Geneva Anderson digs into art

The 66th San Francisco International Film Festival starts Thursday, March 13—10 days of global storytelling

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN SOMEONE ELSE’S WORLD: Anaita Wali Zada, an Afghani who fled the Taliban, stars as Donya in “Fremont,” Iranian British director Babak Jalali’s wry drama about a former US military translator in the Afghan war who now lives among the Afghan diaspora in the Bay Area. Donya makes a living writing fortune cookie captions while suffering insomnia and the disdain of her neighbors who consider her a traitor. She’s going on a date in Bakersfield.  Image: courtesy SFFILM   

There’s something undeniably special about sitting in a theater with others and experiencing a story unfold on the big screen.  The 66th edition of the San Francisco International Film Festival, SFFILM66, offers just with films from 37 countries including 15 Bay Area films, eight world premieres and four North American premieres.  It runs April 13-23, 2023 and is back to being fully live/in person at in venues across the Bay Area, including Oakland’s Grand Lake Theater, San Francisco’s Castro Theatre, Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive and others. A new venue, CGV Cinemas at 1000 Van Ness, will house almost all this year’s SF screenings; it has a huge capacity and will feature a hospitality lounge presented by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for guests to meet and mingle with each other in between screenings.  This year, both Opening Night and Closing Nights celebrate new projects from Bay Area filmmakers and there are a number of documentaries from Bay Area filmmakers as well. ARThound’s interest is international cinema, so after my run-down of the festival’s big events, see my top picks from other countries.

Big Nights and Tributes:

Thursday, April 13: Opening Night: “Stephen Curry: Underrated”   California and hometown Premiere

Image: courtesy SFFILM

The festival kicks off Thursday in Oakland at the historical Grand Lake Theater with Peter Nicks’ documentary Stephen Curry: Underrated chronicling the NBA superstar’s professional rise, his personal life as he works to fulfill his promise to his mother, Sonya Curry, to graduate from college (he left Davidson College in North Carolina after his junior year to enter the NBA draft) and his attempt to win another NBA title last year. Many had predicted the Warriors’ glory days were behind them. Nicks, a four time SFFILM veteran (“The Waiting Room,” Festival 2012; “The Force,” Festival 2016;“Homeroom,” SFFILM2021) shows why Curry is someone who continually defies others’ expectations of his capabilities.  (USA, 2023, 110 min) Director Peter Nicks and producer Ryan Coogler in attendance.

Thursday, April 13 | 6:30 pm PT| Grand Lake Theater followed by an Opening Night Party at OMCA Thursday, April 13 | 9:30 pm PT| Grand Lake Theater, film only, includes introduction by the filmmakers and guests.

Friday, April 14: Tribute to Mary Harron + “Dalíland”  CGV, SF, US Premiere

Mary Harron: Image courtesy IMDb
Image: courtesy SFFILM

Canadian filmmaker and writer Mary Harron (“American Psycho” (2000), “The Notorious Bettie Page” (2006)) will appear in conversation to talk about her 30 year career and her latest film, “Dalíland.”   Set in NYC, in 1973, this biopic tracks a young art school drop-out / gallery assistant (Christopher Briney) on a wild adventure as he helps the aging surrealist genius Salvador Dalí (Sir Ben Kingsley) prepare for a big gallery show in New York.  All borders are blurred as he steps into Dalí and wife Gala’s (Barbara Sukowa) extremely dysfunctional marriage and the wild party scene they inhabit filled with beautiful people and copious substances.  With the remarkable Ezra Miller as the young Dalí.  Director Mary Harron,  producers David O. Sacks, Daniel Brunt, and Sam Pressman in attendance.  (USA/UK 2022, 103 min)

Tuesday, April 18: Centerpiece: “Past Lives” Castro Theater, California Premiere:

Celine Song: Image courtesy Celine Song
Image: courtesy SFFILM

Just the description of playwright turned filmmaker Celine Song’s modern love story grabbed me.  We’ve all played out a similar story, at least in our minds. Nora and Hae Sung, two primary school classmates in Seoul share a budding romance that ends abruptly when Nora’s family emigrates from South Korea to Canada. A dozen years later, Nora, now a playwriting student, notices that Hae Sung has been searching social media for her and they reconnect and imagine a real reunion.  Another decade passes and it happens—they are reunited in New York for one fateful week as they confront notions of destiny, love, and the choices that make up the life we have and the life we long for. (USA, South Korea, 2023, 106 min)

Thursday, April 20: Persistence Of Vision Award: Mark Cousins  BAMPFA, 7 p.m.

Mark Cousins: Image courtesy PalomarDOC
Image: courtesy SFFILM

This year’s POV award is dedicated to the late beloved Tom Luddy (film producer and founder of the Telluride Film Festival) and honors Mark Cousins, the filmmaker and prolific writer whose documentaries about movies display both his vast knowledge of film.  The presentation will include Cousins in conversation, followed by a screening of his 2022 documentary, “The March On Rome” which has its California premiere and is both a film essay and historical document. The title refers to the 1922 march by the Italian fascist Black Shirts from Naples to Rome that ushered in Benito Mussolini’s rise to power.  Much of  “The March on Rome” is Cousins’ close analysis of the 1923 propaganda film “A Noi” by Umberto Paradisi, which misrepresents the October 1922 march more than it documents it.  Cousins masterfully deconstructs this film to show its manipulative elements and how lies can alter the course of history. (Italy, 2023, 98 min, English and Italian)

Cousins’ new survey of Hitchcock’s work, “My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock,” screens Friday, April 21, at 7:30 p.m. at BAMPFA.  A wonderful mix of scholarship and entertainment, this tribute takes the form of a posthumous lecture by Hitchcock (Alistair McGowen) on his own career and employs Cousin’s brilliant provocational skills to expand our understanding of this 20th-century giant of cinema. (UK, 2022, 120 min) Director Mike Cousins in attendance.

Sunday, April 23, Closing Night: “I’m A Virgo” (Boots Riley’s new series), CGV Theater, SF

Boots Riley: Image courtesy SFFILM

A special screening of the first four episodes of Boots Riley’s new absurdist comedy series “I’m a Virgo” for Prime Video, about a 13-foot tall black Oakland teenager who has been kept hidden from the world for his entire life but now is out in modern-day Oakland closes the festival.  Emmy-winning Jharrel Jerome (“When They See Us”) stars as Cootie, the tall teen, in this biting comedy. Boots Riley in attendance.

ARThound’s picks:

Friday April 14: “Mariupolis 2” CGV Theater, SF

Image: courtesy SFFILM

Mantas Kvedaravičius and Hanna Bilbrova’sMariupolis 2” tells the human story of the Ukranian war.  Shot in March 2022, only weeks after the Russian invasion, the film takes place around Mariupolis’ Christian Baptist Evangelical Church.  With no comment or narration, the film captures tenderly framed moments of ordinary people attempting to survive in the midst of daily bombings.  In April 2022, Russian soldiers captured and killed the film’s director Mantas Kvedaravičius, a Lithuanian filmmaker and anthropologist, leaving his partner, Hanna Bilbrova, to complete this vital account of a city (and country) besieged in an unfolding global crisis.  The film is fresh and poignant a year into this brutal war. (2022, Lithuania/France/Germany, 112 min, in Russian)  

Friday, April 14: “Luxembourg, Luxembourg,” CGV, SF and Sunday, April 16, BAMPFA

Image: courtesy SFFILM

In Antonio Lukich’s fast-paced dramedy about frayed family ties, twin brothers in central Ukraine go on a road trip to find their Yugoslavian father who is rumored to be very ill in Luxembourg.  As in most great road movies, the preamble and the journey are more important than the destination. Kolya and Vasya are first shown as troublemaking kids who eventually become, respectively, a bus driver and a cop.  When darkly funny circumstances find them both at loose ends, they embark on the search for their dad for answers as to why their lives lack meaning and purpose.  This engaging film has a melancholic soul that traverses as much emotional terrain as geographical.  (2022, Ukraine, 106 min, in Ukrainian and German)

Friday April 14, “Snow and the Bear,” CGV, SF, and Sun, April 16, BAMPFA, Bay Area Premiere

Image: courtesy SFFILM

Asli (Merve Dizdar) is a young nurse who has recently relocated to a remote small Turkish town for her obligatory service where she grapples with unwanted attention from its provincial men.  One cold snowy winter night, a local man goes missing and his sudden disappearance generates all sorts of small talk and finger pointing.  Rumor has it that the bears have risen early from their hibernation and killed some animals around.  Asli soon finds herself in a whirlwind of power relations, secrets and suspicions cast on her.  Director Selcen Ergun’s feature debut deftly balances the tensions between patriarchal tradition and modernity, crafting a mystery drama that mines the wilderness within humanity as well that surrounding this Turkish village. (2022, Turkey, 93 min, in Turkish)

Saturday, April 15, “La Bonga,” CGV Theater, SF, California Premiere

Image: courtesy SFFILM

Anyone who tracks Latin American film is aware of the growing slate of documentaries intertwining human rights and environmental concerns with indigenous peoples. Twenty years ago, the remote farming village of La Bonga received a middle-of-the-night death threat in the midst of Colombia’s civil war, prompting the entirety of its Afro-Colombian community to flee for safety. Within two decades, their mud-hut homes were reclaimed by the fierce surrounding jungle. Sebastian Pinzón Silva and Canela Reyes’ accomplished debut feature accompanies these former inhabitants on their return journey which is led by their matriarch, Maria de los Santos, who longs unite everyone by resurrecting the celebratory festival of their patron saint. This is a physical and spiritual journey to a place that exists only in their memory which culminates in a powerful testament to the importance of home, regardless of the crises that might befall it. Director Canela Reyes in attendance (2023,Columbia, 77 min, Spanish/English subtitles)

Sunday, April 23,  “Smoke Sauna Sisterhood ,” CGV Theater, SF  (Golden Gate Award Documentary Competition nominee) CA Premiere

Image: courtesy SFFILM

When is the last time you’ve experienced a film in Estonian or its dialects Seto or Võro?  Anna Hints’ luxuriant portrait of a group of Estonian women who gather in a handcrafted sweat lodge through the seasons enjoying rituals of the sauna reveals the healing power of sisterhood and acceptance.  Baring their souls and their flesh, tears are released into the heavy, warm air, and quickly dispelled with laughter as the women nurture one another.  Hints’ debut feature won Sundance’s World Cinema–Documentary directing award. (2023, Estonia/France/Iceland, 289 min, in Estonian, Seto, Võro) Director Anna Hints, Producer Marianne Ostrat in attendance.

Other notables:

Sunday, April 23, noon: Free Community Screening:Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret CGV, SF.  Kelly Fremon Craig’s feature stars Abby Ryder Fortson as Margaret alongside Kathy Bates, Benny Safdie and Academy Award-nominated Rachel McAdams in this fresh, funny adaptation of Judy Blume’s classic 1970 novel about Margaret, coping not only with the onset of puberty but also grappling with her religious identity.

Documentaries: This year’s impressive documentary program covers Joan Baez, Michael J. Fox, Alfred Hitchcock, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Pak.  W. Kamau Bell’s lates film, “1000% Me: Growing Up Mixed,” profiles the joys and struggles of children rowing up mixed race and is inspired by Bell’s own experience raising mixed children. This HBO doc is a timely exploration of identity and belonging that challenges assumptions about the challenges mixed children may struggle with.


SFFILM66 is April 13-23, 2023.  Most tickets are $20; big nights are more.  Advance ticket purchase is a necessity; most films will sell out before they screen.  For the complete program, schedule, and to purchase tickets:

April 10, 2023 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hilma,” the new biopic about Hilma af Klint, screens Thursday/Sunday at SIFF26 in sunny Sonoma

A scene from Swedish director Lasse Hallström’s “Hilma.”  Image: Juno

Many of us made a beeline to New York to the Guggenheim in 2018 for the amazing and long overdue exhibition “Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future” a celebration of the Swedish artist’s strikingly original abstract paintings. The focus was on her innovative works completed just after the turn of the 20th century (1906-20), when she created incredibly imaginative non-objective paintings that were largely ignored by the art world.  Now considered masterpieces with great mystical depth that invite a re-evaluation of the development of modernism, we decry that she, like many women, was sidelined by the art world and hunger for more information.  “Hilma,” three-time Academy Award nominee Swedish director Lasse Hallström’s (“The Cider House Rules,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “My Life as a Dog”) new biopic promises answers about her lifelong interest in mysticism which had a negative impact on her career and is shot against the backdrop of some of her most famous works. This is the first biopic about af Klint. You’ll meet the Five, the group formed with four other women in the 1890s. Calling themselves the Five, they hold seances and meditations and collectively complete artworks; when Hilma paints, she believes higher spirits are directing her brush. The film is a family affair: Hilma is played at different ages by Tora Hallström (‘Hachi: A Dog’s Tale’), and Oscar nominee Lena Olin, Lasse Hallström’s daughter and wife. The films screens twice at the the 26th Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF): Thursday, 1 pm at the Sebastiani Theater and Sunday, 7:30 pm, at Prime Cinemas. (115 minutes, in English)


The 26th Sonoma International Film Festival is March 22-26, 2023, with more than 110 films slated during the five-day festival, details in the SIFF Festival Guide.  Individual tickets are available and should be purchased online in advance.

March 23, 2023 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Berlin and Beyond’s 27th festival of new German cinema is March 23-28—sehr interessant!

A still from Martin Persiel’s “Everything Will Change,” starring Noah Saavedra, Jessamine-Bliss Bell and Paul G. Raymond, Wim Wenders.  Persiel is known internationally for his award-winning documentary “This Ain’t California” (2012) about skateboarding culture in the 1980s GDR, which screened at Berlin and Beyond 2012. 

As if we don’t know where we’re heading as a planet, Martin Persiel’s ecological drama, Everything will Change” lays it out in an ominous eco-drama set in 2054. Wildlife has disappeared from Earth and three friends, who inhabit a bleak concrete world, set out on a time-travel road trip to find out what happened.  They learn their answer lies in the decade of the 2020’s when people knew how fragile biodiversity on Earth was but failed to take action.  Persiel’s unconventional knitting of fact and fiction has garnered him many awards and this latest drama, a blatant call for action, opens this year’s Berlin and Beyond festival on Thursday March 22 at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater. This beloved festival of new German cinema includes ten features and four short films and runs March 22-25 and the 28th at the Castro; March 26th virtually, and the evening of March 27th at Berkeley’s Rialto Cinemas Elmwood. 

Two huge breaks with tradition: This is first time that the festival is presenting an opening night film that is not in German—Persil’s film is in English. “The Forger,”(“Der Passfälscher”), the more traditional period drama that follows on Thursday evening at 9 p.m., is in German as are all of the other films in the festival. So there’s ample opportunity to have that undeniably special experience of immersing yourself in crisp German. The venue has also changed, from the Castro Theater, the hub since inception, to the historic Roxie Theater in San Francisco’s Mission District. As the 2023 festival opens a new era of sorts, Festival director, Sophoan Sorn, now in his 13th season, remains committed to providing cinema with exceptional storytelling, intense drama and an almost complete abandonment of Hollywood special effects. The festival is still securing guests, so check the website for updates.

Here are a few films that grabbed my attention:

Thursday, March 23, 9pm: “The Forger” (Der Passfälscher) :

Louis Hofmann in “The Forger.” (“Der Passfälscher, “), 2022. Image: DREIFILM

Berlin and Beyond always includes a riveting period drama, usually set during the Halocaust.  Maggie Peren’s “The Forger,” unfolds in Nazi-occupied Berlin in 1942-43. Louis Hoffmann (Neflix’s “Dark” series 2017-2020) stars as 21-year-old Cioma Schönhaus, a young man with an incredible zest for life who has the misfortune of being Jewish when the hunt for Jews is in full swing. Drawing on his art school background as a graphic artist, Cioma, along with his friend, Det (Jonathan Berlin), joins a network of underground rescuers and forges brilliant IDs that allow hundreds of Jews to escape deportation. At the same time, he re-creates his own identity, as a marine officer, and he and Det embrace Berlin’s night life with gusto, living extravagantly in plain sight of the Nazis as if there were no tomorrow. Cioma’s talent lands him in trouble and his survival will depend on one last great forgery. Based on a true story and adapted from Cioma Schönhaus’s 2008 novel. (Germany, 2022, 116 minutes German w/English subtitles)

Friday, March 24, 8:30 pm: “Family Affairs” (Der Nachname), US Premiere

A still from Sönke Wortmann’s “Family Affairs” (“Der Nachname”), 2022. Image: Constantine Film.

What was intended as a lovely family gathering on the beach of Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, soon dissolves into mass confusion and arguments when the matriarch, Dorothee (Iris Berben), 68, drops a scandalous bomb on her middle-age children and their partners.  She announces that she and René, her adopted adult son, have just married and she has taken on his name and is now Dorothee König.  The siblings are appalled that their mother has married their adopted brother and, even worse, rejected their name: Böttcher.  With Sönke Wortmann at the helm you can expect family drama at its wittiest and a deep dive into cultural norms. The translation of Der Nachname is, “The Last Name, and the film is a sequel to Wortmann’s highly successful first film, Der Vorname 2018 (“The First Name”), which was based on the French play Le Prénom.  All the members of the original cast are back again.  Wortmann’s pitch perfect satire, “How about Adolf?”(2019) was a smash at Berlin and Beyond 2020 (87 min, German w/ English subtitles)

Saturday, March 25, 1 pm, “Radical Dreamer,” Northern CA Premiere

Werner Herzog, in a still from Thomas von Steinaecker’s documentary “Radical Dreamer,” (2022)  Image: © Copyright 3B Produktion

For some 60 years, Werner Herzog has traversed every corner of the globe in search of the most rapturous dreams and captured them on film, over 80 so far—fictional features and documentaries often so bizarre, they have trumped his fiction. Once again, the camera is turned again on the charismatic Herzog by director, novelist and journalist, Thomas von Steinaecker in “Radical Dreamer.”  The documentary includes never before seen archive footage, captivating anecdotes from Herzog about his filming exploits and eternal search for beauty, and conversations with luminaries who know and have worked with him: directors Chloé Zhao, Joshua Oppenheimer and Wim Wenders; singer Patti Smith; and actors Nicole Kidman, Christian Bale and Robert Pattinson.  Iconic excerpts from his feature films and documentaries, and his cameos in cartoon series such as “The Simpsons” have been selected with care, creating a portrait of this illusive subject.  (103 min, German and English w/ English subtitles)

Saturday, March 25, 8:45 pm: “Rhinegold,” North American Premiere

Emilio Sakraya (L) as Giwar Hajabi in a still from “Rhinegold,” 2022. Image: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Gordon Timpen.

Opera fans will recognize the film title’s apt reference to “Das Rhinegold” from Wagner’s Ring Cycle, about the legendary gold in the Rhine river that will grant immortal life to whoever owns it and, as long as the gold stays at the bottom of the river, all is well with the world.  German Turkish director Fatih Akin’s new film is a loose adaptation of German rapper Xatar’s autobiography “All or Nothing” which traces the path of refugee Kurdish/German rapper Giwar Hajabi’s  (aka Xatar) life from a rough childhood and involvement in the drug underworld to the top of the music charts.  His story turns on a gold heist gone awry. The music is phenomenal. Fatih Akin won the Golden Bear at the 54th Berlinale, 2004, for “Head-On” (“Gegen die Wand” 2004) 138 min. Arabic, Dutch, English, German, Kurdish, Turkish w/ English subtitles.)

Tuesday, March 28, 6:30pm, “All Quiet on the Western Front in 35mm,” Closing Night, special presentation

Felix Kammerer in “All Quiet on the Western Front,” (2022) Netflix/Reiner Bajo.

Edward Berger’s “All Quiet on the Western Front in 35mm” (2022), nominated for 9 Academy Awards and 7 BAFTA’s, is the sobering saga of an idealistic young German soldier on the Western Front of World War I. This is a German’s director’s first stab and the first German language adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s world-renowned bestseller of the same name. The story follows Paul Bäumer (Felix Kammerer), a bright 17-year-old just out of high school, who, along with other classmates, was inspired by an ultra-nationalist teacher to join the German army in its crusade to conquer France.  The naïve new recruits excitedly sing their way to the front lines and then descend into utter terror as they discover the nightmare of trench warfare. Everything about this sensory epic is extravagant, including its full-on assault of incessant violence. A soon-to-be disclosed Special Presentation follows the screening. (147 min., German with English subtitles).


Thursday, March 23 – Roxie Theater, San Francisco:
6:00 PM: Everything Will Change 93 min.
9:00 PM: The Forger 116 min.

Friday, March 24 – Roxie Theater, San Francisco:
10:00 AM: The Ordinaries 112 min. (invitation only/at capacity)
6:00 PM: Piaffe 86 min.
8:30 PM: Family Affairs 87 min.

Friday, March 24 – Vogue Theatre, San Francisco:
11:30 AM: The Ordinaries 112 min. (invitation only/at capacity)

Saturday, March 25 – Roxie Theater, San Francisco:
1:00 PM: Werner Herzog – Radical Dreamer 102 min.
3:15 PM: Golden Years 92 min.
6:00 PM: Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush 119 min.
8:45 PM: Rhinegold 138 min.

Sunday, March 26 – Virtual:
8:00AM-11:00 PM: Axiom 98 min. (Viewable in select NorCal counties)
8:00AM-11:00 PM: Shorts Program 100 min. (Viewable in California)

Monday, March 27 – Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, Berkeley:
6:00 PM: Everything Will Change 93 min.
8:30 PM: Family Affairs 87 min.

Tuesday, March 28 – Roxie, SF – Closing Night:
6:30 PM: All Quiet on the Western Front in 35mm 138 min.


The 27th Berlin and Beyond is March 23-28, 2023, main venue is Roxie Theater, 3117 16th Street at Valencia, San Francisco.  Parking is difficult in the Mission District. Allow AMPLE time to find parking if arriving by car.  March 27: Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, 2966 College Ave at Ashby, Berkeley

Tickets:  Opening Night Film (Roxie Theater)$25.00 general (no senior discount); Single Tickets (Roxie and Elmwood screenings, excluding Roxie Opening Night Film and Youth 4 German Cinema) $16.00 general, $13.00 senior (62+) & ADA, $9.00 student (at door with ID. Single tickets for each film can be purchased via individual film pages.

Roxie Priority Film Pass (priority entry to Roxie screenings on March 23-25, excluding Youth 4 German Cinema screening. No admission for special events.)
$125.00 general public.  Click here to purchase.

Virtual Programs: $12.00 per virtual program (24-hour viewing window)
Purchase Virtual Rental: Axiom | Shorts Program

Youth 4 German Cinema screening of “The Ordinaries”: By invitation only. Now at capacity.

March 7, 2023 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrity Chefs Martin Yan and Joanne Weir are front and center at the 26th Sonoma International Film Festival, March 22-26, 2023

Chef Martin Yan, 2022 James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, will be honored with the SIFF Culinary Excellence Award at the SIFF | Devour!Chefs & Shorts Dinner on Thursday, March 23, 2023.  Chef Yan will give a cooking demonstration and prepare one course for the extravaganza which features pairings of short films with gourmet courses prepared by visiting chefs, along with bountiful pours of Napa Valley wines. Photo: SIFF

The 26th Sonoma International Film Festival is just six weeks away and the culinary events lineup is out, ahead of any news about special guests, big nights and the program drop.  SIFF This year’s SIFF | Devour! Chefs & Shorts Dinner honors global television personality Chef Martin Yan on Thursday, March 23.   Chef Joanne Weir returns for her second SIFF with Joanne Weir’s Wine Country Cooking Luncheon, Saturday, March 25, where she will premiere segments from her new PBS show, “Joanne Weir’s Wine Country Cooking.”  Bringing film lovers together around a table for a sumptuous meal with free-flowing top wines and even more film is where SIFF excels—forging wonderful conversations and friendships, making the festival come alive. SIFF has just announced that its discounting of festival passes has been extended through February 28. Both culinary experiences are included with the 2023 Patron Pass and are discounted for 2023 Soiree and Cinema Passholders.

SIFF | Devour! Chefs & Shorts Dinner Honoring Chef Martin Yan, Thursday March 23, 2023

In a career spanning 40-plus years, Chef Martin Yan has connected with audiences across the world through his public television series, introducing generations of North Americans to Chinese and Asian cuisines. He has hosted over 3,500 cooking shows, authored over 30 cookbooks and founded a chain of Yan Can Restaurants and the Yan Can International Cooking School in San Francisco. I have vivid memories of watching him on PBS, slicing and dicing vegetables with impeccable precision at a rapid-fire pace and of his wonderful heart-felt enthusiasm. His message: “If Yan can cook, so can you!” 

And accolades! The James Beard Foundation recognized Yan with an award for best television cooking show in 1994, best television food journalism in 1996, and a who’s who of food and beverage in America in 2001. In 1998, he won a Daytime Emmy Award for best cooking show for “Yan Can Cook” which has aired since 1978 and is syndicated around the world making it one of the longest-running American cooking programs of all times. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation honored him again with a lifetime achievement award.

The celeb, famous for cutting up a chicken in 18 seconds, in his 70’s now, still has boundless energy and is a popular YouTube host, livestreaming his approachable recipes from his home kitchen. In 2022, it was announced he would be opening M.Y. Asia in Las Vegas, at the Horseshoe Casino and Hotel (formerly Bally’s) featuring pan-Asian cuisine. The UC Davis alum also recently made a gift to the UC Davis Library Archives and Special Collections to create the Chef Martin Yan Legacy Archive.

Chef Yan brings his unique “Yan-ergy” to the SIFF | Devour! Chefs & Shorts Dinner and will prepare a course during the event that is certain to wow attendees with cleaver action. In addition to Chef Yan, notable chefs at this year’s dinner include Michael Howell | Executive Director of Devour! The Food Film Festival and Executive Chef of the Green Turtle club, Bahamas; Emily Lim | Chef-Owner of Dabao Singapore in San Francisco; Ruby Oliveros | Executive Chef at Ram’s Gate Winery in Sonoma; and Cogir Executive Chef Ensan Wong. Participating wineries are Anaba Wines, Bee Hunter, Gloria Ferrer, Ram’s Gate Winery and Viansa. The event is SIFF’s fourth collaboration with Devour! The Food Film Fest and its founder Chef Michael Howell and Co-Director Lia Rinaldo. During the course of the evening, Yan will receive SIFF’s Culinary Excellence Award and will be the second chef to be honored by SIFF. Chef Jacques Pépin was the inaugural recipient in 2022.

“We’re excited Chef Yan is joining us for our Chef and Shorts event, and he’ll actually be cooking, which doubles the excitement,” said SIFF Artistic Director Carl Spence. “It’s wonderful to honor this world-class chef along with world-class cinema, so it’s a great pairing.”

Joanne Weir’s Wine Country Cooking Luncheon, Saturday, March 25

Chef Joanne Weir, James Beard Award-winning cookbook author, international cooking teacher, renowned chef and host of her famed PBS cooking series “Plates & Places” is about to launch a new PBS cooking series. a sneak preview of which will be shown at her SIFF luncheon. Photo: SIFF

Chef Joanne Weir is back at SIFF for a second time to showcase her new PBS show “Joanne Weir’s Wine Country Cooking” with a special lunch event on Saturday, March 25, from 11 to 1 pm. Weir began her career working at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley before moving to food travel tours and opening Sausalito’s Copita Tequileria Y Comida restaurant. She has spent some four decades writing over 20 cookbooks, teaching cooking and is a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author. She is known internationally for her TV shows such as “Joanne Weir’s Cooking Confidence” and “Joanne Weir’s Plates & Places.”   At Saturday’s luncheon, she will premiere her new PBS cooking and travel television series, paired with a three-course meal she has curated representing various Sonoma County people, places, and purveyors. One of the special treats in store for attendees is the exclusive Della Terra Olive Oil and balsamic vinegars,

“We’re are thrilled to welcome Chef Weir back to the festival,” said SIFF Executive Director Ginny Krieger. “Her energy, enthusiasm, and engagement with our audience, along with her delicious lunch, was a highlight last year. We’re so glad she’s returning to make this year even more memorable.”

“I’m so excited to be part of the Sonoma International Film Festival,” said Weir. “This event oozes creativity, artistry and fun; the energy is contagious!”

Details: SIFF26 is March 22-26, 2023. Both culinary events are at the Hanna Center, Sonoma, and both are included with the 2023 Patron Pass and are discounted for 2023 Soiree and Cinema Passholders. Non-passholder prices: SIFF | Devour! Chefs & Shorts Dinner Chefs $350; Joanne Weir’s Wine Country Cooking Luncheon $175. Buy your tickets now as both events will sell out. (The Hanna Center is roughly 4.5 miles from the town square.)

For information on passes and to buy tickets:

February 15, 2023 Posted by | Film, Food, Wine | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 45th Mill Valley Film Festival starts Thursday—what to watch

Still of M.F.K. Fisher from Gregory Bezat’s documentary, “The Art of Eating: The Life of M.F.K. Fisher,” which has its world premiere Tuesday, October 11, at MVFF. Fisher,”Mary Frances,” to her family and friends, wrote thirteen books during twenty-one years of residence in her “Last House,” in Glen Ellen which was built for her by Bouverie Preserve landowner and architect David Pleydell-Bouverie. It was there, between 1971 and 1992. that she welcomed friends such as Julia Child, James Beard, and Maya Angelou for conversations at the table. Photo: courtesy Gregory Bezat.

The forty-fifth Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF45) kicks off Thursday evening (Oct 6) with Rian Johnson’s all-new whodunnit, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” with plenty of talent on stage in conversation, followed by the always wonderful Opening Night Gala at Marin Country Mart Larkspur. Screenings start full force Friday and run for 10 days with a line-up of 145 films representing 34 countries, including 49 premieres (four of them world premieres), 74 features, and 71 shorts.  Big Nights (Spotlights/Tributes/Centerpiece/Special awards) were covered in my previous article (read it here).  Here are films from the standard line-up that stand out for their exceptional storytelling and relevance. Many of these have guests in attendance and brief engaging discussions will follow most screenings. 

ARThound’s top flicks:

“The Art of Eating: The Life of MFK Fisher,” world premiere Tuesday, Oct 11, 7pm, Smith Rafael Film Center & Thursday, October 13, 2pm, CinéArts Sequoia

M.F.K Fisher in Whittier, CA, January 4, 1938. Image: courtesy Gregory Bezat.

Steeped in beauty, Gregory Bezat’s sumptuous documentary is a must-see, exploring the life and legacy of M.F.K. Fisher (1908-1992), one of America’s most influential writers who spent the last decades of her life in the Wine Country. The film pieces together Fisher’s life over three-quarters of a century: from her upper middle-class childhood in Whittier, CA, through her marriage and move to Dijon, France, her divorce and return to the US, her remarriage and young widowhood, and her emergent role in shaping our ever-evolving relationship with what we eat and how we live. She was best known for her incisive gastronomic writings in hundreds of magazine articles and thirty-three books including “Consider the Oyster,” “How to Cook a Wolf,” “An Alphabet for Gourmets,” “Map of Another Town,” “With Bold Knife and Fork,” and “The Story of Wine in California.” When Fisher settled in Napa Valley, it was 1952, and a local food revolution was underway, with chefs and activists intent on supplanting industrialized food with a cuisine based on simple, fresh, local ingredients. Over time, she took her place as the patron saint of this new movement. With thoughtful comments by Alice Waters, Anne Lamont, Ruth Reichl, Clark Wolf, Jacques Pépin, and Michele Anna Jordan, all of whom considered her a friend, this is a finely-crafted homage to a woman whose humor and appetite for life inspired millions. The visuals are stunning: instead of a simple pastiche of old photos, the camera gazes directly at certain photos for extended periods, frequently returning to shots of her at her typewriter or to glamorous Hollywood-style shots that capture her beauty and verve—especially her miraculous eyebrows whose unruly arches were as individualistic as she was. Like the nourishing dishes that Fisher wrote about, thrown together from the bounty on hand and to suit one’s mood, I can imagine watching this film once a month forever and never growing tired of it.

¡Viva el cine!

MVFF’s ¡Viva el Cine! series has captured my heart and I’ve been a devotee for its nine years of programming. This year, it offers 11 award-winning Latin American and Spanish language feature films from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Spain, the US and Uruguay. Curated by MVFF programmer João Federici, the series’ spellbinding storytelling and special guests make it an increasingly influential forum for the exploration of Latin American and indigenous history/justice, culture and identity and an increasingly important anchor for the festival.

“Argentina, 1985” Monday, Oct 10, 6:45 pm & Tuesday, Oct 11, 11 am, both Smith Rafael Film Center.  (Santiago Mitre, 2022, Argentina/US, 140 min, Spanish with English subtitles)   

Ricardo Darín as prosecutor Julio Strassera in a still from Santiago Mitre’s “Argentina: 1985,” Argentina’s 2023 Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film.

One of the most significant legal trials in Argentina’s history is the basis for Argentinian director Santiago Mitre’s (“Paulina,” “The Summit”) riveting new feature, arriving at MVFF fresh from rave reviews at its Venice Film Festival world premiere. This compelling courtroom drama begins in 1983 when, after finally re-establishing democracy following decades of military coups, Argentine President Raúl Alfonsín authorizes prosecutors Julio Strassera (Ricardo Darín), Luis Moreno Ocampo (Peter Lanzani), and their young legal team to try nine military leaders for crimes against humanity.  It’s an enthralling high-stakes David vs. Goliath battle. The team works under constant threat and roadblocks to gain justice for those estimated 9 to 30,000 citizens who were tortured, murdered or disappeared under the terror of Argentina’s right-wing dictatorship and its ruthless silencing of political opposition. The trial was the world’s first major war crimes trial since Nuremberg in 1945-46. Through courtroom testimony — adapted from original records — Mitre lays out the harrowing wake of the last junta whose impact still resonates in the country today.  Veteran actor Ricardo Darín’s psychologically charged portrayal of the uncompromising bulldog Strassera is a sight to behold.  As a foil to the heavy intensity of the courtroom, Mitre intersperses scenes from Strassera’s family life with his kids.

“Chile 1976,” US premiere, Oct 8, 7pm & Oct 13, 2pm, both Smith Rafael Film Center (Manuela Martelli, Chile, Argentina, Qatar, 2022, 95 min, Spanish w/ English subtitles)

Aline Kuppenhiem as Carmen in a still from Manurla Martelli’s debut film, “Chile: 1976.”

Chilean director Manuela Martelli’s debut feature is set during the country’s dreaded Pinochet era (1973-1990) when the country was ruled by a military junta headed by General Augusto Pinochet,who seized power after the democratically-elected socialist government of Salvador Allende was overthrown in a U.S. backed coup d’état.  Pinochet’s systematic suppression of political parties and persecution of dissidents lead to thousands of deaths and thirty years later, the country is still reeling.  “Chile 1976” tells a powerful fictional story that delivers a sharply-focused snapshot of Chile’s sociological cosmos in this period.and that, by any stretch of the imagination, could be true. The elements are familiar to those devotees of Latin American cinema—a wealthy upper-middle class housewife, Carmen (Aline Kuppenheim) so ensconced in her cozy bourgeois lifestyle—renovating her elegant beach house—that she is unaware of what evil is transpiring in the country; an intermediary—local priest Father Sanchez (Hugo Medina); a victim—Elías (Nicolás Sepúlveda), a young fugitive from the law who has been shot and urgently needs help and a hiding place.  Hardly cliches, these components/characters are masterfully deployed by Martelli. The idrama hinges on Kuppenheim’s acting and transformation into someone suddenly shaken into political awareness, who commits to helping and, in so doing, joins the fight to end the reign of terror. 

“Holy Spider” Bay Area premiere, Tuesday, Oct 11, 4pm, Smith Rafael Film Center (Ali Abbasi, Denmark 2022, 106 min, Iranian languages with English subtitles)

Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, winner Best Actress at Cannes 2022, in a still from Ali Abbasi’s thriller, “The Spider.” Image”

An Iranian film is a rare treat at MVFF.  Here’s a Cannes winner with a storyline about a female Iranian journalist hot on the trail of a serial killer who is murdering prostitutes in one of Iran’s holiest cities.  This thriller is Iran-born, Denmark-based director Ali Abbasi’s third feature, (“Border” MVFF41, Cannes’ Un Certain Regard Award winner and Oscar nominee) and he delivers a mesmerizing cat and mouse nail-biter based on the embellished true story of Iranian serial killer Saeed Hanaei (Mehdi Bajestani). Nicknamed “Spider Killer,” he slew 16 prostitutes in 2000 and 2001 in the northeastern city of Mashad, Iran’s third largest city and a major Islamic pilgrimage site, dumping their bodies in plain sight.  After his conviction, Bajestani became a folk hero to the religious right for claiming to be on a holy mission to cleanse the city of prostitution.  Abbasi shot the film in Ahman Jordan and employs a violent murder mystery to deliver a critique of Iran’s punishing theocratic system, where women seem to always be guilty of something, even when they’re the victims of cold-blooded murder. The film takes artistic license in introducing a fictional investigative journalist from Tehran, Rahimi (Zar Amir-Ebrahimi), who won Best Actress at Cannes 2022, where the film screened in competition), who shows up in Mashad eager to solve this long-running case.  When she teams up with a local reporter (Arash Ashtiani) who is in contact with the killer, they concoct a plan to use her as an undercover sex worker to lure the killer out.  What unfolds is a mesmerizing push-pull game between journalist and killer.

“Living” CA premiere, Monday Oct 9, 7pm & Tues 10/11, 2:30pm, both CinéArts Sequoia (Director: Oliver Hermanus, UK, 2022, 102 min)

Bill Nighy in a still from Oliver Harmanus’ period drama, “Living.”

Sometimes life offers you a second chance…it’s called tomorrow.  

In Oliver Harmanus’ beautiful period drama, “Living,” English actor Bill Nighy, gives a brilliant performance as a severely repressed career bureaucrat in a public works department in 1952 England.  His robotic, joyless paper-shuffling routine has earned him the nickname “Mr. Zombie” and, indeed, he seems hardly alive. When he learns he has six months left to live, he vows to make his final days meaningful.  But how? The rift between him and his only son and daughter-in-law is so wide that even his attempts to communicate about his diagnosis fail.  It is through a fortuitous conversation with a young kind co-worker (the sparkling Aimee Lou Wood), that he finds connection and hope.  He shifts his focus to bringing happiness to others through shepherding a small public works project and, in this generous act, is able to face death with peaceful acceptance.  Adapted by Nobel prize winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, this poignant remake of Kurosawa’s 1952 masterpiece “Ikiru,” which translates as “to live” in Japanese, finds its meaning in its name and message. Nighy’s mastery of every expression as a buttoned-up person who blooms briefly but so meaningfully is thoroughly inspiring.  The production design and period costumes are Oscar worthy. 

“Tukdam: Between Worlds” North American premiere, Wednesday Oct 12, 6:30 pm and Friday, Oct 14, 5pm, both Smith Rafael Film Center (Director: Donagh Coleman, Finland, Ireland, Estonia, 2022, 91 min)

A still from “Tukdam: Between Worlds” of a commemoration ceremony, prior to cremation, at the Benchen Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal. Image: Donagh Coleman.

In what Tibetans call “tukdam,” some advanced Buddhist practitioners who meditate at the deepest level of consciousness right before death, die but their bodies do not show the usual signs of death—rigor mortis, smelling/decomposition—for days or even weeks.  They remain slightly warm around their heart area with radiant skin and complexion and in the meditation position without their trunks collapsing.  According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, consciousness is still present and they are between two worlds.  Director Donagh Coleman, who is currently working on his medical anthropology PhD at UC Berkeley, where his dissertation is on tukdam, tracks a team of forensic anthropologists at University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds. He captures interviews with Western scientists, Tibetan medical professionals, the Dalai Lama, and respected bhikkhus in the U.S. and Tibetan refugee communities in Dharamshala and Chauntra, India, and in Kathmandu Nepal. This spellbinding documentary explores current research into tukdam, in which the cessation of brain function, breathing, and heart activity, all Western indications of death, are not necessarily life’s clear-cut end but instead a pliant threshold. Applying Western science to ancient traditions and belief systems proves there is more data to be mined.  Beware:  you will see lots of corpses, some in severe decomp.


MVFF45 is October 6-16, 2021.  Tickets: purchase online and in advance as most films will sell out. Most films are $16.50 general admission, $14 CFI members.  Special events, parties, and receptions are more.  Streaming pass (for CA residents only) allows access to all online films, programs, conversations. $145 general, $105 for CFI members.  Single streaming of film or event $8 general; $6 CFI members. Complete schedule and ticket purchase:

Don’t despair if the film you want to see is “at rush.”  Check the film/program’s specific page on the MVFF website at noon on the day of the program you want to see.  Tickets may be released and available for immediate purchase online.  Rush tickets are also available 15 minutes before show time at the screening venue.  It’s first come, first serve, so join the line to wait about an hour before the screening.

Venues: Smith Rafael Film Center, San Rafael; CinéArts Sequoia, Mill Valley; Lark Theater, Larkspur; BAMPFA. Berkeley; The Roxie, San Francisco; Sweetwater Music Hall, Mill Valley; Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, San Francisco

October 4, 2022 Posted by | Film, Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 45th Mill Valley Film Festival is October 6-16: Big Nights Galore!

Following the West Coast premiere of Darren Aronofsky’s drama, “The Whale,” star Brendan Fraser, will appear in conversation and receive a MVFF acting award on Thursday, October 13 at Mill Valley’s Sequoia Theater. Frasier, the subject of Oscar buzz,  recently received a six-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival for his acting as a 600 pound gay literature teacher who is confined to a wheelchair, trying to reconnect with his 17 year-old daughter and binge-eating himself to death.  Photo: courtesy A24

The 45th Mill Valley Film Festival, October 6-16, has its pre-pandemic groove back, offering 145 films from 34 countries—49 premieres, hot tickets from Cannes, Berlin, Venice, an eclectic mix of features, documentaries, shorts, world cinema and films with a special Bay Area stamp. The festival is live, with theaters at full seating capacity, and several films and programs can be streamed from home. Tickets for non-CFI (California Film Institute ) members are on sale now and going fast.  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,” and even more meaningful if you’ve experienced an on-stage conversation.  Below, ARThound covers this year’s eight big nights and a follow-up article will cover recommendations from the standard program.


Thursday, October 6, 6 pm: Opening Night—Glass Onion: A Knives out Mystery, CinéArts Sequoia and Smith Rafael Film Center:

A scene from “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” Image: Netflix

Humor, a whodunit mystery and wonderful acting from a star-studded cast—opening night is Academy Award® and Golden Globe®-nominated filmmaker Rian Johnson’sGlass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” with talent in attendance. A follow-up to “Knives Out” (MVFF42) starring Daniel Craig as amazing sleuth Benoit Blanc, this smart Netflix mystery begins when a group of old friends all receive an unexpected invitation in the form of an intricate puzzle box.  What begins as a game however soon turns into something more nefarious as the guests arrive at their mega-rich host, Mile’s (Edward Norton) private island.  Wherever Benoit goes, murder is likely to follow.   With quick wits and aplomb, the guests are soon entangled in solving a puzzle that will reveal Benoit’s murderer.  

Enjoy an on-stage chat with the celebs in attendance—writer-director Rian Johnson, actors Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., and Kate Hudson, producer Ram Bergman. Don’t forget the optional MVFF Opening Night Gala at Marin Country Mart Larkspur celebrating the glamor of cinema with delicious local cuisine, great music and flowing spirits shared with attending special guests, filmmakers, film fans.

Saturday, October 8, 6:30 pm: Armageddon Time—Tribute to James Gray, Smith Rafael Film Center

Banks Repeta and Anthony Hopkins in a scene from “Armageddon Time.” Image: Focus Features

In “Armageddon Time,” his eighth feature film, acclaimed American director James Gray returns again to New York, this time to his childhood stomping grounds, the area between Brooklyn and Queens. He has orchestrated another brilliant character study, as well as a powerful exploration of racism, white privilege, and parenting.  The film rests on two exceptional young actors: Banks Repeta, 14, and Jaylin Webb 16.  Banks Repeta stars as Paul, a white kid living in Queens in the early 1980s, hoping to escape his parents’ working-class suburban life and become an artist.  When he befriends Johnny (Jaylin Webb), his Black public school classmate, his education in life begins; it then ratchets into high gear when he transfers to an elite private school where racism is du jour. Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong play Paul’s weary parents, with Anthony Hopkins as his astute grandfather, the one person who gets him and talks openly with him about racism, civil rights, mistreating Blacks and his own experience as a Jew.  Paul wises up, awakening to the difference between what his parents and other adults preach and what they actually do.  It’s all set against the backdrop of the soon to be Reagan-era with the appearance of some Trumps as well.

Sunday, October 9, 5 pm—Women Talking: Spotlight & Mind the Gap Ensemble Award, Smith Rafael Film Center

A still from Sarah Polley’s “Women Talking.”  L to R: Michelle McLeod stars as Mejal, Sheila McCarthy as Greta, Liv McNeil as Neitje, Jessie Buckley as Mariche, Claire Foy as Salome, Kate Hallett as Autje, Rooney Mara as Ona and Judith Ivey as Agata. Michael Gibson © 2022 Orion Releasing LLC.

With a cast that includes Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy, Ben Whishaw, and Frances McDormand (in a tiny but crucial role), Canadian director Sarah Polley has found her own version of a horrific true story from 2011, which inspired Miriam Toews’ 2018 novel of the same name. The events took place in an ultra-conservative Mennonite colony in Bolivia and involve a group of men who were convicted of drugging and serially raping over 100 women from their community. In “Women Talking,” the women hold a secret meeting to decide how to respond to being drugged and raped by the men in their sect. Their poignant daylong deliberations in the barn’s hayloft reveal the various ways that women respond to violence and the choices they can make.

Representing the ensemble, inimitable Frances McDormand will appear on stage in conversation. She has received four Academy Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards and one Tony Award, making her one of the few to achieve acting’s Triple Crown.  Thoughtful and feisty, with over four decades of acting experience, McDormand is sure to wow us.

Tuesday, October 11, 7pm—Till: Mind the Gap Centerpiece Award: Creativity and Truth, CinéArts Sequoia

(L to R) Jayln Hall as Emmett Till and Danielle Deadwyler as Mamie Till-Mobley in a scene from “Till,” directed by Chinonye Chukwu. Photo: Lynsey Weatherspoon/Orion Pictures.

“Till” is the true story of Mamie Till-Mobley (Danielle Deadwyler) and her dogged pursuit of justice for her 14-year-old son, Emmette Louis Till (Jalyn Hall) who, in 1955, was lynched while visiting his cousins in Mississippi. Writer-director Chinonye Chukwu (Clemency MVFF42) focuses the horrific story on the grief-stricken mother, a teacher, who boldly decides to seek justice for her son and whose action changes the course of history.  The cast includes Whoopi Goldberg.  Writer/director Chinonye Chukwu will appear in conversation.

Thursday, October 13, 7pm—The Whale: Tribute to Bredan Fraser, CinéArts Sequoia

To play the lead character in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale,” Brendan Fraser wore a prosthetic suit that added anywhere from 50 to 300 pounds depending on the scene. He spent up to six hours in the makeup chair each day to fully transform into his character, a 600 pound morbidly obese man.  Image: Getty

Friday, October 14, 6 pm—Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths: Spotlight on DANIEL GIMÉNEZ CACHO + Presentation of the MVFF award for Acting, Smith Rafael Film Center

Daniel Giménez Cacho in a still from Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths.”  Image: MVFF

Five time-Oscar®-winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu (“Biutiful,” MVFF33; “The Revenant”) delivers what has been called an “immersive and visually-intoxicating modern day epic” centered on Silverio (Daniel Giménez Cacho), a renowned Mexican journalist and documentary filmmaker living in Los Angeles who returns to Mexico after being named the recipient of an prestigious award.  Silverio is unaware of the impact this trip will have on his psyche and each of his days in his homeland brings profound hallucinogenic revelations about his identity and what it means to be human.  My first experience of Spanish born Mexican actor Daniel Giménez Cacho was in Argentine director Lucretia Martel’s period drama, “Zama” (2017), where he gave a captivating performance as a magistrate in a remote outpost in 18th century Argentina.  This multiple Ariel award winner is best known in the US for portraying Tito the coroner in “Cronos” (1993).

Saturday, October 15, 6pm—Nanny: Spotlight on Nikyatu Jusu, CinéArts Sequoia

Ana Diop is Senaglaise nanny Aisha in Nikyatu’s drama “The Nanny,” an intense immigrant story inflicted with supernatural horror elements. Image: MVFF

Sierra Leonean-American filmmaker Nikyatu Jusu’s debut feature drama, “The Nanny,” premiered at Sundance and is the first horror film to win the grand jury prize. Ana Diop plays Senaglaise immigrant nanny, Aisha, who is living in New York and lands a job as a nanny caring for Rose (Rose Decker) the young daughter of affluent Amy (Michelle Monaghan) and Adam (Morgan Spector). Aisha is working to provide a better life for her six-year-old son, Lamine, who she left in Senegal and hopes to bring to the US. Just as she gains confidence that things will work out, she experiences a haunting presence in the couple’s home as figures from West African folklorewater deity Mami Wata and Anansi the Spidercome to life. Increasingly freaked out, she struggles to distinguish dreams from reality and to find balance between her two worlds. DP Rina Yang’s dynamic cinematography brings these eerie visions to life. Both Director Nikyatu Jusu and actor Ana Diop will appear on stage in conversation.

Saturday, October 15, 7 pm—Spotlight on Noah Baumbach: White Noise + Presentation of the MVFF Award for Screenwriting

Adam Driver in a scene from Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise.” Image: MVFF

Writer director producer Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise,” the film version of Don DeLillo’s 1985 National Book Award-winning novel of the same name, was the opening night film at Venice Film Festival. MVFF is honoring Baumbach with a special screenwriting award. This is his first film since his acclaimed “Marriage Story” (MVFF42 Ensemble Award) and he’s been a MVFF regular over the years—“The Squid and the Whale” (MVFF28) and “Margot at the Wedding” (MVFF30).  The film follows DeLillo’s plot closely with brilliantly punctuated scenes from its star cast. Jack (Adam Driver) is a star professor at a Midwestern college, who pioneered the field of Hitler studies. He and his fourth wife Babette (Greta Gerwig) share four ultra-modern children from their various marriages in a happy household. Don Cheadle adds a striking supporting twist as Murray, a professor starting a new field of Elvis studies with whom Jack shares kinship and friendly rivalry. Things begin to unravel as a toxic cloud drifts into their environs, prompting mass evacuation and giving voice to existential fears.


MVFF45 is October 6-16, 2021.  Tickets: purchase online and in advance as most films will sell out. Most films are $16.50 general admission, $14 CFI members.  Special events, parties, and receptions are more.  Streaming pass (for CA residents only) allows access to all online films, programs, conversations. $145 general, $105 for CFI members.  Single streaming of film or event $8 general; $6 CFI members. Complete schedule and ticket purchase:

Sold out? Don’t Despair: Check the film/program’s specific page on the MVFF website at noon on the day of the program you want to see. Tickets may be released and available for immediate purchase online. Also, there are always rush tickets available 15 minutes before showtime at the screening venue. It’s first come, first serve, so join the line to wait about an hour before the screening.

Venues: Smith Rafael Film Center, San Rafael; CinéArts Sequoia, Mill Valley; Lark Theater, Larkspur; BAMPFA. Berkeley; The Roxie, San Francisco; Sweetwater Music Hall, Mill Valley; Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, San Francisco

September 25, 2022 Posted by | Film, Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stream the 42nd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival August 1-7

Israeli director Chanoch Ze’evi’s documentary “Bad Nazi, Good Nazi,” in its North American premiere, explores a fascinating dilemma unfolding in Thalau, Germany where the community is split over building a public monument to honor one of its own citizens, German army officer Wilm Hosenfeld (1895-1952), a “good” Nazi.  Hosenfeld, the subject of Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist,” intervened to save Polish pianist Władysław Szpilman during the Holocaust, as well as some 60 other Poles and Jews during the latter part of WWII.  Originally a school teacher in Thalau, Hosenfeld joined the German army by choice and witnessed the Hitler regime’s increasingly heinous acts first hand. Sickened by what he was a part of, he risked his and his family’s lives to do the right thing and help save Jews and to chronicle the genocide he observed in diaries which he smuggled out in laundry.  Some citizens feel his acts should be memorialized while others question the message a public monument commemorating a Nazi sends. At the heart of the film is the burning discomfort Germany still has with reconciling its history and how that discomfort can be harnessed for educating and healing.

SFJFF42, presented live in Bay Area theaters July 21-31, has come to a close but 17 films and programs are available to stream at home through August 7.  In addition to new and returning feature films, there is a new documentary shorts program, Jews in Shorts, and a free panel discussion with filmmakers, Intimate Partners , on the ethics, challenges, and joys of centering family in non-fiction storytelling.  Films and programs are $11 each, $10 for seniors and students; all access streaming pass is $95.  There is a 72 hour watch window from the time the film is first accessed and all content is geo-blocked to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Another wonderful and free streaming option for this week only is the Goethe-Institut’s online series, “New Directions: 20 Years of Young German Cinema” which features 20 German gems. All that is required for streaming is creating a Goethe-Institut account.


August 1, 2022 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Francisco Silent Film Festival is back at the Castro May 5-11: Sunday offers two rare films

The stunning Seeta Devi as Gopa, Gautama’s wife, in a scene from Franz Osten and Himanshu Rai’s 1925 Indo-European co-production,“Prem Sanyas” (“The Light of Asia”). Adapted from Edwin Arnold’s 1879 narrative poem, The Light of Asia, the film tells the story of Prince Siddhartha Gautama (Himansu Rai), who became the Buddha or Enlightened one, tracing his journey from privilege and seclusion to awareness of the inevitability of life’s suffering, finally renouncing his kingdom to seek enlightenment. Seeta Devi and Himanshu Rai made their last on screen appearance at SFSFF23 in 2018 in “A Throw of Dice” (1929) which was inspired by one of India’s masterworks, the Sanskrit poem The Mahabarata, “Prem Sanyas” was made with the cooperation of the Maharajah of Jaipur and contained a cast of thousands. Shooting took place in Lahore, now Pakistan, where the set decoration was created by Devika Rani, Himanshu Rai’s wife. Heady mythological subject matter is balanced with realistic glimpses of contemporary (1925) Indian landscape and people. The opening shots accompany a group of European tourists as they wind their way through the bazaars and other exotica of the streets of Bombay City until they encounter a bearded old man who begins to recount a tale, told in flashback, of the young Prince Gautama, and how he came to be called Lord Buddha. Osten, the company that was formed to make this film, eventually evolved into Bombay Talkies, one of the largest colonial era film studios in India. Live music by Club Foot Hindustani featuring Pandit Krishna Bhatt. 97 min, screens Sunday, May 8, 1:30 p.m.

After a two-year pandemic pause, the 25th edition of San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) has just launched, and runs May 5-11 at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre with 29 programs featuring silent films from 14 countries, all accompanied by live music. The largest silent film in the Americas, SFSFF has also garnered a reputation for some of the finest musical accompaniment to be found. If you’ve never experienced a silent film the way it was meant to be seen—on the big screen, with the correct speed and formatting and with riveting live music—it’s high time! Silent film might just be the experience you’ve been waiting for. In addition to screening silent films, SFSFF is part of a global network dedicated to finding, saving, and restoring silent film heritage and restoration stories themselves are front and center at the festival. This year’s festival includes 19 recent film restorations, nine of which will have their North American premiere. Seven restorations have been undertaken by the SFSFF. ARThound especially recommends the Sunday afternoon program for its content and for those planing to drive into San Francisco and park. Early Sunday afternoon traffic coming into San Francisco is light and parking is free on Sundays in the Castro district. Allow yourself ample time to get to the theater; once you’re there, settle in for a wonderful experience.

A scene from Ukrainian director Heorhii Tasin’s “Arrest Warrant” (1926) This briskly-paced gem tells the story of Nadia (Vira Vareckaja), whose husband, Sergei, Chairman of the revolutionary committee, flees the city in the midst of civil war, leaving her behind as a communications agent with a cache of secret documents. Expressionist effects, at times riveting and then distressing, highlight Nadia’s psychological torture at the hands of the White Army. Live music: Sascha Jacobsen Quintet, which will include Ukrainian melodies in the score. This program is a benefit screening. Proceeds will be donated to World Central Kitchen which is feeding wqr refugees and Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre in Kyiv, Ukraine, an archive which preserves and promotes national film heritage in Ukraine. 81 min, Screens: Sunday, May 8, 4:30 p.m.

Details: The 25th San Francisco Silent Film Festival is May 5 -11 at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre. GA Tickets $18; $16 for SFSFF members. Tickets, schedule, information about performing musicians:

May 6, 2022 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 65th SFFILM Festival is April 21-May 1: the program is online now and non-member tickets go on sale April 1

In celebration of the centennial anniversaries of SF Opera and the Castro Theatre, the 65th SFFILM Festival will offer a free community screening of John Else’s new documentary, “Land of Gold” (2021), that brings to life John Adams’ opera, “Girls of the Golden West,” which premiered at SFOpera in 2017, with libretto by Peter Sellars.  The revisionist opera is set in the days of the California Gold Rush, reworking poetic fantasies of striking it rich in the land of gold.  The documentary features the mesmerizing soprano Julia Bullock, along with John Adams, Paul Appleby, and the Kai brothers.  The free screening will be preceded by a performance by SFO’s Adler Fellows, an elite multi-year residency for opera’s most promising young artists.  Director John Else in attendance. Adler performance is Thursday, April 28, at 7:30 pm at the Castro; film screens at 7:45p.m.  Reserve free tickets now for SFFILM members and April 1 for general public.  Image: SFFILM

The legendary actress, Michelle Yeoh—star of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” “Supercop,” “Tomorrow Never Dies,” “The Lady,” “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” and many other films—will receive a special SFFILM tribute, hosted by Sandra Oh on Friday, April 29th, 6:00 pm CastroIn conjunction with the tribute, SFFILM is screening Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000), Monday April 25, 7pm, at the Castro.   Who can forget the thrilling martial arts battles between nimble warriors Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat as they battled Ziyi Zhang to recover a powerful 400 year old sword, literally flying across the red-tiled roofs of their ancestral Chinese village.  Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture, it won four Oscars, including Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Score. Those who purchase a ticket to the film will receive a discount on the tribute.  Image: Thomas Laisne/Getty Images, Courtesy SFFILM)

The 65th SFFILM festival: 130 films (58 features, 5 mid-length films and 67 shorts), 56 countries, 16 world premieres. Fifty-six percent of the films are directed by female or non-binary filmmakers and 52 percent directed by BIPOC filmmakers.  Screenings will take place at venues across the Bay Area, including the Castro Theatre, Roxie Cinema, Victoria Theatre, Vogue Theatre, and UC Berkeley’s BAMPFA.

Full schedule, tickets for the 65th SFFILM Festival:

SFFILM member tickets on sale now; non-member tickets on sale, Friday, April 1, 10 a.m.

March 30, 2022 Posted by | Film, Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 19th San Francisco Greek Film Festival is April 8-16 at Delancey Street Cinema and online

A scene from Katiana Zachariou’s short film, “Betrayal” (2019), a coming of age story filmed in Cyprus,  about a daughter coming to terms with her father’s fall from grace.  Short-listed for the Cannes Lions Young Director Award in 2020. Image: SFGFF

Showcasing a selection of films from the Greek and Cypriot worlds, the 19th San Francisco Greek Film Festival (SFGFF) is April 8-16, offering nine days of in-person screenings at Delancey Screening Room in San Francisco and continuing its very popular virtual screenings.  From a pool of 350 submissions, the festival team selected 9 features and 17 shorts for this year’s in person festival and 14 shorts, 11 documentaries, and 3 feature narrative films for the virtual program.  Festival program information and tickets will be available shortly at  This festival is very popular with the Bay Area’s Greek community and it’s essential to purchase tickets or passes as soon as the program is announced.

A still from the acclaimed Greek documentary series, “Alphabet – Common Code,” which traces the course of the Greek alphabet over centuries. Photo: SFGFF

San Francisco Greek Film Festival

WHAT: 2022 San Francisco Greek Film Festival – 19th annual

WHEN: April 8-16, 2022

WHERE: Delancey Screening Room, 600 The Embarcadero, San Francisco, and online

COST: $15 general in person screenings / $40 for April 8 & 16 (opening & closing nights) including reception / $170 for festival pass for all in person screenings / $40 virtual pass for all online programs

LANGUAGE: Films in Greek or other non-English languages are subtitled in English


March 26, 2022 Posted by | Film | , , , | Leave a comment