With production costs dropping and political urgency in the forefront of many artists’ minds, the 21st century boom in quality independent documentary films just keeps growing. And if you’ve never checked out SF Indie’s San Francisco Documentary Film Festival (“Docfest”), you’re missing out on one of the cultural treasures the Bay Area has to offer.

Bringing documentaries from all over the world to San Francisco and Berkeley, Docfest doesn’t just showcase great documentary filmmaking;it facilitates some of the best cultural and political discussions you’ll ever encounter. With blatantly revolutionary intent, Docfest never pulls punches and always gets you thinking. I can tell you first-hand that I’ve screened something like fifty of Docfest’s films over the years I’ve been in the area, but I can’t think of a single film that really disappointed me — and I am not a cheap date when it comes to movies.

As the 10th Annual Docfest gets rolling today at the Roxie in San Francisco and the Shattuck Cinema in Berkeley, what is sure to prove one of the most provocative films of the festival hits the big screen at the Shattuck tonight at 5:00pm.

How to Start a Revolution (Dir: Ruaridh Arrow, 2011) explores the world of Gene Sharp, an American Nobel Peace Prize nominee and author of the influential book From Dictatorship to Democracy, which helped guide the leaders of revolutions in spots as far-flung as Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Burma, Thailand, Bosnia, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Venezuela. Sharp’s seminal book is considered contraband anywhere that violent dictators quake in terror at the power of nonviolent protestors. Sharp has been called the “godfather” of nonviolent revolution, and many leaders of nonviolent movements have traveled to visit him.

The film details not just Sharp’s theories, but the practice of his principles, as enacted in nonviolent movements in many different nations. Ruaridh Arrow, a first-time director, took 18 months filming Sharp and his followers for this film. The result is an amazing blueprint-in-film not just of how to start a revolution, but of how to nurture the soul of democracy under assault from the world’s killers.

How to Start a Revolution is co-presented by Docfest, the United Nations Association Film Festival, and CounterCorp, the Anti-Corporate Film Festival. If you can’t make it to tonight’s 5:00pm screening at the Shattuck, the film screens at the Roxie next Saturday, October 22 and Wednesday, October 26, both at 7:15pm.

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