ART hound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

The 57th San Francisco International Film Festival opens Thursday evening with a captivating drama and continues with 14 days of film from all corners of the globe

Berkeley native, Sara Dosa’s "The Last Season" makes its world premiere on Friday, April 25th, at the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF 57) which runs April 24- May 8, 2014.  The documentary examines the bonds between some 200 seasonal workers, mostly Asian, who set up a temporary camp each fall in tiny town of Chemult, Oregon, to forage for matsutake, a rare type of mycorrhizal mushroom that is prized in Japan for its distinctive spicy aroma.    Dosa, her film crew, and Cambodian immigrant Kuoy Loch will be in attendance.  The film screens three times at SFIFF 57, which offers 29 documentary features and a total of 168 films.  Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society

Berkeley native, Sara Dosa’s “The Last Season” makes its world premiere on Friday, April 25th, at the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF 57) which runs April 24- May 8, 2014. The documentary examines the bonds between some 200 seasonal workers, mostly Asian, who set up a temporary camp each fall in tiny town of Chemult, Oregon, to forage for matsutake, a rare type of mycorrhizal mushroom that is prized in Japan for its distinctive spicy aroma. Dosa, her film crew, and Cambodian immigrant Kuoy Loch will be in attendance. The film screens three times at SFIFF 57, which offers 29 documentary features and a total of 168 films. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society

 

Not just another film festival, the 57th Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF 57) is the West Coast’s premiere film festival, showcasing stellar global storytelling, homegrown talent, impactful reportage and remarkable cinematography.  SFIFF opens this Thursday evening and runs for 15 days, featuring 168 films and live events from 56 countries in 40 languages—74 narrative features, 29 documentary features, 65 shorts, 14 juried awards, and over 100 participating filmmakers. Organized by the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS), this mammoth festival really does defy categorization.  Its greatly revered for its support of new filmmakers and for championing independent films that are unlikely to screen elsewhere in the Bay Area.  One of the joys of attending SFIFF is getting to see these films the way they were meant to be seen—on a big screen, in digital projection—and getting to participate in Q&A’s with their directors and actors, many of whom reside in other countries and express fresh and unpredictable points of view.  SFIFF also distinguishes itself with excellent live onstage events and awards ceremonies that feature film luminaries in  more lengthy moderated discussions.  While many festivals have morphed in multi-sensory entertainment malls, SFIFF is first and foremost film, with a few great parties thrown into the mix.

I am dividing my coverage of this year’s festival into two articles—this first one gives an overview and lets you know what the featured big evenings and tributes will offer and the second one will include short reviews of the top films I recommend. I haven’t covered the special programs in as much depth before but, frankly, there is nothing more impactful than watching a film and getting the behind-the-scenes lowdown straight from the creator or actor’s mouth. I’ve attended several of these chat/screening combos and at roughly $20-$35 a pop, there’s a lot of value to be had.  So, here are the high-profile events.

BIG NIGHTS:

This year, both opening and closing night films focus on two American married couples who develop fractures in their relationships while dealing with issues—work and vacation—that become insanely complicated and high stakes.

Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac, and Kirsten Dunst star in the North American premiere of Hossein Amini's “The Two Faces of January,” a stylish adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith suspense thriller.  The film, which was shot on location in Greece and Turkey, opens the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF 57) which runs April 24- May 8, 2014.  Hossein Amini will be in attendance.  Photo courtesy San Francisco Film Society

Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac, and Kirsten Dunst star in the North American premiere of Hossein Amini’s “The Two Faces of January,” a stylish adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith suspense thriller. The film, which was shot on location in Greece and Turkey, opens the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF 57) which runs April 24- May 8, 2014. Hossein Amini will be in attendance. Photo courtesy San Francisco Film Society

OPENING NIGHT: (Thursday, April 24, 7 p.m., Castro Theatre) The Two Faces of January (Hossein Amini, UK, 2014, 97 min) Hossein Amini will attend.  Intrigue begins at the Parthenon when wealthy American tourists Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen) and his young bride Collette (Kirsten Dunst) meet American expat Rydal (Oscar Isaac), a scammer who poses as a tour guide.  Instead of becoming his latest marks, the two befriend him, but an incident at the couple’s hotel puts all three in danger and creates a precarious interdependence between them.  This American thriller, written and directed by Hossein Amini in his feature directorial debut, is a gripping adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1964 novel of the same name. Filmed on location in Greece and Turkey, Amini evokes the glamor of the 1962 setting through Marcel Zyskind’s cinematography, Alberto Iglesias’ atmospheric score and the Kennedy-era chic of Steven Noble’s costume designs.  The clever screenplay has the two male protagonists seesawing between being allies and adversaries, a handful of unnatural deaths, and a few attempted murders and frame-ups.  Amini was born in Iran and he and his family immigrated to England when he was 11.  He wrote the screenplay for Snow White and the Hunstman (2012) and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing-Adapted Screenplay for Wings of the Dove (1997). (Click here to purchase tickets) Followed by an Opening Night Party at Public Works, a new events space, situated in San Francisco’s Mission district, featuring gourmet treats and beverages from some of San Francisco’s finest restaurants and purveyors. (Ticketed separately)

This year’s CENTERPIECE is Saturday, May 3 and introduces first time writer director Gia Coppola (27-year-old granddaughter of FFC and niece of Sofia) who has adapted Palo Alto, James Franco’s 2010 book of short stories, into a richly layered ensemble drama. I attended a press screening of Palo Alto and Coppola certainly has the family touch. Her film follows an extended group of high school teens, some genuinely disturbed and others just angst ridden, as they experiment with all sorts of vices and struggle with their families and one another. Emma Roberts, is sensitive April, the emotional lynchpin, who falls for introspective artist Teddy (Jack Kilmer, son of Val Kilmer who also appears), while navigating an affair with her soccer coach Mr. B (James Franco). Meanwhile, Teddy’s friend, Fred (Nat Wolff), wreaks personality disorder level mayhem wherever he goes. When he zeroes in on sexually promiscuous Emily (Zoe Levin), things get cruel, nasty and so uncomfortable, you’ll have a hard time watching. If you’re a parent, take in the signals and enjoy the great retro aurora. If you’re one of the young and disaffected, Coppola’s sharp mirror is sympathetic to your inner demons. (Screens May 3, 7:30 p.m., Sundance Kabuki with Gia Coppola in attendance. (Click here to purchase tickets.) After-screening party, 9 p.m., at Roe, San Francisco’s premier boutique nightclub and lounge destination. (Ticketed separately)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Chris Messina star in Messina's “Alex in Venice,” SFIFF 57’s Closing Night Film, a very human drama about a workaholic lawyer who struggles to manage her high profile career, her family, and her identity after her stay-at-home husband decides to leave.  Both Winstead and Messina will attend.  Photo: courtesy Milissa Moseley and SFFS.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Chris Messina star in Messina’s “Alex in Venice,” SFIFF 57’s Closing Night Film, a very human drama about a workaholic lawyer who struggles to manage her high profile career, her family, and her identity after her stay-at-home husband decides to leave. Both Winstead and Messina will attend. Photo: courtesy Milissa Moseley and SFFS.

 

CLOSING NIGHT: (Thursday, May 8, 7 p.m., CastroTheatre) Alex of Venice (Chris Messina, USA 2014, 87 min)  In the tranquil suburbs of Venice, CA, Alex, (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a workaholic environmental rights attorney, receives a rude awakening. Her stay-at-home husband George (Chris Messina), who runs the household and takes care of their son Dakota (Skylar Gaertner) and her pot-smoking actor father (Don Johnson), calls it quits. He wants to work on his waning art career and needs space. Thrown for a loop, Alex barely has time to register her own shock and pain because she’s immediately overburdened with the practical responsibilities of two full-time jobs. As it becomes abundantly clear how inept she is on the home front, and how important George is, she acts out. What eventually follows is Alex’s mini-voyage of self-discovery, resolve and resignation. This is the directorial debut of actor Chris Messina (“The Mindy Project” TV series). Chris Messina and Mary Elizabeth Winstead will attend. (Click here to purchase tickets.) Closing Night Party: Dance the night away with SFIFF’s movie-loving crowd while enjoying delicious hors d’oeuvres and cocktail at The Chapel, San Francisco’s new Mission addition. (Ticketed separately)

AWARDS AND TRIBUTES:

British artist Isaac Julien will receive SFIFF’s Persistence of Vision Award on Sunday, April 27, 2014.  Photo: Courtesy of Graeme Robertson and the San Francisco Film Society

British artist Isaac Julien will receive SFIFF’s Persistence of Vision Award on Sunday, April 27, 2014. Photo: Courtesy of Graeme Robertson and the San Francisco Film Society

British artist Isaac Julien, who will receive SFIFF’s Persistence of Vision Award on Sunday, April 27, is acclaimed for his immersive film installations.  “Ten Thousand Waves” (2010), which will be shown on Sunday, was filmed on location in the ravishing and remote Guangxi Province and at the famous Shanghai Film Studios and various sites around Shanghai. Through formal experimentation and a series of unique collaborations, Julien seeks to engage with Chinese culture through contemporary events, ancient myths and artistic practice.  Isaac Julien Mazu, Silence (Ten Thousand Waves), 2010, Endura Ultra photograph, 180 x 240 cm, Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

British artist Isaac Julien, who will receive SFIFF’s Persistence of Vision Award on Sunday, April 27, is acclaimed for his immersive film installations. “Ten Thousand Waves” (2010), which will be shown on Sunday, was filmed on location in the ravishing and remote Guangxi Province and at the famous Shanghai Film Studios and various sites around Shanghai. Through formal experimentation and a series of unique collaborations, Julien seeks to engage with Chinese culture through contemporary events, ancient myths and artistic practice. Isaac Julien Mazu, Silence (Ten Thousand Waves), 2010, Endura Ultra photograph, 180 x 240 cm, Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

Persistence of Vision Award — (Sunday, April 27 at 3:30 p.m., Sundance Kabuki) British artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien (2001 Turner Prize short-list nominee for The Long Road to Mazatlán (2000) and creator of numerous immersive film and sound installations at world’s top museums) is the winner of this year’s Persistence of Vision Award. He will take the stage for a conversation with author and social critic B. Ruby Rich and for the screening of his acclaimed Ten Thousand Waves (2010), a film installation reflecting the movement of people across continents. This installation, projected onto nine double-sided screens, travelled the world (the UK, China, South Korea, Europe, and Scandinavia) and arrived at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in late 2013, riveting visitors with its three-story arrangement of screens and multiplying sounds, which filled MoMA’s atrium and reverberated through the galleries.  I can’t wait to hear what Julien is planning next.

Jeremy Irons will receive the Peter J. Owens Award for excellence in acting at the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival on May 1 at the Regency Center.  Irons, who won a best actor Oscar in 1990 for his performance as Claus von Bulow in "Reversal of Fortune" and a Tony in 1984 for Tom Stoppard's "The Real Thing," also will be honored with "An Evening With Jeremy Irons at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas" on Wednesday, April 30, 2014.  Photo: courtesy SFFS.

Jeremy Irons will receive the Peter J. Owens Award for excellence in acting at the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival on May 1 at the Regency Center. Irons, who won a best actor Oscar in 1990 for his performance as Claus von Bulow in “Reversal of Fortune” and a Tony in 1984 for Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing,” also will be honored with “An Evening With Jeremy Irons at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas” on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Photo: courtesy SFFS.

Peter J. Owens Award—Jeremy Irons (Academy Award, Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy, Tony and SAG Award winner) is the recipient of this year’s Peter J. Owens Award for acting, which will be presented to Irons at the very exclusive Film Society Awards Night, Thursday, May 1 at the Regency Center. Irons will also be honored at An Evening with Jeremy Irons at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, Wednesday April 30, 7:30 pm. A screening of a film featuring one of his iconic performances will follow an onstage interview and a selection of clips from his impressive career.

American indie director Richard Linklater will receive SFIFF’s Founder's Directing Award on Sunday, May 2, 2014.  Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society

American indie director Richard Linklater will receive SFIFF’s Founder’s Directing Award on Sunday, May 2, 2014. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society

Ellar Coltrane, the focus of Richard Linklater‘s “Boyhood” (2014), which follows an American family over the course of more than a decade.  Linklater shot the film, with cast Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and newcomers Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater (Linklater’s daughter), over twelve years.  It’s the real deal—each year, he brought the cast together for a scene or two sensitively documenting the actual growth of two siblings, the evolution of their family and how they navigate the painful beautiful and unfair act of just living.

Ellar Coltrane, the focus of Richard Linklater‘s “Boyhood” (2014), which follows an American family over the course of more than a decade. Linklater shot the film, with cast Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and newcomers Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater (Linklater’s daughter), over twelve years. It’s the real deal—each year, he brought the cast together for a scene or two sensitively documenting the actual growth of two siblings, the evolution of their family and how they navigate the painful beautiful and unfair act of just living.

 

Founder’s Directing Award— (Sunday May 2, 7 p.m., Castro Theatre) Self-taught American indie director and writer, Richard Linklater is the winner of this year’s Founder’s Directing Award and marks his third consecutive appearance at SFIFF. He joins an elite group— Satyajit Ray and Spike Lee—of directors whose first films were screened at SFIFF and who were subsequently awarded the Founder’s Directing Award. The evening will include a clip reel of career highlights and an onstage interview followed by a screening of Linklater’s entrancing new film Boyhood (2014), shot over 12 years, which received accolades at its premiere at Sundance. The 162 minute film is Linklater’s 18th feature film. It begins in 2002 and tells the quiet story of a boy named Mason as he grows up in Texas. The hook is that this film offers something few if any other films have—Mason is played throughout by the young actor Ellar Coltrane, who we literally and authentically watch grow up, year after year, on camera, from first grade to his departure for college.

Stephen Gaghan, the writer who crafted “Rules of Engagement,” “Traffic” and “Syriana” is the recipient of the Kanbar Screenwriting Award at SFIFF 57, April 24 - May 8, 2014.  Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Stephen Gaghan, the writer who crafted “Rules of Engagement,” “Traffic” and “Syriana” is the recipient of the Kanbar Screenwriting Award at SFIFF 57, April 24 – May 8, 2014. Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Matt Damon (left) and George Clooney (center) in a scene from Stephen Gagan’s “Syriana” (2005) which will screen at SFIFF 57 on May 3, when Stephen Gaghan receives the Kanbar Award for excellence in screenwriting.  “Syriana” tackles oil and money and the stakes of the haves and have nots in the world through a series of interlocking stories that involve revenge, bribery, betrayal.  The plot is so complex, that it surrounds and engulfs the viewer, so that he becomes just like one of the players in the game who is fighting without understanding the complete picture.

Matt Damon (left) and George Clooney (center) in a scene from Stephen Gagan’s “Syriana” (2005) which screens at SFIFF 57 on May 3, when Stephen Gaghan receives the Kanbar Award for excellence in screenwriting. “Syriana” tackles oil and money and the stakes of the world’s Haves and Have nots through a series of interlocking stories that involve revenge, bribery, and betrayal. The plot is so complex, that it surrounds and engulfs the viewer, making him just like one of the players in the game–compelled to fight without understanding the complete picture.

Kanbar Award(Saturday, May 3, 12:30 p.m., Sundance Kabuki). American screenwriter and director Stephen Gaghan is this year’s recipient of the Kanbar Awardfor excellence in screenwriting.  Gaghan wrote and directed Syriana (2005), for which he received a best original screenplay Oscar nomination, and is well known for his feature script for Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000)for which he won the Academy Award, Golden Globe, Writers Guild of America Award and British Academy Award. The festival will honor Gaghan with an onstage interview prior to a screening of Syriana.

 

San Francisco-based film critic David Thomson is the recipient of SFIFF’s Mel Novikoff Award.  On May 4, he will appear in conversation with writer Geoff Dyer , followed by a screening of Preston Sturges'  “The Lady Eve” (1941).  Photo: courtesy the San Francisco Film Society

San Francisco-based film critic David Thomson is the recipient of SFIFF’s Mel Novikoff Award. On May 4, he will appear in conversation with writer Geoff Dyer , followed by a screening of Preston Sturges’ “The Lady Eve” (1941). Photo: courtesy the San Francisco Film Society

Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck in Preston Sturges' “The Lady Eve” (1941).   Card shark Stanwyck is out to fleece Fonda, the naïve heir to a brewery fortune who is also a snake enthusiast coming home from an Amazon expedition.  Her scheme is quickly abandoned when she falls in love with her prey but is exposed anyway and shunned by Fonda.  Her plan to re-conquer his heart involves assuming a false identity and unabashed flirtation.  No one more convincingly desired a man.  In the famous scene where Fonda adjusts Stanwyck’s shirt downward to expose less skin, Thomson, in his book “Moments that Made the Movies,” linked this act of restraint with the inelastic film censors of the times, observing that Sturges was a brilliant master of the double entendre.   Photo: courtesy the San Francisco Film Society

Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck in Preston Sturges’ “The Lady Eve” (1941). Card shark Stanwyck is out to fleece Fonda, the naïve heir to a brewery fortune who is also a snake enthusiast coming home from an Amazon expedition. Her scheme is quickly abandoned when she falls in love with her prey but is exposed anyway and shunned by Fonda. Her plan to re-conquer his heart involves assuming a false identity and unabashed flirtation. No one more convincingly desired a man. In the famous scene where Fonda adjusts Stanwyck’s shirt downward to expose less skin, Thomson, in his book “Moments that Made the Movies,” linked this act of restraint with the inelastic film censors of the times, observing that Sturges was a brilliant master of the double entendre. Photo: courtesy the San Francisco Film Society

Mel Novikoff Award— (Sunday May 4 at 3 p.m., Sundance Kabuki.)  San Francisco-based film critic and historian David Thomson, who has authored over 20 books on film, including the best-selling Moments That Made the Movies (2013), is the recipient of the Mel Novikoff Award.  He will be in conversation with writer Geoff Dyer and chose Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve (1941), starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, as the film he wanted screened on his big day.  You can be sure that he will give a riveting analysis of select moments in this heralded film, some familiar and others not, along with anecdotes and juicy gossip about its filming and stars.

ARThound’s top picks—

 

The Last Season (Sara Dosa, USA, 78 min) World Premiere The lives of some 200 seasonal Asian workers—allies and enemies from Southeast Asian wars—collide as they set up a temporary camp each fall in the tiny town of Chemult, Oregon, to forage for a rare mushroom that is prized in Japan for its distinctive spicy aroma.   From this unexpected forest world and its temporary tent city, filmmaker Sara Dosa explores the legacy of the Vietnam War and the Khmer Rouge, poetically tells the story of a migrant community at the whims of the global economy. (Screens: Fri, April 25, 6:45 p.m., Sundance Kabuki, Sun, April 27, 12:30 p.m., BAM/PFA, Sun, May 5, 3:30 p.m., Sundance Kabuki)

Manuscripts Don’t Burn (Dast-Neveshtehaa Nemisoosand) (Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran, 2013, 127 min) Based on a true story, this gripping thriller tells the story of a failed effort by the Iranian government to murder almost two dozen journalists in 1995. The story is told through the journey of two hired killers who, years later, are intimidating and interrogating witnesses of the failed mass murder on behalf of the repressive regime. Shot on location in Iran, the film blatantly defies Rasoulof’s 20-year ban from filmmaking. This is Rasoulof’s third film to screen at SFIFF but he has yet to make an appearance. (Screens: Fri, April 25, 8:40 p.m., BAM/PFA, Sun, April 27, 4 p.m. and Tues, April 29, 9 p.m. both at Sundance Kabuki)

The Great Musuem (Das große museum) US Premiere (Johannes Holzhausen, 2014, 95 min) —An elegant tribute to the curators, conservators, administrators and marketers who keep Vienna’s stately Kunsthistorisches Museum functioning and delicately balanced so that the world’s cultural heritage is preserved and the exhibits are relevant enough to engage modern audiences. (Screens: Sat, April 26, 6:30 p.m., New People)

Tangerines (Zaza Urushadze, Georgia/Estonia, 2013, 84 min) An old man caught in the brutal 1992 conflict over Georgia’s Abkhazia region finds himself nursing two wounded soldiers from opposing sides in his small house. A gripping and perceptive antiwar tale which is gorgeously filmed in Georgia’s mountainous coastal region and observes the growing conflict from a tangerine orchard on a remote mountain. Recent events in the Ukraine make Tangerines especially relevant. (Screens: Sat, April 26, 2014, 9 p.m. and Sun, April 27, 6:15 p.m., both at Sundance Kabuki, and Tues, May 6, 8:30 p.m., BAM/PFA)

A scene from Tonislav Hristov’s documentary “Soul Food Stories,” screening twice at SFIFF 57.  The women in the village of Satovcha, Bulgaria— Orthodox Bulgarians, Muslim Turks, Pomacs and a few gypsies—still gather to prepare “banitsa” a traditional Bulgarian pastry (with many Balkan variants) comprised of filo dough that is hand-pulled until it is just millimeters thick and then filled with a mix of crushed cheese (Bulgaian sirene), yoghurt and eggs.   They also use the time to discuss their limited access to the men’s social club.  Photo: courtesy Taskovski Films, Ltd.

A scene from Tonislav Hristov’s documentary “Soul Food Stories,” screening twice at SFIFF 57. The women in the village of Satovcha, Bulgaria— Orthodox Bulgarians, Muslim Turks, Pomacs and a few gypsies—still gather to prepare “banitsa” a traditional Bulgarian pastry (with many Balkan variants) comprised of filo dough that is hand-pulled until it is just millimeters thick and then filled with a mix of crushed cheese (Bulgaian sirene), yoghurt and eggs. They also use the time to discuss their limited access to the men’s social club. Photo: courtesy Taskovski Films, Ltd.

 

Soul Food Stories (Istoria za hranata i dushata) (Tonislav Hristov, Bulgaria/Finland, 2013, 69 min) U.S. Premiere  A warm clever exploration of gender, tradition and community in the Southwestern Bulgarian village of Satovcha whose inhabitants are Muslim, Christian, Roma and atheist Communists, all united by a love of food and a respect for the land.  Beautifully shot, the film unfolds like a simple but sumptuous 10-course meal, with observations on food preparation and religious diversity generously laced into the recipes.   (Screens: Wed, April 30, 2014, 6 p.m., Sundance Kabuki, Sat, May 3, 3:30 p.m., New People Cinema, Tuesday, May 6, Sundance Kabuki)

Of Horses and Men (Hross í oss) (Benedikt Erlingsson, 2013, 81 min) Delightfully comedic, laced with explicit equine sex, gaited trotting and chock full of gorgeously shot vistas of the Icelandic landscape, actor Benedikt Erlingsson’s directorial debut is a riveting exploration of the animal instincts in all of us. Set in a rural community where horses (and drinking) are a crucial part of the social interaction, the director shows us the world of his human characters through their horses’ expressive eyes. Iceland’s Submission for the Academy Award Nomination  for Best Foreign Language Film. (Screens: Fri, May 2, 4:30 p.m. and Sat, May 3, 8:45 p.m. and Sun, May 5, 6 p.m.—all at Sundance Kabuki

SFIFF 57 Details:

SFIFF 57 runs April 24-May 8, 2014.  Four Screening Venues: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post Street, San Francisco; New People Cinema, 1746 Post Street, San Francisco; Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street, San Francisco; Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Theatre, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley.  Salon and Event Venues (all San Francisco):  Filmhouse, 1426 Fillmore Street, Suite 300 (near Ellis), Disney Family Museum, 104 Montgomery Street (near Lincoln),  The Chapel, 777 Valencia Street (at 18th Street) , The Grand Ballroom at the Regency Center, 1290 Sutter Street (at Van Ness),  Roe Restaurant, 651 Howard Street; Public Works, 161 Erie Street (at Mission)

Tickets: $15 for most films.  Special events generally start at $20 or $35.   Two screening passes—the popular CINEVOUCHER 10-pack ($140 general public and $120 for Film Society members) and the exclusive CINEVISA early admittance to every screening, party, and program (with exception of Film Society Awards Night). ($1200 Film Society members and $1500 general public).   How to buy tickets—purchase online at www.festival.sffs.org or in person during the festival at Sundance Kabuki, New People Cinema.  Purchase day of show, cash only tickets at Pacific Film Archive and Castro Theatre.

Advance ticket purchases absolutely recommended as many screenings go to Rush.  Click here to see which films are currently at rush (the list is updated frequently).

Arrive Early!  Ticket and pass holders must arrive 15 minutes prior to show time to guarantee admission.

Rush tickets:  Last-minute or rush tickets may be available on a first served basis to those waiting in line for cash only about 10 minutes before show time.  If you want rush tickets, plan to line up at least 45 minutes prior to screening time.

More info: For full schedule, info, tickets visit www.festival.sffs.org. or call (415) 561-5000.

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Show Boat” opens San Francisco Opera’s summer season—discounted tickets options

San Francisco Opera takes the dive into big musical theater with “Show Boat,” its summer season opener produced by Francesca Zambello.  Photo  ©Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago.

San Francisco Opera takes the dive into big musical theater with “Show Boat,” its summer season opener produced by Francesca Zambello. Photo ©Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago.

It’s going to be a memorable summer at San Francisco Opera (SFO) as the company opens its Summer Season with a dive into big musical theater with “Show Boat,” a performance that promises to be a uniquely American hybrid of opera and rousing Broadway musical. Both a poignant love story and a powerful reminder of the bitter legacy of racism, “Show Boat” was a theatre landmark that contributed such now standard songs as “Ol’ Man River,” “Make Believe,” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.”  “Show Boat” holds a special spot in the history of musical theater in that it was the one of first musicals with a believable story where the songs existed to move the tale forward.  Under the baton of music theatre-maestro John DeMain, these songs will come to life.   Based on the 1926 novel Show Boat by Pulitzer Prize winner Edna Ferber, with music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, the story focuses on a performing troupe aboard the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River showboat in the late 1880s, and follows their turbulent lives over 40 years.  Captain Andy Hawks (Bill Irwin, Tony Award winning actor, with fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, the NEA, Guggenheim and Fullbright,  and a Bay Area favorite at A.C.T. ) and his bossy wife, Parthy (Harriet Harris, Tony Award winning actress), steer this floating company through its ragtag existence. But they cannot protect their stage-struck daughter, Magnolia (the ebullient soprano Heidi Stober), from falling for a dashing stranger, Gaylord Ravenal (baritone Michael Todd Simson), a riverboat gambler.  And then there’s mixed-race Juli, the emotional core of the story (Patricia Racette, SFO’s go-to soprano who has dominated the past season with several impressive title roles).  Illegally married to a white man, she is posing as white and just bound for trouble.

Acclaimed stage director and production designer Francesca Zambello’s scale production opened at Chicago’s Lyric Opera in 2012 and the Chicago Classical Review declared it “a triumph—a stylish, fast-paced and colorful show that had the capacity audience on its feet, cheering loud and long.”  A co-production of four major American opera companies, “Show Boat” has already sailed to the Houston Grand Opera in January 2013 and the Washington National Opera in May 2013, gathering accolades long the way.

Dance is the fabric of life on the show boat and the production will feature a lot of high-energy, high kicking punchy dance routines by choreographer, Michelle Lynch, who also worked on “Hairspray” on Broadway.  “Show Boat” spans some 50 years and Lynch has integrated popular social dances from the period into the production, which ought to be dazzling with Paul Tazewell’s plush period costumes.

The first edition of Edna Ferber's Show Boat which established the popular author as a first rate story-teller.  The story chronicles the lives of three generations of performers on the Cotton Blossom, a floating theater that travels between small towns on the banks of the Mississippi, from the 1880s to the 1920s. The story moves from the Reconstruction-Era river boat to Gilded-Age Chicago to Roaring-Twenties New York, and finally returns to the Mississippi River.

The first edition of Edna Ferber’s Show Boat which catapulted the popular Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist (for “So Big” (1924), short story writer and playwright to further fame. The story chronicles the lives of three generations of performers on the Cotton Blossom, a floating theater that travels between small towns on the banks of the Mississippi, from the 1880s to the 1920s. The story moves from the Reconstruction-Era river boat to Gilded-Age Chicago to Roaring-Twenties New York, and finally returns to the Mississippi River. The opera closely follows the book.

SFO General Director David Gockley is proudly awaiting “Show Boat’s” arrival:  “Show Boat” will be done in grand opera fashion in the way the creators conceived. The Opera House is—I believe—the appropriate venue for these great classic musicals that require full-voiced, ‘legit’ singing.”

Approximate running time is two hours and 45 minutes including one intermission.  Sung in English with English supertitles.

Ten performances are scheduled from June 1 to July 2, 2014.

What were Show Boats?   Show boats or showboats were floating theaters that traveled along the major rivers of the United States from the 1870s to the 1930s. The performers lived aboard the vessels. With song, dance, and dramatic productions, show boats provided song, dance, and dramatic productions for small riverside towns that were otherwise quite isolated. Edna Ferber, who had never heard of show boats, was immediately intrigued when she learned about them in 1924 from one of a producer of one of her earlier plays.

Here, I thought, was one of the most melodramatic and gorgeous bits of Americana that had ever come my way. It was not only the theater—it was the theater plus the glamour of the wandering drifting life, the drama of the river towns, the mystery and terror of the Mississippi itself… I spent a year hunting down every available scrap of show-boat material; reading, interviewing, taking notes and making outlines. (Edna Ferber, A Peculiar Treasure, Doubleday, 1960, pp 297-304.)

NOT a steamboat: In order to move down the river, a show boat was pushed by a small tugboat, which was attached to it. It would have been impossible to put a steam engine on it, since it would have had to be placed right in the auditorium. Ever since the box-office success of MGM’s 1951 motion picture musical Showboat, in which the boat was inaccurately redesigned as a deluxe, self-propelled steamboat, the image of a showboat as a large twin-stacked vessel with a huge paddle wheel at the rear has taken hold in popular culture.

In the spring of 1925, Ferber traveled to Bath, North Carolina and spent four days aboard one of last show boats in the country, the James Addams Floating Theatre, which plied the Pamlico River and Great Dismal Swamp Canal. The material she gathered fueled her novel which she spent the next year writing in France and New York.

 

2 Awesome SFO Ticket Deals:

SPECIAL TWO-DAY SALE Enjoy 40% Off Summer Operas!

Whether you’re still working on your tax return or your refund is burning a hole in your pocket, now is the time to treat yourself and your friends to this world-class opera and others from SFO’s summer season!  For two days only, San Francisco Opera is offering its biggest sale of the summer—40% off select performances of Show Boat, La Traviata and Madame Butterfly.  This offer is only available online and valid until Wednesday, April 16, 2014.    BUY TICKETS   Enter Code: TAX40

Save up to 30% when you buy tickets to all three of SFO’s summer operas.

Can’t make a decision by April 16th?  Call the Box Office at 415 864-3330 to select your own dates for all three Summer 2014 operas and save 30% on tickets.  This discount offer is not available online.

 

 

 

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Slow down, it’s “Slow Art Day” at five San Francisco museums and galleries (and more than 200 others worldwide)— Look at five artworks for 10 minutes each, then meet and discuss.

Slow Art Day, Saturday, April 12, 2014, encourages people to slow down and really concentrate on the art in front of them.  Georgia O’Keeffe, Lake George [formerly Reflection Seascape], 1922 is currently on view at the de Young museum as part of their "Georgia O'Keeffe and Lake George" exhibition.  Oil on canvas. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Charlotte Mack. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Slow Art Day, Saturday, April 12, 2014, encourages people to slow down and really concentrate on the art in front of them. Georgia O’Keeffe, Lake George [formerly Reflection Seascape], 1922 is currently on view at the de Young museum as part of their “Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George” exhibition. Oil on canvas. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, gift of Charlotte Mack. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The average time spent looking at a piece of art in a museum is less than 20 seconds and continuing to drop (according to stats provided by the initiators of Slow Art Day). On Saturday, April 12, the de Young Museum, the Legion of Honor, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Chandler Fine Art and USF’s Mary and Thatcher Gallery (all in San Francisco) and dozens of other museums and galleries around the world will participate in Slow Art Day.  The concept is simple and similar to meditation— look at five artworks for 10 minutes each without doing anything else, then meet and discuss.  Just like the National Day of Unplugging, which encourages people to shut-off their smartphones and socialize face-to-face, Slow Art Day’s mission is to enable deeper connections with art that don’t happen in the daily whirl that our fast-paced lives have become.

I recently spent some time looking at Georgia O’Keeffe’s oil painting Lake George, currently on view in the special exhibition Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George at the de Young and after a few minutes, my awareness really began to shift.

I plan to visit the Legion of Honor’s new show from the National Gallery of Art, Intimate Impressionism (on view through August 3, 2014), which features some 70 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterworks which illuminate the process of painting directly in nature. The temporary closure of the National Gallery’s East Building for major renovation and expansion has made possible the rare opportunity to see this select group of paintings in San Francisco, the exhibition’s first venue. And I’ll also revisit Matisse from SFMOMA (through September 7, 2014) which features 23 paintings, drawings and bronzes from SFMOMA’s acclaimed collection and two paintings and two drawings from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s own important Matisse holdings.

Here are few tips for embarking on your Slow Art Day experience:

  • Choose a piece of art that appeals to you at first glance and draws you in. You’re likely to stay engaged for a longer period of time if you have that initial reaction.
  • Relax, and let your eye wander over the artwork. Spend more time on details that are particularly interesting.
  • Observe from different distances and angles. Take note of what changes occur when you move around.
  • Notice how you feel, and what emotions the artwork brings up.
  • If you get bored, ask yourself why you chose this piece of art. Or pick a specific line or color and follow it throughout the artwork.
  • Afterwards, share your thoughts! It might be interesting to hear how others may have had very similar or dramatically different experiences. It’s also fun to try and draw a sketch after you’re finished looking—just a few extra minutes of observation might really create a lasting impression of a piece of art

If you’re the type who needs structure, both the de Young and Legion of Honor have two rounds of Slow Art Day programs 10 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Learn more about Slow Art Day at slowartday.com.

April 12, 2014 Posted by | Art | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smithsonian’s Sackler curator, Debra Diamond, speaks Thursday, April 10, 2014, on “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” at the Asian Art Museum

 

Smithsonian curator Debra Diamond, curator of  “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” at the Asian Art Museum through May 25, 20114, will speak about  the challenges of creating the groundbreaking exhibition on the visual culture of yoga at the Asian Art Museum on Thursday, April 10, at 7 PM.  Here, Diamond speaks to journalists at the exhibition press conference about early twentieth century Western memorabilia which depicted yogis and ascetics as emaciated exotics performing voyeuristic stunts.  Uniting spectacle, ethnography and missionary activities, these postcards and small objects such as a “Fakir Sitting on a Bed of Nails” were collected as part of a trend of cataloguing Indian people.

Smithsonian curator Debra Diamond, curator of “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” at the Asian Art Museum through May 25, 20114, will speak about the challenges of creating the groundbreaking exhibition on the visual culture of yoga at the Asian Art Museum on Thursday, April 10, at 7 PM. Here, Diamond speaks to journalists at the exhibition press conference about early twentieth century Western memorabilia which depicted yogis and ascetics as emaciated exotics performing voyeuristic stunts. Uniting spectacle, ethnography and missionary activities, these postcards and small objects such as a “Fakir Sitting on a Bed of Nails” were collected as part of a trend of cataloguing Indian people.

Debra Diamond, curator of South Asian art at the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler Galleries of Art, and curator of Yoga: The Art of Transformation at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum (AAM) through May 25, 20114, will speak at the museum on Thursday, April 10, at 7 PM about the process of creating the first major study on the visual culture of yoga. Diamond, who also edited the exhibition’s comprehensive catalog of the same title, will chart the project, starting with its initial concept and research through interdisciplinary collaborations with scholars, yoga practitioners and exhibition designers. Focusing on the masterworks currently on view at AAM, she will illuminate how visual culture conveys embodied transformations and reveals yoga’s diverse and profound manifestations in history. Diamond led the press tour for the exhibition when it opened in February.  She is a top-rate scholar and engaging speaker and had the press corps transfixed with her detailed explanations of the history and significance of these rare artifacts.

Diamond devoted six years to preparing the groundbreaking exhibition and selected its roughly 140 artworks from more than 30 different places around the world.  Her exhibition catalogue for Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur (fall 2008) received two major awards for scholarship: the College Art Association’s Alfred H. Barr award and the Smithsonian Secretary’s Award for Research. She has also published on yoga imagery, new methods in Indian art history, contemporary Asian art, and various aspects of the Freer|Sackler collections.  After her talk, Debra Diamond will be signing exhibition catalogs in North Court, outside of the museum store.

ARThound spoke to Debra Diamond at the AAM’s press conference about her interest in the art of yoga:

“The major group of paintings in “Garden and Cosmos” were the hatha yoga and Nath Sampraday which were the core of the project and also of my dissertation (at Columbia).  In studying them over the years, I found that there was no written material and no one knew much about the Nath Sampraday. I would look through Indian art books for clues as to how these images developed and I kept whatever was relevant in a cardboard box and crated that around with me.  The minute that “Garden and Cosmos” closed, I proposed this exhibition to the Sackler.  I said we can expand from that one moment.  We can look at how yoga manifested in history over time and through various cultures if we follow the visual history and it will be fascinating.  I realized that no one had put it together. Because yoga was so central to Indian culture, the greatest artists worked on these tatvas and we could tell the story of yoga through the great masterpieces of Indian art. This reframing has been completely engaging.”

Note: Seating capacity is limited – first come, first served.

Details: Yoga: The Art of Transformation is at the Asian Art Museum through May 25, 2014. The Asian Art Museum is located at 200 Larkin Street (at Civic Center Plaza), San Francisco.  Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended evening hours every Thursday until 9 p.m.  Admission (Yoga: Art of Transformation exhibition is included in general admission): $10 Adults; $10 seniors, students; $10 youth 13-17 and free to 12 and under.   On weekends, admission is $2 more.  Parking: The Asian Art Museum does not have a parking facility, but it is served by the following parking facilities—all within walking distance of the museum: Civic Center Plaza Garage is the closest and most reasonably priced and has 840 spaces. From Van Ness, turn left on McAllister.  Entrance is on McAllister, between Polk and Larkin Streets.  Info: www.asianart.org.

April 7, 2014 Posted by | Art | , , , , | Leave a comment

San Francisco Symphony’s Film Series—Charlie Chaplin in “City Lights” with live music at Davies Symphony Hall this Saturday, April 12, 2014

Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp buys a flower from the blind flower girl, played by Virginia Cherrill, in the silent film classic, “City Lights,” which will be shown Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Davies Symphony Hall.  Guest conductor Richard Kaufman, who has devoted much of his career to the music of film, will conduct the San Francisco Symphony in live accompaniment.

Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp buys a flower from the blind flower girl, played by Virginia Cherrill, in the silent film classic, “City Lights,” which will be shown Saturday, April 12, 2014 at Davies Symphony Hall. Guest conductor Richard Kaufman, who has devoted much of his career to the music of film, will conduct the San Francisco Symphony in live accompaniment.

Slapstick, pathos, pantomime, melodrama, physical prowess, and, of course, the Little Tramp—all of these led renowned film critic Robert Ebert to proclaim that Charley Chaplin’s masterpiece of the Silent Era, City Lights, “comes closest to representing all the different notes of his genius.”  Written by, directed by, and starring Chaplin, the enchanting romantic comedy from 1931 features Chaplin in his greatest role ever, the Little Tramp.  A fellow to whom who everyman could relate, the Tramp was tossed about by life but not so battered that he couldn’t pick himself up and, with dignity, carry on.  This Saturday, April 14, 2104, guest conductor Richard Kaufman, who has devoted much of his career to the music of film, conducts the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) in City Lights with Orchestra.  The program is part of the new SFS film series which delivers edge-of-your seat thrillers, epic dramas, and animated classics on a huge screen in gorgeous Davies Symphony Hall with live music, performed by the San Francisco Symphony.  ARThound has attended several of these film nights and Davies Hall gets delightfully and refreshingly giddy as octogenarians and 8-year-olds connect over the magic of film and music.

The story:   City Lights was released three years into the talkies era but Chaplin decided it should be a silent film with sound effects but no speech.  His beloved Tramp had communicated very effectively with a worldwide audience exclusively through mime—Chaplin’s Little Tramp appeared in over 80 movies from 1914 to 1967—and Chaplin was not going to change the formula.   In City Lights, the Tramp fixes his romantic gaze on someone who can’t return it—a spunky blind flower girl played by the luminous Virginia Cherrill.  He also befriends an alcoholic millionaire (Harry Myers) who forgets who Chaplin is when he’s sober, providing some of the funniest scenes in any of Chaplin’s films.  As the Tramp attempts to get money for an operation that will restore the blind girl’s sight, Chaplin exquisitely interweaves pathos and comedy to wrench maximum emotion from each scene.  When the lonely millionaire contemplates suicide, it’s tragic. When the benevolent Tramp tries to save him from drowning, and accidentally ends up with a weight pinned to his own neck, Chaplin creates an ideal framework for sentiment and laughs.  But that’s just one example in dozens of the seamless and brilliant storytelling that occurs in this film.   The movie’s last scene, justly famous as one the great emotional moments in films is bound to bring tears to your eyes.  When Chaplin’s friend, Albert Einstein, attended the Los Angeles premiere of City Lights, he was reported to be have been seen wiping his eyes.  ARThound especially loves the scene where the Tramp swallows a whistle and starts whistling every time he breathes, gathering a large following of dogs and hailing taxi’s.

The delicate onscreen chemistry between Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill is a delight to behold.  Cherrill had the distinction of being the only leading lady of Chaplin’s silent features whom he neither married nor was linked romantically to.  He cast her solely for her photogenic beauty—without a screen test—and their strong personalities clashed and he fired her halfway through the two-year shoot, only to have to woo her back.

The music: If you haven’t yet experienced the magic of watching a silent film accompanied by live music, City Lights is the film to initiate yourself with and SFS is your orchestra.  The exaggerated dynamics and exquisite timing, so integral to the visual experience of City Lights, are enlivened by a musical score which beautifully punctuates the film’s epic tragic-comic moments. This was Chaplin’s first attempt at composing the music to one of his films and he wrote many of its stirring melodies while acclaimed composers Arthur Johnston (“Pennies from Heaven”) and Alfred Newman assisted with arrangement and orchestration.  The process took six weeks.  And, as was customary in the scoring for silent pictures, the Wagnerian leitmotiv system was employed with Chaplin creating a distinctive musical theme identified with each character and idea.

According to Theodore Huff’s analysis of the City Lights score (“Chaplin as a Composer” in his biography Charlie Chaplin, New York, Henry Schuman, 1951, pp. 234-41),  Chaplin composed twenty discrete themes and ninety-five cues, not including instru­mental bits that animate the action.  Not all the melodies are by Chaplin.  The score generously samples other well-known tunes, either undisguised or in variational form, from “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Old Folks at Home,” and “Scheherazade” to “I Hear You Calling,” “How Dry I Am,” and “St. Louis Blues.”  These mesh with Chaplin’s more generic renditions of jazz, opera, the waltz, the rhumba, the tango, the apache dance, and his blues fanfare for trumpet, a refrain throughout the film.  On the whole though, the score hardly seems a generic mish-mash–it’s tailored to each scene, it ampli­fies emotions, comments on the action, and even creates jokes.

The legacy: When City Lights debuted in New York in 1931, it was so popular that the theater had continual showings from 9 a.m. to midnight, every day except Sunday. According to film historian Charles Maland, “by the end of 1931, the [United Artists’] ledgers reveal, City Lights had already accumulated more domestic rentals than The Circus and over 90 percent of the domestic rentals that The Gold Rush had garnered since 1925.” Critics showered it with praise as well. The Oscar for Best Cinematography in 1931, however, went to another silent film, F.W. Murnau’s Tabu. Many expected City Lights to win, but it wasn’t even nominated. As film historian William M. Drew speculated, “Perhaps Chaplin’s perceived audacity in persisting in making a silent film in Hollywood after sound had arrived … seemed too great an act of insubordination for the industry to honor.”   (quotes extracted from Mental Floss Magazine, February 24, 2012)

Run-time: Approximately 80 minutes, no intermission.

Pre- and post-show Events: Arrive early and visit the lobby bars for a cocktail created especially for this concert!

  • Casablanca (sparkling wine, Grand Marnier, Remy VSOP, lemon twist)
  • French Connection (Grey Goose, Chambord, pineapple juice, sparkling wine, lemon twist)

 

Details: “City Lights with Orchestra” is Saturday, April 12, 2014 at 8PM at 8 PM at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco.  LIMITED AVAILABILITY Tickets: $41 to $156; purchase online here, or, call (415) 864-6000. For more information, visit www.sfsymphony.org.

Getting to Davies:  Davies Symphony Hall is located at 201 Van Ness Avenue, at Grove Street, in San Francisco’s Civic Center, just across the street from City Hall.  The main entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street.

Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow ample time when driving into San Francisco on the weekend and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge—there is frequently congestion en route to Davies Hall.  Arrive early at your parking garage of choice as these also fill up early on weekends.  Recommended Garages:  Two garages are very close to Davies— the Performing Arts Garage (1/2 block)(Grove Street between Franklin and Gough Streets) and Civic Center Garage (roughly 2 blocks) (McAllister Street between Polk and Larken Streets) (both have flat $15 pay cash as you enter policy on performance nights)

April 7, 2014 Posted by | Film, Symphony | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Soulful, spirited, political—the 17th Sonoma International Film Festival has a line-up of stories from around the world with an emphasis on Cuban film—it kicks off tonight

Columbian director Juan Carlos Melo Guevara’s “Field of Amapolas” (Jardín de Amapolas) addresses the impact of Columbia’s ongoing struggle with corruption through the story of two innocent children.

Columbian director Juan Carlos Melo Guevara’s “Field of Amapolas” (Jardín de Amapolas) screens at the 17th Sonoma International Film Festival, April 2-6, 2014 as part of the popular Vamos Al Cine series. Filmed in Ipiales, in the Nariño region of Colombia, the film addresses the impact of Columbia’s ongoing struggle with corruption through the story of two innocent children. Latin American cinema is hot right now, so much so that in most of the big festival offerings it has nearly replaced Asian cinema. The films are coming not from the old standbys (Mexico, Argentina, Brazil) but from Colombia, Chile, Peru, nations that have had sporadic cinematic output. Columbia in particular is a hotspot for vibrant film. SIFF 17 will offer over a dozen films from Latin America and is showcasing Cuban film.

ARThound loves a great film, one whose story speaks right to my heart.  This year’s 17th Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF), which kicks off tonight, features over 115 hand-selected films from 22 countries—features, documentaries, world cinema, and shorts.  Two hundred filmmakers and celebrities will attend and participate in premieres, Q&A’s and panel discussions spread over five glorious days in Sonoma. The festival is also one long party, offering pass holders world-class cuisine from local artisans and exceptional wine from Sonoma vintners in  “The Backlot,” SIFF’s culinary hub, a one-of-a-kind hospitality tent on the North side of Sonoma’s City Hall.  Whether you’re a passholder or come for individual film screenings, this festival has a to offer.  It all starts this evening with an opening night party, two opening night films and an after party.  If you’ve missed my previous coverage of the festival basics and Big Nights, here are the links explaining all about the passes vs going solo—

March 23—The line-up has been announced for the 17th Sonoma International Film Festival, April 2-6, 2014…pounce on individual tickets

March 12—Sonoma International Film Festival passes are on sale now and prices will increase on Monday, March 17, 2014

ARThound’s top picks in the World Cinema category:

In choosing these must-see films, I’m looking for something that I won’t be able to see elsewhere, countries that are less represented/new directors generating a buzz, a unique story with an international point of view, and the promise of cinematic magic.  SIFF doesn’t provide critics with screeners, so putting this information together requires lots of research and some guesswork.  Given the ascendency of Latin cinema, I recommend attending as much as you can of this year’s Vamos Al Cine programming.   This wonderful series, initiated three years ago by Claudia Mendoza-Carruth, began as programming for the Spanish speaking community but has morphed into one of the festival’s biggest draws. This year, it offers 10 films, emphasizing distinctive new voices from Columbia (2), Cuba (4), Dominican Republic (1), Mexico (2) and Venezuela (1).  There’s an emphasis on Cuban cinema with 4 Cuban films and several Cuban directors and actors in attendance.

A young Iranian woman is gang raped and must deal with the fall-out in Pourya Avarbaiyany's   "Everything is Fine Here," screening at SIFF 17.

A young Iranian woman is gang raped and must deal with the fall-out in Pourya Avarbaiyany’s “Everything is Fine Here,” screening at SIFF 17.

Everything is Fine Here— Iran | 2012 | 75 min. | Dir. Pourya Avarbaiyany (in attendance)

On the verge of her marriage, Arghavan a 25 year old writer who is newly engaged and acclaimed, with an invitation to lead a prestigious writing workshop in Germany, is gang-raped in a deserted area of Tehran.  In a strict, conservative society where young women are expected to be virgins before marriage, the crime is that of her assailants but the catastrophe is hers. Overwhelmed by rumors, her life turns into a nightmare and her pending marriage and her relationship with her parents are threatened. The film addresses Iran’s perplexing state of gender inequality and the battle of the individual in a discriminatory society to cope when a tragedy occurs. In 2011 in Iran, there were reports from Human Right Agencies chronicling 6 brutal rapes of Iranian women and in some of these cases, Iranian officials blamed the victims. Iran’s women face a host of laws which limit their rights in marriage, divorce and child custody.  In some cases, their testimony in court is regarded as less than half that of a man’s.  This young director is from Tehran.  I can’t wait to hear how he managed to make a film like this.  Screens: Thursday, April 3 (12:15 pm) Vintage House and Friday, April 4 (9:30 pm) Murphy’s Irish Pub

Cuban actors Armando Miguel Gómez and Yuliet Cruz are a couple impacted by the closure of the sugar mill in Carlos Lechuga’s first feature, “Melaza,” screening twice at SIFF 17.

Cuban actors Armando Miguel Gómez and Yuliet Cruz are a couple impacted by the closure of the sugar mill in Carlos Lechuga’s first feature, “Melaza,” screening twice at SIFF 17.

 

Melaza—Cuba | 2012 | 80 min. | Dir. Carlos Lechuga (in attendance)—With the closure of its local sugar mill, the picturesque (fictional) Cuban town of Melaza has become desolate and lifeless. School teacher Aldo (Armando Miguel Gómez) and now-unemployed Monica (Yuliet Cruz) eke out a meager living, going as far as renting out their tiny home to the local prostitute for extra cash. When they get in trouble with the authorities, resulting fines lead to more desperate measures. This beautifully filmed, contemplative first feature explores the social crisis in the Cuban sugar factory neighborhoods following the dismantling of many production units. It poses the question of how to survive in a country in crisis.

This is Lechuga’s first feature film. Director’s statement: “While the post-production process went on, I began to realize that a love story was being told that in the end left an optimistic taste, but which, like molasses (melaza), hides certain bitterness. The bitterness of a tragedy set up in the Tropics, with a brilliant sun, green sugarcane and lovers holding each other’s hands, awaiting the worse.”  Screens: Thursday, April 3 (8:45 pm) Murphy’s Irish Pub and Saturday, April 5 (7:15 pm) La Luz Center

 

 

Chronic Love (Amor Crónico)—Cuba | 2012 | 83 min. | Dir. Jorge Perugorria (in attendance)—This exhilarating and energetic blend of fact and fiction follows flamboyant Cuban-born/New York-based singer and Grammy nominee Cucú Diamantes on her first tour of Cuba. This unique road film interweaves footage of her cabaret-style performances with a fictional love story. A love letter to Cuban cinema, to Cuban music and to its people.  Directed by Cuban actor and visual artist Jorge Perugorría (famous for his part as Diego in Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s fresa y chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate), 1994).  Screens: Friday, April 4 (8:00 pm) Sebastani Theater and Saturday, April 5 (5:00 pm) La Luz Center

Yilmaz Erdogan’s “The Butterfly’s Dream” (Kelebeğin Rüyası) was Turkey’s submission for Best foreign Language Oscar.  Set during World War II in Zonguldak, Turkey, the film is the real life story of the bond between two young poets who both contract tuberculosis and fall in love with the same woman.

Yilmaz Erdogan’s “The Butterfly’s Dream” (Kelebeğin Rüyası) was Turkey’s submission for Best foreign Language Oscar. Set during World War II in Zonguldak, Turkey, the film is the real life story of the bond between two young poets who both contract tuberculosis and fall in love with the same woman.

 The Butterfly’s Dream (Kelebeğin Rüyası)—Turkey | 138 min. | 2013 | Dir. Yilmaz Erdogan—Turkey’s submission for Best foreign Language Oscar which had a long gestation period—seven years of screen-writing and two years in pre-production. Set during World War II in impoverished Zonguldak, Turkey, the film is the real life story of the bond between two young poets long forgotten by history—Muzaffer (Kivanç Tatlitug), the optimist romantic, and Rüştü (Mert Firat)  the pessimist dreamer—whose brotherly camaraderie is based upon their shared loved for the written word and their mutual misfortune. Forced to work in the coal mines, they both contract tuberculosis and fall in love with the same woman, an aristocrat’s daughter, played by star Belçim Bilgin, who is also Erdogan’s wife. The title is from an ancient passage by Chinese thinker Chuang Tzu, in which he pondered his dream of being a butterfly. Erdoğan’s gorgeously-shot film addresses the nature of reality and the power of artistic practice to mitigate hardship. Screens: Saturday, April 5 (3:15 pm) Burlingame Hall and Sunday, April 6 (10:00 am) Murphy’s Irish Pub

 Field of Amapolas (Jardín de Amapolas)— Colombia | 87 min. | Dir. Juan Carlos Melo Guevara— Filmed very close to director Juan Carlos Melo Guevara’s hometown of Ipiales in the Nariño region of Colombia, this is the first feature film to ever be shot in the area. When accused of collaborating with the enemy in the ongoing guerilla war in Colombia, farmer Emilio, along with his nine-year- old son Simon, is forced by rebels to vacate his piece of land. After relocating with the help of a relative, Emilio and his son face such an economic struggle that Emilio to takes work in the illegal poppy (Amapolas) fields belonging to a local drug lord, who happens to be his cousin. Meanwhile, Simon meets and befriends Luisa, a girl his own age. She is obsessed with playing with a puppy dog she can’t afford. Simon steals it for her every day, but returns it each night. One day, the cousin discovers Simon’s secret and decides to use him for his own greedy plan.

This is Guevara’s first feature as director, screenwriter and producer. Director’s statement: “The idea was not only make a portrayal unique to the film history of Colombia, but to make a story through the point of view of two kids who can only see their reality with innocence, without speeches or academic criticism; that’s why this is not a film about war, on the contrary, the war is only a stage where life, dreams, and hopes can continue.”Screens: Sunday, April 6 (11:00 am) La Luz Center 

Nigerian director Biye Bandele’s “Half Of A Yellow Sun” finds Chiwetel Ejiofor co-starring opposite Thandie Newton in the adaptation of the bestselling (and Orange Prize for Fiction-winning) novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, set against the backdrop of the 1967-1970 Nigerian-Biafran war.  This is the first Nigerian film to screen at the Sonoma International Film Festival.

Nigerian director Biye Bandele’s “Half Of A Yellow Sun” finds Chiwetel Ejiofor co-starring opposite Thandie Newton in the adaptation of the bestselling (and Orange Prize for Fiction-winning) novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, set against the backdrop of the 1967-1970 Nigerian-Biafran war. This is the first Nigerian film to screen at the Sonoma International Film Festival.

Half of a Yellow Sun Nigeria | 2013 | 113 min. | Dir. Biye Bandele—For the first time, SIFF17 welcomes a film from Nigeria, first time writer-director Biyi Bandele’s acclaimed Half of a Yellow Sun, an adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s bestselling novel of the same name.

This epic chronicle of family drama and tribal violence begins in 1960 and leads up to the Nigerian-Biafran War which ended in 1970. The film tracks war through the story of headstrong twin sisters Olanna (Thandie Newton—Crash, The Pursuit of Happiness) and Kainene (Anika Noni Rose), privileged girls from Lagos, who return home after their respective university educations abroad. Both make similarly scandalous decisions. Olanna defies familial expectations and convention not only by becoming a sociology professor herself, but also by moving in with firebrand academic Odenigbo (Chiwetel Ejiofor—12 Years A Slave, Children of Men) in the college town of Nsukka. Kainene assumes management of the family business and falls in love with an English – and married – writer (Joseph Mawle). The loyalties of the sisters are tested amidst the horrors of the Nigerian Civil War, and the rise and fall of short-lived republic of Biafra. The main focus is on the Olanna and Odenigbo whose passion is ignited over political protest but things get rocky when Odenigbo’s battle-ax mother (Onyeka Onwenu) comes to visit. An uneducated village woman with a mean and scheming personality, Mama is determined to split up the lovebirds up any way she can, and nearly succeeds.Rich in period atmosphere, evoking a strong sense of how these Nigerians lived their lives day-to-day, and how devastated they are when war and all its atrocities rip that fabric apart. Screens: Friday, April 4 (11:00 am) Murphy’s Irish Pub and Sunday, April 6 (2:30 pm) Vintage House

 

SIFF Details:

The 17th Sonoma International Film Festival is April 2-6, 2014. All films are screened in seven intimate venues, all within walking distance along Sonoma’s historic plaza

Click here to purchase all SIFF passes.

Click here for more information, or call 707 933-2600

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Film, Food, Jazz Music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cinnabar Theater’s “Of Mice and Men,” through April 13, 2014

 

Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma presents John Steinbeck’s masterpiece “Of Mice and Men,” starring Samson Hood (left) as Lennie and Keith Baker (right) as George.  The unlikely friends drift from job to job across the farms and fields of California, holding fast to their dream of one day having an acre of land they can call their own.  Photo by Eric Chazankin)

Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma presents John Steinbeck’s masterpiece “Of Mice and Men,” starring Samson Hood (left) as Lennie and Keith Baker (right) as George. The unlikely friends drift from job to job across the farms and fields of California, holding fast to their dream of one day having an acre of land they can call their own. Photo by Eric Chazankin)

The 1937 New York Times review of the Broadway stage production of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” reads “If the story were callously told, the conclusion might be unbearable. But Mr. Steinbeck has told it with both compassion and dexterity…In the bunkhouse of a ranch in CA, the story ensnares rootless lives and expands into dreams of a glorious deliverance. (Brooks Atkinson , original review Nov 24, 1937, NYT, p. 20.) It’s now seventy-seven years later and the play, performed at Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater under the tight direction of Sherri Lee Miller, delivers all the potency and magic that it had back in the Great Depression when audiences could personally relate to the bleak life of migrant workers. Most of us read the novella in high school and were under strict pressure to knock out an essay on some aspect of Lennie and George’s relationship. Revisiting the story and its archetypal characters as adults is another experience all together. Miller has pulled together a team of impeccable actors who bring these tragic characters to life and revitalize their struggles. The audience on opening evening was squirming with anticipation and revulsion at the injustice of Lennie’s plight, the imploding of dreams and the ugly, unquestioned racism of the times. ­­

Set in the 1930’s, the play is carefully staged by Joe Elwick to reflect the grit and sparseness of ranch-hand life in Salinas Valley at the time. From the opening scenes at the riverbank, marked by a simple line of rocks along the stage line, to the sturdy simplicity of the handcrafted log cabin bunk house, which serves as a humble home for the workers, to Crook’s isolated room in the hay barn; the set works both as a backdrop and catalyst. And in Cinnabar’s intimate space, it all makes for a near perfect experience. I’d be willing to bet that the Broadway revival opening in April at the Longacre Theatre with James Franco as Lennie has nothing over Cinnabar’s.

Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma presents Steinbeck’s masterpiece “Of Mice and Men,” featuring (L to R) Kevin Thomas Singer, Samson Hood, Tim Kniffin, and James Gagarin.  After the boss’s son Curley attacks Lennie for no good reason, Lennie squeezes Curley’s hand too hard and crushes it.  Slim tends to Curley while lumbering Lennie is shocked at what he has done.  Photo by Eric Chazankin

Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma presents Steinbeck’s masterpiece “Of Mice and Men,” featuring (L to R) Kevin Thomas Singer, Samson Hood, Tim Kniffin, and James Gagarin. After the boss’s son Curley attacks Lennie for no good reason, Lennie squeezes Curley’s hand too hard and crushes it. Slim tends to Curley while lumbering Lennie is shocked at what he has done. Photo by Eric Chazankin

The great pleasure in the production comes from watching Samson Hood embody Lennie, who is mentally challenged. It’s not much of a stretch for him physically—he’s a giant of a man with huge hands and a lumbering gate that already speak volumes. But the magic is in his thoroughly convincing facial expressions and the absolute sincerity of his child-like delivery, whether he’s hunched over and trying to hide that he has stroked his little mouse to death, or is excitedly dreaming of raising rabbits and living off the fat of the land or is spilling secrets that he’s been asked to keep quiet about. Kind-hearted and simple Lennie doesn’t understand the power of his own strength or the complexity of the world or the ugliness of human nature and he is completely dependent on George to navigate his course.

 As George, Keith Baker, is an intriguing combo of protective caregiver and a go-getter with big dreams. He is gruff and impatient with Lennie one moment and then, after lashing out, he whips back to tender and sentimental. The friendship is exacts a heavy toll on George who must constantly protect and cover up for George as they drift from job to job holding on to their dream.

James Gagarin plays Curley, the ranch-owner’s son with such spite and fury towards everyone that we shudder with revulsion and feel no empathy him when his hand is crushed accidentally by Lennie.

As one-armed Candy, Steinbeck’s for foil the aged and abandoned, Clark Miller manages to convincingly convey the pain of isolation and physical frailty. The scene involving the shooting of his ancient and beloved dog will tug at your conscious. It’s made all the more dramatic by the using a real dog who is old but not so decrepit as to be near death. The idea of shooting it to put it out of its misery seems wrong and is one of the play’s more dramatic moments, beautifully navigated by Clark Miller and by Anthony Abaté who plays callous Carlson with bone-chilling precision.

After the loss of his dog, Candy has nothing to live for but after he overhears George and Lennie discussing the farm, he offers them his life savings (some $250) to go in on the farm and he has something to fix his dreams on. Steinbeck’s play is full of dreaming and, in contrast, the harsh reality of the life of itinerant workers. The men poor their blood and sweat into keeping up the owner’s ranch for a minimal wage and three daily meals—work may keep a man honest but the capitalist system is stacked against the worker who toils his entire life and never advances.

As Crooks, the black stable hand who is forced to live in the barn, Dorian Lockett is cagey, defensive and so disempowered that he is wary of everyone. The repeated use of the word “nigger” predictably drew cringes from the Cinnabar audience who had empathy for Crooks’ plight and recognized his insightfulness and warmth once he let his guard down and began to dream of a place, a piece of land, where he too could be free.

Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma presents Steinbeck’s masterpiece “Of Mice and Men,” featuring Dorian Lockett as Crooks.  Photo by Eric Chazankin

Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma presents Steinbeck’s masterpiece “Of Mice and Men,” featuring Dorian Lockett as Crooks. Photo by Eric Chazankin

Ilana Niernberger, Curly’s vulgar wife does a marvelous job of guiding the audience through a love-hate relationship with her. At first, she appears to be a tart who flirts shamelessly with the workers and is interested in stepping out on her new husband Curly. In the barn, alone with the men, we see her vulnerability and that she is lonely and craves emotional attachment and conversation. Her flirtatious nature ushers in the play’s tragic climax. When she coaxes Lennie to stroke her hair, she finally and fatally understands that he is not able to gauge the power in his touch. Her screams for help only worsen things. As Lennie covers her mouth and tells her to be quiet, he breaks her neck.

The play’s emotional trajectory goes from hope in the American Dream to the shattering of that hope. Cinnabar has taken this great classic and elegantly brought it to life.

Run-time: Two hours and 20 min, including one intermission

Creative Team: Of Mice and Men stars Keith Baker and Samson Hood as the famous friends, George and Lennie. The ensemble of talented actors also features Anthony Abaté (Carlson), James Gagarin (Curley), Tim Kniffin (Slim), Dorian Lockett (Crooks), Clark Miller (Candy), Ilana Niernberger (Curley’s wife), Kevin Singer (Whit), and Barton Smith (The Boss). Directed by Sheri Lee Miller.

Design Team: Joe Elwick (scenery), Pat Fitzgerald (costumes), Wayne Hovey (lights), Jim Peterson (sound). This production is generously underwritten by Sandra O’Brien and Elly Lichenstein.

Details: Of Mice and Men  has been extended an additional week through April 13, 2014, at Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, CA 94952. Performances: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $15 for ages 21 and under; $25 for adults. Purchase tickets online here or call Cinnabar’s Box Office at 707 763-8920 between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM on weekdays. Tickets may also be available at the door 15 minutes prior to each performance, but pre-purchase is recommended as Cinnabar shows tend to sell out!   For more information about Cinnabar Theater — www.cinnabartheater.org .

March 26, 2014 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The line-up has been announced for the 17th Sonoma International Film Festival, April 2-6, 2014…pounce on individual tickets

Catalonian actors Claudia Bassols (L) and Jan Cornet (R) are the central couple in Roger Gual’s “Tasting Menu,” screening at the 17th Sonoma International Film Festival, April 2-6, 2014.  The foodies made a reservation one year in advance at a world famous three-star Michelin restaurant outside of Barcelona, on the famous Costa Brava.  When the day finally arrives, they’re separated and learn that this will be their last chance to ever eat there as it’s the restaurant’s closing night.  For the sake of haute cuisine, they agree to dine together.  Joining them are the widowed countess who put the place on the map, potential Japanese investors and their dotty interpreter, American food critics and editors, and a mystery guest who has everyone guessing.  With close-ups of hands chopping and sculpting entrees like works of fine art, breathtaking scenery and high drama, “Tasting Menu,” in Catalan, promises to delight. Claudia Bassols will attend.   Image: Magnolia Films

Catalonian actors Claudia Bassols (L) and Jan Cornet (R) are the central couple in Roger Gual’s “Tasting Menu,” screening at the 17th Sonoma International Film Festival, April 2-6, 2014. The foodies made a reservation one year in advance at a world famous three-star Michelin restaurant outside of Barcelona, on the famous Costa Brava. When the day finally arrives, they’re separated and learn that this will be their last chance to ever eat there as it’s the restaurant’s closing night. For the sake of haute cuisine, they agree to dine together. Joining them are the widowed countess who put the place on the map, potential Japanese investors and their dotty interpreter, American food critics and editors, and a mystery guest who has everyone guessing. With close-ups of hands chopping and sculpting entrees like works of fine art, breathtaking scenery and high drama, “Tasting Menu,” in Catalan, promises to delight. Claudia Bassols will attend. Image: Magnolia Films

The 17th Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) is just around the corner—April 2-6, 2014—pairing 5 nights and 4 days of nearly non-stop screenings with great food and wine in gorgeous Sonoma. The program and schedule have just been released and, this year, SIFF is presenting 106 new films from 22 countries—25 documentaries, 19 world cinema, 10 American indies, 10 Spanish-language films in “Vamos Al Cine,” 4 shorts programs, 1 children’s program, 1 student program and 1 “Out of The Earth” UFO program. The screenings all take place at eight intimate venues within walking of Sonoma’s historic town plaza. Many of these will offer wonderful samplings of local food, wine and beer along with the film.

SIFF has a lot to offer both locals and destination visitors.  Festival passes are the way to go if you’re interested in easy access to films, the marvelous parties, and the famous Backlot tent, SIFF’s unofficial hub, which keeps pass-holders satisfied with the finest wines, gourmet offerings and music. Click here to read about all the pass options and price points.   If you haven’t bought a festival pass and still want to see some films, individual single tickets are $15 when purchased in advance.  SIFF caters to pass holders and offers just a limited number of these individual tickets, which are available for most screenings, so NOW is the time to lock in those tickets before they are snapped up.

If you’re a gambler with a lot of time on your hands, you can show up at the festival and hang out in front of the screening venue and wait to buy a ticket for $10 cash after the pass holders and ticket pre-purchasers have been seated. The $10 tickets are not a sure thing they can be an awesome score.

Stay-tuned to ARThound for a full review of the line-up.  For now, the Big Nights—

Opening Night—Wednesday, April 2: The festival kicks off on Wednesday evening with a choice of two films and a first ever after hours party with live music from Sonoma’s own Vanguard Jazz Ensemble at Sonoma’s newest nightspot, Burgers & Vine.  Richard Shepard’s Dom Hemignway (2014) screens at the historic Sebastiani Theatre at 7:45 PM. After spending 12 years in prison for keeping his mouth shut, notorious safe-cracker Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) is back on the streets of London looking to collect what he’s owed. Travelling with his best friend Dickie, Dom visits his crime boss (Demián Bichir) in the south of France to claim his reward and then reconnect with his long-lost daughter Evelyn (Emilia Clark). Screens with Peter McEvilley’s six minute French short, Le Sauvetage (2013) which features Peter Olate’s amazing performing rescue dogs. The dogs will give a brief live performance after the short.

 Jude Law (L) and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (R) in a scene from Richard Shepard’s “Dom Hemingway” (2014), one of two opening night feature films at the 17th Sonoma International Film Festival.  Just released from prison after taking the fall for his boss, Dom comes after the money he’s owed for keeping silent and protecting his boss Fontaine (Damian Bechir).  Brash, volatile, profane and angry, this is Jude Law at his complicated best.  Image: Foxlight


Jude Law (L) and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett (R) in a scene from Richard Shepard’s “Dom Hemingway” (2014), one of two opening night feature films at the 17th Sonoma International Film Festival. Just released from prison after taking the fall for his boss, Dom (Law) comes after the money he’s owed for keeping silent and protecting his boss Fontaine (Damian Bechir). Brash, volatile, profane and angry, this is Jude Law at his complicated best. Image: Foxlight

Actor and writer Chris Lowell’s directorial debut, Beside Still Waters (2013) screens at 8:15 at Andrews Hall. An ode to the consoling power of deep and abiding friendships, the film observes one night among an intimately connected group of friends in their 20s who reunite at the family lake house of Daniel (played by “90210′s” Ryan Eggold), whose parents have just died in a car crash. Facing the imminent loss of the house, Daniel invites his pals to their old haunt for one last debauched weekend of drinking, dancing, and scheming. An accomplished fine-art photographer, the 28 year-old Lowell uses montages of his own black-and-white photos throughout “Beside Still Waters” to represent Daniel’s haunted memories. Writer & Producer Mo Narang will attend. Screens with Simon Christen’s Adrift (2013), a mesmerizing four minute and 35-second love letter to the fog that surrounds and often engulfs our Bay Area.  Christen worked for two years to capture perfect shots for this masterpiece.

 

Closing Night—Sunday, April 6: From director Amma Asante and the producer of Iron Lady, Damian Jones, comes Belle, a captivating period romance. The film screens at 6 PM at the Sebastiani and is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral. Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson), and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in 18th century England. Director Amma Assante is attending.

After the Closing Night film, at roughly 8:30 PM, people will gather in the Backlot tent for the presentation of the Jury and Audience Awards, the last hurrah of the festival.

To read ARThound’s festival coverage from March 12, 2014, click here.

Details: The 17th Sonoma International Film Festival is April 2-6, 2014.  Eight screening venues are all within walking distance of the central town plaza.  Street parking is ample.

Passes: Click here to read about and purchase all SIFF passes. Passes were offered at discounted rate until March 17, 2014 and are now full price.

Individual tickets: Click on the festival calendar and then select a film in the daily schedule. If individual tickets are offered for that film, you will see a “tickets” hyperlink which will appear beneath the screening information.

Festival Information: Click here or call 707 933-2600

The 17th Sonoma International Film Festival has 25 documentaries. “Man Up and Go” (2012), directed by Randy Bacon, speaks to the heart. When Roger went to Ethiopia to get his adopted daughter, she was 6 months old, but weighed only 7 pounds and was dying. Roger asked himself, “Is there a way out of this?” He called his dad and heard words that rocked his core: “Roger, man up! If she dies, at least she will die in the arms of a father.” Roger had to inspire men to be better husbands and fathers, so he launched the Man Up movement. Shot in the U.S., Ethiopia and Rwanda, “Man Up and Go” tells the remarkable story several ordinary men who stepped up to change the lives of orphaned children and were forever changed themselves. Photo of Roger Gibson with orphan at Return Ministries, Uganda, courtesy Wynne Elder

The 17th Sonoma International Film Festival has 25 documentaries. “Man Up and Go” (2012), directed by Randy Bacon, speaks to the heart. When Roger went to Ethiopia to get his adopted daughter, she was 6 months old, but weighed only 7 pounds and was dying. Roger asked himself, “Is there a way out of this?” He called his dad and heard words that rocked his core: “Roger, man up! If she dies, at least she will die in the arms of a father.” Roger had to inspire men to be better husbands and fathers, so he launched the Man Up movement. Shot in the U.S., Ethiopia and Rwanda, “Man Up and Go” tells the remarkable story several ordinary men who stepped up to change the lives of orphaned children and were forever changed themselves. Photo of Roger Gibson with orphan at Return Ministries, Uganda, courtesy Wynne Elder

 

March 23, 2014 Posted by | Film, Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s not too late—California’s 8th Annual Artisan Cheese Festival closes Sunday with a marketplace filled with all the new artisan cheeses and outrageously au’courant delicacies for pairing

ARThound fell in LOVE with “Simple & Crisp”  dried fruit crisps, brand new at the 8th California Artisan Cheese Festival, March 21-23, 2014.  These gorgeous blood orange delicacies paired perfectly with Petaluma Port’s “Deco”—a port with essences of dark chocolate— and with Beehive Cheese’s “Barely Buzzed”—a unique espresso and lavender hand-rubbed Jersey cow cheese with subtle notes of butterscotch and caramel.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

ARThound fell in LOVE with “Simple & Crisp” dried fruit crisps, brand new at the 8th California Artisan Cheese Festival, March 21-23, 2014. These gorgeous blood orange delicacies paired perfectly with Petaluma Port’s “Deco”—a port with essences of dark chocolate— and with Beehive Cheese’s “Barely Buzzed”—a unique espresso and lavender hand-rubbed Jersey cow cheese with subtle notes of butterscotch and caramel. The festival closes Sunday with a marketplace packed with artisan cheeses and gourmet foods and condiments to taste and buy. Photo: Geneva Anderson

ARThound has spent the past two days at Petaluma’s Sheraton Sonoma County realizing how blessed I am to have so many dedicated artisan cheesemakers nearly in my backyard.  The Artisan Cheese Festival, now in its 8th year, has brought together our most innovative and creative local cheesemakers and paired them with equally creative chefs, winemakers, brewmasters, and even a celebrity Cicerone (Rich Higgins) resulting in a weekend celebrating cheese and discovering all the culinary companions and beverages that passionately enhance its flavor and texture.  If you haven’t been to the festival yet, tomorrow’s Sunday Marketplace is an excellent introduction. Bringing together more than 70 of California’s best artisan cheesemakers, restaurants, breweries and wineries, this walk-around tasting and marketplace is one of the weekend’s most popular events—and for good reason!  With two tents set up outside of the Sheraton, there will be more than 20,000 sq. feet of space—filled with goodies which you can sample to your heart’s content and buy.  Talk about a no brainer for picking up gifts that earn you cudos when you’re been invited to dinner at a friend’s home.  Most everything offered will be locally and sustainably made too, supporting our community and the values that keep it flourishing.  You can chat with the vendors, artisans, cheesemakers, brewers and winemakers, all of whom have amazing pairing advice.   Throughout the day there will be chefs’ demos representing some of the Bay Area’s best chefs, including Brandon Guenther of Valley Ford’s  Rocker Oysterfellers at 1:45 p.m. and Liza Hinman of Santa Rosa’s Spinster Sisters  at 3 p.m. Several of the weekends’ cheesemakers and chefs are also authors and many will be selling and signing their cheese-inspired tomes at the Marketplace. The chefs’ demos will be taking place inside of the Sheraton Sonoma County and the book signings will be taking place inside of the tent throughout the day. Book signings and demos are included with admission to the Marketplace. (Tickets $45 for adults; $20 for children 12 and under, Sheraton Sonoma County, 12 – 4 p.m.)

Most of the artisan cheesemakers at the Artisan Cheese Festival are from Northern California but the family-owned Beehive Cheese Company travelled from Northern Utah to present their award-winning hand-rubbed artisan cheeses. “Barely Buzzed” cheese (above) is covered in grind of lavender and Colorado Legacy Coffee Company’s espresso.  “Teahive” has bergamot resulting in a cheese with rich hints of orange blossom. “Seahive” is hand-rubbed with local honey and sea salt.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Most of the artisan cheesemakers at the Artisan Cheese Festival are from Northern California but the family-owned Beehive Cheese Company travelled from Northern Utah to present their award-winning hand-rubbed artisan cheeses. “Barely Buzzed” (above) is a rich Jersey cow cheese rubbed with lavender and Colorado Legacy Coffee Company’s “Beehive Blend” espresso coffee. French Superior Lavender buds are ground with the coffee and the mixture is diluted with oil to suspend the dry ingredients in the rub. The rub imparts notes of butter¬scotch and caramel, which are prevalent near the rind, but find their way to the center of the cheese. This is a full-bodied semi-firm cheese with a nutty flavor and smooth texture. The company’s “Teahive” is rubbed in a blend of black tea and bergamot oil resulting in a cheese with rich hints of orange blossoms in April. “Seahive” is hand-rubbed with local wildflower honey and REALSALT, a salt harvested from an ancient sea bed near Redmond Utah. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Cheesemakers showcasing their products at the Marketplace include:

Achadinha Cheese Company (Petaluma)
Ancient Heritage Dairy (Madras, Oregon)
Beehive Cheese Company (Uintah, Utah)
Bellwether Farms (Petaluma)
Bleating Heart Cheese (Sebastopol)
Bohemian Creamery (Sebastopol)
Bravo Farms (Traver)
Casitas Valley Farm & Creamery (Carpinteria)
Central Coast Creamery (Paso Robles)
Cowgirl Creamery (Point Reyes Station)
Cypress Grove Chevre (Arcata)
Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese Company (Modesto)
Garden Variety (Royal Oaks)
Gypsy Cheese Co. (Valley Ford)
Laura Chenel’s Chevre (Sonoma)
Marin French Cheese Company (Petaluma)
Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. (Nicasio)
Orland Farmstead Creamery (Orland)
Petaluma Creamery/Spring Hill Jersey Cheese (Petaluma)
Pennyroyal Farm (Boonville)
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. (Point Reyes Station)
Pugs Leap (Petaluma)
Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery (Sebastopol)
Schoch Family Farmstead (Salinas)
Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese (Willits)
Tomales Farmstead Creamery/Toluma Farms (Tomales)
Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese (Petaluma)
Valley Ford Cheese Co. (Valley Ford)
Weirauch Farm & Creamery (Penngrove)
Willapa Hills Farmstead & Artisan Cheese (Doty, Washington)

Breweries and wineries pouring their products at the Marketplace include:

AppleGarden Farm (Tomales Bay)
Berryessa Gap Vineyards (Winters)
Black Kite Cellars (Anderson Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands)
Bucher Vineyard (Healdsburg)
Clif Family Winery (St. Helena)
Crispin Cider (Colfax)
Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
(Half Moon Bay)
Handley Cellars (Philo)
Heidrun Meadery (Point Reyes Station)
Kokomo Winery (Healdsburg)
Lagunitas Brewery (Petaluma)
McEvoy Ranch (Petaluma)
Navarro Vineyards & Winery (Mendocino)
North Coast Brewing Company
(Fort Bragg)
Paul Mathews Vineyards (Graton)
Russian River Vineyards (Forestville)
Sonoma Valley Portworks (Petaluma)
Wandering Aengus Ciderworks (Oregon)

Artisan food purveyors and other vendors will include:

American Cheese Society (Nationwide)
Black Pig Meat Company (Sebastopol)
Brown Dog Mustard Co. (Concord)
California Artisan Cheese Guild (Oakland)
California Endive Farms (Rio Vista)
Cassata-Sonoma Olive Oil (Glen Ellen)
CC Made Inc. (San Anselmo)
Cheese Shop of Healdsburg (Healdsburg)
Clover Stornetta Farms (Petaluma)
Copperfield’s Books (Petaluma)
Creminelli Fine Meats
(Salt Lake City, Utah)
Culture Magazine (Massachusetts)
Farm Fresh to You (Capay Valley)
Friend in Cheeses Jam (Santa Cruz)
Gary & Kits Gourmet Mtn Mix
(St. Helena)
GrilledCheezeGuy (Oakland)
Humboldt Hot Sauce (Arcata)
ILeoni (Petaluma)
Interiors by Lynn (Rohnert Park)
Kelly’s Jelly (Lake Oswego, Oregon)
L’Artisane Box (Burlingame)
Leafware (Folsom)
Marin Agricultural Land Trust (Marin)
McEvoy Ranch (Petaluma)
McClelland’s Dairy (Petaluma)
Mi Distinctive Tastes (Ukiah)
Negranti Sheep Dairy (Central Coast)
Noci Foods (Walnut Creek)
Petaluma Visitor’s Center (Petaluma)
Poco Dolce (San Francisco)
Potter’s Crackers (Sacramento)
Quesalera (Chico)
Redwood Empire Food Bank (Santa Rosa)
R&J Toffees (San Jose)
Rosso Pizzeria & Wine Bar (Petaluma)
Rustic Bakery (San Rafael)
Simple & Crisp (Seattle, Washington)
Sonoma Land Trust (Santa Rosa)
The Beverage People (Santa Rosa)
The Garden Wild (Middletown)
Three Twins Ice Cream (Petaluma)
Valley Fig Growers (Fresno)
Village Bakery (Sebastopol)
Yelp (Bay Area)

About California’s Artisan Cheese Festival
A 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, California’s Artisan Cheese Festival strives to increase cheese appreciation, educate consumers about artisan cheeses, support the cheesemaking community and its sustainability and celebrate the creations of California’s many farmers and cheesemakers. The festival began in March 2007 as the first-ever, weekend-long celebration and exploration of handcrafted cheeses, foods, wines and beers from California and beyond.  In keeping with its dedication to the community, the Artisan Cheese Festival donates 10% of all ticket proceeds to Sonoma Land Trust, Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Petaluma Future Farmers of America, California Artisan Cheese Guild and Redwood Empire Food Bank. To date the Artisan Cheese Festival has contributed more than $55,000 to these non-profit organizations that work to support the artisan cheesemaking community and its infrastructure in California.  For more information, visit www.artisancheesefestival.com.

March 22, 2014 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Berkeley Rep’s “Accidental Death of An Anarchist”…tweaked for the liberally inclined, through April 20, 2014

Comic actor Steven Epp returns to Berkeley Rep as the insanely shrewd Maniac who sets off the investigation in Dario Fo’s classic comedy, “Accidental Death of an Anarchist.” Photo by Joan Marcus

Comic actor Steven Epp returns to Berkeley Rep as the insanely shrewd Maniac who sets off the investigation in Dario Fo’s classic comedy, “Accidental Death of an Anarchist.” Photo by Joan Marcus

Ever since he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1979, Italian playwright and actor Dario Fo has been on my radar.  An anarchist and a profoundly gifted clown, Fo’s genius comes in his ability to make us look at ourselves in new light. All of his plays, in some way or another, deal with subverting ideology, questioning why society is set up a certain way and why some people are the winners and others losers. Accidental Death of an Anarchist, which opened Wednesday at Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theater and runs through April 20, 2104, is a tweaked version of Fo’s original masterpiece from 1970, a  bit too tweaked.

Adapted by Gavin Richards from a translation by Gillian Hanna and directed by Christopher Bayes, this Yale Repertory Theatre co-production has been injected with some (stale) references to contemporary American politics and pop culture (Obama health care, NSA, Netflix, Bush-Cheney and so forth) intended to resonate with the well-informed liberal cognoscenti.  The resulting mash-up feels like an overdone affirmation, considering Berkeley’s Rep’s sophisticated audience.  The good news is that the add-ons are fired off quickly and only mildly detract from the play’s exhilarating tour de farce—Steven Epp.  Director Stephen Bayes and Epp were the team behind Berkeley’s Rep’s 2012 hysterical hit A Doctor in Spite of Himself.  Here, Epp works with a great group of comic actors whose chemistry and timing and lunacy are so spot on you have the impression it’s all being improvised on the spot.  The play contains some of the finest comedic acting you’ll see in the Bay Area this year.  And the various musical gigs, all under Aaron Halva’s direction, are lyrically delightful and hysterically performed.

The play addresses a real-life mystery that got tremendous play in Italy—the 1969 death of a suspected anarchist who “fell” from the fourth floor window of a police station window while being interrogated for bombing of a bank in Milan which left 16 dead.  Did he fall, or, was he pushed?  That’s the question.  The charges were eventually dropped against the anarchist but it was too late to be of benefit.  Fo called his play a “tragic farce.”  Knowing full well that laughter can be a profound vehicle for exploring human nature, Fo deconstructed this man’s tragic death through comedy.  A Maniac (Steven Epp in the role Fo wrote for himself), who himself has been arrested for fraud, sequentially questions the police who are holding him captive  By pretending to be on their side, he gradually wins the trust of the gullible officers, records their conversations and tricks them into divulging what really happened.  In the process, he exposes their brutality, corruption and collusion with neo-fascist gangs carrying out such bombings in Italy at the time.  The events of the play are fictional but the implications profound.  The fast-paced momentum, epic slack stick and wonderful moments of musical comedy are delightful.

In Dario Fo’s comedy, “Accidental Death of an Anarchist,” now at Berkeley Rep, Maniac (Steven Epp) (center) impersonates a judge and interrogates quack Constable (Eugene Ma, left) and dim-witted Inspector Pissani (Allen Gilmore) and catches them in a lie about a death that occurred at the police station.

In Dario Fo’s comedy, “Accidental Death of an Anarchist,” now at Berkeley Rep, Maniac (Steven Epp) (center) impersonates a judge and interrogates Constable (Eugene Ma) (left) and dim-witted Inspector Pissani (Allen Gilmore(right)) and catches them in a lie about a death that occurred at the police station.

Highpoints are the opening of the play, when Inspector Bertozzo (Jesse J. Perez) is interrogating the Maniac on the first floor of the police station. Perez and Epps are magical.  Perez later shows how light he is on feet as he performs a number of song and dance gigs with Inspector Pissani (Allen Gilmore), the Superintendent (Liam Craig), and Eugene Ma, brilliantly playing two Constables at once and seemingly embodying Oliver Hardy.  Renata Friedman steals the action as Feletti, an Oriana Fallaci-style investigate journalist who is conducting her own investigation in a short red dress. When she lets go with a stupefyingly-agile rap riff, prepare to have your jaws drop.  But nothing compares with Epp, who jumps from one disordered personality to another, never ever missing a beat.

Cast & Creative Team: The cast of Accidental Death of an Anarchist includes Liam Craig (Superintendent), Steven Epp (Maniac) Renata Friedman (Feletti), Allen Gilmore (Pissani), Eugene Ma (Constables), Jesse J. Perez (Bertozzo).   The creative team consists of Aaron Halva (music director, composer, and musician), Travis Hendrix (musician), Kate Noll (scenic design), Elivia Bovenzi (costumes), Olivier Wason (lighting), Charles Coes (sound designer), Nathan Roberts (composer and sound designer), Michael F. Bergmann (projection designer). The stage manager for Berkeley Rep is Kimberly Mark Webb.

Jesse J. Perez (L) is the fiery tempered police inspector, Bertozzo, and Renata Friedman (R) is an Oriana Fallaci-style investigative journalist, Felletti, who bring considerable depth to Dario Fo’s classic comedy, “Accidental Death of an Anarchist,” at Berkeley Rep. Photo by Jared Oates

Jesse J. Perez (L) is the fiery tempered police inspector, Bertozzo, and Renata Friedman (R) is an Oriana Fallaci-style investigative journalist, Felletti, who bring considerable depth to Dario Fo’s classic comedy, “Accidental Death of an Anarchist,” at Berkeley Rep. Photo by Jared Oates

Special Events:

Repartee :  FREE docent talks before Tuesday and Thursday evening performances, and free discussions after all matinees

Post-play discussions:  Thursday 3/27, Tuesday 4/1, and Friday 4/11 following the performance

Open captioned performance:  Sunday 4/20 @ 2pm

Details:  Accidental Death of an Anarchist runs through April 20, 2014 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison Street @ Shattuck, Berkeley, CA 94704.

Performances are Tues-Sun with matinees on Sat, Sun and some Thurs.

Tickets: $29 to $99.  Discounts:  Half-price tickets available for anyone under 30 years of age; $10 discount for students and seniors one hour before curtain.  Tickets and info: 510 647–2949 or visit: www.berkeleyrep.org

Parking:  Paid parking is readily available at over 5 parking garages as close as one block from the theatre. The Allston Way Garage, 2061 Allston Way, between Milvia and Shattuck, offers $5 parking Tuesday–Friday after 6 PM.

March 17, 2014 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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