Globally relevant, the San Francisco International Film Festival 2015 starts Thursday—here are the Big Nights and Special Events
The San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF 58) opens this evening with a first in its 58 years—an opening night documentary. Alex Gibney’s Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, is a searing portrait of the late Steven Jobs that will hit tech-savvy Bay Area audiences where they live and breathe…in their Apple devices. The festival continues over the following 14 days with 181 films—100 full-length features— and live events from 49 countries in 33 languages. Organized by the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS), under the helm of Noah Cowan, now in his second year as SFFS Executive Director, and Rachel Rosen, Programming Director, this mammoth festival really defies categorization. This year’s films, selected from a pool of 4,000 plus entries, mirror where global society is right now. SFIFF is revered for its support of new filmmakers and for championing eclectic independent films that you just won’t see elsewhere and it always includes the crème from last year’s Cannes and fall festivals and this year’s Sundance festival.
One of the joys of attending is getting to see these films the way they were meant to be seen—on a big screen, in digital projection—and getting to participate in stimulating Q&A’s with their directors and actors. With even more new onstage events and awards ceremonies that feature film luminaries in more lengthy moderated discussions, SFIFF delivers one of the highest ratios of face time with creative talent.
I am dividing my coverage of this year’s festival into two articles—this first one, below, gives an overview of the big evenings and tributes that ought to be on everyone’s radar; the second one will include short reviews of the top films that caught my eye.
OPENING NIGHT: (Thursday, April 23, 7 PM, Castro Theater) Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (2015, 127 min) Alex Gibney will attend. Uniquely relevant to the Bay Area, this SXSW/Sundance documentary is a social inquiry into the phenomena of Steven Jobs by one of the most impactful filmmakers working today. Gibney’s recent HBO doc, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015), delivered a remarkable glimpse into scientology, made a scathing case against it, and garnered some of the highest ratings in recent times. Gibney explores why Jobs has had such a wide ranging impact and why people who never knew him grieved him so. He talks with insiders and methodically scrutinizes key ideas espoused by Jobs and Apple’s advertising and points out contradiction after contradiction, zeroing in on many of Apple’s unsavory practices and debacles. Unflattering, fascinating, and highly relevant to the latest generation of innovators being incubated in the Bay Area. (Click here to purchase tickets.) Followed by an Opening Night Party at the iconic Madame Tussauds, featuring gourmet treats and beverages from San Francisco’s finest purveyors. Must be 21+ to attend party. (Ticketed separately)
CENTERPEICE: (Saturday, May 2, 6:45 PM, Castro Theater) The End of the Tour (2015, 106 min) Director James Ponsoldt and actor Jason Segel will attend. Set in 1996, when American author David Foster Wallace’s dystopian masterpiece Infinite Jest was on every informed reader’s A-list, James Ponsoldt’s (Smashed, 2012) moody chamber piece stars Jesse Eisenberg as journalist, David Lipsky, whose admiration, curiosity and fear of Wallace drive him to propose a long-form profile of the writer to Rolling Stone. He gets the assignment and ultimately goes out on the road with Wallace during the final five days of his Infinite Jest book tour. Jason Segel gives an affecting portrayal of Wallace whose erratic behavior and bouts of depression were evident then, 12 years before his suicide in 2008 at age 46. The chemistry between Eisenberg and Segal makes their intense interaction palpable through all the phases of getting to know each other and Lipsky’s attempts to take what is essentially one long and rambling conversation and drill down on those windows of insight that will become “the story.” Based on Lipsky’s 2008 memoir on the experience, Although Of Course You End Up Being Yourself. After-screening Centerpiece Party, 9 p.m., at Monarch, a sophisticated event space, with dancing, delicious food and fine cocktails. Must be 21+ to attend party. (Ticketed separately)
CLOSING NIGHT: Thursday, May 7, 7 PM, Castro Theater) The Experimenter (2015, 98 min) Michael Almereyda will attend. Michael Almereyda’s The Experimenter revisits Yale social psychologist Stanley Milgram’s famous 1961 experiment in which subjects were made to believe they were administering electric shocks to others in order to explore the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience. As much an examination of scientific ethics as it is an exploration of the moral consequences of just following orders, this playful and inventive biography of Milgram soars with Peter Sarsgaard as Milgram and Winona Ryder as his wife. Began in 1961, a year after the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, Milgram devised his now famous experiment to answer the question “Could it be that Eichmann and his accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Looking back, we all like to think we would not obey and harm our fellow man, but 65% of the study participants ended up administering (imaginary) shocks. After-screening Closing Night Party, 9 PM, Mezzanine, an all-out evening of music, drinks and dancing, with complimentary beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres by some of San Francisco’s best restaurants. Must be 21+ to attend. (Ticketed separately)
AWARDS AND SPECIAL EVENTS:
Guillermo del Toro Irving M. Levin Directing Award—(Saturday, April 25, 8 PM, Castro Theatre) SFIFF celebrates sci fi and fantasy legend, Guillermo del Toro with an evening at the Castro Theatre where the Mexican director, screenwriter, producer and novelist will participate in a conversation about his illustrious career, show clips from his past and present work and screen one of his favorite films, The Devil’s Backbone (2001).
Dark, bone chilling and edgy, the masterpiece is both a sophisticated commentary on war and a hell of a horror film that became a cult favorite. It’s the final year of the Spanish Civil War and a bomb is dropped from the skies above an isolated Spanish orphanage, which leaves a boy, Santi, bleeding to death in its mysterious wake. His corpse is then tied and shoved into the orphanage’s basement pool. When another young boy, Carlos (Fernando Tielve), arrives at the ghostly facility some time later, seemingly signaling the arrival of Franco himself, he is drawn to the snails in the swampy basement. Soon the two boys will meet. We feel in our bones that there’s evil here that cannot be easily understood or expunged. The odd couple who run the orphanage are concealing a large stash of the leftist cause’s gold, which is another subplot that expands brilliantly.
Richard Gere Peter J. Owens Award— (Sunday, April 26, 6:30 PM, Castro Theatre) Richard Gere (Golden Globe Award winner and activist) is the recipient of this year’s Peter J. Owens Award for acting, which will be presented to Gere at An Evening with Richard Gere where he will discuss his prolific career with David D’Arcy before the screening his latest film, Time Out of Mind (2014). directed by Oren Moverman. Gere plays vagrant George Hamilton who is evicted from the empty New York apartment where he is squatting and thrust out into the streets with nowhere in particular to go, except the eternal search for his next meal and place to sleep. Gere established himself as one of the top actors of his generation with his screen debut in Terrence Malick’s 1978 drama Days of Heaven and from there went on to star in a number of important films. Seeing the silver haired actor who has excelled at playing roles of privilege go against the grain and immerse himself in a tour de force performance as a plain, disenfranchised man is beyond refreshing.
Virtual reality pioneer, Nonny de la Peña, discusses her role in developing immersive journalism in the context of creating “Project Syria,” originally commissioned by the World Economic Forum and created at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.
An Evening with Nonny de la Peña: Immersive Journalism—(Monday, April 27, 6:30 PM, Sundance Kabuki) Nonny de la Peña is a pioneer in “immersive journalism,” a new form of journalism that aims to place viewers within news stories via virtual reality. Once immersed in the story, viewers feel an extraordinary emotional connection as witnesses. Her project “Gone Gitmo,” created in collaboration with artist Peggy Weil and originally launched in virtual environment Second Life, was a groundbreaking approach to reporting through virtual experience. Amongst her many projects, de la Peña’s newest VR work, “Project Syria” recreates both a street corner in Aleppo that comes under attack and a camp for refugee children that grows more crowded over time. In this talk, de la Peña will present her work, its intents and consequences and lay out prospects for the future of nonfiction reporting. Her vision has also culminated in Emblematic Group, a content- and VR hardware-focused company that she runs along with her brother in Los Angeles.
Paul Schrader: Kanbar Award—(Tuesday, April 28, 6:30 PM, Sundance Kabuki) SFIFF will honor American screenwriter and director Paul Schrader with an onstage interview prior to screening one his most acclaimed films, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985, 121 min). Schrader’s breakthrough moment came at age 26, when he wrote the script for Taxi Driver (1976) which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and was the first of several collaborations between Schrader and Scorsese, a list that includes Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Bringing Out the Dead (1999). Mishima blends a recreation of Mishima’s (Ken Ogata) final day when the extent of his dedication to altering Japan’s political landscape and to bushido is made manifest; snippets of biography rendered in black and white that explore the psychology of one of postwar Japan’s most celebrated authors; and beautifully staged, luridly colored scenes from three key Mishima novels—Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko’s House and Runaway Horses—that further explicate his psyche. John Bailey’s luminous cinematography and Philip Glass’s sweeping, pulsating score add further texture to this mesmerizing drama, a portrait of one exceptional artist made by another.
Kim Longinotto Persistence of Vision Award (Sunday, May 2, 3 PM, Sundance Kabuki) Renowned British documentarian Kim Longinotto has devoted the bulk of her career to exploring various forms of activism, especially in relation to the plight of women around the world. She won the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award at Sundance this year and SFIFF honors her with its POV Award which celebrates the achievement of a filmmaker whose work is outside the realm of narrative feature. Longinetto will participate in an in-depth conversation and her latest documentary, Dreamcatcher (2015), will be screened. The film follows the life of Brenda Myers-Powell, a former prostitute, who works in a Chicago jail counseling sex workers and who also also runs a weekly “Girl Talk” at the local school that mentors a group of at-risk girls. Along with her friend Stephanie Daniels-Wilson, she runs the Dreamcatcher Foundation. As Brenda unearths the horrific secrets and lies that have plagued the community for generations, she encourages girls and young women to change their lives by challenging the culture of silence and denial. You’re inserted right into these girls’ lives which allows you to experience their daily struggles and judge for yourself whether or not one committed person can really make a difference.
Lenny Borger Mel Novikov Award (Sunday, May 3, 1 PM, Sundance Kabuki) Brooklyn-born Parisian Lenny Borger is the recipient of this year’s Mel Novikoff Award. The legendary archivist and master subtitler who has labored behind the scenes to bring French cinema to life for English-speaking audiences will participate in an on stage conversation with Variety’s Scott Foundas about the hunt for “lost” films and the unsung art of subtitling followed by a screening of the rediscovered 1929 silent masterpiece Monte Christo. Borger originally came to France on a research grant to pursue doctoral work in Paris in 1977. He abandoned his academic work to devote himself to covering the French film scene as a correspondent and film reviewer for Variety. At the same time, he began scouring the European continent in search of rare and “missing” French films from foreign archives. His first discovery was the nitrate camera negative of Raymond Bernard’s The Chess Player, found in the vaults at the East German Film Archives where it had been concealed by the Nazi occupiers of France. A trip to Prague yielded even more exciting results: incomplete Czech distribution prints of Henri Fescourt’s Monte-Cristo—one of the highlights of the SFIFF tribute.
State of Cinema: Douglas Trumbull—(Sunday, May 3, 6:30 PM, Sundance Kabuki) director, writer, inventor, engineer and visual effects master Douglas Trumbull will deliver the highly-anticipated state of Cinema address. Trumbull first stunned film audiences in the late sixties with the development of cutting-edge visual effects for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, including the epic “Stargate” sequence. He was the visual effects supervisor on many works that pushed the limits of film fantasy such as Close Encounters of The Third Kind, Blade Runner and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He also directed science-fiction classics Silent Running and Brainstorm and was a visual effects consultant for Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. He continues to work as an inventor and engineer, is a sought-after consultant, and holds numerous technology patents. His ingenious suggestion for capping the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill went viral. Currently, Trumbull is rethinking the immersive cinematic experience to include ultra high frame rates, high resolution, high brightness, high dynamic range, and ultra wide hemispherical screen projection. His talk will challenge everything you think movies can and should be.
2015 SFIFF Details:
When: SFIFF 58 runs April 23-May 7, 2014.
Where: Main Screening Venues: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post Street, San Francisco; Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street, San Francisco; Landmark’s Clay Theatre, 226 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, Roxi Theater, 3117 16th Street, San Francisco, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Theatre, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley.
Tickets: $15 for most films. Special events generally start at $20 or $35. Two screening passes—the popular CINEVOUCHER 10-pack ($140 general public and $120 for Film Society members) and the exclusive CINEVISA early admittance to every screening, party, and program (with exception of Film Society Awards Night). ($1350 Film Society members and $1700 general public). How to buy tickets—purchase online at www.festival.sffs.org or in person during the festival at Sundance Kabuki, Landmark’s Clay Theatre, Roxie Theater*, Pacific Film Archive and Castro Theatre*. (*Day of show only and cash only)
Advance ticket purchases absolutely recommended as many screenings go to Rush. Click here to see which films are currently at rush (the list is updated frequently).
Arrive Early! Ticket and pass holders must arrive 15 minutes prior to show time to guarantee admission.
noon release tickets, daily : Every day, tickets may be released for that day’s rush screenings and may be purchased online or in person at Sundance kabuki, starting at noon.
Rush tickets: Last-minute or rush tickets may be available on a first served basis to those waiting in line for cash only about 10 minutes before show time. If you want rush tickets, plan to line up at least 45 minutes prior to screening time.
More info: For full schedule and tickets, visit http://www.sffs.org/sfiff58/program
The 18th Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) starts Wednesday and will screen over 90 films from more than two dozen countries over 5 nights and 4 days. The big nights have been well-covered in the media. Among the treasures that you might not have yet discovered are several films, each an artwork in itself, on artists and designers, some virtually unknown, whose gift for creative expression will inspire and delight. $15 tickets are available for pre-purchase online for all of the films mentioned below. Victor Mancilla’s documentary, ART and Revolutions, about Mexico’s famed artist-engraver, José Guasalupe Posada, will screens Saturday at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, will have an accompanying art exhibition and a lively post-screening Q& A with the director and Jim Nikas, the collector. The opening night film, Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos, which has Kate Winslet playing an unorthodox thinking widow hired to design part of the gardens at Versailles, has also peaked my interest. I love how Winslet embodies strength on scene and I’m intrigued with garden design, which poses interesting questions, artistic and otherwise. What is nature, how do we fit into it and how should we shape it when we can both physically and visually? Some of these fascinating issues are practical and others philosophical but we can only hope that Winslet’s Sabine de Barra tackles them substantively as she (predictably) snuggles up with the court’s renowned landscape architect artist André Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts) to design one of the most exquisite gardens ever conceived.
Now, on to the art line up—
Searching for Posada: ART and Revolutions (Mexico/USA, 2014, 41 minutes) Called a “revolutionary artist of the people” and hailed as “the Goya of Mexico” and yet virtually unknown, Mexican artist and printmaker José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) created a vast portfolio of important work. Mexican director Victor Mancilla (201 Squadron: The Forgotten Eagles (2009) Best Historical Documentary award, Smithsonian Institution) tells Posada’s story through Jim Nikas (of Marin), an obsessed American collector of Posada’s works. Nikas, who has the largest collection of Posada’s in the U.S., embarks on a passionate search for the truth about the artist. Traveling to the Posada’s hometown of Aguascalientes, to Leon and then Mexico City, Nikas meets art historians and encounters things that would have amazed even the artist Posada himself, including Fidel Castro’s pajamas and Che Guevera’s backpack. Three-and-a-half years in the making, ART and Revolutions© was shot on location in Mexico and features music by pianist Natasha Marin, wife of actor and avid Chicano Art collector Cheech Marin. (Screens: Saturday, March 28, 5 PM, Sonoma Valley of Art, $15 tickets) There is a post-screening Q & A with the director and Jim Nikas and an Exhibition of Posada’s original artwork from the collection of the Posada Art Foundation.
Art House—(USA, 90 min) Photographer Don Freeman’s masterful documentary Art House explores the handmade homes crafted by and lived in by eleven American—Frederic Church, Russel Wright, George Nakashima, Raoul Hague, Costantino Nivola, Paolo Soleri, Henry Chapman Mercer, Wharton Esherick, Henry Varnum Poor, Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, and Eliphante. Embracing the synergy of curves, natural materials and muted light, each glorious home reflects its creator’s distinctive voice and practice as it merges with architecture. An anthem to creative souls who follow their hearts, this inspirational and gorgeously shot doc makes the sleek pages of Architectural Digest and Dwell seem passé. (Screens: Thursday, March 26, 5:30 PM, Women’s Club; Sunday, March 29, 7:30 PM Sonoma Valley Museum of Art. $15 tickets)
Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery (Beltracchi: Die Kunst der Falschung)—(Germany, 2014, 93 min) It’s ironic that 58-year-old German Wolfgang Beltracchi looks like Alfred Durer. Beltracchi masterminded one of the most lucrative art scams in postwar European history. For decades, this self-taught painter, and self-proclaimed hippie, passed off his own paintings as newly-discovered masterpieces by Max Ernst, André Derain, Max Pechstein, Georges Braque, and other Expressionists and Surrealists from the early 20th century. His wife, Helene Beltracchi, along with two accomplices, created convincing backstories and sold the paintings for six and seven figures through auction houses in Germany and France, including Sotheby’s and Christie’s. One fake Max Ernst hung for months in a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2004, Steve Martin purchased a fake Heinrich Campendonk for $860,000 through a Parisian gallery. Arne Birkenstock’s Lola award winning documentary Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery (“Beltracchi: Die Kunst der Falschung,” 2014), features the larger than life Beltracchi sharing his secrets; those he duped sharing their dismay; and those who caught him talking about the painting that blew it all up. (Screens: Thursday, March 26, 8 PM, Woman’s Club and Sunday, March 29, 5 PM, Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, $15 tickets)
Generosity of Eye—(USA, 63 min) Octogenarian William Louis-Dreyfus, the father of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine Benes on “Seinfeld) and now “Veep” ) started collecting art in the early 1960s, things that caught his eye, not investment pieces. While there are no Warhols, Freuds, or Picassos in his 3,500 piece collection, he conservatively estimates it to be worth at least $10 million and possible as much as $50 to $60 million. (from 5.26.14 Wall Street Journal article) There are pieces by Paul Gaugin, Vassily Kandinsky, Leonardo Cremonini, George Boorujy, Helen Frankenthaler, and self-taught African-American artist and former slave Bill Traylor. Louis-Dreyfus served as chairman of Louis Dreyfus Group, a global conglomerate started by his great-grandfather in 1851. Forbes estimated his net worth at $3.4 billion in 2006. Director Brad Hill, who is Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ husband, has captured the very personal story of her discovering how her father’s passion for art and justice led him to donate most of this collection over the next several decades to the New York-based non-profit, the Harlem Children’s Zone, HCZ. This touching story of a major art collection transforming into educational opportunity that will help kids in Harlem escape the vicious cycle of poverty has the intimacy of a home movie. (Click here to view the Louis-Dreyfus Family Collection web site which includes the entire collection) (Screens: Thursday, March 26, 9:30 AM Sebastiani Theatre and Sunday, March 29, 5:30 PM Burlingame Hall. $15 tickets)
Dior and I —(France, 90 min) There are just a handful of fashion greats who have had French designer Christian Dior’s enduring impact on 20th century style. Filmmaker Frédéric Tcheng (co-director Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, 2012 and Valentino: The Last Emperor, 2008) delivers another insightful exploration of this style pioneer’s enduring influence through the storied world of the House of Christian Dior. Dior passed in 1957 but his name has lived on through this contemporary fashion house, now owned by Groupe Arnault. This thoughtful doc delivers a dramatic behind-the-scenes look at the new Artistic Director, Raf Simons’ very first Haute Couture collection. From conception through its ultimate exhibition, the process is shown to be a nerve-racking labor of love. Stoic Simons must coax the very best from his dedicated collaborators who literally make it all happen. Tcheng’s revealing homage to pressure cooker couture is fascinating. (Screens: Thursday, March 26, 2 PM Sonoma Community Center and Saturday, March 28, 8:30 PM Sonoma Valley Art Museum $15 tickets)
Art & Design Shorts Program—Fine cinematography comes in various packages. SIFF has a soft place for shorts, recognizing that, outside of the festival circuit, there is little chance to experience the synergy of a well-executed short. The festival offers three curated shorts programs and will screen dozens of individual shorts in advance of its feature-length programming. British artist David Hockney, Italian architect and interior designer Paola Navone, , 5th generation farmer and vintner Jim Bundschu, multifaceted designer Michael Vanderbyl and various Native American architects, builders and tribal members are the subjects of five Art & Design shorts that are guaranteed to stimulate your senses and fire up your imagination. Total run time is approximately one hour (Screens: Friday, March 27 12:30 PM and Sunday, March 29, 9:30 AM both at Woman’s Club. $15 tickets)
ARThound’s previous festival coverage:
SIFF 18 details:
Full festival schedule by film type is available online here.
Full schedule in calendar form is available online here.
Official Full SIFF Film Guide is available online here.
Information about passes and tickets is here.
Sebastiani Theatre – 476 First St. East (seats 325)
Sonoma Community Center-Andrews Hall – 276 East Napa Street (seats 150)
Mia’s Kitchen at Vintage House – 126 First Street West (seats 150)
Sonoma Woman’s Club – 574 First Street. East (seats 100)
Sonoma Valley Museum of Art – 551 Broadway (seats 70)
Vintage House– 264 First Street East
La Luz Center – 17560 Gregor Street, Boyes Hot Springs (3.5 miles from town square)
The Sonoma International Film Festival starts Wednesday—$15 tickets online now for many of the films
On Wednesday, the curtain rises on the 18th Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF), pairing 5 nights and 4 days of film with the wine country’s exquisite food, wine and artisan beer. Over 90 films from more than two dozen countries will play in seven intimate venues, all within walking distance of Sonoma’s historic town square which transforms into “Sonomawood” for the festivities. Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos, with Kate Winslet, has its North American premiere and opens the festival on Wednesday evening at the historic Sebastiani Theater and Michel Hazanavicius’ The Search, starring Annette Bening and Berenice Bejo, also at the Sebastiani, closes the festival on Sunday evening.
You can’t beat Sonoma in spring—the atmosphere is quaint and relaxed; the weather is warm; the streets are popping with roses and lilacs; and the real estate descriptions on the square’s windows will fuel your dreams. This festival is geared towards pass-holders who pay a premium ($250 to $2,500) for access to all the screenings and the famous “back-lot” tent (an all-you-can-eat-and-drink orgy) and special parties. Tickets are also available, on a limited basis, for individual film screenings for $15 each. Many of these include lively post-screening Q&A’s with the directors or cast and generous free samples of locally prepared gourmet treats. This year, instead of having to go to the festival box office on the town square in person to purchase these tickets, they can be conveniently purchased online, with a small service charge, and are available for many of the films. If individual tickets are available, there will be a “tickets” hyperlink included in the film description. Understandably, opening and closing night films (as of this positing) are for pass-holders only.
Full festival schedule by film type is available online here.
Full schedule in calendar form is available online here.
Official Full SIFF Film Guide is available online here.
Stay-tuned to ARThound for an overview of this year’s exceptional art-related line-up.
The festival programmers know exactly what their audience wants and, along with thought-provoking documentaries, drama, art and music, SIFF always offers a number of endearing “rom-drams,” romantic dramas, from all over the world. This year SIFF screens its first film ever from South Africa, Etienne Fourie’s The Windmill (Die Windpomp) (2014) which originally started out as a 48 minute student film that swept the prestigious South African AFDA awards and was then developed into a full-length film. This is one of the few films that I have seen (a screener was provided) and I recommend it highly. The story revolves around introverted 20 year-old Henri (Armand Greyling) who comes to live with his elderly grandfather in a sleepy retirement village somewhere in South Africa. As soon as he arrives, Henri begins to have a series of strange interactions with the quirky and affable seniors in the small community who all share one big secret. When Henri catches the eye of exquisite and fun-loving Margot (Leandie Du Randt), he slowly opens his heart and magical things begin to happen, literally. Opulently shot and choreographed, the film’s drama builds from an initially light and entertaining story into a complex mystery that is a passionate lament for aging. Is it better to live forever, or for a finite time subject to all the physical and mental frailties of the human condition? The delicate love story between Henri and Margot is heightened by Armand Greyling’s remote and introspective performance. Hearing a film in Afrikaans is a rare treat itself. (114 min, in Afrikaans)
(Screens: Thursday 3/26 8:30 PM Sebastiani and Saturday 3/28 9 AM Vintage House. Individual tickets available for both screenings.)
Petaluma’s big weekend of cheese and gourmet delights—California’s Artisan Cheese Festival is underway at the Sheraton Sonoma County
California’s Artisan Cheese Festival is back for its ninth year at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma and ARThound is just back from my first event of the day, a morning Cheese and Chocolate paring seminar with James Beard award-winning author and educator, Laura Werlin, and TCHO Chocolate’s E-Commerce guru, Heather Haskell. Cheese and chocolate are two food favorites that may not sound like a match made in heaven, but together, with the right pairings, we explored how they can be transcendent. We had the chance to mix and match 6 cheeses with 6 chocolates and sips of Lagunitas Brewing Company beers and “Cask 3,” a special new reserve port from Petaluma’s Sonoma Portworks. I was particularly enchanted with Willapa Hills’ “Lily Pad” cow’s milk cheese—a brand new hard cheese inspired by Gruyere—when paired with TCHO’s “66%” blended semi-sweet couverture chocolate from their baking line. I was even more wowed when the duo met the with the smoky depths of Lagunitas Brewing Company’s “Imperial Stout,” a roasted malt barley with 9.9% alcohol. The day is still young and there’s a round of afternoon seminars to go and this evenings’ Chefs vs. Chefs — The Best Bite, a popular roaming feast that will showcase top local Bay Area chefs using artisan cheeses in a variety of applications with more than 20 top restaurants, caterers, wineries and breweries in competition for our affection.
And did I mention samples galore? Participants sample new, limited-production, and rare artisan cheeses paired with exquisite gourmet delights that accentuate and learn all about the art of making cheese. The festival has non-profit status and its proceeds support California farmers and cheesemakers in their ongoing effort to advance sustainability. Tickets are available for individual events, including Sunday’s popular Grand Tasting Tent (tasting and marketplace) at www.artisancheesefestival.com.
Love great conversation, food, farming, family and film? Another screening of the sold-out “Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm” has been added to CAAMFest for Saturday, March 21 in Oakland—SO worth the drive
CAAMFest, the Center for Asian American Media’s annual film festival, has added another screening of Jim Choi’s documentary Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm, which has its (sold-out) world premiere on Friday, March 20, 7 PM, at the OMCA (Oakland Museum of California). The OMCA event, which features a pre-film get together, the film screening and the entire Masumoto family on stage in story-telling and conversation is at “Rush.” This means it is sold out BUT there may be a few tickets released at the last moment. The new added screening is Saturday, March 21, at Oakland’s New Parkway Theatre at 7PM and there are ample tickets now but this screening too will most likely sell out. Mas, Nikiko and Marcy will also be in attendance and a lively Q&A will follow the screening.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikiko and David “Mas” Masumoto on Monday evening at UC Berkeley (we’re all alums) and this dynamic father daughter duo touched my heart with their loving connection, positive energy and years of farming wisdom. I brought along my dear friend, long-time SRJC librarian Karen Petersen, who first introduced me to Mas via Epitaph for Peach, his 1995 lament over the loss of heirlooms. The public response to Mas’ writing was so encouraging that it essentially led him to re-evaluate the decision to bulldoze his precious heirloom trees. Our meeting couldn’t have come at a better moment because I’d spent the day, and the previous week, out in the garden paving the way for the plantings to come. If you’re the type of person who believes as I do that your garden or orchard is a reflection of who you are, then this is a film and a family that you won’t want to miss. These famous fourth generation Japanese American farmers are best known for their highly-prized heirloom Sun Crest peaches as well as their tenacious adherence to sustainable practices. Over years, they’ve reaped a harvest of not only delicious fruits but also dreams, reflections and abiding kinship. We discussed what it was like to be filmed and the new directions their lives are taking now that Nikiko has returned to home to step into her father’s work boots on their certified organic 80 acre farm in Del Ray (south of Fresno). That’s 80 acres of organic peaches, nectarines, grapes and a fig tree that all need nurturing, often in grueling heat which it turns out is also the perfect incubator for storytelling. They’re all highly creative but Mas’ writing on farming and food includes numerous best-selling books which have been lovingly treasured and dog-eared by foodies, farmers and imagined gardeners.
This beautifully shot film, which was funded by CAAM, chronicles the transitions undergone by Mas and his daughter as they lovingly enact the rituals of passing the reins from one generation to the next and reflect back on the family’s WWII internment in a camp near their farm. Stay tuned to ARThound for the interview. For more information on CAAMFest 2015, click here.
CAAMFest—Asian American film, food, music and comradery kicks off Thursday, March 12, and runs for 11 days in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland
The Center for Asian American Media’s CAAMfest turns 33 this year and continues its morph from a pure film festival into a series of festive happenings that fuse cutting edge independent film with music and food—all with an Asian American twist. CAAMFest takes place over the next 11 days in venues all around the Bay Area including the Asian Art Museum and the Oakland Museum of California, which add their enticing exhibits to the mix. Formerly the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF), CAAMFest 2015 offers more than 100 movies and videos focused on the discovery of new talents, voices and visions. It’s by far the largest festival of Asian American movies in North America. Under the leadership of Masashi Niwano, now in his fifth year as festival & exhibitions director, the event has become one of the country’s major platforms for conveying the richness and diversity of the Asian American multicultural experience. ARThound loves this festival because it’s so excellently curated, delivering rich and unusual stories from around the globe that stay with you for years.
This year, you’ll see Asian American broadly defined too. Iranian director Rakshan Banietemad’s new film, Tales, which picked up the award for Best Screenplay at Venice, caught the CAAMFest programmers’ eyes, not just because it’s a great film but because the director, working under dior conditions in Iran, creatively stitched together a series of shorts, stories from her previous films, to create a full length film. In so doing, she managed to navigate the bureaucracy of the Iranian cultural ministry which requires a license for a feature but not for shorts. Bravo! There are also stories involving the Asian diaspora. Juan Martín Hsu’s La Salada is set in Argentina’s bustling discount market, La Salada, just outside of Buenos Aires, and involves an ensemble cast of Korean, Taiwanese, and Bolivian immigrants whose experiences all converge at the market. It’s thus no surprise that “travel” is this year’s theme. Opportunities for armchair travel abound and over 200 guests will be flying in CAAMFest.
Opening Night: The festival kicks off at the historic Castro Theatre on Thursday evening (March 12), with Benson Lee’s Seoul Searching (2015), his new feature film which garnered quite a buzz when it premiered at Sundance in January. A tribute to the 1980’s teen movies of John Hughes, but infused with a Korean sensibility and Lee’s own experiences, this dramedy is set in a state run summer camp in Korea that brings together Korean teens from all over the globe for the purpose of teaching them about their culture. Lee uses the teen’s stories, and their unexpected twists, to explore the Korean diaspora. Lee’s Planet B-Boy, about break-dancers in an international competition, won best documentary and the audience award at CAAMfest in 2008. Lee and several cast members will attend.
Opening Gala: After the screening, there’s an opening night gala at the Asian Art Museum, with a 1980’s dance party with cocktails and fine food amidst the Seduction exhibit of Edo-period Japan. The exhibition has over 60 works of art and features Japanese artist Hishikawa Moronobu’s (1618-1694) spectacular 58 foot long painted silk handscroll, A Visit to the Yoshiwara, which is shown completely unfurled for the first time. The masterpiece, on loan from the John C. Weber, depicts daily life in the entertainment district in the 17th century.
CAAMfest’s Centerpiece movie: Shonali Bose’s Margarita with a Straw (2014) screens at Castro on Sunday, March 15th and represents the powerful storytelling and moments of palpable intimacy that CAAMFest is famous for. Kalki Koechlin plays Laila, a young woman from Delhi who is determined not to let her cerebral palsy interfere with her life —she writes lyrics for a rock band, flirts wildly with her classmates and dreams of going to New York to participate in NYU’s prestigious creative writing program to which she’s been admitted. Set in Delhi and New York, the film is a brave and glorious homage to that old adage—“follow your heart.”
Closing Night: The festival’s closes with Bruce Seidel’s Lucky Chow, a six-part PBS series which will be showcased over the course of two days—Saturday and Sunday, March 21 and 22—at Oakland’s New Parkway Theater. The series features Danielle Chang (LUCKYRICE culinary festival founder) as she travel across America, taking in the Asian food landscape. Accompanying the film will be an Asian-inspired curated menu from the New Parkway kitchen. Other food-related films are Grace Lee’s Off the Menu: Asian America and Edmond Wong’s Supper Club exploring Bay Area restaurants.
Honoring the 40th anniversary of Cambodia’s fall to the Khmer Rouge: Lest we not forget the tragic moments that also define cultures, CAAMfest is presenting a collection of powerful stories of survival and resiliency from Cambodia’s tragic Khmer Rouge period. As part of the Spotlight feature on acclaimed filmmaker Arthur Dong, his new documentary, The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor, chronicles the years encapsulating the Khmer Rouge’s tyranny through the eyes of Dr. Haing S. Ngor, who escaped to America and recreated his experience in the film The Killing Fields, for which he won an Academy Award in 1984. Dong will be in conversation with film critic and author B. Ruby Rich on Friday, March 20 at New People Cinema.
Perfectly Peachy: The festival is also honoring the Masumoto Family, fourth generation peach California peach farmers, with a CAAMFeast Award and a special evening of storytelling at the OMCA (Oakland Museum of California) on Friday, March 20, where the CAAM-produced documentary, Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm, will have its world premiere. The entire family— Mas, Marcy, Nikiko and Korio Masumoto—will be in attendance. The Masumotos, who have an 80 acre farm south of Fresno, are famous for their highly-prized heirloom Sun Crest peaches and tenacious adherence to sustainable practices as well as their lyrical writing on farming and food. When was the last time you visited the Oakland Museum? CAAMFest provides a perfect opportunity to combine film with art. Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California (ends April 12) is an exciting collaboration between SFMOMA and OMCA that explores California artists, many of them Bay Area artists. Marion Gray: Within the Light (ends June 21) is a riveting exploration of San Francisco-based photographer Marion Gray’s work over the past 40 years documenting Bay Area artists and art happenings. Bees: Tiny Insects, Big Impact (ends September 20) will educate and entertain the entire family.
Music: In addition to the movies, Korean musicians have a strong presence at CAAMFest with performances from Awkwafina (Chinese Korean American rapper Nora Lum from Queens) and Suboi, the Vietnamese “Queen of Hip Hop” and a host of other party rockers who will keep things lively before and after the movies.
Stay tuned to ARThound for an interview with the Masumotos about all things peachy.
When/Where: CAAMfest 2015 runs March 12-22, 2014 at 8 screening venues in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland and as well as select museums, 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 $14 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 $75 (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. Rush Tickets: If a screening or event has sold all of its available tickets, there is still a chance to get in by waiting in the Rush line. The Rush line will form outside of the venue around 45 minutes before the screening is set to begin. Cash only and one rush ticket per person and there are no guarantees.
“She Built This City”— the founding women behind Cowgirl Creamery, Thistle Meats & Bert’s Desserts share their entrepreneurship stories at SRJC’s Mahoney Library on Tuesday, March 10th, 2015, at noon: FREE EVENT
Passes for the 18th Sonoma International Film Festival are on sale now and prices will increase on March 1, 2015
World class cinema, fabulous food and wine from local artisans, and the breathtaking beauty of the wine country in spring all combine to make the Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) one of the Bay Area’s most enjoyable events. For those of us who live in the North Bay, it unfolds pretty much in our backyard. This year’s festival, the 18th annual SIFF, is March 25-29, 2015, and is a week earlier than last year’s festival. Discounted passes are now on sale. Lock in your passes now, as the prices rise considerably on Sunday, March 1, 2015.
This year, SIFF features over 90 hand-selected films from two dozen countries—features, documentaries, world cinema, Vamos Al Cine (showcasing Spanish-language film), and shorts. Two hundred filmmakers and celebrities are expected to attend and participate in premieres, Q&A’s and panel discussions. Guests, celebs and attendees all mingle on the historic town 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 and programming have yet to be announced.
All films are screened in seven intimate venues, all within walking distance of Sonoma’s lovely 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. Over the past 12 years, SIFF has donated over $450,000 to Peter Hansen’s media arts program at SVHS.
Cinema Pass—$200* – All Films & entry to Backlot Tent (*Price increases to $250 on March 17, 2014)
Cinema Soiree Pass —$575* First Entry to all films, regular events and parties and VIP hospitality area and Backlot Tent.” (*Price increases to $650 on March 1, 2015)
Patron Pass/All Access—single $2,500; couple $4,000—includes all benefits of a Soiree Pass, plus all events, parties and special dinners during the festival. There are only 8 remaining passes at this level.
Click here to purchase all SIFF passes.
Click here for more information, or call 707 933-2600
Review: Cinnabar Theater’s “I am My Own Wife”—a crafty and true survival tale featuring Steven Abbott as 36 characters, through February 22, 2015
You do what you have to do to survive—that’s the underlying theme of Doug Wright’s stunning one man play, I Am My Own Wife, at Cinnabar Theater through February 22. Dressed in a baggy black dress and pearls, transgender Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, who was born a man, survived both the Nazi and East German Communist regimes with her unique identity intact. She also ran a thriving Weimar cabaret in her basement, managed to amass an important collection of late 19th century antiques and became a decorated national hero. On the down side, she murdered her abusive father and may have betrayed her friends and colleagues by informing on them to the Stasi, the dreaded East German secret police. Director Jennifer King and actor Steven Abbott team up for the third time to present this remarkable solo show, which burst onto Broadway in 2004 and won every major honor, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.
The reason to go—the entrancing Steven Abbott, well-known to Cinnabar audiences for A Couple of Blaguards and No Regrets: The Songs of Edith Paif. Abott plays transgender Charlotte von Mahlsdorf and 35 other distinct characters who were in her life with seamless fluidity, transitioning from one to the other with just the slightest inflection of voice or movements of his sparkling eyes. It’s a study in perfect alchemy.
Transgender refers to a person who identifies with the male/female role opposite their birth gender. Charlotte von Mahldorf was born Lothar Berfelde in Germany in 1928. Both the Nazi and Communist regimes would have labeled her a sexual deviant and sought to kill her, had they known. The performance begins as Charlotte looks at the audience, smiles and shows us a delightful antique cylinder phonograph, She then proceeds to lead us on a tour of her home, a private museum in Mahlsdorf, a suburb of East Berlin. Soon we are aware that the sparsely appointed Cinnabar stage, with its elegant European double doors, blue patterned wall paper, two tables, two antique chairs, phonograph and vast black fabric wings on each side, represents a vast floor-to-ceiling collection of von Mahldorf’s fine late 19th century antiques—sideboards, gramophones, clocks, etc. And in this collection of artifacts, which is now the celebrated Gründerzeit Museum, is her precious life story. We also learn that, before her home became a museum, it was a safe haven for people the State denied the right to exist because of their sexual orientation.
It was just after the fall of the Berlin Wall that American playwright Doug Wright learned about Charlotte from his journalist friend, Texan John Marks, the Berlin bureau chief for U.S. News & World Report. Marks had discovered her in 1992 when she was giving guided tours of her extensive collection of antiques. Wright traveled to the former East Germany to interview Charlotte on several occasions. Around that time too, noted German filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim made a documentary about von Mahlsdorf, I Am My Own Woman (1992) (Ich bin meine eigene Frau) and her autobiography I Am My Own Woman: The Outlaw Life of Charlotte von Mahldorf came out in 1995. Wright was so overwhelmed with the breadth of Charlotte’s story that it took him several years to develop the material into the play and he actually inserted himself into it.
It was his discovery of Charlotte’s extensive Stasi file which claimed that she, like many other East German citizens, had not only been a subject of surveillance but also been an informant for that oppressive regime that left him conflicted. How could the subject of his respect and admiration have carried out such a betrayal?
According to director Jennifer King, “the tension resulting from the ethical implications about von Mahlsdorf’s alleged complicity with this monstrous regime is just one of many factors that make this an extraordinary subject for theatre.”
Tackling dozens of characters is a herculean task that Abbott handles in masterful stints of split second shifts. Some of those fascinating roles are frustratingly underdeveloped. As a journalist, I was hungry for more of Wright’s story and for more detail about Charlotte’s father who drove her to commit murder. What does come through in this 100 minute performance is the sheer complexity of von Mahlsdorf’s personality and the scars exacted by life under fascism. Abbott’s close to the chest depiction of Charlotte, who speaks matter of factly in an emotionally detached manner, is most engrossing. He plays her as an artifact that is tightly, brilliantly curated never admitting or denying Stasi complicity. Of course, we all know that, when presented correctly, moral quandaries can be the most intensely dramatic dilemmas of all and Cinnabar’s I am My Own Wife is indeed a gem of many facets.
Creative Team: written by Doug Wright; directed by Jennifer King; staring Mike Abbott; staging by Ross Tiffany-Brown; Lighting by Wayne Hovey; sound by Joe Winkler; costume consultant Lisa Eldredge; set construction by Mike Acorn, Joe Elwick, Aloysha Klebe & Ross Tiffany-Brown
Details: There are 6 remaining performances of “I Am My Own Wife” but several of these are sold out. Limited tickets are still available for Friday, Feb 20 (8 PM); Sat, Feb 21(8 PM) and Sunday, Feb 22 (2 PM). *Please note: Cinnabar advises that this show is best appreciated by ages 15 and up due to adult content. Youth ages 12-18 who are interested in seeing the show are encouraged to attend Friday Night Live on 2/6, when a speaker from Positive Images, Santa Rosa, will help provide context on the story. Tickets for this event are only $9.