CAAMFest 2013, an 11 day celebration of film, music, food and digital media from Asian and Asian American artists
CAAMFest, formerly known as the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, kicked off Thursday evening, March 14, 2013, at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre 2013, with “Linsanity,” Bay Area native Evan Jackson Leong’s new documentary about the meteoric rise of Chinese American NBA basketball phenomena, Jeremy Lin, one of the few Asian Americans players in NBA history and the only one in the global spotlight.
Along with its name change, CAAMFest, now in its 31st year, has expanded its emphasis from mainly film to an 11 day celebration of film, music, food and digital media from the world’s most innovative Asian and Asian American artists. Over the years, the highly-respected festival, organized by the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), has showcased hundreds of films and has become a highly-respected launch pad for promising Asian and Asian-American filmmakers as well as a venue where influential Asian filmmakers are honored.
This year, the festival is offering many forms of entertainment, and the name CAAMFest reflects that change, said Masashi Niwano, the festival director, at CAAMFest 2013’s press conference. In addition to its offering of 90 exceptional films—documentaries, shorts and narratives—there will be 55 programs and live events, ranging from salons featuring musicians and chefs in symposium style panels, to music performances that follow special screenings. Here are some that caught ARThound’s eye:
DOSA HUNT/New Directions Launch: In collaboration with the Asian Art Museum (AAM), on Thursday, March 21, CAAMFest presents “Dosa Hunt,” a special evening at the museum that celebrates the “new directions” the festival is taking. The Indian-themed evening is built around film, food and music, and includes the West Coast premiere of music critic Amrit Singh’s short musical film “Dosa Hunt” — which follow the hunger pangs of a 7 Indian indie musicians— pianist Vijay Iyer, critic Amrit Singh, members of groups like Das Racist, Yeasayer, Vampire Weekend, and Neon Indian—who pack into a disco van and set out to find New York’s best dosa. Dosa are those fabulous crispy and savory South Indian crepes filled with potatoes, chickpeas and various spices. And, through the film, we learn that dosas are a metaphor for the American dream. The evening kicks off at 6 p.m. with Happy Hour featuring DJ KingMost; “Dosa Hunt” screens at 7 p.m. and the Indian group, Bastards from Hell, perform from 8 to 9 p.m. Entrance to the China’s Terracotta Warriors exhibition is included in the price. (Click here for more information.)
THIS WEEKEND: Up Sunday, March17, CAAMFest offers two special screenings at the Castro Theatre— At noon, Mira Nair’s “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” based on the 2007 novel by Mohsin Hamida taps into one of the central issues of our time—how does our society inadvertently nurture the very prejudices that drive people to radicalism? With an amazing cast—Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Live Schreiber, Martin Donovan—Nair takes us from pre-9/11 Wall Street with its ideology of greed to post-9/11 xenophobic Manhattan, to the coffeehouses and classrooms of Lahore Pakistan as it declares its desire to be independent from America’s political stronghold. All reflected in one young man’s journey.
At 5 p.m., a centerpiece reception with hors d’oeuvres and drinks and 6 p.m. screening of Deepa Mehta’s “Midnight’s Children,” based on Salman Rushdie’s 1981 best-selling Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name. Rushdie also narrates the film. While both of these films will open later this year in Bay Area theatres, there is nothing like seeing them early and at the Castro.
On the eve of India’s independence, two male babies, switched at birth, live the life intended for the other, both handcuffed to history in Deepa Mehta’s “Midnight’s Children”
Beyond Boundaries: On the Anniversary of the Armistice—CAAMFest explores the ramifications of the Korean War through 4 films: Beyond Boundaries is a special festival program exploring the societal repercussions and cinematic incarnations of the Korean War on the 60th anniversary year of the Armistice. Four films highlight aspects of the Korean experience—
“Memory of Forgotten War” which has its world premiere at CAAMFest is the first documentary to tell of the experiences of Korean survivors of the Korean War who later immigrated to the U.S. After the screening, the Korean drumming group, Jamaesori will also perform. Jamaesori is a collective of women of Korean descent who use traditional Korean drumming to support social justice movements. and includes as s part of CAAMFest 2013 and is the first documentary to tell of the experiences of Korean survivors who later immigrated to the U.S.(Screens: Monday evening, March 18, at 6:30 p.m., at San Francisco’s Kabuki Cinemas.)
Jiseul: Set during the 1948 Jeju Massacre, Jiseul tells the fictional story of some 120 villagers who hid in a cave for sixty days from soldiers who were under shoot-to-kill orders. They suffer from severe cold and hunger but retain their sanity by making jokes and holding on to the hope that their wait is almost over. Eventually their endurance wanes, and fear begins to test the group’s mettle. (Screens March, 19, 2013, 8:30 p.m. at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.)
Seeking Haven: Over 20,000 North Koreans have crossed the border to China in search of freedom. Most of them live in hiding, in fear of being deported back to North Korea and politically persecuted. Director Hein S. Seok, a recipient of one of only five film-production grants given by CAAM’s 2010 Media Fund Program, reveals their often overlooked stories in this intimate, daring tale of struggle, heartbreak and survival. (Screens March, 18, 2013, 8:50 p.m. at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.)
Comrade Kim Goes Flying: An international collaboration six years in the making, Comrade Kim Goes Flying is the first fiction feature in over thirty years to be filmed inside North Korea and co-produced by Western filmmakers. (Screens March, 23, 2013, 8:45 p.m. at Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley and March 24, 2013, at 4 p.m. at Great Star Theatre.)
Stay-tuned to ARThound for festival coverage.
Details: CAAMfest 2013 runs March 14-24, 2013 at 8 screening venues in San Francisco and Berkeley. Regular screenings are $12 and special screenings and programs are more. Festival 6-pack passes are also available for $60. Click here to see full schedule and to purchase tickets online.
Silent Winter—a full day of silent film masterpieces, with live music—at the Castro Theatre, Saturday February 16, 2013
From the beloved slapstick of Buster Keaton to the searing drama of the old European legend of “Faust” to the exoticism of “The Thief of Bagdad,” The San Francisco Silent Winter Film Festival offers five great silent films, all screening on a single Saturday— February 16, 2013—at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre. The event is sponsored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFS), host to the acclaimed SF Silent Film Festival which will turn 18 this July. These are the early cinema lovers who brought Abel Gance’s fabled “Napoleon” to Oakland’s Paramount Theatre last March for the U.S. premiere of its restoration. Each of the films will feature an informative introduction by a film historian and live musical accompaniment by musicians who are watching the film as they are playing, making each screening unique. And there’s no better environment to catch these early masterpieces than on the big screen at the historic Castro Theatre which was built in 1922 during the silent era and is home to the mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ, which will be played for some of the screenings. ”It’s such an enchanting experience and anyone of these films is sure to delight you,” said Anita Monga, SFSFS Artistic Director, “but, if you’ve never seen a silent film before and are looking for a recommendation, start with the Buster Keaton. You may find yourself sticking around for the rest of the day.”
SNOW WHITE— The festival starts at 10 a.m. with J. Searly Dawley’s SNOW WHITE, the 1916 feature motion picture adaptation of the popular Grimm’s fairy tale. The charming Marguerite Clark is Snow White who was 33 at the time and who had also played the role in the popular 1912 play “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Clark’s popularity in the play and other Broadway productions had led to a silent film contract in 1914 with Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. At just 4’10,” Clark was so petite and had such youthful features that she was able to easily portray characters much younger than her actual age.
J. Searle Dawley’s 1916 film is integral in the Walt Disney Family Museum’s 75th anniversary celebration of its own legendary “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” which was the first full-length animated feature in motion picture history, the first film produced in full color and the first film produced by Walt Disney Productions. The 1916 film is one of the first features that Walt Disney watched as a 16-year old newsboy in Kansas City and would remember all his life. Disney attended a special free screening attended by sixteen thousand children, all packed into the Kansas City Convention Center. The hall was arranged with four separate screens set in the center of the room and the children circled round. Four projectors ran simultaneously and the film included live musical accompaniment. “I thought it was the perfect story. It had the sympathetic dwarfs, you see? It had the heavy. It had the prince and the girl. The romance. I just thought it was a perfect story.” Walt Disney
Film historian J.B. Kaufman who wrote both the catalogue and the definitive book, The Fairest One of All: The Making of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for the Disney museum’s retrospective, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic, which runs through April 14, 2013, will introduce the 1916 film and speak about its enduring impact on Walt Disney. Following the screening, Kaufman will sign his books, which will be for sale, in the lobby of the Castro Theatre (10 a.m. with Musical Accompaniment by Donald Sosin on grand piano and Introduction by J.B. Kaufman)
THINK SLOW, ACT FAST: BUSTER KEATON SHORTS — A rare program of early Buster Keaton shorts from 1920-21, three of the funniest, most innovative comedies ever put on film featuring one of the great comic geniuses of all times. The 70 minute program includes One Week (1920, 24 m., w/ Buster Keaton, Sybil Seely, Joe Roberts) The Scarecrow (1920, 18 m., w/ Buster Keaton, Joe Roberts, Sybil Seely, Luke the Dog), and The Play House (1921, 23 m., w/ Buster Keaton, Virginia Fox). These films were made just after Keaton left Fatty Arbuckle to work on his own. It’s virtually impossible to take your eyes off of Keaton whose physicality was so graceful and whose timing was perfect. “I always want the audience to out-guess me, and then I double-cross them.” Buster Keaton (noon with Musical Accompaniment by Donald Sosin on grand piano)
THE THIEF OF BAGDAD— There’s no swashbuckler more debonair than Douglas Fairbanks leaping lithely and imaginatively from one action-packed adventure to the next as he plays a prince trying to win the love of the princess in “The Thief of Bagdad” (1924), directed by Raoul Walsh. In this age-old story, Fairbanks, the thief posing as a prince, is so overcome with love for Julanne Johnston, the daughter of the Caliph of Bagdad, that he confesses his true identity to her father. The Holy Man gives him a chance to win her and true happiness by embarking on a quest to bring back the world’s rarest treasures. Thus begins a rousing fantasy replete with flying carpets, winged horses, and underwater sea monsters as Fairbanks overcomes tremendous obstacles to rescue Bagdad and the princess from the Mongols. With William Cameron Menzies’ fabulous sets and Mitchell Leisen’s gorgeous costumes, the 1924 film was voted Best Film of 1924 by 400 film critics and catapulted Anna May Wong, the scantily-clad Mongol slave, to even greater popularity. This was Fairbanks’ favorite role and he’s at the top of his game. (2:30 p.m. with Musical Accompaniment by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra and Introduction by Jeffrey Vance and Tracey Goessel)
MY BEST GIRL— Mary Pickford’s last silent film, “My Best Girl,” (1927) by Sam Taylor, defines romantic comedy and is one of Pickford’s most enjoyable films to watch. Girl is the story of Five & Dime store stock girl, Maggie Johnson (Pickford), who falls for the owner’s son, Joe Merrill (Buddy Rogers), who’s masquerading as a new employee that Mary has to train. Of course, Joe’s parents have other ideas about the kind of girl Joe should marry. Pickford and Rogers (in his first role after the hugely successful Wings, 1927) are magical. In ten years Pickford would divorce Douglas Fairbanks and marry Rogers—a marriage that lasted her lifetime. Film historian Jeanine Basinger said in a PBS interview “…Women of working class who didn’t have much, came in and saw a role model, saw someone feisty, cheerful, upbeat about it, facing tragedy, doom — hilariously, and always with the attitude, ‘Well, I can win this. I can get over this.’ She offered hope and humor, and she was an amazing figure. She would also then perhaps turn out later in the movie looking perfectly feminine and beautiful. So this is a real connecting point to the whole audience, but specifically to the women of the day.” (Approximately 90 minutes) (7 p.m. with Musical Accompaniment by Donald Sosin on grand piano, Introduction by Jeffrey Vance)
FAUST— Magnificent in its surreal depictions of heaven and hell and a nightmarish otherworldly world, German director F.W. Murnau’s 1926 interpretation of the Faust legend is a hallmark of German Expressionism. It is as boldly distinctive as his other horror masterpiece, Nosferatu. Murnau’s “Faust” draws on Goethe’s classic tale as well as older literary versions to tell the story of a man willing to bargain his soul away to the Devil. Knowledge, lust, power—they fascinate and entrap us all. When Emil Jannings’ wily Mephisto shows up to tempt Faust (Gösta Ekmann), a man of books and learning, with the ability to cure the plague and a 24-hour return to his youthful body, it seems pious Faust has lost his immortal soul. Or has he? Murnau’s use of chiaroscuro effect beautifully contrasts light and dark, life and death; and evil is chillingly limned by Jannings’ brilliantly nuanced, subtly comic performance. If you’ve seen Alexander Sokurov’s completely disturbing and eerie “Faust” (2011), winner of the 2011 Golden Lion at Venice, this silent masterpiece is the one to strike comparisons with. (Approximately 116 minutes) (9:00 pm with Musical Accompaniment by Christian Elliott on the Mighty Wurlitzer)
Silent films remind us of how rich and intense storytelling can be without words. With last year’s 5 Oscar success of Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist,” the joyful black and white tribute to Hollywood’s Golden Age, the stage was set for a renewed interest in silent films. “That was definitely a boost,” said Anita Monga, “Hazanavicius set about to make a film that was set in that silent era about the making of a silent film and do it as a silent film. What was interesting was up until the very last moment, you weren’t really so aware that there wasn’t any dialogue. Anytime we can dispel the myth that silent films are deadly boring, it’s a very good thing. Once we get people in the door, we have no problem sharing the wonder of this experience but we’ve got to get them in the door.”
Silent films remind us of how rich and intense storytelling can be without words. With last year’s 5 Oscar success of Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist,” the joyful black and white tribute to Hollywood’s Golden Age, the stage was set for a renewed interest in silent films. “That was definitely a boost,” said Anita Monga, “Hazanavicius set about to make a film that was set in that silent era about the making of a silent film and do it as a silent film. What was interesting was, up until the very last moment, you weren’t really so aware that there wasn’t any dialogue. Anytime we can dispel the myth that silent films are deadly boring, it’s a very good thing. Once we get people in the door, we have no problem sharing the wonder of this experience but we’ve got to get them in the door.”
Details: “Silent Winter” is Saturday, February 16, 2012. The Castro Theatre is located at 429 Castro Street, San Francisco. Festival Pass: $70; $50 for San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) members. Individual Tickets: $15.00 adults; $5 children. Buy tickets online here. For information about SFSFF membership, call 415.777.4908 or email email@example.com .
The 17th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival showcases the best new films from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, starts next Thursday, September 27, 2012
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 such a stand-out in the myriad of festivals that are cropping up everywhere. The festival will mark its 17th season with a dazzling roster of special guests onstage and will screen 26 feature length films and 6 shorts, including four North American premieres and three US premieres. It will pay special tribute to legendary stage and screen star Mario Adorf with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in acting. Mr. Adorf will be present at the festival to receive the award and will appear in person for two films of his four-film tribute. It all begins next Thursday, September 27, and runs through October 4, 2012, in San Francisco at the historic Castro Theatre, with additional screenings at the Goethe-Institut SF (530 Bush Street).
The festival will mark its 17th season with a dazzling roster of special guests onstage. It will pay special tribute to legendary stage and screen star Mario Adorf with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in acting. Mr. Adorf will be present at the festival to receive the award and will appear in person for two films of his four-film tribute. Also attending are Alina Levshin, the German Ukranian star of David Wendt’s Combat Girls (Kriegerin) which screens Wednesday October 3 and won Best Film (Bronze), Best Screenplay and Best Actress in the 2012 German Film Awards, and sensational directors Veit Helmer and Anno Saul and many more. Stay tuned to ARThound for coverage.
Opening Night: On Thursday, September 27th, the festival’s Opening Night screens Berlin school writer/director Christian Petzold’s Barbara, winner of both the 2012 Berlinale Silver Bear for Best Director and the 2012 German Film Award’s Best Film. This masterful period film is set in the very restrictive GDR in the 1980’s and stars Nina Hoss in a brilliantly nuanced performance as an accomplished doctor in East Berlin’s largest clinic who has been transferred to a rural medical clinic following her application for an exit visa to the West where she hoped to join her lover Jörg (Mark Waschke). She is forced to choose between personal freedom and saving the lives of others and her growing affection for André (Ronald Zehrfeld), her new supervisor. Barbara is Germany’s entry to the Academy Awards Best Foreign Film category.
Director Christain Petzold is Germany’s most acclaimed director (Yella (2007), Jerichow (2008), Dreileben (2001) a key figure in the Berlin School and he’s from the former GDR, meaning he nails the physical details and psychological ambiance with authenticity. His camerawork is exceptional too in enforcing the drama—the camera is held just below eyelevel throughout most of the film and the scenes meld into one another. His collaboration with Hoss began in 2003 with Something To Remind Me; two years later she appeared in his Wolfsburg, for which she won the Adolf Grimme Award; in 2007, she starred in his Yella, winning the Silver Bear for Best Actress in 2007 and the German Film Award in 2008. In Barbara, Petzold gives her a challenging role he created especially for her, while capturing her regal and haunting beauty against a backdrop that is austere but vividly humanized by his own history. You’ll probably be able to see Barbara screening elsewhere in the Bay Area several months later but nothing beats seeing a film early in a setting like the Castro.
Following the screening, the Opening Night party begins 9:15 PM on Castro’s beloved Mezzanine, where film fans are invited to celebrate the start of another great year with delicious German beer and wine and delectable amuse-bouche.
Mario Adorf Tribute: New German Cinema is unthinkable without the legendary German actor Mario Adorf. In addition to The Tin Drum (1978) and Lola (1981), Adorf was integral to Roland Klick’s Deadlock (1970), Volker Schlöndorff’s The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1975), Reinhard Hauff’s The Main Character (1977), and the omnibus movie Germany in Autumn (1978). Adorf has played more than 200 roles in cinema and television and the tally of directors he has worked with reads like a hit list of world cinema: Sam Peckinpah, Franco Rossi, Wolfgang Staudte, Edgar Reitz, Billy Wilder, Helmut Dietl, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Claude Chabrol and Sergio Corbucci and Volker Schlöndorff.
The festival will honor Adorf with a lifetime achievement award in acting at the international and North American premiere screening of his most recent film The Rhino and the Dragonfly (2012) directed by Loal Randl, on Friday, September 28th at 6:15PM. It will screen three more of his classics—the recently released director’s cut of The Tin Drum (Saturday Sept 29th, 8:45PM), Ship of the Dead (Friday, Sept 28th, 4:30PM) and Lola (Tuesday, Oct 2nd, 6:00PM). Mr. Adorf participate in a Q&A following the special screening of The Tin Drum. Berlin & Beyond’s Lifetime Achievement Award was last given to Wim Wenders in 2009. This is the first time Mr. Adorf has been honored at a major US Festival.
The Late Show: Alexander Sokurov’s Faust, winner of the prestigious Golden Lion at the 2011 Venice Film Festival screens Friday at 9 PM. The Russian director is most known for his historical feature film, Russian Ark (2002), which made a big splash at 2002 Cannes Film Fesitval and was filmed entirely in the Winter Palace of the Russian State Hermitage Museum and was a single 96-minute continuous unedited shot.
Faust is the fourth and final film in his mesmerizing tetralogy of films about the evil that is borne out of too much power and it follows Moloch (1999) about Hitler, Taurus (2001) about Lenin, and The Sun (2004) about Emperor Hirohito. The psychologically jolting Faust stars the Austrian Johannes Zeiler as Faust and Russian Anton Adasinskiy as an utterly creepy and misshapen pawnbroker/Mephistopheles and retells Goethe’s classic fable with some hellish twists that will have you experiencing disturbing flashbacks for days. The obsessive and impoverished Dr. Faust hungers for knowledge about the human soul and dissects human corpses in a futile attempt to its locus. When he falls in love with a beautiful young woman, Margarete (Isolda Dychauk), he grows obsessed and cuts a deal with the moneylender, signing over his soul to possess her. Sokurov’s distinctive visual mark is his sepia-bathed cinematography and stunning lighting and it’s present in spades here. What he’s chosen to emphasize though isn’t pretty—the film opens with a full on shot of a corpse’s penis and heaps of entrails and, from there, takes us straight into the highly unsanitary 16th century. But it is Faust’s extreme loneliness and his desire for connection that grips us and we accompany him on this sick hallucinatory eternal journey crafted so impeccably by Sokurov. The existential film is a dark meditation on many things but Sokurov takes a few jabs at Germany. If you’re going to see it, take someone along to process it with afterwards…it will help.
Centerpiece Screening: The Festival’s Centerpiece screening, Baikonur (2011), Veit Helmer’s newest comedy, is about a young Kazakh man obsessed with outer space and with a beautiful French space traveler whose capsule crash lands in a field in Khazakstan near his yurt. The rest unfolds like a fairy tale in the countryside—he carries the unconscious beauty to his yurt and wakens her with a kiss but she has amnesia and isn’t herself when she agrees to marry him. Helmer will appear at the festival for a Q&A about the largely Kazakh production, which proceeds in Russian and English. (Screens Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 6:15 PM)
Closing Night Film: Marten Persiel’s This Ain’t California (2012) was a big success at the 2012 Berlinale where it won the “Dialogue in Perspective” award. The film takes place in the 1980s, the last years of the GDR and tells the hair-raising story of one of the first skateboarding crews behind the Berlin Wall. Drawing from Marten Persiel’s background as a commercial director, this first feature combines classic skate footage, kitschy commercials and first-person interviews to insightfully draw the audience into the maelstrom of excitement and controversy surrounding the sport’s early years in East Germany. In Kate Gellene’s interview with Persiel on May 29, 2012, which appears in Rooftop Films (click here), Persiel says, “I started skating 29 years ago as a little kid in western Germany and never really stopped. I am super grateful for the friends I made in all those years and for the stuff I experienced skateboarding. It’s been a life vest and a guide through life… In the film, there is a sense that stupidly goofing around on the streets can shape whole biographies. It’s how you look at your city, the buildings around you, the streets. It’s how much you allow yourself to say ‘this is my world too, I want to play here’. To think like that could basically get you arrested in a totalitarian and militarized system like the GDR. … oh wait.. it can get you arrested in NY too! Hm.”
Closing Night party: After the screening, the closing night bash takes place at 9:30 pm on the Castro Mezzanine, celebrating the conclusion of another year of innovative programming with an assortment of local tastes and German drinks in the company of director Persiel, producer Ronald Vietz and other special guests in attendance.
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 (about to be re-printed in English later this year). 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 cat, some kittens, and a cow, 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 life, leads us to right into her moments of intensely felt angst, terror, joy and sorrow. (Screens Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 4 PM, Castro Theatre)
Foster Boy: Markus Imboden’s Foster Boy (Der Verdingbub), the most successful Swiss film of the last 5 years, has its US premiere at the festival. The film is set in the 1950’s and revisits a dark and nearly forgotten period in the Switzerland’s recent history, when the government occasionally intervened to take children from parents who were deemed unfit, depriving them of custody, and sending their children to work, mainly on farms, a practice that lasted from the early 1800s until the 1960s. The story is focused on a young orphan, Max (Max Hubacher), who was sold to the Bösiger family of poor farmers and on another “Verdingbub,” (contract child) in that family, Berteli, a girl who was taken from her impoverished widowed mother. The gripping story follows the miserable life of physical, emotional and sexual abuse that the children underwent in a household that was supposed to provide foster parenting but instead used them as slave labor.
Hubacher, Switzerland’s 2012 Shotting Star award winner, gives a brilliant and nuanced performance as the emotionally and physically brutalized Max, whose only solace is his accordion and his dream of escaping to Argentina. Through its story, the film directly exposes and challenges a grave injustice. It also highlights the important role that an observant and caring outsider can play in reporting abuse IF the authorities to whom the complaint is made are not themselves complicit. Stay tuned to ARThound for a full review. (Screens: Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 4 PM, Castro Theatre)
Festival Details: The 17th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival is September 27-October 4, 2012 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (at market Street) in San Francisco. Parking can be difficult. Allow AMPLE time to find parking if arriving by car. Some programming is at the Goethe-Institut SF Auditorium (530 Bush Street (at Grant). Tickets: Price varies per program ($12 for most Castro Theatre screenings and $10 for most Goethe-Institut screenings). Advance tickets for all shows are available at Brown Paper Tickets. Online ticket sales end 10:00 pm prior to the day of show for each film. For information on purchasing advance tickets and day of show tickets in person at the Goethe-Institut or at the Castro Theatre, click here.
San Francisco’s Jewish Film Festival starts Thursday, July 19, with a broad line-up and a weekend of programming in Marin
The 32nd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival opens Thursday evening at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre with the world premiere of Roberta Grossman’s Hava Nagila (the Movie), a riveting history of “Hava Nagila,” the foot-tapping song that started with a wordless prayer and may be one of the world’s best known pieces of music. Afterwards, the festivities continue with an Opening Night Bash at the Swedish American Hall hosted by some of the Bay Area’s best purveyors of food and drink.
The festival, a tradition enjoyed by film aficionados far and wide, runs July 19 to August 6, 2012, and includes 63 films from 17 countries, including a wide spectrum of stimulating discussions, international guests and wonderful parties. There are seven Bay Area venues, one of which is the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael. Programming there includes 13 films and begins on the last weekend of the festival—Friday, August 4 through Sunday, August 6, 2012. Stay tuned to ARThound for detailed coverage of the Marin segment. For general festival programming and to purchase tickets, visit www.sfjff.org.
The 32nd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival: July 19 to August 6, 2012. Venues: Castro Theatre and Jewish Community Center in San Francisco; Roda Theatre at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley; CinéArts in Palo Alto; Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael; Art Murmur and the Piedmont Theatre in Oakland. (415) 621-0523. www.sfjff.org.
San Francisco’s 17th Annual Silent Film Festival: celebrating the silent era with 16 rare gems, at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre—opens this Thursday, July 12, 2012
The 17th San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) begins Thursday, July 12, 2012 and runs through Sunday, July 15, 2012, presenting 16 masterpieces from the silent era , all at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre. With special guest speakers and live music, every performance is unqiue.
The festival opens Thursday evening with William A. Wellman’s Wings (1927)(141 min) which was meticulously restored for Paramount Pictures’ 100th anniversary, giving silent fans the chance to see the first Oscar winner (for best picture) in all its glory. Featuring groundbreaking aerial dogfights and epic battle sequences, Wings is both a cinematic spectacle and a compelling story of love and sacrifice that effectively dramatizes the bitter price of war. The historic piece of cinema stars Clara Bow, Charles “Buddy” Rogers and Richard Arlen, and also features Gary Cooper in one of his first feature film roles. Live musical accompaniment is by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra with Foley effects by Academy Award-winning sound designer Ben Burtt. After the film, the festival kicks off with its fabulous opening night party at the McRoskey Mattress Company, which is a short walk from the theatre. Friday, Saturday and Sunday each offer a full day with 5-6 film events, all to live music and the chance to hear experts on film history and restoration talk about specific issues related to each film.
While all the films are special, in addition to it Opening Night Film, Wings, the festival is showcasing two additional films:
Pandora’s Box (Die Büchse der Pandora)(Germany, 1929, approximately 143 minutes) Directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst Cast: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Franz Lederer, Carl Götz
Adapted from German playwright Frank Wedekind’s Lulu plays, Pandora’s Box is the pinnacle of German expressionism and one of the great films of all time. Director Pabst cast the luminous Louise Brooks as the amoral Lulu, a young woman who bewitches everyone who comes within her sphere—men and women alike—with her uninhibited persona and sexuality. David Thomson wrote, “When she played Lulu in Pandora’s Box, Louise Brooks created more than a character: she set the precedent for cinematic femmes fatales forever.” Stunning restoration produced by San Francisco-based Angela Holm and David Ferguson. (Accompanied by the Matti Bye Ensemble. Introduced by David Ferguson, Angela Holm, Vincent Pirozzi) Centerpiece Film: Screens Saturday, July 14, 2012, 7 p.m.
The Cameraman (USA, 1928, approximately 76 minutes) Directed by Edward Sedgwick, Buster Keaton. Cast: Buster Keaton, Marceline Day, Harold Goodwin. The genius of Buster Keaton, cinema’s great clown, is on full display in this wonderful comedy about the business of movie making. The film follows Keaton, a sidewalk tintype portrait photographer, as he tries to break into the newsreels to woo the girl of his dreams, Sally (Marceline Day) who works for the MGM newsreels. Keaton famously did his own stunts and The Cameraman is a showcase for his physical virtuosity as well as an enchantingly goofy love story. The Cameraman is the best film Keaton made after signing away his independence to MGM in 1928, a business decision he said was the worst of his life that put a damper on his unique creativity. (Accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Introduced by Frank Buxton and Leonard Maltin) Closing Film: Screens Sunday, July 12, 2012, 7:30 p.m.
The annual festival, the largest in the country, is held every July at the Castro Theatre and is sponsored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the artistic, cultural and historic value of silent film.
Stay tuned to ARThound for a review of self-taught Australian photographer Frank Hurley’s South (1919), a masterpiece Hurley filmed as a member of Ernest Shackleton’s famed Antarctic expedition in the Endurance, at the outbreak of World War I. Hurley’s dramatic shots, filmed at great personal risk, stand as hallmarks of documentary photography. Now restored by BFI, with the original tints and toning. South screens Saturday, July 14, 2012, at 5 p.m. Accompanied by Stephen Horne on the grand piano, with Paul McGann introducing the film and reading Shackleton’s letters to Horne’s elegiac score.
Details: SFSFFruns Thursday, July 12, 2012 through Sunday, July 15, 2012 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (between Market and 18th Streets), San Francisco. Tickets: $14 to $20; $180 to $215 for passes. Click here to purchase all tickets and passes. Information: (415) 777-4908 or www.silentfilm.org
Parking Alert: If you plan on coming by car, street parking is the only parking available. Plan to arrive 45 minutes early to leave sufficient time for parking and walking to/from the theatre.
2nd Annual German Gems Film Festival set to sparkle at the Castro this weekend and in Point Arena on January 22, 2011
The 2nd German Gems film festival opens this Friday evening at the historic Castro Theatre in San Francisco, presenting a line-up of ten fascinating new German-language films. A portion of the program will be shown in Point Arena at their historic Arena Theatre on Saturday, January 22, 2011. The emphasis of this little festival is on new filmmakers and first features whose narratives and styles define new trends in German-language cinema. The festival opens with Mahler on the Couch by the father and son team, Percy Adlon (Baghdad Café, Sugar Babies, Salmonberries) and Felix Adlon. This magical and timely narrative feature of doomed love and musical genius comes at the centennial of the famous Austrian composer, Gustav Mahler’s death. It focuses on his wife, Alma Mahler’s affair with the young architect Walter Gropius that drives her famous husband to Sigmund Freud’s couch.
And that’s just the first gem…there are nine others addressing the little known but awesome sport of river surfing, a celebrated architect whose personal life is in complete ruins, a 17 year-old girl who viciously and unexpectedly murders a classmate, a 78 year-old pilot whose has flown notables like Haille Selassie and the king of Yemen who is building his dream plane in the Caribbean for an air show in Florida, and an epic mountain film set in South Tyrol in 1809 that is a grand love story between a Bavarian woman and a Tyrolean rebel who are both enmeshed in Napoleon’s quest for empire.
Earlier this week, I spoke with Ingrid Eggers who founded German Gems last year. Eggers, a long-time Bay Area resident, ran the very successful Berlin and Beyond film festival from 1996 through 2009. Under her guidance, Berlin and Beyond became one of the most successful German language film festivals outside of Europe, presenting over 500 films to 100,000 people in the Bay Area. When the Goethe-Institut San Francisco, which had sponsored Berlin and Beyond, merged it with Los Angeles’ German Currents festival to create a single West Coast event in October, 2009, Eggers had mandatory retirement forced upon her. She re-emerged a few months later with German Gems, a one day, three film mini-fest at the Castro Theatre that was tremendously popular. Now, she is back with her second German Gems and a lot to say about German film.
What does German Gems allow you to offer the Bay Area audience that you couldn’t offer before?
Ingrid Eggers: I looked very carefully at Berlin and Beyond and the other German festivals in California and examined their current programming and didn’t see any focus on first feature films from young filmmakers. I decided to bring first features here–documentaries as well narrative features–to give young filmmakers from film schools a chance to show their films in San Francisco. In Germany, there’s a lot of money for filmmaking, a lot of competition, and there’s a lot of very interesting film resulting from that. It’s very hard for this group to find a festival that will take them. Our selection of 10 films, one of which is a 20 minute short, includes 6 first features and several of the filmmakers will be here to present their films.
What impacted your decision to expand to a full weekend this year?
Ingrid Eggers: The first German Gems did very well and I thought this January slot, which was when Berlin and Beyond used to be held, was very good because there’s not much happening. I am also offering films that wouldn’t otherwise be shown here. Of the 10 films in my program, none of them has an American distributor at this point. The big Bay Area festivals, SFIFF (San Francisco International Film Festival) and Frameline (Gay and Lesbian festival), aren’t showing many German films. SFIFF has emphasized French films, and it does the little French and Italian series in the fall. I am not sure where the new director of Berlin and Beyond is headed; he’s Cambodian and seems to be moving in an international direction. I want to continue represent German films and think there is definitely an audience.
Do you select all the films yourself? What are your criteria?
Ingrid Eggers: I don’t do it all alone. I have a group of people here who watch the films and another group of UCLA film school students (which includes my daughter) in Los Angeles because I want to have some young eyes look at this too. And I go to the festivals– Munich in the summer, Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival) in February and German Currents in Los Angeles in October—and I see what’s going on. I get lots of films sent to me too.
In terms of selection, the number one criterion is quality and that’s a very subjective thing. For me, quality is based on the screenplay, cinematography, the way the film is made, and the filmmaker’s point of contact with the story. It all has to work. This year, we’ve got Celebration of Flight a documentary resulted from the filmmaker (director Lara Juliette Sanders) traveling to the Caribbean, to Dominica, and meeting a 78 year-old pilot, a quite amazing guy, who was working on building a plane. It all came together beautifully. The filmmaker has a curious story too—she was in advertising and quit and went to the airport and said I’m going to fly to No. 10 on this big list of departures. That’s how she ended up in the Caribbean and found Daniel Rundstrom. She wrote a book about this and has become very popular in Germany, on all the talk shows. The outcome is that she became a filmmaker and has relocated to LA. Daniel impressed me too: he is so methodical in the pursuit of his dream but then there were big problems with this plane at the air show in Miami. Both the director and Daniel will be at the festival.
There’s another one, David Wants to Fly which is really the story of two David’s–director David Sieveking whose subject is Director David Lynch– and TM (Transcendental Meditation). Sieveking got more and more sucked into TM and then found out about the very harsh side of it and that impacted his talks with David Lynch. So we get insight into TM and David Lynch and this quest and it all works.
And when I saw Keep Surfing in Munich two years ago at its world premiere, I knew this had to be shown in the Bay Area. It really gets into this sport which is little known and into the stories of the people who are doing it. It represents years of work too. I knew nothing about this before I saw the film and I know Munich. They took me from the theatre just 10 minutes down the street to the Eisbach and it was quite amazing. I really wanted the film and finally I got it
Of course, you don’t always get you want because distributors are asking a lot of money, even for small films. Our festival is very small and if you want to get new productions, the world sales people will tell you that they want to wait and see if the film is picked up by a larger festival in the area first. The bigger festivals want to premiere films that have not been shown in the area before. You get lots of no’s, but we always find great films that fit our program.
The films I have seen—Mahler on the Couch, Mountain Blood, The Architect, She Deserved It, Disenchantments– all rely on exceptionally well-developed stories and actors rather than special effects to carry the day. Is this your curating preference or a theme in German film?
Ingrid Eggers: I think that young filmmakers are not going for special effects because these things cost money. It’s hard enough to get good actors, but actors can sometimes be persuaded to donate their services.
What themes are young German filmmakers exploring these days?
Ingrid Eggers: I’ve been asking myself that question. I can tell you what is not in the film that I am watching now. One of the things is war epics…Iraq, Afghanistan… wars have been done. I’m not seeing that in German or in new American films either. The other thing is that I am not seeing is social clashes outside of the family. Germany is full of Turks, the major minority in Germany. Die Fremde (director Feo Aladağ, winner of 2010 European Lux Prize) is about honor killings through the narrative of a Turkish family living in Germany. It’s being shown all around and that’s why we aren’t showing it. I think filmmakers are retreating with these problems into the family and not dealing head-on with these big subjects out there. They are telling a story about family relationships, and at the same time, in parallel, a story with wider social, cultural and moral aspects. The Architect, She Deserved It, and Mountain Blood are examples of this. I didn’t see much engagement with gay topics either.
Who are the filmmakers who are most influencing this new generation of German filmmakers? Are they German, European, American, international?
Ingrid Eggers: Usually, young German filmmakers graduating from film school will first try to write a good script and then see if they get funding for their film. There’s so much money in Germany now for film, it comes from taxes, and as a result German film has gotten really good. If you ask them–and we had these discussions at Berlin and Beyond here a couple of years ago with Wim Wenders and young filmmakers–you see that young German filmmakers watch a lot of films. They are influenced by the all the big names out there– Antonioni, David Lynch—and they are investigating and comparing but I think their main thing is to try to do their own thing with their own story.
There is also a trend in Germany towards Hollywood with films being made in this pure entertainment style, trying to be blockbusters. Some succeed but most don’t. There are also young German filmmakers who migrate to Hollywood and give it a try. Usually, they are not so successful. Those who are most successful in German film are the ones who deal with more German topics. The big example right now though is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, who got an Oscar in 2007 for his fantastic debut feature film The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) and now he’s done The Tourist which I wouldn’t go and see. I think he has much more interesting stories to tell than that one. After success in Germany, opportunities may open up in the States but that doesn’t necessarily translate into success here.
The Architect and She Deserved It make for a very heavy Saturday night. What facet of German culture do they shed light on?
I got totally fascinated by The Architect (Der Architekt) which is mystery, secrets and snow and the story of this successful guy who is a total mess. In that isolated village, he cannot walk away from all of this and everything disintegrates in him and in his family. It is quite intense. People told me, and I agree, that if he hadn’t died, he would have gone back to that woman which no one wanted. From a screenplay point of view, once the family went back to north Germany, he could not survive. The amazing thing is that the young director, Ina Weisse, got these huge German stars, all the big names, to play in her film and did a fantastic job of directing it.
She Deserved It (Sie hat es verdient) is a very heavy film that’s hard to watch but we had to show it because teen-based violence is such a big topic now in Germany, actually all over the place, and we don’t really know why. Families will probably say this can’t happen in my family but it happens every day, this past weekend in fact. This is based on a true story of a 14 year old girl who killed her classmate. This is shot basically from the perspective of the perpetrator, the young girl. You really get under her skin and the dialogue with her mother–the only one who tries to find out what happened—is remarkable. The filmmaker can’t be here but I’m going to have a therapist come up on stage and talk about the family dynamics in both families and what it is that has driven so many young people into despair, violence and suicide. This film will be shown on German television and embedded in something called “theme evening” where people and experts talk and other things related to this topic of teenage violence are shown. It’s a very important film.
You’ve picked a set of films that portray a very interesting and strong group of women. The female characters in Alma Mahler, The Architect, Mountain Blood, She Deserved It— use their strengths in different ways, to different ends but they are all strong. Is this you coming through?
In Germany today, who are the strongest female filmmakers?
Ingrid Eggers: Doris Dörrie, Cherry Blossoms (Kirschblüte – Hanami) (2008), who was in San Francisco several times with Berlin and Beyond and Margarethe von Trotta, who made Vision (2008), about Hildegard von Bingen, at German Gems last year. Both women are in their 50’s or 60’s. There are many young German women who are maturing but not out there yet. It’s a very long process to make it to the top because the industry is so dominated by men. There are lots of women working in producing and at that range both here and in Germany; but directing and cinematography have been hard fields for women to really break into.
What are your impressions of Philipp Pamer’s Mountain Blood? I was mesmerized by its depth. I looked up this chapter in Tyrolean independence and he nailed it.
Ingrid Eggers: This is one of the most amazing and touching first feature graduation films. It’s a huge production, an epic drama set in 1809 in a small village in the Alps. There’s a lot of autobiographical stuff in this film too because Philipp Pamer, grew up in that village and it’s very authentic with all the details, right down to the dialects. There’s also the story and how it’s done. There’s the couple and how they deal with the political unrest during the time that Napoleon took over Europe and remapped everything. Oxburg, the home of young woman, Katharina, was a card in the Napoleonic Empire, as was South Tyrol, the home of her husband.
The Tyrolean leader Andreas Hofer is also in the film but the focus is on the young couple. The girl is an outsider and is not accepted. This is very typical for this genre of mountain film. If you live in the mountains, you are cut off from the rest of the world. Within your little community, you become very suspicious of everything that comes from the outside. She comes in and she doesn’t know what’s going on. She doesn’t want to fight with anybody. She starts to be accepted and then she does a major faux paus to keep her husband from fighting in the war from which there is no recovery.
What are your plans for German Gems? Are you hoping to expand it through collaboration with other festivals so that you can share the expenses of flying in more guests or of lengthening the festival?
Ingrid Eggers: There is always the possibility to do co-presentations, which we are doing with Mahler on the Couch, but to merge with a festival and get money from them would mean you become a satellite. It would be a totally different story, like becoming “New Italian Cinema,” or “French Film Now.” It’s a totally different way of organizing and a different relationship. You can collaborate but you don’t get real money unless you become part of them. My goal is not to turn this into a week-long festival but to leave it as weekend– two days plus a night– and see who will support this festival and how we can improve it in this format. We’re very thankful to our sponsors–Maurice Kanbar, Barbro Osher and Kuehne + Nagel, the Bay Guardian and various local people and organizations. Last year we got money from a German foundation, Filmstiftung NRW, and that lasted for two years.
Films in San Francisco, Castro Theatre Philipp Pamer’s Mountain Blood?
Friday, January 14, 2011
7 pm Mahler on the Couch (Mahler auf der Couch) followed by Opening Night Party
Saturday, January 15, 2011
2 pm Keep Surfing 4:30 pm Intern for Life (Ein Praktikant fürs Leben)
7 pm The Architect (Der Architekt)
9 pm She Deserved It (Sie hat es verdient)
Sunday, January 16, 2011
2 pm Celebration of Flight
4 pm David Wants to Fly
6:30 pm Mountain Blood (Bergblut)
9 pm Disenchantments (Entzauberungen), preceded by GÖMBÖC
Films in Point Arena, Arena Theatre
Saturday, January 22, 2011
2 pm Intern for Life (Ein Praktikant fürs Leben)
4 pm Keep Surfing
7:30 pm Mahler on the Couch (Mahler auf der Couch)
Details: San Francisco: German Gems is at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street at Market, San Francisco from Friday through Sunday. Tickets: $9-11 per screening, $20 opening night. Purchase online at www.germangems.com Parking Alert: There is virtually no parking around the Castro Theatre. Allow ample time to find a place to park and walk to the theatre.