San Francisco Symphony’s Film Series—Charlie Chaplin in “City Lights” with live music at Davies Symphony Hall this Saturday, April 12, 2014
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)
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
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—
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Sonoma County Museum and Santa Rosa High School’s documentary short screens at CAAMfest 2014 on Saturday, March 15
Local Santa Rosa High School students, Lilia Kilmartin and Maneesha Moua, will have their documentary short debut on Saturday, March 15, at CAAMfest 2014 at 12:10 PM as part of the festival’s special Young Historians, Living Histories project. The program will debut the work of several young Asian Pacific American (APA) student filmmakers from nine Smithsonian Affiliate organizations around the country and several of the young filmmakers will attend.
Our own Sonoma Country Museum (SCM) had a hand in sponsoring the Santa Rosa students as the museum recently completed a new storytelling series serving local APA youth and their families. Working with Santa Rosa High School’s ArtQuest Video Lab and video and digital instructor Jim Helmer, SCM enabled Kilmartin, Moua and other students to learn about the documentary process and to create a short film telling a relative’s story. This student program is a continuation of SCM’s Sonoma Stories initiative that records the oral histories of people living and working in the community. SCM was able to sponsor the young filmmakers because it was one of nine Smithsonian Affiliate organizations nationwide selected for the national Young Historians, Living Histories project. This program mentors APA students in multimedia skills and storytelling with the goal of deepening their understanding and appreciation of their history. Young Historians, Living Histories involves the collaboration of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, Smithsonian Affiliations and CAAM (Center for Asian American Media).
CAAM’s Hardeep Jandu just interviewed Konrad Ng, Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific Program, about the film shorts and importance of mentoring young filmmakers. Read the interview here.
Details: CAAMfest’s special presentation, “Young Historian, Living Histories,” is Saturday, March, 2014 at 12:10 PM at New People Cinema. A reception with the student filmmakers will follow the screening at Pa’ina Lounge. Tickets are $12. Click here to purchase.
Read ARThound’s coverage of CAAMFest 2014 here.
CAAMFest 2014 is March 13th through March 23th 2014, in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland at eight screening venues well as select museums, galleries, bars and music halls. The 10 day festival is screening over 121 films and videos, along with cutting edge music and gourmet food events. The 32 year-old festival is named after its sponsor, CAAM , San Francisco’s Center for Asian American Media. Click here to see full schedule in day by day calendar format with hyperlinks for film and event descriptions and for ticket purchase. The official website— CAAMFest 2014.
The Sonoma County Museum is located at 425 Seventh Street in downtown Santa Rosa. Hours: Tues-Sun 11 AM to 5 PM. General Admission : $7. Camellia Has Fallen runs through May 4, 2014 and is the first U.S. art exhibition created in response to the Jeju April 3 Uprising, a major historical event leading up to the Korean War in which the United States played a critical role. The exhibition focuses on issues of memory, reconciliation and healing.
Sonoma International Film Festival passes are on sale now and prices will increase on Monday, March 17, 2014
If you love cinema, world class food and wine from local artisans and vintners, and the breathtaking beauty of the wine country, it doesn’t get any better than the Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF). Discounted passes are now on sale for the 17th annual SIFF—April 2-6, 2014. Lock in your passes now, as the prices rise considerably on Monday, March 17, 2014.
This year, SIFF features over 115 hand-selected films from 22 countries—features, documentaries, world cinema, Vamos Al Cine (showcasing Spanish-language film), and shorts. Two hundred filmmakers and celebrities will attend and participate in premieres, Q&A’s an panel discussions. Guests, celebs and attendees all mingle on the square and in Backlot, SIFF’s decadent den of epicurean delights. Film luminaries who have walked SIFF’s red carpet include: Susan Sarandon, Bruce Willis, Michael Keaton, Blythe Danner, Danny Glover, Lauren Hutton, Demian Bichir, Ray Liotta and Mary-Louise Parker. This year’s special guests have yet to be announced.
The line-up, of which we have just a few details, includes 62 full length features films, all selected by Festival Director Kevin McNeely and his programmers Claudia Mendoza-Carruth and Steve Shor, who know exactly what appeals to the savvy audience of this extended weekend fest. For the first time, SIFF17 welcomes a film from Nigeria, director Biyi Bandele’s acclaimed Half of a Yellow Sun, an adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s bestselling novel of the same name. This year’s Vamos Al Cine program, which began as programming for the Spanish speaking community but has morphed into one of the festival’s biggest draws, will focus on Cuban cinema with Cuban director and actor, Jorge Perugorria, attending. And dog lover ARThound is excited about this year’s special programming for children (and the young at heart) and the guest appearance of the amazing Olate dogs (winner of America’s Got Talent 2012 and $1 million. These joyful dogs will perform at the historic Sebastiani Theatre in a special morning that includes the world premiere of Peter McEvilley’s French short, Le Sauvetage—which features Peter Olate’s rescue dogs and addresses animal welfare—and a live musical performance by members of “Everybody is a Star.” This year, there are an unprecedented 24 documentaries, many of which unpack our increasingly confusing organic and green lifestyle and impart groundbreaking research on the health and environmental impacts of plastic, fracking and hemp. One of these, Wings of Life, a new Disneynature film, narrated by Meryl Streep, uses incredible cinematography, high-seed, time-lapse and micro filmmaking techniques to reveal the extraordinary importance of flowers and their pollinator partners. And for foodies, three world cinema offerings explore the fusion of storytelling, fine cuisine and restaurants.
All films are screened in seven intimate venues, all within walking distance along Sonoma’s historic plaza. Many screenings include delectable gourmet samplings. The SIFF ambiance is laid-back and the experience is unforgettable…that’s why most guests return year after year. And it’s for a great cause— since 2002, SIFF and its members have continually supported Sonoma Valley High School’s Media Arts Program. This student program opens doorways to creativity in the digital arts through filmmaking classes, animation, scriptwriting, film theory, and – most of all – storytelling. So far this year, SIFF has donated $25,000 to Peter Hansen’s media arts program at SVHS, having given almost $450,000 over the past 12 years.
Cinema Pass—$175* – All Films & Panels (*Price increases to $250 on March 17, 2014)
Cinema Soiree Pass —$450* First Entry to films, VIP hospitality area, tribute, parties & receptions & “First Look.” (*Price increases to $600 on March 17, 2014)
Patron Pass/All Access—single $2,500; couple $4,000
Click here to purchase all SIFF passes.
Click here for more information, or call 707 933-2600
Not just film, CAAMFest, has super-sized into an Asian American cultural extravaganza—it starts Wednesday, March 13, and runs for 10 days in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland
CAAMFest is 32 this year and no longer just about great film. The 10 day festival, which takes place between March 13th and 23th , in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, has long showcased the best and newest in Asian American film. It got restless when it turned 30 though: it changed its name from SFIAFF (San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival ) to the shorter CAAMFest , named after its sponsor, CAAM , San Francisco’s Center for Asian American Media. Under the guidance of Festival Director Masashi Niwano, now in his fourth year at the helm, it also responded to changing times by tweaking its programming. And growing. And growing. It now bills itself as the nation’s “largest showcase for new Asian and Asian American film.”
Music and Food: In addition to its 121 films and videos, and stellar presentations and tributes, CAAMFest 2014 includes cutting edge musicians and the fusion of great food and film line-up. Korean and Vietnamese hip hop and rock music, and leading female performers are the focus of the two “Directions in Sound” evenings. On March 22, 23-year-old rapper, singer and songwriter, Suboi (Hàng Lâm Trang Anh), tagged Vietnam’s Queen of Hiphop, will have her U.S. debut at 111 Minna Gallery.
Culinary artists like superstar Chef Martin Yan (of PBS and M.Y. China) and award-winning Chocolatier Windy Lieu of Sôcôla Chocolates are the focus of CAAMfeast,” a high-end tasting party/fundraiser, while three fabulous food films celebrate storytelling around Asian food.
Promising to engage all the senses is “Super Awesome Launch,” an evening at the Oakland Museum of California that includes a sneak preview of its upcoming spring exhibition SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot, all about the groundbreaking punk-oriented zine Giant Robot founded by Eric Nakamura). The evening also includes high energy bands from Taiwan, a caravan of food trucks, and a screening of Patrick Epino and Stephen Dypiangco’s Awesome Asian Bad Guys (2013) starring Tamlyn Tomita and Dante Basco. Easy to see why they call it “Super Awesome Launch.”
Big Nights of Film—
Opening Night: The festival kicks off this Wednesday, March 13 with the US premiere of Vietnamese American director Ham Tran’s (Journey from the Fall, 2006) romantic comedy, How to Fight in Six Inch Heels, at the historic Castro Theater. The film was Vietnam’s top box office draw for 2013 and features San Jose native Kathy Uyen as a New York fashion designer who infiltrates Saigon’s high-fashion world to test her fiancé’s fidelity. After the premiere, CAAMFest heads over to the Asian Art Museum for its Opening Night Gala, which features food from local chefs and restaurants, a special presentation by fashion stylists Retrofit Republic, dancing to beats spun by local DJ’s and the Asian’s amazing new exhibition, Yoga: The Art of Transformation.
How To Fight In Six Inch Heels (Âm Mưu Giày Gót Nhọn)
Select Special Presentations: Each year, CAAMFest highlights the works of significant media makers and their contributions to modern cinema. In Conversation with Grace Lee: Award-winning documentary filmmaker Grace Lee will be in conversation at the Castro Theatre on Saturday, March 16, discussing her new documentary, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (2013), profiling the extraordinary life of activist and feminist Grace Lee Boggs which screens right after the conversation. Lee’s narrative feature comedy, American Zombie (2006), screens on Friday, March 14.
American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs
Tribute: Run Run Shaw: CAAMFest offers a three film tribute to the legendary movie mogul Sir Run Run Shaw, who over the course of nine decades fostered some of the greatest filmmaking talent in Hong Kong, and produced some American classics such as Blade Runner (1982). The films—The Kingdom and the Beauty; King Boxer (The Five Fingers of Death); and my personal favorite, Come Drink With Me, will all screen at the Chinatown’s Great Star Theater on March 15th.. The Great Star, refurbished in 2010, hosts both Chinese-language film and Chinese opera.
Closing Night: The Closing Night Gala, Sunday, March 23, marks the festival’s expansion to downtown Oakland’s arts district. The evening starts off at the New Parkway Theater with a screening of Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Marissa Aroy’s documentary, Delano Manongs (2013). A prescient chronicle of the life of Filipino activist Larry Itliong (1913-77), who organized the 1965 Delano Grape Strike and helped launch the United Farm Workers, the documentary explores the vital contribution of Filipinos to the American Farm labor movement. Following this screening, the Gala moves one block to Vessel Gallery for a closing party that takes place amongst the art exhibition “Periphery: New Works by Cyrus Tilton and Paintings by Tim Rice.”
Stay-tuned to ARThound for detailed film picks, which will include:
Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo (2013) Winner of the Caméra d”Or at Cannes this May, a mesmerizing portrait of a middle class Indonesian family in crisis that sprang out of the director’s childhood in the Singapore and his nurturing relationship with his Filipina nanny who worked as a domestic helper for his family for 8 years from 1988 to 1997. (Screens March 15 at 6:30 PM at Pacific Film Archive and March 17 at 6 PM at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.)
Director Yuya Ishii’s The Great Passage (2013), Japan’s 2013 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film about a shy, eccentric young man, who joins the Dictionary Editorial Department of a big Tokyo publishing house to help compile a new dictionary, “The Great Passage” and over the course of years is transformed. (Screens: March 15 at 2:30 PM at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas and March 16 at 3:30 PM at Pacific Film Archive.)
Tenzi Tsetan Choklay’s feature documentary, Bringing Tibet Home (2013). Following the death of his father, a Tibetan refugee, Rigdol embarks on a remarkable journey to bring 20,000 kilos of native Tibetan soil from Nepal to India. The smuggled soil is laid out on a platform in Dharamsala, the Himalayan hill town where the Dali Lama and many Tibetan refugees are based. For many, this is a reunion; for some, this the first time that they set foot on their native soil; and for a few, this is probably the last time that they ever see anything of their lost nation. (Screens: March 14 at 5 PM at New People Cinemas and March 19 at 7 PM at Pacific Film Archive.)
When/Where: CAAMfest 2014 runs March 13-23, 2014 at 8 screening venues in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland and as well as select museums, galleries, bars and music halls.
Tickets: This popular festival sells outs, so advance ticket purchase is highly recommended for most films and events. Regular screenings are $12 with $1 to $2 discounts for students, seniors, disabled and current CAAM members. Special screenings, programs and social events are more. Festival 6-pack passes are also available for $60 (6 screenings for price of 5). All access passes are $450 for CAAM members and $500 for general. Click here for ticket purchases online. Tickets may also be purchased in person and various venue box offices open one hour before the first festival screening of the day.
Dog Lovers! Tonight is your night…. Julian Roman Pölsler’s “The Wall” (“Die Wand”) screens at 8:45 at the Smith Rafael…part of a week of screenings of foreign Oscar nominees
I wouldn’t be ARThound if I didn’t do a special shout-out for Lynx, the amazing hound that co-stars in The Wall (Die Wand, 2012) which screens tonight (Wed) at 8:45 PM at the Smith Rafael (Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center) as part of their week of exceptional screenings of foreign Oscar nominations from around the world…. I can’t say it enough… consistently awesome programming!
The Wall (Die Wand): Austrian director Julian Roman Pölsler’s film is based on Marlen Haushofer’s 1962 dystopian hit novel of the same name (just re-printed in English). The film stars German actress Martina Gedeck from the brilliant 2006 Stassi thriller The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) and tells the story of a completely ordinary middle-aged woman (Gedeck) who is vacationing with friends in a remote mountain hunting lodge. Her friends go out to a pub and she stays back with the dog and when they don’t come back, she makes a very creepy discovery. She is imprisoned on the mountainside by an invisible wall, behind which there seems to be no life. She appears to be the sole remaining human on earth, along with the dog (a red hound that will steal your heart),a cow, a cat, and a kitten, with which she forms a tight-knit family.
The film rests entirely on Gedeck’s shoulders and she is riveting, delivering a very credible performance that will leave you shivering and running home to snuggle with your dog. The odd beauty of this film is that this last survivor scenario may be your own romanticized idea of heaven, or hell (Who hasn’t said “Fuck the world! I’m sick of people…give me just my dog!), but watching Gedeck use her time laboring hard, protecting her pack, and introspectively processing her present life, leads us to right into her moments of intensely felt angst, terror, joy and sorrow. (Screens Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 8:45 PM, Smith Rafael)
I first reviewed The Wall when it screened at last year’s Berlin & Beyond Film Festival—the very best new films by German, Austrian and Swiss directors—a noteworthy jewel in the huge array of festivals. This year, the 18th annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, kicks off this evening at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre with Georg Maas’ Two Lives (Zwei Leben, 2012), Germany’s official entry, short-listed for the best foreign language Oscar at the 2014 Academy Awards. Click here to read ARThound’s coverage of this year’s Berlin & Beyond.) Two Lives also screens tomorrow (Thursday) at 6:30 PM at the Smith Rafael and filmmaker Maas will be in attendance for what will be a riveting Q&A. So, in San Rafael, you’ve got the opportunity to see two great German-language films back-to-back as part of their foreign Oscar nominee programming and, in San Francisco, Berlin & Beyond offers 30 feature length German-language films and 7 shorts over the next week (including six North American premieres and two US premieres).
The 18th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival—the best and newest in German Language Cinema, starts Wednesday, January 15, 2014, at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre
For film lovers in the Bay Area, the annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival is an essential—it’s where one goes to see the very best new films by German, Austrian and Swiss directors and the crème of the crop of international collaborations from directors working beyond these borders. The focus is Germany and German language but it’s the exceptional storytelling, intense drama and highly cinematic nature of the films, and the complete abandonment of Hollywood special effects, that make this relatively small scale festival a stand-out in the myriad of festivals that are cropping up everywhere. The festival will mark its 18th season with a dazzling roster of special guests onstage and will screen 30 feature length films and 7 shorts, including six North American premieres and two US premieres. Festival director Sophoan Sorn, at the helm for his fourth year now, has collaborated with Festival President Sabine Erlenwein to select films that showcase this year’s theme “Courage in Motion”—delivering cinematic stories that embrace overcoming life’s myriad of obstacles. The festival kicks off Wednesday evening with Germany’s official entry into the 2014 Academy Awards, Two Lives (Zwei Leben, 2012) and an opening night party at Tank18, one of the City’s finest wine bars. It closes (at the Castro venue) with the North American premiere of Nana Nuel’s Silent Summer (Stiller Sommer, 2013), with Nuel and renowned actor Hans-Jochen Wagner in attendance. This year’s festival pays special tribute to legendary author, film producer, screenwriter and filmmaker, Peter Sehr, with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in acting. Mr. Sehr, who had a knack for the political period drama, passed in May 2013 from cancer, but his wife and creative partner, director Marie Noëlle, will be present at the festival to receive the posthumous award and will appear in person at the screening of their final film, festival centerpiece Ludwig II (2012), at the Castro Theatre on January 17th, at 5:30 PM. It all begins Wednesday, January 15, and runs Sunday, January 19, in San Francisco, at the historic Castro Theatre, with additional evening screenings on January 20-21 at the Goethe-Institut SF (530 Bush Street).
The festival marks its 18th season with a dazzling roster of special guests onstage—Ali Saghri (producer, Breaking Horizons); Anne Thoma (director/writer, Miles & War); Aylin Tezel (director, Inhale (short film); actor, Breaking Horizons & BFF 2012 Opener Almanya); Christian Schwochow (director, West); Georg Maas (director/screenwriter, Two Lives, The Real World of Peter Gabriel); Hans-Jochen Wagner (actor, Silent Summer); Katja von Garnier (director, Windstorm); Marie Noëlle (director/screenwriter, Ludwig II); Nana Neul (director/screenwriter, Silent Summer); Udo Kramer (production designer, LOLA nominee for Measuring the World 3D); Marc Rothemund (director, The Girl with Nine Wigs; nominee, Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, 2006 for Sophie Scholl – The Final Days); Walter Steffen (director/writer, Munich in India); Xavier Koller (director, The Black Brothers; winner, Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, 1991 for Journey of Hope. For more information and tickets, browse the festival’s official website and stay tuned to ARThound for coverage.
The lineup for the 18th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival:
Wednesday, January 15
4:00 pm Sensational Seven – Short Films 2014
7:00 pm Opening Night Film: Two Lives
9:30 pm Opening Night Party at Tank18
Thursday, January 16
1:00 pm Windstorm
4:00 pm The Shine of Day
6:30 pm Hanna’s Journey
9:00 pm Gold
Friday, January 17
11:30 am Your Beauty Is Worth Nothing
3:00 pm Lullaby Ride
5:30 pm Centerpiece: Ludwig II
9:15 pm Shores of Hope
Saturday, January 18
11:15 am Sound of Heimat – Germany Sings
1:45 pm The Girl With Nine Wings
4:30 pm Miles & War
7:00 pm West
9:45 pm Late Show: Measuring the World (3D)
Sunday, January 19
11:30 am Munich In India
2:00 pm The Black Brothers
4:30 pm Breaking Horizons and Inhale
8:00 pm Castro Closing Night Film: Silent Summer
Monday, January 20
6:00 pm More Than Honey
8:30 pm Free Fall
Tuesday, January 21
6:00 pm Redemption Impossible
8:30 pm Shifting The Blame
French Cinema Now starts Thursday— 10 of the best new French-language films in a four-day series at San Francisco’s historic Clay Theatre
The sixth annual French Cinema Now (FCN) series begins Thursday, November 7, at San Francisco’s Landmark Clay Theatre and offers four glorious days dedicated to significant new works of francophone cinema from France, Belgium, Quebec and anywhere else the sweet sound of the French language is heard. This year, FCN screens 10 films and includes an opening night post-screening soiree with French-inspired bites and wine at 1300 On Fillmore, known for Chef David Lawrence’s inspired soul food and its smooth jazz. The program eases into weekend by offering two films on both Thursday and Friday evenings and five films on both Saturday and Sunday, with some repeats on the weekend.
The four-day festival is organized by the San Francisco Film Society, in association with the French American Cultural Society, the Consulate General of France in San Francisco. The selections were handled by Rachel Rosen, SFS, Director of Programming, whose choices for this series and the larger annual SFIFF (San Francisco International Film Festival) reflect keen intuition for mixing the unusual and the flavor of the moment with the timelessness of great storytelling and cinematography. Several of these French films had their premieres
at Cannes and are being shown for the first (and only) time in the Bay Area. The charming venue, the mighty Clay Theatre, situated on the busting Fillmore Street, was built in 1910 and is one of the oldest theatres in San Francisco (refurbished with comfortable new seats).
From the established talents of such notable filmmakers as Claire Denis, Nicolas Philibert and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi to new, emerging talent like Sébastien Betbeder, Katell Quillévéré and Axelle Ropert, French Cinema Now 2013 has something for cinephiles of all tastes. Romantic triangles, unusual familial conflicts and examinations of sexuality—subjects French filmmakers are known for handling with particular skill—feature prominently, and Europe’s biggest stars such as Louis Garrel (A Castle in Italy), Vincent Lindon and Chiara Mastroianni (Bastards) appear with the region’s up-and-coming actors like Sara Forestier (Suzanne) and Vincent Macaigne (2 Autumns, 3 Winters).
OPENING NIGHT: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7
7:00 pm 2 Autumns, 3 Winters Sébastien Betbeder (2 automnes 3 hivers, France 2013) Sébastien Betbeder, whose debut Nights with Theodore was the winner of the FIPRESCI prize at this spring’s SFIFF, returns with this offbeat story of thirty-somethings navigating whatever crisis comes between quarter- and mid-life. Arman and Benjamin are friends from art school. Arman first meets Amélie when he bumps into her, literally, while jogging. His casual attempts to meet her again fail until one night when dramatic circumstances reunite them, intertwining the lives of all three. Playfully told, despite the serious nature of some of its events, 2 Autumns, 3 Winters applies indie charm to the vagaries of life. Written by Sébastien Betbeder. Cinematography by Sylvain Verdet. With Vincent Macaigne, Maud Wyler, Bastien Bouillon. 93 min. In French with subtitles. Film Movement.
9:15 pm Opening Night reception A post-screening soiree sponsored by TV5 Monde with French-inspired bites and sponsored wine at 1300 On Fillmore (1300 Fillmore at Eddy).
9:15 pm A Castle in Italy
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (Un château en Italie, France 2013)
In her third film, director, actress and writer Valeria Bruni Tedeschi continues to mine her own experience to portray the lives and crises of the bourgeoisie. Here she plays Louise, an actress tiring of her profession and longing for motherhood. When she runs into younger actor Nathan (VBT’s former real-life beau Louis Garrel) on a film set, he pursues her relentlessly, but he’s not particularly interested in fathering a child. As she has done in her prior work, Bruni Tedeschi presents the problems of the rich and famous without apology but with refreshing nuance and humor, and surrounds herself with a formidable cast. Written by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Agnès de Sacy, Noémie Lvovsky. Cinematography by Jeanne Lapoirie. With Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Louis Garrel, Filippo Timi. 104 min. In French and Italian with subtitles. Films Distribution.
FRIDAY NOVEMBER 8
7:00 pm Rendezvous in Kiruna
Anna Novion (Rendez-vous à Kiruna, France 2012)
Ernest is working on a major architectural project at his firm when he receives an unwanted call from Sweden. His biological son whom he has never met has died in a boating accident and, with the mother away, Ernest must come to Lapland and identify the body. Although he protests that he has no emotional connection to the dead youth, he ends up on a long drive north during which he picks up Magnus, a young Swedish man on his way to visit his grandfather. Director Anna Novion’s interest in Bergman and her own Swedish heritage add a quiet flair to this story of unavoidable emotional ties. Written by Olivier Massart, Anna Novion. Cinematography by Pierre Novion. With Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Anastasios Soulis. 97 min. In French, Swedish and English with subtitles. Pyramide International.
9:30 pm Michael Kohlhaas
Arnaud des Pallières (France/Germany 2013)
Arnaud des Pallières’ austere and visually splendid medieval-era drama tells the story of Michael Kohlhaas (Mads Mikkelsen), a horse trader who is one day forced by a ruthless Baron to give over two of his prize steeds. When the nobleman’s subsequent mistreatment of the horses is revealed, Kohlhaas demands justice. But when a nobility-favoring court rules against him, and the Baron and his henchmen commit other hideous acts, Kohlhaas turns to the sword and crossbow for his revenge. Though the themes and moral conflicts will be familiar to Game of Thrones fans, the remarkable style recalls Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac. Written by Christelle Berthevas, Arnaud des Pallières. Cinematography by Adrien Debackere, Jeanne Lapoirie. With Mads Mikkelsen, Delphine Chuillot, Bruno Ganz, Denis Lavant. 122 min. In French and German with subtitles. Music Box Films.
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 9
2:30 pm A Castle in Italy (see Thursday, 11/7)
4:45 pm Miss and the Doctors Axelle Ropert (Tirez la langue, mademoiselle, France 2013, 102 min)
7:00 pm Suzanne Katell Quillévéré (France 2013, 91min)
9:30 pm Stranger by the Lake Alain Guiraudie (L’inconnu du lac, France 2013, 97 min)
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 10
1:15 pm House of Radio
Nicolas Philibert (La maison de la radio, France/Japan 2013, 99 min)
Master documentarian Nicolas Philibert’s latest takes a delightful and surprisingly humorous look at public radio, French style. Inside an unusual round building in Paris is Radio France, comprised of several premiere stations. Luckily for us, these bustling offices are full of great characters both known (Umberto Eco in for an on-air interview) and unknown (a news manager who gleefully sorts through grisly news briefs, the director of a radio drama, a telephone operator who screens for a call-in show). Mixed in with the quiz shows, live musical performances and sports reporting, they form the fabric of a beautifully observed and pleasurable view of a public institution and beloved medium. Cinematography by Katell Djian. 99 min. In French with subtitles. Kino Lorber.
3:30 pm Rendezvous in Kiruna (see Friday, 11/8)
6:00 pm Vic+Flo Saw a Bear Denis Côté (Vic+Flo ont vu un ours, Canada 2013, 95 min)
8:30 pm Bastards
Claire Denis (Les salauds, France 2013)
Claire Denis’ “Bastards” is a dark and elliptical revenge drama shot in Paris with cinematography by Agnès Godard. It screens Sunday at French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark’s Clay Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.
Claire Denis’ troubled and troubling new film, highlighted by Agnès Godard’s masterful cinematography and Stuart Staples’ (of Tindersticks) evocative score, begins with rain and death and rarely lets up from there. For reasons at first mysterious, a sea captain named Marco Silvestri (Vincent Lindon) arrives in Paris and rents an empty apartment. Living directly downstairs are business tycoon Edouard Laporte (Denis regular Michel Subor) and his mistress Raphaëlle (Chiara Mastroianni), whose lives will intersect with Marco’s in dark and devastating ways. Denis’ latest is an angry and upsetting film, detailing a world where money and the power it wields can have poisonous and far-reaching effects. Written by Jean-Pol Fargeau, Claire Denis. Cinematography by Agnès Godard. With Vincent Lindon, Chiara Mastroianni, Julie Bataille, Michel Subor, Lola Créton. 100 min. In French with subtitles. IFC Sundance Selects.
For full program information and scheduling for Saturday and Sunday, click here.
Details: French Cinema Now is November 7-10, 2013 at San Francisco’s Landmark Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore Street, San Francisco. Film tickets $12 for SFFS members, $14 general, $13 seniors, students and persons with disabilities, $10 children (12 and under); Opening Night film and party tickets $20 for SFFS members, $25 general; Fall Season CineVoucher 10-Packs $110 for SFFS members, $130 general. Purchase tickets online here.
This weekend’s 5th Petaluma International Film Festival spans the remote corners of the globe—ARThound looks at the line-up
With more than 40 independent films from 20 countries and a new program showcasing local filmmakers, 5th Annual Petaluma International Film Festival (PIFF), this Friday through Sunday, has its best line-up ever. Organized by Saeed Shafa who founded the popular annual Tiburon Film Festival in 2002, PIFF not only emphasizes great storytelling and international points of view; it has films that you just won’t see elsewhere. The festival kicks off at noon on Friday with German filmmaker Hermann Vaske’s acclaimed documentary Balkan Spirit (2013, Germany) which explores the vast creative landscape of the war-torn Balkans and closes with a Sunday 10:15 PM screening of award-winning documentarian Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s dynamically-shot Touba (2013, Senegal/USA) reveals a face of Islam the world rarely glimpses—the Grand Magaal pilgrimage of 1 million Sufi Muslims to their holy city of Touba, Senegal. PIFF offers six screenings daily, running from noon till just before midnight, with each time slot allocated to a full-length film and at least one short (30 minutes or less).
This year, filmmakers and/or films span the globe from Athens to Kosovo to remote Papua New Guinea to Senegal to Yemen. That’s right…Papua New Guinea! How does Shafa find these gems? “When we send out our call for entries, they come to us,” said Shafa. “Fortunately, every year more countries are participating and more filmmakers are getting to know our festival and the kind of programing we have. This, at the same time, makes our selections very difficult but is the reward of having so many good films to choose from for our sophisticated audiences.”
The fine selection of entertaining shorts this year proves that stories can be highly effective in a limited time framework. Shafa has purposely paired all the feature-length films with shorts to get the point across. The incomparable Gérard Depardieu stars as a befuddled door-to-door salesman in Constance Meyer’s comedic short Frank-Étienne Vers la Béatitude (2012, France) and in just 12 minutes gets caught up in a struggle between an irresistible young woman (Marina Fois), her ex, and their dog. (screens Saturday 8 PM)
New to this year’s festival is Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase, Saturday October 12, 6 PM—a program celebrating 5 short films made by Sonoma County filmmakers in support of the community’s rich and diverse talent. All the filmmakers will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. On the program—Greg Blatman’s Kitty Litter (2012, 9 min, shot in Petaluma); Beth Nelson’s The Sky is the Roof (2013, 30 min—historical overview of pre-colonial Napa Valley); Laura Owen & Aron Campisano’s Chocolatés (5 min); Bret Smith’s Rat-Face Burattino (2013, 5 min) and Paul Winston’s The World is My Stage (2013, 26 min).
Full schedule here.
Film descriptions here.
ARThound has attended this festival every year since it opened and has implicit trust in Saeed Shafa’s programming but here are the films caught my eye:
FRIDAY, OPENING DAY
Balkan Spirit —Friday, noon, : The festival kicks off with German filmmaker Hermann Vaske’s acclaimed documentary Balkan Spirit (2013, Germany). Vaske and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek explore the cultural, philosophical, political and artistic renaissance that is literally breathing life into this amazing region after decades of war and stagnation. The engaging film features Angelina Jolie, Isabelle Huppert, Emir Kusturica, Dušan Makavejev, Abel Ferrara, Jasmila Zbanic and many other who will be forever on your creative radar. 80 minutes. Screens with Shane Atkinson’s short, Penny Dreadful (USA, 2013, 13 min).
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc—Saturday, 2 PM *great for kids*: French filmmaker Luc Besson’s action films (La Femme Nikita, Colombiana, The Fifth Element, The Messenger) often feature a courageous female lead. The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc (France, 2013) stars Louise Bourgoin as Adele Blanc-Sec, a daring female investigative reporter and action-seeker. Based on the historical comic book series by French comics artist, Jacques Tardi, the film has the whip-smart and charming young heroine using her reasoning skills to solve a mystery that will save her comatose sister Agathe (Laure de Clermont). Adele believes that an imprisoned scientist, Professor Espérandieu (Jacky Nercessian), can reanimate a legendary doctor, who in turn might be able to revive Agathe. With the help of her number-one fan, Andrej Zborowski (Nicolas Giraud), Adele must evade her nemeses long enough to save her sister. 107 minutes. In French with English subtitles
The Professor—Saturday, 2 PM with short Frank-Étienne Vers la Béatitude: In Tunisian director Mahmoud ben Mahmoud’s retro-thriller, the struggle for social justice and human rights in late 1970s Tunisia is dramatized against the backdrop of a perilous extra-marital affair between a law professor (played by Ahmed Hafiane) who heads Tunisia’s new human rights commission and his radical young student . The period Ben Mahmoud has recreated captures the historical roots of Tunisia’s long slide into tyranny. The period explored coincides with recently deposed Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s career-boosting appointment as General Director of National Security, a major stepping stone towards his 23-year authoritarian rule. Begun in the final days of Ben Ali’s reign, the film was subject to official interference, and could only be completed after the ousted dictator fled to exile in Saudi Arabia last year. Michael Portal’s stirring musical score, with European and Arabic references, has been praised. (2012, Tunisia, France, Qatar, 92 minutes) Screens with Constance Meyer’s comedic short Frank-Étienne Vers la Béatitude (2012, France, 12 minutes).
Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase—Saturday, 6 PM—A new addition to PIFF, a special screening of five short films made by Sonoma County filmmakers in support of the community’s rich and diverse talent. All the filmmakers will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A. On the program—Greg Blatman’s Kitty Litter (2012, 9 min, shot in Petaluma); Beth Nelson’s The Sky is the Roof (2013, 30 min—historical overview of pre-colonial Napa Valley); Laura Owen & Aron Campisano’s Chocolatés (5 min); Bret Smith’s Rat-Face Burattino (2013, 5 min) and Paul Winston’s The World is My Stage (2013, 26 min). Total Length: Approx. 2 hours
Agnus Dei—Saturday 10 PM, screens with short Jacobo: Kosovar filmmaker Agim Sopi’s feature drama is based on a true horror story born out of the brutal atrocities of the Kosovo War which occurred in late 1990’s. The film’s backdrop is the face-off of Serb paramilitaries against Kosovar Albanian rebels (KLA) as the Serbs try to remove all Kosovo Albanians from Kosovo. The story involves Peter (Astrit Alihajdaraj), a young Serb solider who is the product of a forbidden love between his Serb mother and Kosovar Albanian father. Peter goes off to war and rescues and then ends up falling in love with an Albanian girl named Maria (the beautiful Dafina Berisha). They travel back to Peter’s mom’s house, only to discover a terrible family secret that will destroy Peter’s entire world. This modern day Odepius-like tale is perfect for its late night time slot. (2012, Kosovo, 85 min) In Serbian with English subtitles. Screens with David del Águilla’s Jacobo (2012, Spain, 14 minutes)
Isolated —Sunday, 2 PM, screens with short Via Tango: American director Justin Le Pera’s documentary Isolated (USA 2013) was shot in remote New Guinea, which seems reason enough to check it out. It follows 6 thrill seeking surfers who embark on a journey to search for one of the world’s last undiscovered waves New Guinea, a vast sprawling region where black magic, sorcery and cannibalism sometimes occur. There’s thrilling surfing footage as they encounter epic waves. The film gets very serious when they run up against human rights atrocities surrounding the West Papua-Indonesian civil war and an unethical mining corporation—alarming maladies that seem to plague the world’s most beautiful places. The film features never before seen footage of an ancient aboriginal culture. 90 minutes. Screens with the Spanish short, Via Tango.
The Last Winter (Zemestane akha)—-Sunday 6:15 PM, Screens with the animated short Double Occupancy: Saeed Shafa, PIFF founder, has a passion for the great poetic of film. This year’s gem from Iran is Salem Salavati’s documentary The Last Winter (Zemestane akhar) (Iran, 2012), an elegant parable about the threatened culture of Iranian Kurdistan told through the story of a family who is unable to change and to come to terms with a tragedy. Salavati’s documentary is an expanded version of his previous short Snowy Dreams with the same picturesque winter scenery, calm, realistic life style and culture of Iranian Kurdistan. 95 minutes. English subtitles. Screens with the animated short Double Occupancy (2012, Germany, 9 min) by German filmmaker Fabian Giessler.
Touba—Sunday 10:15 PM: The festival closes with a lush doc. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s Touba (Senegal, 2013) has won awards for its cinematography and received glowing reviews for delivering a rare sensory experience. This observational film follows the annual Grand Magaal pilgrimage of 1 million Sufi Muslims to the holy city of Touba, Senegal. Dynamically shot in 16mm, it captures the sights and sounds and rituals of the Mouride Brotherhood: one of Africa’s most elusive organizations. Pilgrims travel from all over the world to pay homage to the life and teachings of Cheikh Amadou Bamba, whose non-violent resistance to French colonial persecution in the late 19th century inspired a national movement: freedom of religious expression through pacifism. Vasarhelyi, a Sundance fellow, is the acclaimed director of the award-winning documentary Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love (2008) which explored the African pop artist N’Dour as he released a spiritual album that unexpectedly alienated his Senegalese countrymen. Touba screens with the Lebanese filmmaker Mokhtar Beyroth’s short, Studio Beirut (Lebanon, 2013, 15 min).
PIFF Details: The 5th Petaluma International Film Festival is Friday, October 11, through Sunday, October 13, 2013 at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas, 200 C Street, Petaluma. Tickets are $11 for all PIFF screenings and are available in person or for online purchase at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas. All inclusive festival pass is $150 and can be obtained by phoning (415) 251-8433 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.