ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

The 44th Mill Valley Film Festival is October 7-17, 2021—in theater and online—non-member tickets on sale now

Music and journalism lovers, add this engaging documentary to your MVFF playlist— “Like A Rolling Stone: The Life & Times of Ben Fong-Torres.” Bay Area director Suzanne Joe Kai has crafted a ten-years-in-the-making portrait of Oakland-born, Ben Fong-Torres, the music editor of Rolling Stone magazine and KSAN-FM dj, who became America’s premiere rock interviewer and music journalist.  Fong-Torres introduced the world to the musicians they loved through his formidable and engaging Q & A interviews, which became a standard in journalism.   Kai’s doc goes back to Torres’ childhood as the son of Chinese immigrants, his tragic loss of his brother Ben to gang violence, his rise at Rolling Stone. It also covers his activism for the rights of Asian Americans through his writing for San Francisco’s Chinatown newspaper, East-West. Supplemented with iconic music clips and commentary from musicians and artists of the day (Jim Morrison, Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Steve Martin, Annie Leibovitz).  Screens twice at MVFF:  Sunday, October 10, and Monday, October 11, with filmmaker Suzanne Joe Kai and subjects Ben Fong-Torres and Dianne Fong-Torres in person for onstage conversations at both screenings.  On Sunday, October 10, Sweetwater Music Hall will host a live music event with Ben Fong-Torres in attendance.  

Lucky day for film lovers.  The 44th Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF44), which opens in three weeks, and runs October 7- 17, 2021, has general admission tickets available on September 16 for almost all its films.  Generally, the esteemed festival’s films and events are in such demand that many are sold out to California Film Institute (CFI) members before tickets are made available to the general public.  Most in-theater screenings, save a few big nights, are available now. This won’t last for long, so browse the program and don’t dally in pre-purchasing tickets.  Several of these films will figure in the looming Oscar race and it’s very gratifying to say “I already saw that,” especially when talent appears on stage in conversation.

After last year’s almost entirely virtual edition, this year, the festival will return to a few more live events while offering substantial online content. MVFF44 is smaller than usual too, reflecting the challenges of programming with Covid: 118 films representing 39 countries with 37 premieres and 55 percent of all films are directed or co-directed by women.  Thirty-seven features will screen in theaters only—Smith Rafael Film Center (San Rafael), CineArts Sequoia (Mill Valley) and PFA (Berkeley)—and 28 features and 65 shorts will screen online with a few of these in theaters too.  A MVFF Online pass covers all online programming, offering potentially substantial discounts the more films watched.   

With the Delta and the new Mu variants of the coronavirus pressing concerns in the Bay Area, safety will be the festival’s top priority. To attend any of its in-theater events or live musical performances, the festival will require proof of vaccination, or a recent negative coronavirus test, as well as a valid ID, which will be checked at every event.  Screenings and events be held at 75 percent theater capacity.  Masks will be required;  no concessions.

Arthound will be posting more on MVFF, so stay tuned.

Shortlist of MVFF44’s live offerings:

In-theater Opening night/October. 7:Cyrano,” from director Joe Wright, starring Peter Dinklage. A musical adaptation of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” inspired by the 2018 musical stage play adapted and directed by Erica Schmidt. Director Joe Wright will appear in conversation.

In-theater Tributes: October 8: Director Jane Campion and “The Power of the Dog” (it’s been 10+ years since her last film); October 25: Director/actor Kenneth Branaugh and screening of “Belfast.”

In-theater Spotlights: October 9: Actor Simon Rex and “Red Rocket”; October 13: director Denis Villeneuve and “Dune“; October 16: Director Paolo Sorrentino and “The Hand of God“; October 16: Director Maggie Gyllenhaal and “The Lost Daughter.”

In-theater Centerpiece Program/October. 12: Director Mike Mills in conversation and“C’mon C’mon,” a family drama starring Joaquin Phoenix.

In-theater Mind the Gap special screening/October 14: Producer Nina Yang Bongiovi (“Fruitvale Station,” “Sorry to Bother You”) will receive the 2021 Mind the Gap Award, Independent Producer of the Year and will be joined in conversation by Director Rebecca Hall, along with “Passing,” a film about passing as white in the Jim Crow era starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga.

In-theater Closing night, Oct. 17: Director Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” a tribute to the New Yorker’s fabled literary world with idiosyncratic performances from Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton, and Jeffrey Wright.

MVFF music: Four live music shows at Mill Valley’s historic Sweetwater Music Hall paired with four musical docs playing at CineArts Sequoia: October 9: MONOPHONICS and “Lady Buds“; October 10: house band and Ben Fong-Torres and “Like a Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres“. October 11: THE BARRY GOLDBERG – JIMMY VIVINO BLUES REUNION (Featuring ROB STONE) and “Born in Chicago“; October 15: ABEL SANCHEZ & TEATRO CAMPESINO and guest musicians in a benefit honoring Cesar Chavez and “Song for Cesar.”

Details:  

MVFF44 is October 7-17, 2021.  Tickets to most films are $16.50 general admission, $14 CFI members.  Special events start at $25.  MVFF Online pass, $130 for CA residents, allows access to all online films, programs, conversations.

Complete schedule:  https://www.mvff.com/program-mvff44.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SFFILM 2021 starts Friday: female-directed & BIPOC films bring distant worlds and global issues to our homes

A scene from Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh’s inspirational debut documentary, “Writing with Fire,” playing at the 2021 San Francisco International Film Festival, April 9-18.  There are 20 documentary features at SFFILM 2020.  “Writing with Fire” is one of 12 films nominated for a Golden Gate Award for emerging global film artists. Image courtesy of SFFILM.

The 64th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM 2021) kicks off this Friday and runs through April 18, 2021—103 films from 41 countries in 28 languages with strong contributions from local filmmakers. The longest running and biggest film festival in the Bay Area, SFFILM always has a fascinating line-up. It’s paired down and mainly online this year, a concession to the Covid-era, but there several drive-in screenings and events at Flix, at Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture.  

The festival was cancelled last year and there have been big changes since at SFFILM. There’s a new executive director, Ann Lai, who came from the Sundance Institute, as well as a new programming director, Jessie Fairbanks, who replaced Rachel Rosen who’d held the position for the past 20 years. Fairbanks has led the festival’s curation of film and off-screen programming resulting in a lineup of 42 feature films, 56 shorts, and five mid-length films, a new offering.  Fifty-seven percent of these films are directed by women and 57 percent by BIPOC filmmakers. A common thread in this year’s film selection is identity, a focus on individuals navigating through isolation, hardships, relationships. ARThound is a world cinema buff, so my recommendations are biased towards remote settings and cultures.

Settle in; here are six films to stream:

After Antarctica

A scene from Tasha Van Zandt’s “After Antarctica,” which has its world premiere at the 2021 San Francisco International Film Festival, April 9 -18, 2021. Courtesy of SFFILM.

Bay Area director Tasha Van Zandt’s enthralling documentary, “After Antarctica,” transports viewers to Antarctica with intrepid explorer Will Steger, who embarked on the first ever coast to coast dogsled expedition across Antarctica in 1989.  Leading a team of six scientists and explorers and their sled dogs, braving storms, sub-zero temperatures, Steger crossed this treacherous 3,741 mile route for 7 months to draw attention to Antarctica’s changing climate.  Van Zandt catches up with Steger 30 years later to relive the trip.  Featuring never-before-seen-archival footage and the ever prescient Steger discussing his eyewitness experience with the irreversible changes occurring in the Earth’s polar regions, this doc records a journey that will never happen again because climate change has progressed so.

Nudo Mixteco


A scene from Ángeles Cruz’ “Nudo Mixteco,” playing at the 2021 San Francisco International Film Festival

Ángeles Cruz’s debut feature, “Nudo Mixteco,” emerges as an essential portrait of indigenous life in San Mateo, the Mixtec Oaxaca village where Cruz grew up. It seems that wherever one is in the world, there’s nothing like a holiday to raise festering wounds. This story unfurls against the village’s annual patron saint festivities and revolves around three people who left the village and return home only to find themselves embroiled in traumatic conflicts. María comes back for her mother’s funeral and is rejected by her father who disapproves of her being a lesbian; Esteban returns from working abroad only to learn his wife has a lover and he seeks revenge; Toña must re-visit the trauma of her own childhood sexual abuse by an uncle in order to save her daughter from the same experience. Esteban and Toña let the village community decide what action will be taken, a custom that is common in indigenous Mexican communities but has never been played out on screen.  Villagers from San Mateo enact this, rather than actors. María’s story highlights the fact that in several regions of Mexico, male homosexuality is accepted but lesbianism is not, making her struggle for identity and acceptance hard to resolve. Cruz authentically shows how difficult it is to navigate the trappings and protections of native culture having had the experience of assimilating into global culture.

Writing with Fire

A scene from “Writing with Fire,” playing at the 2021 San Francisco International Film Festival, April 9-18. Courtesy: SFFILM.

Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh’s inspirational debut documentary, “Writing with Fire,” is a story of perseverance and female empowerment. It follows several Dalit women who founded and have kept a grassroots all-female newspaper, Khabar Lahariya, floating for 14 years. and have decided to take their publication digital, with an online edition and YouTube channel. It’s also the story of contemporary India in turbulent transition. Despite plentiful obstacles on the home front, these women fearlessly tackle abuses of patriarchy and government malfeasance in their impoverished state of Uttar Pradesh. Their reporting yields measurable results and hits to to their site climb steadily.

Seyran Ateş: Sex, Revolution and Islam


Seyran Ateş in a scene from “Seyran Ateş: Sex, Revolution and Islam” playing at the 2021 San Francisco International Film Festival, April 9 -18, 2021.  Courtesy of SFFILM.

“Seyran Ateş: Sex, Revolution and Islam,” a new documentary about Turkish-German lawyer, radical Muslim feminist, and female imam, Seyran Ateş, unveils a relentless, yet elusive, warrior making headway. Both subject and filmmaker, Oslo-based Turkish/Norwegian Nefise Özkal Lorentzen, are iron-willed activists fighting for human rights, LGBTQ people and gender equality within Islam, confronting traditionalists who have been steadfastly resistant to change.  Lorentzen has recently been named one of the top 10 immigrant role models in Norway.  Ateş is the founder of Germany’s first liberal, LGBTQ-friendly Muslim house of worship, the Ibn Ruschd-Goethe mosque in Berlin, where women can be recognized as imams.  To the point of taking a bullet in the neck, and living under police protection and death threats, Ateş has been fighting for years for sexual revolution within Islam and for an interpretation of Islam that reflects the values of the Western society in which many Muslims live.

The Cuban Dancer


Alexis Valdes, a dance apprentice at San Francisco Ballet, in a scene from Roberto Salinas’ “The Cuban Dancer,” playing at the 2021 San Francisco International Film Festival. Courtesy: SFFILM

Luminous, emotional, with dazzling dance sequences guaranteed to raise your heartbeat.  Roberto Salinas’ “The Cuban Dancer” follows Cuban born dancer Alexis Valdes as he prepares to leave Cuba to move with his family to Florida and pursue his dream of professional ballet dancing.   Shot over a period of four years — first in Cuba and then in Florida, Salinas captures the pride, frustration and incredible risk it takes to pursue this dream.  Radiant, smoldering Alexis Valdes is a star in the making.  Co-presented by the San Francisco Dance Film Festival.  

The Overclockers

Maciej Musiałowski in a scene from Michal Wnuk’s “Overclockers” at the 2021 San Francisco International Film Festival, April 9 -18, 2021. Courtesy of SFFILM

Talent comes in all forms as does struggle. In Michal Wnuk’s engaging feature, “Overclockers,”  Karol, a 25-year-old Polish aviator with a brilliant mind, works part-time for the family business and runs his own start-up. When his father dies in an accident, Karol has to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of his home and his mother. Forming a partnership with friends he grew up with, he puts everything on the line to finance the building of his dream, a next-generation zeppelin.  But his exacting standards and a fundamental misunderstanding of his associates endanger the entire project and his stubbornness threatens his relationship with his girlfriend.  Maciej Musiałowski shines as Karol, embodying the collision of impassioned youth with the realities and limitations of life in a risky start-up.

Sloan Science on Screen: “Overclockers”:   Join SFFILM online for a deep dive into the aeronautic science behind the film as San Francisco critic Michael Fox moderates a streamed conversation between director/co-writer Michal Wnuk and Debbie G. Senesky, Stanford University Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Principal Investigator of the EXtreme Environment Microsystems Laboratory (XLab).  Free, requires advance RSVP.  RSVP here.

Details:

SFFILM 2021 is Friday, April 9 through Sunday, April 19, 2021.  Almost all streaming films are available for the duration of festival. Individual tickets are $12; all-inclusive Cinevisa pass, $75, grants access to all films that are streaming; drive-in films at at Fort Mason Flix drive-in, San Francisco, $70 per car.  Info: sffilm.org

April 7, 2021 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 24th Sonoma International Film Festival is March 24-28th—virtual, for the way we live now

SIFF2021 presents a dazzling choice of films, including a few obscure gems.  Czech-born artist Alfonse Mucha is the subject of a new documentary. Perhaps the most famous unknown artist in the world, he is a pioneer of the Art Noveau movement.  And, for design and science buffs, a fascinating documentary explores how neuroscience is providing a new lens through which to consider the built environment.  Image: Alfonse Mucha in a still from Mucha: The Story of an Artist Who created a Style, maxim film.

The 24th edition of the beloved Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) takes place virtually again this year from March 24-28, with over 100 films from 40 countries and three drive-in screenings. Having scrambled to offer the Eventive platform last year to a global audience that streamed some 4,000 hours of media in four days, SIFF is more than ready to roll this year. It’s the art films that keep ARThound enamored with the SIFF and Program Director, Steve Shor, along with Artistic Director, always provide engaging, informative films that often take us into bygone eras. Here are the films that caught my eyes this year:

Maverick Modigliani

Valeria Parisi’s Maverick Modigliani draws on interviews with historians, artists, curators and forgers. Image: SIFF

Maverick Modigliani (Maledetto Modigliani) delves into Italian-born artist, Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920).  Famous for his serenely seductive women with elongated features, Modigliani created artworks that were a synthesis of ancient and modern techniques and were fashionably hip in their day. Valeria Parisi’s documentary feature covers Modigliani’s life from when he left his home in Livorno in 1906 and arrived in Paris as a vivacious 21 year old dandy, determined to establish himself as an artist.  He began as primarily a sculptor and created tall stone heads—with the long, narrow noses that became his hallmark. He studied with Constantin Brancusi for a year and his radically simplified forms, evocative of African art, which was all the rage, had a powerful influence on him. Crushingly handsome, Modigliani was ensnared by Parisian life and, fueled by alcohol and drugs, he painted and seduced numerous women—notably poets Anna Akhmatova and Beatrice Hastings.  Many became the subjects of his languid portraits, rendered in bold flat colors, eyes without pupils. He married Jeanne Hébuterne, who he immortalized in over 20 paintings but never in the nude.  In a span of 15 years, he painted over 400 pictures, created magical stoneworks, and left a small archive of drawings before his untimely death at age 35 from tubercular meningitis. (2020, Italy, 97 min, in English and Italian) (Available to stream Saturday, March 26, 10 a.m.)

Mucha: The Story of an Artist Who Created a Style


A scene from Roman Vávra’s documentary, Mucha: The Story of an Artist who Created a Style, image: maxim film.

Czech director Roman Vávra’s stylized documentary, Mucha: The Story of an Artist who Created a Style (Svět podle Muchy) (2020), is about the life and reach of Czech-born art nouveau pioneer, Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939).  Shot in 2019, the film tells Mucha’s story from the perspective of his son, the writer and bon-vivant Jiří Mucha, with lots of re-enactments, animations, archival footage as well as paintings and photos. Mucha has slipped in and out of the limelight. His advertising posters immortalizing French actress Sarah Bernhardt became synonymous with Belle Epoque Paris. In the 1960s, his Art Nouveau posters attained cult status as the hippie movement rediscovered his vivid pictorial world. Mucha’s art has since become the inspiration for street art, psychedelic rock posters, and Japanese manga. What he considered his most important work is largely unknown outside of the Czech Republic. In 1920, at the peak of his fame, Mucha left Paris for a castle in Bohemia where for he holed up for 18 years, pouring his soul into his monumental Slav Epic— 20 huge canvasses, some more than 25 feet tall illustrating key events in the history and mythology of the Czech and Slavic people. Mucha conceived it as a monument for all Slavonic peoples. Instead, he was met with fierce criticism upon its completion.  In 2016, the cycle was at the heart of a major law suit that pitted Mucha’s grandson, John, against the city of Prague.  He argued that because Prague failed to build a permanent gallery for the artworks, which was a pre-condition of his grandfather’s gift, it never became the full owner of the Slav Epic, and that the works should be returned to Mucha’s heirs.  In December 2020, the court ruled in favor of the family. Shortly after that ruling, it was announced that the City of Prague had commissioned an appropriate gallery for the Slav Epic to be completed by 2026. (2020, Czech Republic, Germany, France, 100 min, Czech with English subtitles)

M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity


M.C. Escher, image courtesy Adrian Curry (Kino Lorber Team)

M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity is the story of Dutch graphic artist M.C Escher (1898-1972). Equal parts history, psychology, and psychedelia, Robin Lutz’s entertaining, eye-opening portrait presents the man through his own words and images and delves into the deep waves of math and art he conjured.  Escher’s diary musings, excerpts from lectures, and correspondence are all voiced by British actor Stephen Fry as Escher’s woodcuts, lithographs, and other print works appear in both original and playfully altered form. We hear Escher align himself with scientists and mathematicians, often trashing his own skills as a draftsman. Two of Escher’s sons, George (92) and Jan (80), reminisce about their parents while musician Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills & Nash) talks about Escher’s rediscovery in the 1970s. This doc has been praised highly for its innovation, for finding clever ways to show the audience, visually, just how Escher’s style evolved and the principles behind that evolution.  (2020, Netherlands, 81 min, multiple languages with English subtitles)

Built Beautiful


The question of beauty is something that science has shied away. Built Beautiful introduces the new field of neuro-aesthetics which may give us the ability to peer into realms of the human experience that were once thought to be totally abstract and intangible. Image: SIFF

Mariel Rodriguez-McGill’s Built Beautiful explores the interface of design and science in the emerging field of neuro-aesthetics which seeks to understand the neural mechanisms behind the appreciation of design. The documentary features leading experts on neuro-aesthetics from around the world elaborating on ideas presented at the Ux+Design/2019 conference (co-sponsored by Genetics of Design) held at Tufts University. A core area of research is determining how and why beauty plays an important role in our well-being and how subliminal responses to one’s built environment will influence the future of design. It’s an exciting evolutionary approach to art appreciation, a realm of human experience that was once thought to be totally inaccessible to science.  While filming, Rodriguez-Gill discovered that several elements of cities remained the same no matter where they were in the world. At one point in the film, students in schools in Oxford, UK, and Denver, Colorado, were asked to draw a home. Each student drew buildings containing what neuroscientists call the primal form—human facial features unconsciously drawn into renderings of nonhuman objects. (2020, US, 77 min, English)

Drive-in Screenings:

Celebrate cinema at Sonoma Parkway on their 40 foot screen, with FM transmission to car radios, special video introductions by SIFF sponsors, gourmet food, non-alcoholic beverages, and one gift bag per car. Every car present will be eligible to win a door prize of two tickets in the main cabin of Alaska Airlines. Tickets are $75/car with a $25 discount given to pass holders.

Opening Night: Six Minutes to Midnight, (Wed, March 24, 6:15 pm) (Andy Goddard, 99 min, English)  A spy thriller set days before WWII at an Anglo-German finishing school on the south coast of England, involving a teacher, a headmistress and 20 teen girls, daughters of the Nazi high command. Stars Judi Dench (Casino Royale), James D’Arcy (Broadchurch), Jim Broadbent (War and Peace), and Eddie Izzard (Victoria & Abdul).

Friday Night at The Drive-In: Spacewalker, (Fri, March 26, 6:16 pm) (Dmitriy Kiselev, 140 min, Russian, dubbed in English) A look at the Soviet side of the space race, set in the Cold War 1960’s as two Russian astronauts, Pavel Belyayev, a seasoned war veteran and Alexey Leonov, a hot-headed test pilot, part of the Voskhod 2 mission in March, 1965, prepare to step into the unknown on the first space walk.

Closing Night at The Drive-In: The Comeback Trail (Sat, March 27, 6:15 pm) (George Gallo, 104 min, English) An American crime comedy. Two movie producers (Robert De Niro, Emile Hirsh) who owe money to the mob (Morgan Freeman) set up their aging movie star (Tommy Lee Jones) for an insurance scam to try and save themselves. They wind up getting more than they ever imagined.

Details:

SIFF is Thursday, March 24th  to Sunday, March 28, 2021.  Tickets: $12/film.  Passes: SIFF’s Virtually Everything Pass is $175 and includes SIFF Saturdays, a monthly virtual screening on the last Saturday of every month throughout the year.  SIFF Drive-Ins: tickets are $75/per vehicle; passholders receive a $10 discount/one vehicle maximum.; SIFF’s First Responder Passis $25.  Show appreciation for the staff at Sonoma Valley Hospital and the Community Health Center by underwriting their access to SIFF.

March 14, 2021 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rancho Gordo’s Steve Sando has a new bean portrait by Jason Mercier

Rancho Gordo founder Steve Sando commemorated 20 years of glorious beans with a portrait from Jason Mercier. Image: Rancho Gordo

Pop trash artist Jason Mercier fascinates me with his meticulous mosaic portraits. He’s outdone himself with his new portrait of Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo beans—he’s captured Steve’s essence in heirloom beans.  As materials go, the humble heirloom bean is just about perfect, varying in color, size, and texture and it has great karma.

A pic of the artwork arrived in my email this morning in Steve’s e-letter celebrating his 20th anniversary selling beans.  As Steve points out, glamorous celebs of a certain era used to appear in print, draped in Blackgama furs as part of Blackgama’s “What becomes a legend most?” ad campaign (1968-94).  Today’s legends are captured in Jason Mercier’s mosaics—Snoop Dogg sculpted out of weed, Steve Jobs’ 2006 portrait revisioned from 20 pounds of e-waste, Amy Sedaris out of her own trash, Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyrus out of candy.  Amazing how blobs of material in deeply saturated colors, arranged just so, can cohere into vivid likenesses.

Steve Sando is an artist in his own right: his heirloom beans look like gems, taste fabulous and have the most interesting names—Cicerchia, Vaquero, Alubia blanca, Mayocoba, Yellow Eye. It’s hard to buy just one bag when confronted with these enticing beauties. Sando has traveled the world in search of rare and delicious artisan beans, written passionately about his finds, respectfully crediting the farmers he collaborates with and created a gourmet brand that has become a staple in the culinary world.  He started selling at the farmers’ market in Yountville two decades ago and built Rancho Gordo slowly.  He now sells direct to consumers all over the US, Canada, to restaurants and retail stores.  He grows in California, all along the West Coast, Mexico, Italy and Poland.  He’s planning a 20th anniversary celebration at the his storefront in Napa, after Covid.  If you’d like to know more, he’s been profiled wonderfully in the New Yorker by Burkhard Bilger (The Hunt for Mexico’s Heirloom Beans).  Even better: subscribe to his newsletter and check out them beans for yourself: https://www.ranchogordo.com.

March 13, 2021 Posted by | Art, Food, Gardening | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Sunday: stream the California Artisan Cheese Festival

This Sunday, La Crema Winery Chef and Cheese Specialist, Tracey Shepos Cenami, will be firing up the stoves to demo three brunch dishes to a Zoom audience cooking along at home while sipping La Crema bubbles. Chef Tracey played a pivotal role in developing the culinary program at La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard and created their popular VIP wine and artisan cheese pairing experience. Photo: Artisan Cheese Festival,

The first event of the California Artisan Cheese Festival (CACF) takes place virtually this Sunday (March 15) and features La Crema Winery Chef and Cheese Specialist, Tracey Shepos Cenami hosting the festival’s beloved Bubbles Brunch. Instead of the usual three day extravaganza of cheese seminars and tastings at the Flamingo Hotel, the festival is offering its top two crowd-pleasers, revisioned for the pandemic. The haute Bubbles Brunch, which always features a celebrity chef, has become a cook and toast-along at home event and the festival’s opulent Grand Tasting now comes in a box delivered to your door. While it’s not the usual festive celebration of our local bounty, this year’s events have been curated expertly by executive director, Judy Groverman Walker, who founded the festival 16 years ago. CACF is essential for sustaining our celebrated cheesemaker community and the non-profit California Artisan Cheese Guild until the in-person celebration returns in 2022. Last year’s festival was cancelled. The 2019 CACF, the 14th iteration of the beloved event, attracted more than 2,500 guests, who participated in events held all around Sonoma and Marin counties.

Bubbles Brunch: Sunday, March 14, 10:30 to noon, PST: The audience can cook alongside Chef Tracey Shepos Cenami or sit back and enjoy the show while sipping La Crema’s limited-edition La Crema Russian River Valley Brut Rosé. Cenami will prepare three brunch dishes — Bitter Greens with Anchovy Vinaigrette & Grilled Cheese Crouton Crunch (Beehive Cheese Promontory, Pt. Reyes Toma Cheese croutons); Shakshuka (Nicasio Valley Foggy Morning Cheese); and Orange Scones (Cypress Grove Midnight Moon Cheese, Laura Chenel Cabecou ). Recipes and a complete shopping list will be emailed to participants in advance. Shopping is required. As a special bonus, these $50 brunch tickets include free access to next year’s CACF’s Marketplace.

Order your tickets HERE by Friday, March 12.

Grand Tasting, Friday March 26, to 6 pm PST: Instead of gathering round tables laden with our region’s beloved artisan cheeses and the latest locally-produced accompaniments, this year’s Grand Tasting comes in a big box, delivered in advance to your doorstep. Boasting to include ten samplings of delectable artisan cheeses (at least four pounds), participants can stream CACF while enjoying an extravagant selection of pairing goodies from the festival’s marketplace, including Volos chocolates. Grand Tasting Kit cheeses will vary, but everyone will receive at least one of the newest cheeses to be released: Qunita from Point Reyes Farmstead Chees Co. and Little Giant from Cypress Grove. Remaining selections will come from the following cheesemakers: Beehive Cheese, Bellwether Farms, Cowgirl Creamery, Cypress Grove, Laura Chenel, Marin French Cheese Co., Nicasio Valley Cheese Co., Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., Rumiano Cheese Co., Stuyt Dairy Farmstead Cheese Co., Tomales Farmstead Creamery, Valley Ford Cheese & Creamery, and Wm. Cofield Cheesemakers.

Gloria Ferrer put together three winery exclusives to pair with these cheeses: Vista Brut, Royal Cuvée, and Demi-Sec. The hour will be hosted by Food Network star and Sonoma County restaurateur, Duskie Estes (Zazu, Black Pig Meat Co., Farm to Pantry). It will include insider tours of regional farms and creameries, pro tips on building a photo-worthy cheese board and Duskie’s favorite cheese recipes. Tasting kits are $150 and include free 2-day UPS shipping within the contiguous U.S.

Order your tasting kit HERE by Friday, March 19 at 5pm

More about California Artisan Cheese Festival
A 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, the California Artisan Cheese Festival strives to increase cheese appreciation, educate consumers about artisan cheeses, support the cheesemaking community and its sustainability and celebrate the creations of California’s many farmers and cheesemakers. The festival began in March 2007 as the first-ever, weekend-long celebration and exploration of handcrafted cheeses, foods, wines and beers from California. In keeping with its dedication to the community, the Artisan Cheese Festival has donated more than $135,000 in grants to nonprofit partners that support local sustainable agriculture including the California Artisan Cheese Guild.  For more information about the California Artisan Cheese Festival, visit http://www.artisancheesefestival.com/or follow them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

March 11, 2021 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Francisco’s museums are reopening this week: What to see

de Young Calder Picasso

An installation view from “Calder-Picasso,” at the de Young museum, the first major museum exhibition to explore the artistic relationship between Alexander Calder and Pablo Picasso, two of the most innovative and influential artists of the 20th century. Image courtesy: FAMSF

The Asian Art Museum, de Young Museum and SFMOMA all reopen to the public this week, after three plus months of closure. The Asian reopens this Thursday, March 4, followed by de Young on Saturday, March 6, and SFMOMA on Sunday, March 7. The news came today after Mayor London Breed’s announcement that San Francisco has entered the red tier, allowing cultural institutions to operate at 25% capacity. What that means for viewers is a combination of mask mandates, social distancing, and timed entry tickets to regulate capacity. What this means for museums, who rely desperately on the revenue from visitors, is cash flow. With the Bay Area’s vaccine rollout petering along, about to roll into full swing, and new highly transmissible variants of the virus that have cropped up in the Bay Area, it goes without saying that limiting community spread should be our highest priority. If you do decide to go, exercise every caution.

Each museum offers new, substantial exhibitions, installed during their recent pandemic closure. The Asian has Zheng Chongbin: State of Oscillation, an installation in dialogue with the museum’s ongoing transformation project. Working in the Osher Gallery, the Marin-based artist created ink paintings, videos, and an ephemeral chamber suffused with overlapping video imagery that heighten awareness of our bodies moving through space. In the museum’s Bogart Court, panels in varying transparency and patterns are suspended below skylights, directing the flow of natural light and manipulating sight-lines to create a novel spatial experience. The free flow of light and exploring ideas of transparency also informed architect Gay Aulenti’s impressive 2003 renovation of the Asian. After Hope: Videos of Resistance is comprised of 50 short videos made by artists across Asia and the Asian diaspora. Memento: Jayashree Chakravarty and Lam Tung Pang comprises two large-scale works that allow viewers to travel through Kolkata and Hong Kong, exploring the modern city as both a personal and political landscape.

The Asian will have free admission on Sunday, March 7, and will continue with free first Sunday of every month going forward.

Kolkata-based Jayashree Chakravarty’s Personal Space, is one of two works in Memento, the inaugural Hambrecht Contemporary Gallery installation at the Asian. At eight feet tall and more than 30 feet wide, the colossal mixed media on paper scroll furls and unfurls, establishing an architectural presence in the gallery. As you circle the work, attempting to chart a course through the chaos of streets, signs, and natural landmarks, you experience the disorientation the artist felt as the rapidly expanding city swallowed the countryside of her youth. Image: courtesy Asian Art Museum

The de Young is offering the traveling blockbuster, Calder-Picasso, which makes its first U.S. stop in San Francisco. Conceived and curated by Alexander Calder’s grandson Alexander S. C. Rower and Pablo Picasso’s grandson Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, it features over 100 paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs. The exhibit is focused on both artists’ occupation with “the void” and how they transformed our conceptions of form and space—and thus the very definition of art itself.

New at the de Young is Nampeyo and the Sikyátki Revival, an installation of 32 pots by Nampeyo (ca 1860-1942), the renowned Tewa-Hopi potter. Examples of Hopi pottery from Nampeyo’s era and works by four generations of her descendants will be juxtaposed with her masterpieces.

Also, continuing at the de Young is Frida Kahlo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving, which opened in March 2020, was impacted by pandemic closure, and has been extended through May 2.

The de Young will offer free admission on Saturday, March 6 and continue with free Saturdays moving forward,

SFMOMA reopens with Close to Home: Creativity in Crisis, featuring new works by seven Bay Area artists ― Carolyn Drake, Rodney Ewing, Andres Gonzalez, James Gouldthorpe, Klea McKenna, Tucker Nichols, and Woody De Othello ― in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented social upheaval of 2020. Bay Area Walls, which spreads across three floors of the museum, is a series of commissions by local artists that continues the museum’s investigation of the pandemic and unfolding crises of 2020. It features works by Erina Alejo and Adrian L. Burrell, Liz Hernández, Muzae Sesay, and the Twins Walls Company (Elaine Chu and Marina Perez-Wong). The museum’s New Work gallery will showcase new works by conceptual artist Charles Gaines, emerging from his interest the controversial Dred Scott Decision of 1857, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Missouri Compromise and decreed that Black people were not U.S. citizens and therefore could not sue for their right to freedom.

Music is an important vehicle for conceptual artist Charles Gaines. Manifestos 3, at SFMOMA, draws on seminal essays from James Baldwin and a speech from Martin Luther King. Gaines has translated text into notes, developing a system whereby letters of the alphabet are used in musical notation. The arrangement is recorded in a sound studio. For the gallery installation, the text is scrolled on a video monitor while the music it produced is played. Large-scale copies of the musical score are displayed that include the original text and viewers can see how the letter to note translation was done. Gaines says the music sounds atonal but is actually very tonal in a systematic sense. Image: SFMOMA

Before their public reopening, both the de Young and SFMOMA will have member preview days. SFMOMA will be free to the public on March 7 and tickets can be reserved online starting Wednesday, March 3 at roughly 10 a.m. Due to safety protocols in place which limit the number of visitors, reserving a ticket beforehand is essential. For more details on ticketing, admission and safety protocols, visit the websites: Asian Art Museum, de Young and SFMOMA.

March 2, 2021 Posted by | Art, Asian Art Museum, de Young Museum, SFMOMA | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 films from the 43rd Mill Valley Film Festival you can screen from home, starting Thursday evening

MVFF43 honors actor and producer Viola Davis with its Mind the Gap Award: Actor of the Year in an online conversation with MVFF Director of Programming Zoë Elton and special guest George C. Wolfe. The event can be streamed from October 10-18.   Davis is the first Black woman to attain acting’s great trifecta: two Tony Awards, for Fences and King Hedley II; an Oscar®, also for Fences; and an Emmy® for How to Get Away with Murder.  Her dedication to speaking out with eloquence and wisdom on issues of equality, especially for women and Black women, has established her as one of the great performers and spokespeople of our time. MVFF43 is October 8-18, 2020. 

Grab your popcorn and snuggle in. A pandemic version of the 43rd edition of the Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF43) kicks off Thursday evening with drive-in and online programming. In MVFF style, opening night offers a drive-in world premiere screening of “Blithe Spirit,” Edward Hall’s new adaptation of Noël Coward’s 1941 theatrical hit starring Dame Judi Dench as the inept spiritualist Madame Arcati. The locale is Lagoon Park in Marin Civic Center, freshly outfitted with a gigantic studio-grade screen. 

Much of this year’s festival is virtual, with five opening night choices to stream: the US premiere of Judith Ehrlich’s “The Boys Who Said No!;” the California premieres of Argentinian director Ariel Winograd’s “The Heist of the Century,” Mongolian Director Byambasuren Davaa’s “Veins of the World,” American director Alexandre Rockwell’s “Sweet Thing,” and American director David Garrett Byars “Public Trust”.  In all, MVFF43 offers 11 full days of online programming and 10 nights of drive-in screenings.  It presents 144 films, both shorts and features, from 38 countries. It runs through Sunday, October 18 with its final drive in screening, “The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” on Saturday, October 17. 

The acclaimed festival runs in tandem with DocLands, the California Film Institute’s annual documentary film festival which was postponed from May due to Covid. Despite the Covid curveball, MVFF has held on to its identity— supporting innovative film, local filmmakers and showcasing likely Oscar contenders that have already premiered at the famed Venice and Toronto film festivals.  MVFF has also kept important promises: fifty-seven percent of the films screening this year are directed or co-directed by women which means the festival hit its 50/50 by 2020 pledge goal.  

This year, the MVFF, DocLands, and Mind the Gap Awards will all be presented virtually, so home viewers can catch wonderful conversations with Viola Davis, Kate Winslet, Sophia Loren, Dame Judi Dench, Claire Dunne, Regina King, Bay Area actor Delroy Lindo, documentary filmmaker Freida Lee Mock and writer/director Aaron Sorkin. As an added benefit, most of these programs which cost upwards of $60 at the festival, are priced at $10.

Here are five films you shouldn’t miss:

Bat-Ireedui Batmunkh as Amra in “Veins of the World.”  Image: Talal Khoury

Veins of the World (Opening Night choice for online viewers)

There are many exciting roads to Asia at MVFF43.  “Veins of the World” presents an exhilarating and poignant story from a child’s point of view and its strong environmental message makes it a wonderful family film. This fiction feature debut of Mongolian director screen writer Byambasuren Davaa’s (Oscar-nominated “The Story of the Weeping Camel”) tells the story of Amra, an 11 year-old boy who lives a nomadic life in the Mongolian steppe with his mother Zaya, father Erdene, and little sister Altaa.  Life as they know it is threatened by the encroachment of international mining companies digging for gold who are destroying the natural habitat. When Amra’s father is killed in an accident, his mother wants to upend their life and move the family to the city. Amra refuses and takes up his father’s fight against the miners. Amra’s musical talent lands him on Mongolia’s Got Talent where he performs a heartfelt song that spells everything out. A wonderful journey of self discovery that explores nomadic and rapdily urbanizing Mongolia. (Opening Night Film; online screening window 10/8 – 10/18, 2020)

Brothers Ilmar Gavilán (L) and Aldo López-Gavilán (R) in a scene from “Los Hermanos/The Brothers.”

Los Hermanos/The Brothers

Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider’s new documentary, Los Hermanos/The Brothers, is a genuine masterpiece, an exhilarating and perceptive dive into the magical and confounded lives of two Cuban-born brothers—violinist Ilmar Gavilán and pianist Aldo López-Gavilán—both virtuosos. They were separated as teens when Ilmar had the chance to study violin in Moscow and later went on to establish himself in New York as a soloist and member of the Harlem Quartet.  Aldo remained in Cuba and became a leading pianist, developing his own signature sound in both the worlds of classical music and Afro-Cuban jazz. They’ve spent their lives on opposite sides of the US-Cuba geopolitical chasm. Filmed in Havana and in the US and drawing on historical performance footage and family archives, the film begins in the Obama era as the brothers reunite, briefly in Havana and then again in New York to collaborate musically. They’ve dreamed of this all their lives. Their joyful and productive reunion is shadowed by future uncertainty about tightening travel restrictions.  The film, a kind of extended road trip in the two countries, takes a palpably intimate look at the frustrating, passionate, humorous and musically inspired lives these brothers lead. It serves up delight after delight—dazzling shots of Havana and a mesmerizing score composed by Aldo López-Gavilán, performed with Ilmar, with guest appearances by Joshua Bell and the Grammy-winning Harlem Quartet.  If their names sound familiar, Aldo performed twice locally at Festival Napa Valley Festival. (online screening window 10/9 –10/18)

Investigative journalist Matt Bloomberg in a scene from the documentary “Current Sea.”

Current Sea

This environmental documentary thriller from director Christopher Smith follows Australian investigative journalist Matt Blomberg and ocean activist and former British police officer Paul Ferber to Cambodia where illegal fishing in the Gulf of Thailand has depleted the sea of fish and threatened Cambodian fishermen. As the two men team up to create a marine conservation area and combat the relentless tide of illegal fishing, they face danger and unexpected obstacles. Along the way, a new generation of Cambodian environmentalists are inspired to create better lives. (online screening window 10/9 –10/18)

A scene from Michal Sulima’s, “Piano to Zanskar.”

Piano to Zanskar

Warsaw-born Michal Sulima’s indie debut, Piano to Zanskar, is the ultimate film for MVFF’s cause and adventure-oriented audience, proving you’re never too old to do something completely insane, incredibly generous, noble, and beautiful. It follows 65 year-old piano tuner Desmond “Gentle” O’Keefe and Anna and Harald, his two eccentric young assistants, as they embark on an arduous trip by foot and yaks across the Indian Himalayas. Their mission: to deliver a 100-year-old, 80-kilogram, upright piano, from bustling London to the remote village of Lingshed, in Khalsi tehsil, India. Why? Because Lingshed needs a piano. When Desmond reassembles the instrument, it becomes the highest piano in the world and everybody is united by the magic of music. You’ll find yourself laughing and crying in equal measures at the irresistible trio that pulled this off. I often wondered where was the camera to so expertly capture the grandeur of this mountainous area, a soaring maze of passes and gorges. And the marvel of Lingshed, an isolated community stuck in centuries past because there is no road linking them to civilization. They have no need for money, cell phone or televisions. This doc took grand prize at the Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival 2019.  (online screening window 10/9 –10/18)

Vintner, Hélène Thibon in her vineyard.

Weed & Wine

This timely and beautifully crafted doc from Emmy-winning Rebecca Richman Cohen focuses on two agricultural families on different continents who have been working their land for generations. The Thibon family are winemakers from France’s Southern Rhone region while the Jodrey family grow newly legalized state-certified organic cannabis in California’s Humboldt County. Worlds apart these families have shared concerns about sustainability, climate change, adapting their businesses to change and to succession to the next generation. (online screening window 10/9 –10/18)

Details:  MVFF43 runs October 8 -18, 2020.  All tickets are sold online. Virtual — $10 general, $8.50 California Film Institute members. Drive-in — $40 per vehicle, $35 members. To browse films and buy tickets, visit https://www.mvff.com/

October 7, 2020 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cast your vote in DocPitch, support a non-fiction filmmaker in finishing a film—voting closes Wed midnight

Filmmakers Kenji Yamamoto and Nancy Kelly hope to win $25,000 from DocPitch to help fund “Startup Embassy,” which follows three ambitious migrant high-tech entrepreneurs—two men from Spain and a woman from Turkey—who arrive in Silicon Valley with visions of success. They end up in a hacker house, a shared living space that welcomes fledgling entrepreneurs from all over the globe. There, hackers do constructive work, like coding, to make ends meet while working on pet projects. Putting everything on the line, they learn from one another and their struggles are laid bare, including near financial ruin and the stress of family separation.

Each spring, CFI (California Film Institute) brings awe-inspiring true-life stories to the Bay Area with its Doclands Documentary Film Festival.  Due to Covid-19, Doclands was postponed and will now take place before or in conjunction with the 43rd Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF), scheduled for October 8-18, 2020.

DocLands is calling on anyone who loves film to vote in DocPitch, its annual fundraising forum.  DocPitch supports filmmakers in completing a documentary already in production with cash rewards that are based on votes cast by the public and industry professionals.  So, yes, your voice matters and translates into cash, which funds an elucidating film.  There is just one day left to cast your vote for one of eight eligible film projects that will win a $25,000 Audience Choice Award.  Voting closes on Wednesday, August 19, 2020 at midnight PDT.  Winners of the Audience Choice Award and eight additional film-making grants totaling $100,000 will be announced on Friday, August 21 via a virtual conversation with the filmmakers.

Click here to view projects and to vote and to learn about the Friday’s awards announcement.  The entire process takes but a few minutes and will wet your appetite for films to come.

August 17, 2020 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 23rd Sonoma International Film Festival kicks off virtually Thursday evening

Maria Peters’ bio-pic, “The Conductor,” (2018) is one of four opening night films offered at SIFF2020 which opens Thursday evening to a virtual audience.  The period drama explores the difficult life of Dutch immigrant, Antonia Brico, who in the late 1920’s battled incredible sexism to become the first woman to conduct a large symphony orchestra, The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Other opening night offerings include the world premiere of “Elephant Refugees,” Louise Hogarth’s documentary about the first community-owned elephant sanctuary in eastern Botswana, where 60 percent of Africa’s elephants live; “I am Woman,” Unjoo Moon’s biopic of the iconic Australian singer, Helen Reddy and her breakout 70’s feminist anthem; and Rajita Shaw’s culinary tale, “Love Sarah.”

Originally scheduled in March but postponed due to Covid-19 outbreak; the 23rd Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF2020) is screening to a virtual audience this Thursday, July 30 through Sunday, August 2, 2020.  Theoretically, you can stream the full program of 110 features and shorts, from the comfort of your couch.  Figuring out access issues in advance is key to a pleasant experience, so plan ahead.  The festival has partnered with Eventive so that films can be viewed on home computers and devices as well as televisions.  You first purchase a pass or individual ticket at SIFF’s website which will “unlock” a film so that you can add it your Eventive festival account.

It is essential to test Eventive’s virtual cinema technology in advance.  Eventive has several test films prepared for this purpose.  I will be watching from from two homes and will have a laptop open to my Eventive festival account and will be playing the films on that laptop.  At the home where I have a smart TV, I will be mirroring the laptop over my wifi.  At the home with a regular TV, I will be connecting my laptop to my TV’s HDMI port.  The HDMI port will allow the TV to watch the laptop over the cable.

Passes and tickets:  A pass which allows access to 110 films is $75 and single films are $10.  Many films are available for viewing throughout the entire festival but several films have time-specific streaming windows.

Heads Up!  A few films have caps on tickets.  Tom Dolby’s feature drama, “The Artist’s Wife,” starring Lena Olin and Bruce Dern as a couple facing the onset of dementia as the painter/husband (Dern) is preparing for a huge retrospective, is nearing capacity.

For those who purchased tickets to special culinary and wine events, SIFF continues to ask for patience instead of refund requests while efforts are made to reschedule these after Covid concerns are at bay.

For film descriptions, trailers, screening time slots and to purchase passes or tickets, visit: http://www.sonomafilmfest.org

 

 

 

July 29, 2020 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SIFF2020 is postponed due to COVID-19 risk

“Born a King,” SIFF2020’s opening night feature, was slated to screen at Sonoma’s historic Sebastiani Theater on March 26.  Shot in the UK and Saudi Arabia, the Spanish co-production is the coming of age story of the future King Faisal (played by Abdullah Ali), who in 1919 was sent to on a high-stakes diplomatic mission to England by his warrior father, Prince Abdul Aziz.   His task was to resolve issues around the unification of Saudi Arabia.  At the time, England was fostering dissent by selling weapons to numerous Saudi tribes to encourage warring among themselves instead of collaboration.  The story follows the 14 year-old Arab prince from the Arabian desert to cosmopolitan England where he encounters Lord Curzon, Winston Churchill, and Princess Mary.  SIFF2020 will feature over 90 films, including indie features, docs, world cinema and shorts.

Originally scheduled for March 25-29, 2020, the 23rd Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF2020) has joined the ranks of North Bay cultural organizations that have postponed programming due to COVID-19 concerns.  The move makes sense for this beloved high-end festival which prides itself on film shown in intimate venues and partying in close quarters.  SIFF’s renowned Backlot tent features lavish self-serve buffet tables with local delicacies as well as wine from Sonoma vintners and trendy beverages.  Festival Director Kevin McNeely promises “We’ll be back.”  For those who have purchased passes or tickets to special culinary and wine events, the festival is asking for patience instead of requests for refunds. Check SIFF’s website for updates on the new date: http://www.sonomafilmfest.org

 

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Film, Food | , , , , , , | Leave a comment