ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

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.

Details:

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: https://www.mvff.com/.

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.

BIG NIGHTS:

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.

Details:

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: https://www.mvff.com/.

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: https://silentfilm.org/

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: https://sffilm.org/

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 grfilm.com.  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

MORE INFO: grfilm.com and facebook.com/SFGreekFilmFest

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

DocLands is around the corner: early bird passes on sale through April 7

Firouzeh Khosrovani’s prize-winning documentary, ‘Radiograph of a Family” (2020), screened at DocLands 2021.  Khosrovani imaginatively captured the tensions in her parents’ unusual marriage over 50 years as a mirror for Iran’s turbulent history.  Her father, Hossein, a radiologist, is secular and sophisticated, while his young bride Tayi is a devout Muslim who is shocked by her new husband’s Western tastes.  Image: Antipode

Each spring, CFI (California Film Institute) brings awe-inspiring true-life stories to the Bay Area with its Doclands Documentary Film Festival held at the Smith Rafael Film Center.  Last year’s festival presented 42 illuminating films, including award-winning feature-length docs and shorts. This year’s festival is May 5-11, at the Smith Rafael Film Center and the full program will be announced shortly.  Early bird passes are on sale now at a substantial discount through April 7.  On sale: In-theater 6-Packs (6 films–$59 CFI members; $89 General Public) and Online Festival Passes (CA residents only), which allow full access to the festival’s online program of 20+ films and additional viewer content including interviews and Q&A’s. Some films have restricted streaming capacity and may sell-out.  

March 24, 2022 Posted by | Film | , , , , | Leave a comment

The 25th Sonoma International Film Festival will honor Jacqueline Bisset and screen her new film, “Loren and Rose,” Friday, March 25

Jacqueline Bisset, Golden Globe winner, who has appeared in over 50 films, will receive SIFF’s Cinematic Excellence Award on Friday, March 25. The special program includes the Northern CA premiere of her newest film, “Loren and Rose,” and an on-stage Q & A with Bisset and director Russell Brown.  Photo: GUILLAUME COLLET/SIPA/Shutterstock

SIFF (Sonoma International Film Festival), hasn’t yet released the full programming for its special 25th anniversary edition, March 23-27, but it’s started dropping announcements like well-paced hors’d ouvers. Its latest delectable—Jacqueline Bisset will be honored with the festival’s Cinematic Excellence Award on Friday, March 25, at the historic Sebastiani Theatre on Sonoma’s plaza.  The award celebrates Bisset’s five plus decades of cinematic achievement and will be presented following a special screening of Bisset’s new feature film, “Loren and Rose,” and an on-stage Q&A with Bisset and director Russell Brown.

“I am thrilled to be seeing Loren & Rose in this environment after such difficult years of waiting for genuine cinema screens. Thank you to SIFF for this recognition,” said the legendary star of “The Deep” and “Day for Night”.

A truly international film star, the British-born Bisset has undertaken a diverse range of dramatic and comedic challenges in the more than 50 films in which she has appeared, winning raves from critics and fans alike. She has worked consistently since her debut nearly 60 years ago as an extra in “The Knack and How to Get it.” Her 2014 Golden Globe for her supporting role in the acclaimed BBC mini-series “Dancing On The Edge” reflected acting skills honed through collaborations with some of our era’s greatest directors. Bisset’s career includes roles in John Huston’s “Casino Royale,” Peter Yates’ “Bullitt,” George Seaton’s “Airport,” François Truffaut’s Day for Night,” Sidney Lumet’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” Peter Yates’ “The Deep,” J. Lee Thompson’s “The Greek Tycoon,” and George Cukor’s “Rich and Famous”. Over the expanse of her career, she has appeared in more than 100 films and television shows and has been nominated for a Golden Globe five times. In 2010, she was awarded France’s Legion of Honor. Based in Los Angeles, Bisset divides her time between America and Europe.

“We are honored to present international film star Jacqueline Bisset with the SIFF Cinematic Excellence Award during our historic 25th festival,” said SIFF Artistic Director Kevin W. McNeely. “She has lit up the screen from the moment she appeared in some of the most memorable films of our collective conscience, and continues to do so to this day.”

Jacqueline Bisset stars in director, writer, producer Russell Brown’s latest feature drama “Loren and Rose,” in which a single meal frames the story of an indelible bond forged between Loren, a promising young filmmaker (Kelly Blatz), and Rose, an iconic actress (Bisset) looking to reinvigorate her career.  

SIFF prides itself on its poignant dramas, many of which weave food and wine into the story. “Lauren and Rose” is set around a pivotal lunch from which a friendship develops between two women whose love of art, understanding of grief, and faith in life guide them through personal and creative
hardships. I can’t wait to see Bisset on screen again…her acting is real, so vital, inviting you inside her characters. She is often quoted for saying: “There is an eternal humanity that crosses through all people, and it’s more interesting often when it’s about struggle – not people with champagne glasses.” (Screens Friday, March 25 at 6PM at the Sebastiani Theatre and Saturday, March 26 at 11:30 AM at Vintage House. Both screenings include Q&A’s with Bisset and Brown. Bisset will receive the SIFF Cinematic Excellence Award after the Q&A on Friday, March 25.)

SIFF Culinary Events: Beloved chefs Jacques Pépin and Joanne Weir, who are best known for their PBS television shows, will also be at SIFF to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Tickets to these sumptuous events are going fast and were first offered to SIFF passholders. Don’t dally in purchasing.

Chef Pépin will attend SIFF Thursday, March 24 to receive the first SIFF Culinary Excellence Award and a $10,000 donation to the Jacques Pépin Foundation during its highly anticipated SIFF | Devour! Chefs & Shorts Culinary Event Honoring Chef Jacques Pépin. This is the third collaboration between SIFF and Devour! The Film Food Fest. The evening includes a five-course dinner from five prominent chefs who will each prepare one course that will be paired with a food short film and wine. Participating are: Ken Frank (La Toque), Michael Howell (Devour!), Roland Passot (La Folie, Left Bank), Seadon Shouse (Timber Cove Resort) and Ari Weiswasser (Glen Ellen Star). Wines: Anaba, Bee Hunter, Breathless (Sparkling Brut), Chateau St. Jean (Cinq Cépages), and Viansa.

Chef Joanne Weir will host a special Plates & Places Lunch on Friday, March 25, at the festival’s Backlot tent, during which she will share segments from her PBS show, “Plates & Places,” filmed on location, to bring the flavors of Spain, Morocco, and Greece to diners’ plates, along with wonderful wines and Thomas Adams Chocolates.

Details: The 25th Sonoma International Film Festival starts Wednesday, March 23 and runs through Sunday, March 27, 2022.  Buy discounted passes and tickets to special culinary events at sonomafilmfest.org

February 13, 2022 Posted by | Film, Food, Wine | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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 | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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