in marketing, where it's often used to decide on slogans, campaigns and even company names. With the 11th edition of one of SF's favorite film festivals, DocFest, coming up on its halfway point at the imperiled Roxie Theater, we decided to measure five interesting offerings for stickiness and another classic criteria–timeliness–and see how they hold up.

Big Boys Gone Bananas
Timeliness: Swedish documentarian Fredrick Gertten's astounding documentation of Dole Foods' frightening and extreme attempts to suppress his previous film Bananas* At Any Cost (which portrays the legal struggles of Dole workers suing the company for dangerous misconduct) follows smartly on the heels of its predecessor, and its insights on the state of free speech in America and corporate ownership of our media couldn't be more timely. 10

Stickiness: Much like the news story it lays out, Gertten's own court room drama is packed with hooks, both political and emotional. Already a leftist cause celebré, this is a David/Goliath story people will love to share. 8

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Ann Richards

Ann Richards' Texas
Timeliness: Personality-packed Texas Governor Ann Richards died back in 2006 of esophageal cancer, but her ghost seems to be riding the zeitgeist these days. The subject of an upcoming book and play on top of this HBO distributed doc, Richards has enough character to make modern politicos turn pale and is one heck of a hand with a shotgun to boot. 6

Stickiness: Those old enough to know but not to have been there will be impressed by Richard's legendary candor and wowed by her (now nearly unheard of) ability to get things done across partisan boundaries. And she's quotable. 7

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Outing
Timeliness: The film's subject, a 26-year-old man who by degrees confesses his sexual predisposition toward pedophilia to the filmmakers (and by extension the audience at large), makes an unwieldy but timely poster boy for a larger discussion that's been drawing significant friction after an inflammatory Gawker article weighed in on the subject this past September. 9

Stickiness: The "yuck" factor on this one is high enough for viewers to forcibly put it to the back of their mind, but it's been shown that memory works best when jarred by fear or disgust, so this one could go either way. 5

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Stolen Seas
Timeliness: Perhaps not as on top of the news as Outing, this doc on Somali pirates is relevant as ever in a world that blithely marches on, failing to deal with international crises and then marginalizing the turmoil they create as isolated incidents. 6

Stickiness: Slick tech credentials and a detective story feel should get this one some traction within film circles and beyond. The story isn't quite condensable in a way that's conducive to easy sharing, but the idea of a first-hand account from a modern day pirate should keep this one on people's tongues. 7

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Cartoon College
Timeliness: The cartoon boom isn't big news like it once was, so this cute doc about 2010's graduating class at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont won't grab headlines the way it might have back in 2005. There's still plenty of quirk, insight and good storytelling to make it a watch for the evergreen comic fan category, though. 4

Stickiness: Featuring plenty of charming characters, most notably a 60-something student Al (who could easily star in his own cartoon) including cartoon big boys like Art Speigelman and Chris Ware means it will find its intended audience. 6

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