ART hound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

Straight from the designer’s mouth─Charles Renfro discusses the new BAM/PFA building opening January 31, 2016

ARThound was delighted to attend Charles Renfro’s talk today to a full house at Berkeley’s First Congregational Church which covered the conception and design of the new BAMPFA, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives.  The new space opens this Sunday, January 31, 2016.  Renfro is partner at New York interdisciplinary design studio, Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) and lead partner for his firm’s participation in the $112 million five-year long project which has transformed a 1939 printing plant on Berkeley’s Center Street into a multi-layered museum complex boasting gentle curves and a haute steel skin that catches the light and casts intricate shadows.  Renfro spoke about the new BAMPFA in the context of the firm’s numerous global projects and resonances with the inaugural exhibition,  Architecture of Life, which explores the ways that architecture—as concept, metaphor, and practice—illuminates aspects of life experience.

It’s always fascinating to hear artists and designers talk about their work.  Renfro scattered his talk with fascinating references to the principles (risk-taking, generosity) that excite him and that DS+R aims to impart in their projects and a great deal of his personality comes through in the clip I’ve posted.  I haven’t had a chance to tour the museum yet; that comes later in the week, so I’ll save my comments on the inner core until I’ve had an intimate encounter.  Here’s Renfro.

More free talks:  A series of free Wednesday noon lectures “Perspectives on the Architecture of Life” will be held through April 20 at the new BAMPFA Theatre.  These two hour sessions (roughly one hour lecture and Q&A) include a variety of wonderful guest artists, curators, and scholars covering fascinating topics under the themes of exhibitions and performance; performance and place; and place and nature.  For more information, visit http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu/program/perspectives-architecture-life.

Project overview: The BAMPFA project repurposes the Art Deco–style former UC Berkeley Printing Plant at the corner of Center and Oxford Streets in downtown Berkeley, and integrates it with an entirely new modern stainless-steel-clad structure. At roughly 83,000-square-foot, the building features serene spaces for experiencing art and film, including 25,000 square feet of gallery space, two film theaters, a multipurpose performance space, four study centers for art and film, a reading room, an art-making lab, and an external LED screen and plaza for outdoor film screenings.

Architecture of Life, January 31–May 29, 2016: BAMPFA’s inaugural exhibition in the new building is Architecture of Life, which explores the ways that architecture—as concept, metaphor, and practice—illuminates aspects of life experience.  With an international selection of over 250 works of art, architectural drawings and models, and scientific illustrations made over the past two thousand years, the exhibit will occupy all of the gallery spaces in the new BAMPFA.

Details: BAMPFA is located at 2155 Center Street, Berkeley, 94704.  The official opening is January 31,2016.  Visit the website http://bampfa.org/visit  for information on special programming associated with the opening of the museum and film programming.

 

 

January 27, 2016 Posted by | Berkeley Art Museum, Film | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 20th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival─showcasing German language film and more─ starts Thursday, January 14, at the Castro

The 20th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, January 14-20, 2016, celebrates the on-going career achievement of Berliner Tom Schilling by honoring him with a Spotlight Award in Acting, and screening two of his most recent sensations: the blockbuster thriller “Who Am I - No System is Safe” (2014) on Opening Night and the 6-time German Film Award winner, the wry comedy, A Coffee in Berlin (Oh Boy)(2012 on Saturday, January 16, 2016. Image: Berlin & Beyond

The 20th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, January 14-20, 2016, celebrates the ongoing career achievement of Berliner Tom Schilling by honoring him with a Spotlight Award in Acting and screening two of his most recent sensations: the blockbuster thriller “Who Am I – No System is Safe” (2014) on Opening Night and the 6-time German Film Award winner, the wry comedy, “A Coffee in Berlin” (Oh Boy) (2012) on Saturday, January 16, 2016. Image: Berlin & Beyond

The Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, America’s largest festival of new cinema from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and beyond, kicks off Thursday evening, January 14 at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre.  The festival celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with an impressive line-up of 24 features, documentaries and shorts, some very special tributes and what promises to be a dazzling closing night fusion of silent film and music.  The focus of the festival is German language cinema but it’s the exceptional storytelling, intense drama and highly cinematic nature of the films, and the complete abandonment of Hollywood special effects, that make Berlin & Beyond such a stand-out.  Also, this fest is a must-do for cinephiles in the German-speaking community and there’s something undeniably special about hearing crisp German spoken all around the theatre.  B & B rolls out in three venues this year:  the Castro Theatre from Thursday-Sunday which has awards, special guests and parties; the Goethe-Institut, San Francisco, from Monday-Wednesday (Jan 18-20, 2016) and on Sunday, January 31, 2016 at Pacific’s Janet Leigh Theatre in Stockton.

It all begins Thursday evening at 6 PM with an Opening Night Party at the Castro Theatre mezzanine that will include appetizers and drinks and many special friends of the festival who have been involved over the years.  At 8 PM, the festival officially starts with a celebration of Berliner Tom Schilling who will be honored with the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival’s Spotlight Award in Acting.  Afterwards, Baran bo Odar’s blockbuster thriller Who Am I – No System is Safe (105 min, 2014) screens.  Schilling plays Ben, a computer geek who catches the eye of a radical group that wants to use his phenomenal hacking skills to overturn the system.  He joins their group and their edgy lifestyle quickly loses its appeal when he becomes a wanted man.  The film fuses high-stakes information age intrigue with the age-old search for identity and belonging.  The evening includes a Q&A with Schilling.  His impressive performance in Peter Sehr and Marie Noëlle’s period drama Ludwig II (2012), the centerpiece film at Berlin & Beyond 2014, will undoubtedly also be discussed.

Coffee in Berlin

Thomas Schilling in a scene from Jan Ole Gerster’s “A Coffee in Berlin” (Oh Boy) (2012)

 

On Saturday at 9:30 PM, Schilling stars in the 6-time German Film Award winner A Coffee in Berlin (Oh Boy) (86 min, 2012).  For a debut-feature, writer-director Jan Ole Gerster got everything darn near perfect in this comedic portrait of prolonged adolescence, a plight that, sadly, seems global.  The film, shot in black and white, unfolds in a day-in-the-life manner.  Schilling plays Nikko, an apathetic twentysomething who has quit law school but neglected to tell his dad, who continues to pay his living expenses under the assumption he’s a student.  As Nikko searches for a place to get a cup of coffee, Gerster draws us in to a world that is insanely frustrating to those who keep schedules and live by standards of accountability.  Obtuse Nikko skates along, falters, has insane interactions with nearly everyone he encounters and, oddly, we find ourselves fully engaged and desperately wondering about that coffee.

The Castro Theatre segment closes on Sunday with a restored version of Walther Ruttman’s 1927 silent documentary Berlin: Symphony of a Great City  with live music created and performed by the Berlin-based band ALP, a Berlin band that “mixes rock band dynamics, improvisation and laptop electronics.” Ruttman, a pioneer of modern multimedia art, was influenced heavily by the Russians, especially the montage theories of Dziga Vertov.  Ruttman’s visual poem, in conjunction with ALP’s innovative rhythm, will take people back to a bygone era and capture a full day, from morning to midnight, in this bustling metropolis.

 

A scene from Walther Ruttman’s 1927 silent film “Berlin, Symphony of a Great City” which screens Sunday, January 17, 2016 at the 20th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. The festival celebrates its 20th anniversary with a restored version of this film fused with music created by the Berlin-based band ALP. Ruttman, a pioneer of modern multimedia art, was influenced by the Russians, especially the montage theories of Dziga Vertov. His visual poem, in conjunction with ALP’s innovative rhythm, will take people back to a bygone era and capture a full day, from morning to midnight, in this bustling metropolis. Image: courtesy Berlin & Beyond

A scene from Walther Ruttman’s 1927 silent film “Berlin, Symphony of a Great City. ” Berlin & Beyond celebrates its 20th anniversary with a restored version of this film with live music created and performed by the Berlin-based band ALP. Image: courtesy Berlin & Beyond

Daniel Carsenly’s “After Spring Comes Fall” (2015) has its North American premiere at the 20th Berlin & Beyond.  Mina (Halima Ilter), a young Kurdish woman flees Syria after her neighborhood is stormed by the military and her husband is badly injured.  As she starts a new life in Berlin, she works illegally and sends money to her family in Syria to pay for husband’s mounting medical expenses.  The Syrian Security Service traces her transactions and finds her. Through intimidation and threats of violence, they force her to work as an informant.  Over time, Mina gains the trust of the Syrian opposition and uses this to relay information on the Syrian Resistance to her handlers.  Screens: Saturday, January 16, 4 PM, Castro Theatre

Daniel Carsenly’s “After Spring Comes Fall” (2015) has its North American premiere at the 20th Berlin & Beyond. Mina (Halima Ilter), a young Kurdish woman flees Syria after her neighborhood is stormed by the military and her husband is badly injured. As she starts a new life in Berlin, she works illegally and sends money to her family in Syria to pay for husband’s mounting medical expenses. The Syrian Security Service traces her transactions and finds her. Through intimidation and threats of violence, they force her to work as an informant. Over time, Mina gains the trust of the Syrian opposition and uses this to relay information on the Syrian Resistance to her handlers. Screens: Saturday, January 16, 4 PM, Castro Theatre

A scene from Iraqi filmmaker Samir’s 3D documentary epic “Iraqi Odyssey 3D” (2014), Switzerland’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. Tracing the emigrations of his Iraqi family for more than half a century, the expatriate director, who lives in Switzerland, creates a vital portrait of the impact of Iraq’s tragic history on one large middle class family that has been uprooted and scattered all over the world. 163 minutes. In Arabic, English, German with English subtitles. Screens: Sunday, January 17, 2016 at 1 PM

A scene from Iraqi filmmaker Samir’s 3D documentary epic “Iraqi Odyssey 3D” (2014), Switzerland’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. Tracing the emigrations of his Iraqi family for more than half a century, the expatriate director, who lives in Switzerland, creates a vital portrait of the impact of Iraq’s tragic history on one large middle class family that has been uprooted and scattered all over the world. 163 minutes. In Arabic, English, German with English subtitles. Screens: Sunday, January 17, 2016 at 1 PM

Details: The 20th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival is January 14-16, 2016 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street, San Francisco and January 17-20 at the Goethe-Institut, 530 Bush Street, San Francisco. Tickets: $11 to $15 per screening and there are also passes that offer discounts on multiple screenings and parties.  For more information and tickets: www.berlinbeyond.com

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 7th Petaluma International Film Festival starts Friday, October 16, and offers a weekend of really diverse world cinema

Petaluma filmmaker A.D. Freese’s “Bastards y Diablos” (2015) has its Northern CA premiere and screens twice at PIFF 7. Freese will be in attendance. The story follows two half brothers, Ed and Dion, who travel to Bogotá to fulfill the wishes in their recently deceased father’s will, only to find a mysterious set of instructions sending them on an unexpected journey all over Colombia. Accompanying them on this quest is their unconventional father’s spirit, linking his own formative journeys as a young man with his sons’ present day adventures. Amid the mystical splendor of Colombia, Ed and Dion experience the brotherhood they missed out on growing up. (Screens: Friday, October 16, 6:15 PM and Sunday, October 17, 8:15 PM) image: PIFF

Petaluma filmmaker A.D. Freese’s “Bastards y Diablos” (2015) has its Northern CA premiere and screens twice at the 7th Petaluma International Film Festival, October 16-18, 2015. Freese will be in attendance for audience q & A’s after each screening. The story follows two half brothers, Ed and Dion, who travel to Bogotá to fulfill the wishes in their recently deceased father’s will, only to find a mysterious set of instructions sending them on an unexpected journey all over Colombia. Accompanying them on this quest is their unconventional father’s spirit, linking his own formative journeys as a young man with his sons’ present day adventures. Amid the mystical splendor of Colombia, Ed and Dion experience the brotherhood they missed out on growing up. Screens: Friday, October 16, 6:15 PM and Sunday, October 17, 8:15 PM. image: PIFF

When did you last see a film from Burkina Faso, Cuba, Ethiopia, Kyrgyzstan or Macedonia?  With 35 independent films from 18 countries, the 7th Annual Petaluma International Film Festival (PIFF7) offers a line-up that covers these and other remote corners of the globe, along with films from more familiar places, including Petaluma.  This year’s festival is Friday through Sunday at Petaluma’s Boulevard 14 Cinemas, and offers 16 full-length films, 19 shorts and the popular Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase with several filmmakers in attendance.  There’s also a new feature film from Petaluma’s director A.D. Freese, Bastards y Diablos, which has its Northern CA premiere at PIFF.

Organized by Saeed Shafa, who founded the popular annual Tiburon International Film Festival  in 2002, PIFF was created to support new indie filmmakers, great storytelling and international points of view.  Since most filmmakers start their careers out by creating a short film, Shafa has purposely paired all the feature-length films with at least one short film to demonstrate to the audience that short stories can be highly effective and so can new filmmakers.

Benjamin Meyer's debut feature film

Benjamin Meyer’s debut feature film “Fools” won the Audience Award at June’s Dances with Wolves Festival in Hollywood. It has its Northern CA premiere at the 7th Petaluma International Film Festival on Friday, October 16. The romantic drama was filmed in Chicago and is about two strangers who start a romantic relationship in a highly unconventional way–they brush hands on a crowded commuter train and a week later, without exchanging a word, they move in together. image: David Roberson PR

Friday’s Opening film:

Mumbai artist Sheikh Rehman is literally the last artist in Mumbai who is still painting movie banners by hand. And what colors and action they employ. Rehmen is the subject of German filmmakers Florian Heinzen-Ziob & Georg Heinzen’s documentary “Original Copy” (2015) which is a love letter to a lost art and a man lost in art.

Mumbai artist Sheikh Rehman is literally the last artist in Mumbai who is still painting movie banners by hand. And what colors and action they employ. Rehmen is the subject of German filmmakers Florian Heinzen-Ziob & Georg Heinzen’s documentary “Original Copy” (2015) which is a love letter to a lost art and a man lost in art.

The festival kicks off at noon on Friday with German filmmakers’ Florian Heinzen-Ziob & Georg Heinzen’s documentary Original Copy (2015, Germany), a delightful ode to Mumbai artist Sheikh Rehman who lovingly creates one-of-a-kind hand-painted film posters for an old movie palace in Mumbai.  Romanian director Andra Tévy’s 17 minute short The Wall (Mur, 2014) will also open the festival.  PIFF offers six screenings daily, running from noon till just before midnight.

Sunday’s Closing film:

The festival closes with a Sunday 10:15 PM screening of American director Tim French’s crime drama Intersection (2015) about a troubled man who is haunted by the circumstances of his daughter’s death in a car crash and returns to the small town where she died. Screening with this is Italian director Francesco Gabriele’s comedy, Italian Miracle (2015), a 9 minute short which screened at Cannes this year and is set in rural Italy where a young man is called upon to translate an English speaking woman’s confession to the local priest.

Saturday’s Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase:

Santa Rosa filmmaker John Harden’s 16 minute short, “New” (2014) screens in Saturday’s Sonoma Filmmaker’s Showcase. The story follows an elderly couple who are cryonically preserved at the time of their deaths in the hope that future medical technology will restore them to life. It works! They awake, totally restored, centuries later to face the joys and challenges of a second life in the distant future. Harden’s previous short, “La vie d'un chien” (“The Life of a Dog”), screened at top-tier festivals around the world and at MOMA as part of their New Directors/New Films series. It garnered numerous awards, including Best Narrative Short in the 2005 Los Angeles Film Festival. His screenplay, “The Sensitivity Program” (co-authored with Skot Christopherson) was chosen as Best Feature Screenplay (Science Fiction Category) in the Austin Film Festival competition, beating out over 700 other scripts in the category. Image: John Harden

Santa Rosa filmmaker John Harden’s 16 minute short, “New” (2014) screens in Saturday’s Sonoma Filmmaker’s Showcase. The story follows an elderly couple who are cryonically preserved at the time of their deaths in the hope that future medical technology will restore them to life. It works! They awake, totally restored, centuries later to face the joys and challenges of a second life in the distant future. Harden’s previous short, “La vie d’un chien” (“The Life of a Dog”), screened at top-tier festivals around the world and at MOMA as part of their New Directors/New Films series. It garnered numerous awards, including Best Narrative Short in the 2005 Los Angeles Film Festival. His screenplay, “The Sensitivity Program” (co-authored with Skot Christopherson) was chosen as Best Feature Screenplay (Science Fiction Category) in the Austin Film Festival competition, beating out over 700 other scripts in the category. Image: John Harden

Now in its third year, the Sonoma Filmmakers Showcase, Saturday at 6 PM, will screen four shorts from local filmmakers, recognizing our community’s rich and diverse talent.  All the filmmakers will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A.  On the program—Bill Chayes’ Metal Man (2014, 37 min). John Harden’s New (2014, 16 min), Janna Ji Wonders’ I Remember (2015, 30 min), and Quinn Fujii’s Nashville Yacht Club (2015, 10 min).

There are three Cuban films at PIFF 7. Edith Mazzola is Estela in Joacenith Vargas’ short film “Estela” (2014). The shy middle-aged woman tries to isolate herself from the outside world. When she is called upon to break into her elderly neighbor’s house, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, she reconnects with childhood memories and experiences an awkward and brief moment of intimacy with a stranger. (Screens Sunday, October 18, 2:30 PM.) Image: Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival

There are three Cuban films at PIFF7. Edith Mazzola is Estela in Joacenith Vargas’ short film “Estela” (2014). The shy middle-aged woman tries to isolate herself from the outside world. When she is called upon to break into her elderly neighbor’s house, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, she reconnects with childhood memories and experiences an awkward and brief moment of intimacy with a stranger. (Screens Sunday, October 18, 2:30 PM.) Image: Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival

“Ghosts” (Ashbah) from legendary Iranian director Dariush Mherjul is a stylized melodrama based on a story loosely adapted from Ibsen about a married woman who learns that her tyrannical husband has been having an affair with their maid. She fires the maid unaware that she is pregnant and, years later, is confronted with the consequences. Mherjul, who studied under Jean Renoir, is a founding member of Iran’s new wave movement of the 1970’s. (Screens Sunday, October 18, 6:15 PM.) image: PIFF

“Ghosts” (Ashbah) from legendary Iranian director Dariush Mherjul is a stylized melodrama based on a story loosely adapted from Ibsen about a married woman who learns that her tyrannical husband has been having an affair with their maid. She fires the maid unaware that she is pregnant and, years later, is confronted with the consequences. Mherjul, who studied under Jean Renoir, is a founding member of Iran’s new wave movement of the 1970’s. (Screens Sunday, October 18, 6:15 PM.) image: PIFF

Full schedule here.

Film descriptions here.

PIFF Details:  The 7th Petaluma International Film Festival is Friday, October 16, through Sunday, October 18, 2015 at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas, 200 C Street, Petaluma. Tickets: All screenings $12; buy tickets during the festival at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas or online (click here) with a handling fee.  Passes: All inclusive festival pass is $180 and a day pass is $60. (click here) For more information: Phone (415) 251-8433 or email: info@petalumafilmfestival.org .

October 14, 2015 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 38th Mill Valley Film Festival starts tonight and runs through October 18─here are ARThound’s favs

The Indigo Bunting, a small songbird in the Cardinal family, sings with gusto. The male is all blue and looks like a slice of sky with wings. The plight of songbirds is the subject of Su Rynard's documentary,

The Indigo Bunting, a small songbird in the Cardinal family, sings with gusto. The male is all blue and looks like a slice of sky with wings. The plight of songbirds is the subject of Su Rynard’s documentary, “The Messenger,” which screens twice at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival. Gorgeously photographed, with stunning super slo-mo shots of birds in flight and plenty of exquisite melodies, this thoughtful film celebrates these glorious magicians and explores their rapidly shrinking global populations, calling for drastic action to save them. image: MVFF

The 38th Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF38) is upon us─it kicks off this evening with two opening night films─Tom Hopper’s The Danish Girl and Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight─ and an always opulent gala afterwards at Marin Country Mart.  The festival runs full force (11AM to 10PM) for the next 10 days at several Marin venues, all within close range of Sonoma County.

Even with the catalog in hand, a 60 pager, redesigned to make it easier to figure out, it takes time and planning to decide which of the 170+ films and special programs to attend.  Long-time programmers Zoë Elton, Janis Plotkin and Karen Davis are so tuned in to our North Bay tastes, every film is a de facto good choice but I’ll point to some standouts.

I have a soft spot for world cinema that delivers a great story (the quirkier the better) and takes me to a (beautifully-filmed) place I’ve never been.  I also love documentaries that expose and inspire.  There are always a handful of films from Cannes and some that represent foreign language Oscar nominees.  As for the tributes and special programs, if you have the time, go to as many as possible.  Every special program I’ve attended at this festival has been well worth the extra money and I’ve been inspired to do wonderful things as a result.  In 2012, after seeing Luc Besson’s amazing bio-pic, The Lady, and hearing guest Michelle Yeoh interviewed about playing Burmese activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, I visited Myanmar for two weeks and experienced it on the brink of its transformation.  I got involved with supporting a school and I visited Suu Kyi’s family home in a posh suburb of Yangon─it was surrounded a high wall─and left flowers in tribute.

These are my recommendations for this year’s not-to-miss films and events─

Embrace of the Serpent:

Ciro Guerra's

Ciro Guerra’s “Embrace of the Serpent,” won top prize at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight and is Columbia’s submission to foreign-language category for the Academy Awards. Image: MVFF

Thirty-four year-old Columbian director Ciro Guerra is no stranger to Cannes.  His 2009 drama The Wind Journeys, which competed in the Uncertain Regard category, was filmed in some 80 locations all over Columbia and tracked a musician’s restorative journey to return an accordion.  His Embrace of the Serpent took this year’s Directors’ Fortnight prize at Cannes which is the top Art Cinema prize and it’s Columbia’s submission to foreign-language Oscar category.  Rich is the only way to describe the rare Amazonian languages you’ll hear and the exquisite black and white photography of fabled Amazonian landscapes.  The story unfolds from point of view of European explorer and a Shaman who work over the course of some 40 years to search for a sacred healing plant.  The thoughtful film delivers a fairly comprehensive critique of the destruction of indigenous cultures at the hands of white invaders.  Cast member Brionne Davis in attendance. (Ciro Guerra, Columbia, Venezuela, Argentina, 2015, 125 min)

Golden Kingdom:

“Golden Kingdom” is American filmmaker Brian Perkins first feature film and it has its US premiere at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival. Image: courtesy: Brian Perkins

“Golden Kingdom” is American filmmaker Brian Perkins’ first feature film and it has its US premiere at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival. Image: courtesy: Brian Perkins

 

The first feature film shot in Myanmar and a first feature for it its director, Brian Perkins, too, Golden Kingdom is a prescient widow into the culture of this remote fabled land.  This is the story of four young boy monks, all orphans (played by non-professional actors), who are left alone in a monastery in Shan State in Northeast Myanmar when their elderly head monk receives a letter and takes off on a journey.  The film cleverly uses the Buddhist motif of pursuit of enlightenment and knowledge and traditional Burmese storytelling to explore the unknown and overwhelming new world the boys encounter as they decide to leave and venture out into the countryside, only to encounter a land that is still engaged in remnants of a violent separatist uprising.  (Brian Perkins, US, 2015, 103 min) in Burmese (10/13 5PM; 10/15 2PM Sequoia 1)

Rams:

In Grímur Hákonarson’s “Rams,” two peculiar brothers in a small Icelandic farming community, who haven't spoken in 40 years, are forced to come together in order to save what’s dearest to them – their sheep. Image: MVFF

In Grímur Hákonarson’s “Rams,” two peculiar brothers in a small Icelandic farming community, who haven’t spoken in 40 years, are forced to come together in order to save what’s dearest to them – their sheep. Image: MVFF

When’s the last time you saw a film from Iceland or heard their language, Íslenska (Icelandic), spoken?  Grímur Hákonarson’s Rams, winner of the Uncertain Regard Prize at Cannes, weaves the story of two brothers, both single and getting on in years, who compete fiercely each year for valley-wide recognition for having the best ram.  They haven’t spoken in 40 years but are forced to come together in order to save what’s dearest to their hearts—their sheep.  Shot in remote lush valleys of Iceland, with added color in the peculiar characters of the two brothers, the film is also infused with some Norse humor. (Grímur Hákonarson, Iceland, 2015, 93 min)

Mustang:

Five beautiful sisters on the verge of womanhood in an Anatolian village by the sea suffer from their guardians' attempts to lock them away to protect their virginity. image: MVFF

Five beautiful sisters on the verge of womanhood in an Anatolian village by the sea suffer from their guardians’ attempts to lock them away to protect their virginity. image: MVFF

We’ve all heard of young girls cloistered away to protect their virginity and make them marriage worthy by their tradition-bound families.  Here’s Turkish female director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s take on this. Mustang weaves a story of five young carefree Turkish girls, all orphans, who under the “protection” of their grandmother and uncle, are punished severely for being seen at the beach interacting with boys in what is interpreted as an indecent act by townspeople who report them.  One moment they are free and then they are not.  They are subjected to virginity tests, beaten and then essentially locked up until it is time to try and marry them off.  They don’t go down without a fight though and thus the aptness of the title–these gorgeous young mustangs, with their amazing flowing hair, yearn for the very freedom that defines them.  The filmmaker has crafted a potent critique of the suppression and demonization of female sexuality that is alive and well in Turkish society.  Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, France, Germany, Turkey, 94 min)

The Messenger:

Filmmaker Su Rynard's

Filmmaker Su Rynard’s “The Messenger” screens twice at MVFF38 and she will be at both screenings. Making a documentary is a labor of love that often takes years to realize. To understand what was happening with global populations of songbirds, Rynard and her team followed the seasons and songbirds on three different continents. Along the way, she met many people who shared her concern for the plight of these glorious musicians of nature. image: Su Rynard

The message of Su Rynard’s riveting documentary, The Messenger, is urgent─songbirds are disappearing and many species are in serious decline.  Changes in our world have brought utter catastrophe to theirs and soon they will be gone.  Each year, twice a year, songbirds embark on a dangerous and difficult migratory journey.  Every species has its own story to tell but the resounding commonality is that songbirds are in danger.  Whose song will we hear when they are gone?   The film is full of gorgeous shots of birds and clips of bird songs.  Director Su Rynard in attendance. (Su Rynard, Canada, France, 2015, 90 min)

Son of Saul:

Géza Röhrig is Saul Auslander in Laszlo Nemes' holocaust drama,

Géza Röhrig is Saul Auslander in Laszlo Nemes’ holocaust drama, “Son of Saul.” image: MVFF

 

First time director László Nemes’  Son of Saul (Saul Fia) is a Holocaust film that won the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and everyone’s buzzing about.  (Earlier this week, NPR’s Terry Gross devoted a full hour to the film, click here, to read or listen to her interview with the director.) The dark story is centered on Saul Auslander (Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian Jew Sonderkommando at Auschwitz-Birkenau who is forced to assist the Nazis with the killings of Jews and the gruesome disposal of bodies afterwards.  In exchange, he is given some special privileges.  When he spots a young boy’s body that he believes is his son, he sets out to give him a proper burial.  The film captures the organization and chaos of the camps like no other film has and, at its core, it is the story of one man’s brave rebellion and humanity.  The camera rarely leaves his face in which there are worlds of grief.  The story is based on the actual testimonials, the so-called Scrolls of Auschwitz.  (László Nemes, Hungary, 2015, 107 min)   image: MVFF

Amnesia Centerpiece Presentation, October 13:

Crafted from events in his mother’s life, Swiss filmmaker Barbet Schroeder’s “Amnesia” stars German icon Marthe Keller as a German expat hiding out in idyllic Ibizia whose cage is rattled by a young German man who is her new neighbor and it's not just because he falls in love with her. Image: MVFF

Crafted from events in his mother’s life, Swiss filmmaker Barbet Schroeder’s “Amnesia” stars German icon Marthe Keller as a German expat hiding out in idyllic Ibizia whose cage is rattled by a young German man who is her new neighbor and it’s not just because he falls in love with her. Image: MVFF

An interesting take on a Nazi story and moral culpability by Swiss director Barbet Schroeder. Amnesia is set in picturesque Ibizia and the story involves a younger man’s attraction to an older woman, who is hiding the fact that she is German, and much more, from him.  The young DJ tries to crack this hard nut by peeling away her layers.   Writer/director Barbet Schroeder in attendance (Barbet Schroeder, Switzerland, France, 2015 96 min)

At RUSH but keep your eyes out in Bay Area theaters for─

The Assassin (Nie Yinniang) (Hou Hsia-hsien, Taiwan, 2015, 105 min) spectacular Ibizan landscape (Thurs 10/8 6:16 PM; Sat 10/17 8:30 PM─both screenings at Rush)

Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015, 118 min) (Sun 10/11 5:30PM; Wed 10/14 4 PM──both screenings at Rush)

The Dressmaker (Jocelyn Moorhouse, Australia, 2015, 118 min) (10/16 7PM; 10/18 11AM─both screenings at Rush)

Details:   MVFF38 is October 8-18, 2015.  Screening venues include: Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael); Century Larkspur (500 Larkspur Landing Circle); Lark Theater (549 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur), Century Cinema (41 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Madera); CinéArts@Sequoia (25 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley), Throckmorton Theatre (142 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley) and other venues throughout the Bay Area.

Online ticket purchase is highly recommended (click here to be directed to film descriptions, each with a “Buy Ticket” option. (Online purchases have a $1.75 per film surcharge).  There are also several box offices for in person purchases, offering the advantages of getting your tickets on the spot, no service fee, and picking up a hard copy of the catalogue—

SAN RAFAEL

Smith Rafael Film Center 1112 Fourth Street Sept.19-Oct 7, 4–8 pm (General Public)

MILL VALLEY

Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, 85 Throckmorton Ave, October 7, 11 am–3:00 pm; Oct 8-18, 10 am to 15 min after last show starts

Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center 85 Throckmorton Ave October 1, 11:00 am–3:00 pm October 2–12, 10:00 am to 15 minutes after last show starts

October 8, 2015 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pounce: tickets are on sale now for the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival, October 8-18

Seven years in the making, Taiwanese film director, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s luxurious wuxia (martial arts) drama, “The Assassin” screens twice at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival. The plot is minimal─a young girl (Taiwanese actress, Shu Qi) is kidnapped and trained to be an assassin. When she is a young adult, she is sent away by her master because she failed to complete a killing. She returns to her hometown and is ordered to kill her first love, her cousin, a powerful military governor. Featuring slow pans of China’s stunning mountains, valleys and historic temples, exquisite costumes and artifacts, as well as riveting physical feats, the film is like a lush painting come to life. Hou Hsiao-hsien, a leading figure of Taiwan's New Wave cinema movement, picked up best director award at Cannes this with this drama. Photo: courtesy MVFF

Seven years in the making, Taiwanese film director, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s luxurious wuxia (martial arts) drama, “The Assassin” screens twice at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival. The plot is minimal─a young girl (Taiwanese actress, Shu Qi) is kidnapped and trained to be an assassin. When she is a young adult, she is sent away by her master because she failed to complete a killing. She returns to her hometown and is ordered to kill her first love, her cousin, a powerful military governor. Featuring slow pans of China’s stunning mountains, valleys and historic temples, exquisite costumes and artifacts, as well as riveting physical feats, the film is like a lush painting come to life. Hou Hsiao-hsien, a leading figure of Taiwan’s New Wave cinema movement, picked up best director award at Cannes this with this drama. Photo: courtesy MVFF

Now in its 38th year, the legendary Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF), October 8-18, is hard to beat—11 days of the best new films from around the world, intimate on stage conversations with directors and stars, live music, and parties. AND it’s NORTH of the Golden Gate, so the driving is quicker. This festival is so good that five of the last seven Academy Award winners for best picture (Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, The Artist, Argo, 12 Years a Slave) made their Bay Area premieres there.  What it really prides itself on, though, is its selection of locally-directed indies, gems of world cinema, and engrossing docs selected with care to meet our exacting standards.   Mill Valley is an insider’s festival though and tickets are sold to members of the California Film Institute (CFI), based on membership levels, long before they are made available to the public.

This year’s festival is October 8-18 and tickets are now on sale to the general public. If you want to attend any of the fabulous tributes, spotlight or centerpiece screenings, it is essential that you lock in your tickets ASAP.

Producing a documentary is a labor-of-love that typically takes anywhere from one to ten years, and requires an unwavering belief that the world needs to see the story. Irene Taylor Brodsky was hiking in Nepal with an organization that treats cataracts when she encountered an elderly married couple, both blind, who qualified to have free cataract surgery that would enable them to see again. Musician Peter Gabriel liked her film so much that he wrote a song for it called “Open Your Eyes.” The film has its world premiere at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival on October 10. Irene Taylor Brodsky will participate in a panel discussion followed by Sing Out for Sight, a benefit concert for Seva Foundation at the Sweetwater Music Hall. Image: courtesy MVFF

Producing a documentary is a labor-of-love that typically takes anywhere from one to ten years, and requires an unwavering belief that the world needs to see the story. Irene Taylor Brodsky was hiking in Nepal with an organization that treats cataracts when she encountered an elderly married couple, both blind, who qualified to have free cataract surgery that would enable them to see again. Musician Peter Gabriel liked her film so much that he wrote a song for it called “Open Your Eyes.” The film has its world premiere at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival on October 10. Irene Taylor Brodsky will participate in a panel discussion followed by Sing Out for Sight, a benefit concert for Seva Foundation at the Sweetwater Music Hall. Image: courtesy MVFF

  

Icelandic director, Grímur Hákonarson’s “Rams,” Winner of the Uncertain Regard Prize at Cannes will screen twice at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival, October 8-18, 2015. Shot in remote lush valleys of Iceland, it weaves the story of two brothers, both single and getting on in years, who compete fiercely each year for valley-wide recognition for having the best ram. They haven’t spoken in 40 years but are forced to come together in order to save what’s dearest to their hearts—their sheep. Photo: Courtesy MVFF

Icelandic director, Grímur Hákonarson’s “Rams,” Winner of the Uncertain Regard Prize at Cannes will screen twice at the 38th Mill Valley Film Festival, October 8-18, 2015. Shot in remote lush valleys of Iceland, it weaves the story of two brothers, both single and getting on in years, who compete fiercely each year for valley-wide recognition for having the best ram. They haven’t spoken in 40 years but are forced to come together in order to save what’s dearest to their hearts—their sheep. Photo: Courtesy MVFF

Stay tuned to ARThound for top picks.

Screening venues include: Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center (1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael); Century Larkspur (500 Larkspur Landing Circle); Lark Theater (549 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur), Century Cinema (41 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Madera); CinéArts@Sequoia (25 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley), Throckmorton Theatre (142 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley) and other venues throughout the Bay Area.

Online ticket purchase is highly recommended (click here to be directed to film descriptions, each with a “Buy Ticket” option. (Online purchases have a $1.75 per film surcharge).  There are also several box offices for in person purchases, offering the advantages of getting your tickets on the spot, no service fee, and picking up a hard copy of the catalogue—

SAN RAFAEL

Smith Rafael Film Center 1112 Fourth Street Sept.19-Oct 7, 4–8 pm (General Public)

MILL VALLEY

Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center, 85 Throckmorton Ave, October 7, 11 am–3:00 pm; Oct 8-18, 10 am to 15 min after last show starts

Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center 85 Throckmorton Ave October 1, 11:00 am–3:00 pm October 2–12, 10:00 am to 15 minutes after last show starts

September 21, 2015 Posted by | Film | , , | Leave a comment

Globally relevant, the San Francisco International Film Festival 2015 starts Thursday—here are the Big Nights and Special Events

Oscar winning filmmaker Alex Gibney’s new documentary “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” opens the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival Thursday evening.  Just as his riveting Scientology exposé “Going Clear” deconstructed the cult of Scientology, Gibney’s latest film tackles our cult-like loyalty and emotional connection to Jobs and Apple products by methodically firing bullet after bullet at our rose colored glasses.  The film screens just once at SFIFF 58 which runs April 23-May 7, 2015 and offers 181 films and live events from 49 countries in 33 languages.  Photo:  Courtesy San Francisco Film Society

Oscar winning filmmaker Alex Gibney’s new documentary “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” opens the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival Thursday evening. Just as his riveting Scientology exposé “Going Clear” deconstructed the cult of Scientology, Gibney’s latest film tackles our cult-like loyalty and emotional connection to Jobs and Apple products by methodically firing bullet after bullet at our rose colored glasses. The film screens just once at SFIFF 58 which runs April 23-May 7, 2015 and offers 181 films and live events from 49 countries in 33 languages. Photo: Courtesy San Francisco Film Society

The San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF 58) opens this evening with a first in its 58 years—an opening night documentary.  Alex Gibney’s  Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, is a searing portrait of the late Steven Jobs that will hit tech-savvy Bay Area audiences where they live and breathe…in their Apple devices.  The festival continues over the following 14 days with 181 films—100 full-length features— and live events from 49 countries in 33 languages. Organized by the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS), under the helm of Noah Cowan, now in his second year as SFFS Executive Director, and Rachel Rosen, Programming Director, this mammoth festival really defies categorization.  This year’s films, selected from a pool of 4,000 plus entries, mirror where global society is right now.  SFIFF is revered for its support of new filmmakers and for championing eclectic independent films that you just won’t see elsewhere and it always includes the crème from last year’s Cannes and fall festivals and this year’s Sundance festival.

One of the joys of attending is getting to see these films the way they were meant to be seen—on a big screen with digital projection—and participating in stimulating Q&A’s with their directors and actors.  With even more new onstage events and awards ceremonies that feature film luminaries in more lengthy moderated discussions, SFIFF delivers one of the highest ratios of face time with creative talent.

I am dividing my coverage of this year’s festival into two articles—this first one, below, gives an overview of the big evenings and tributes that ought to be on everyone’s radar; the second one will include short reviews of the top films that caught my eye.

BIG NIGHTS:

OPENING NIGHT: (Thursday, April 23, 7 PM, Castro Theater)  Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (2015, 127 min) Alex Gibney will attend.  Uniquely relevant to the Bay Area, this SXSW/Sundance documentary is a social inquiry into the phenomena of Steven Jobs by one of the most impactful filmmakers working today.  Gibney’s recent HBO doc, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015), delivered a remarkable glimpse into scientology, made a scathing case against it, and garnered some of the highest ratings in recent times.  Gibney explores why Jobs has had such a wide ranging impact and why people who never knew him grieved him so.  He talks with insiders and methodically scrutinizes key ideas espoused by Jobs and Apple’s advertising and points out contradiction after contradiction, zeroing in on many of Apple’s unsavory practices and debacles. Unflattering, fascinating, and highly relevant to the latest generation of innovators being incubated in the Bay Area. (Click here to purchase tickets.)  Followed by an Opening Night Party at the iconic Madame Tussauds, featuring gourmet treats and beverages from San Francisco’s finest purveyors.  Must be 21+ to attend party. (Ticketed separately)

Jesse Eisenberg as Rolling Stone journalist, David Lipsky, and Jason Segal as American author David Foster Wallace in James Ponsoldt’s “The End of the Tour” (2015), which screens Saturday, May 2 as SFIFF 58’s Centerpiece film.  Image: Courtesy San Francisco Film Society

Jesse Eisenberg as Rolling Stone journalist, David Lipsky, and Jason Segal as American author David Foster Wallace in James Ponsoldt’s “The End of the Tour” (2015), which screens Saturday, May 2 as SFIFF 58’s Centerpiece film. Image: Courtesy San Francisco Film Society

CENTERPEICE:  (Saturday, May 2, 6:45 PM, Castro Theater)  The End of the Tour (2015, 106 min) Director James Ponsoldt and actor Jason Segel will attend.  Set in 1996, when American author David Foster Wallace’s dystopian masterpiece Infinite Jest was on every informed reader’s A-list, James Ponsoldt’s (Smashed, 2012) moody chamber piece stars Jesse Eisenberg as journalist, David Lipsky, whose admiration, curiosity and fear of Wallace drive him to propose a long-form profile of the writer to Rolling Stone.  He gets the assignment and ultimately goes out on the road with Wallace during the final five days of his Infinite Jest book tour.  Jason Segel gives an affecting portrayal of Wallace whose erratic behavior and bouts of depression were evident then, 12 years before his suicide in 2008 at age 46.  The chemistry between Eisenberg and Segal makes their interaction intense, palpable, through all the phases of getting to know each other and Lipsky’s attempts to take what is essentially one long and rambling conversation and drill down on those windows of insight that will become “the story.”   Based on Lipsky’s 2008 memoir on the experience, Although Of Course You End Up Being Yourself.  After-screening Centerpiece Party, 9 p.m., at Monarch, a sophisticated event space, with dancing, delicious food and fine cocktails.  Must be 21+ to attend party. (Ticketed separately)

Peter Sarsgaard is psychologist Stanley Milgram’s in Michael Almereyda’s “The Experimenter” (2015) which had its acclaimed premiere at Sundance and closes SFIFF 58.  It’s been 15 years since Almereyda’s astounding “Hamlet” starring Ethan Hawke and similarly, he has conceived Milgram’s life and work as a kind of evolving theatre piece.  At one  point, he even has Sarsgaard trailed onscreen by a full-sized adult elephant.  Photo: Courtesy San Francisco Film Society

Peter Sarsgaard is psychologist Stanley Milgram’s in Michael Almereyda’s “The Experimenter” (2015) which had its acclaimed premiere at Sundance and closes SFIFF 58. It’s been 15 years since Almereyda’s astounding “Hamlet” starring Ethan Hawke and similarly, he has conceived Milgram’s life and work as a kind of evolving theatre piece. At one point, he even has Sarsgaard trailed onscreen by a full-sized adult elephant. Photo: Courtesy San Francisco Film Society

CLOSING NIGHT: Thursday, May 7, 7 PM, Castro Theater) The Experimenter (2015, 98 min) Michael Almereyda will attend.   Michael Almereyda’s The Experimenter revisits Yale social psychologist Stanley Milgram’s famous 1961 experiment in which subjects were made to believe they were administering electric shocks to others in order to explore the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience.  As much an examination of scientific ethics as it is an exploration of the moral consequences of just following orders, this playful and inventive biography of Milgram soars with Peter Sarsgaard as Milgram and Winona Ryder as his wife.  Began in 1961, a year after the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, Milgram devised his now famous experiment to answer the question “Could it be that Eichmann and his accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders?  Looking back, we all like to think we would not obey and harm our fellow man, but 65% of the study participants ended up administering (imaginary) shocks.  After-screening Closing Night Party, 9 PM, Mezzanine, an all-out evening of music, drinks and dancing, with complimentary beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres by some of San Francisco’s best restaurants. Must be 21+ to attend. (Ticketed separately)

AWARDS AND SPECIAL EVENTS:

Guillermo del Toro, recipient of the Irving M. Levin Directing Award at SFIFF 58.  Del Toro burst onto the international scene with Cronos (1993), winner of nine Ariel Awards from the Mexican Academy of Film Arts and Sciences and the Cannes’ International Critics Week prize. “The Devil’s Backbone” solidified his reputation as a masterful storyteller, while Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) opened to worldwide acclaim, winning three Oscars and garnering Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film.  He directed Pacific Rim (2013), one of the highest grossing live action films that year.  Audiences await his upcoming gothic thriller Crimson Peak, set to release in October 2015.  Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Guillermo del Toro, recipient of the Irving M. Levin Directing Award at SFIFF 58. Del Toro burst onto the international scene with Cronos (1993), winner of nine Ariel Awards from the Mexican Academy of Film Arts and Sciences and the Cannes’ International Critics Week prize. “The Devil’s Backbone” solidified his reputation as a masterful storyteller, while “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006) opened to worldwide acclaim, winning three Oscars and garnering Academy Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film. He directed “Pacific Rim” (2013), one of the highest grossing live action films that year. Audiences await his upcoming gothic thriller “Crimson Peak,” set to release in October 2015. Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Guillermo del Toro Irving M. Levin Directing Award—(Saturday, April 25, 8 PM, Castro Theatre) SFIFF celebrates sci fi and fantasy legend, Guillermo del Toro with an evening at the Castro Theatre where the Mexican director, screenwriter, producer and novelist will participate in a conversation about his illustrious career, show clips from his past and present work and screen one of his favorite films, The Devil’s Backbone (2001).

Dark, bone chilling and edgy, the masterpiece is both a sophisticated commentary on war and a hell of a horror film that became a cult favorite.  It’s the final year of the Spanish Civil War and a bomb is dropped from the skies above an isolated Spanish orphanage, which leaves a boy, Santi, bleeding to death in its mysterious wake.  His corpse is then tied and shoved into the orphanage’s basement pool. When another young boy, Carlos (Fernando Tielve), arrives at the ghostly facility some time later, seemingly signaling the arrival of Franco himself, he is drawn to the snails in the swampy basement.  Soon the two boys will meet.  We feel in our bones that there’s evil here that cannot be easily understood or expunged. The odd couple who run the orphanage are concealing a large stash of the leftist cause’s gold, which is another subplot that expands brilliantly.

Richard Gere, recipient of the Peter J. Owens Award for excellence in acting at SFIFF 58.  Gere started his career on Broadway before his on-screen breakthrough in 1978 with Oscar-honored Days of Heaven.  His subsequent films include Gary Marshall’s Pretty Woman, Paul Schrader's American Gigolo and Taylor Hackford’s An Officer and a Gentleman.  He will next appear in Andrew Renzi’s Franny, currently getting rave reviews at Sundance, and Oppenheimer Strategies, co-starring Dan Stevens, Michael Sheen, and Steve Buscemi.  Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Richard Gere, recipient of the Peter J. Owens Award for excellence in acting at SFIFF 58. Gere started his career on Broadway before his on-screen breakthrough in 1978 with Oscar-honored “Days of Heaven.” His subsequent films include Gary Marshall’s “Pretty Woman,” Paul Schrader’s “American Gigolo” and Taylor Hackford’s “An Officer and a Gentleman.” He will next appear in Andrew Renzi’s “Franny,” currently getting rave reviews at this year’s Sundance, and in “Oppenheimer Strategies,” co-starring Dan Stevens, Michael Sheen, and Steve Buscemi. Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Richard Gere Peter J. Owens Award— (Sunday, April 26, 6:30 PM, Castro Theatre)  Richard Gere (Golden Globe Award winner and activist) is the recipient of this year’s Peter J. Owens Award for acting, which will be presented to Gere at An Evening with Richard Gere where he will discuss his prolific career with David D’Arcy before the screening his latest film, Time Out of Mind (2014), directed by Oren Moverman.  Gere plays vagrant George Hamilton who is evicted from the empty New York apartment where he is squatting and thrust out into the streets with nowhere in particular to go, except the eternal search for his next meal and place to sleep.  Gere established himself as one of the top actors of his generation with his screen debut in Terrence Malick’s 1978 drama Days of Heaven and from there went on to star in a number of important films.  Seeing the silver haired actor who has excelled at playing roles of privilege go against the grain and immerse himself in a tour de force performance as a plain, disenfranchised man is beyond refreshing.

Virtual reality pioneer,  Nonny de la Peña, discusses her role in developing immersive journalism in the context of creating “Project Syria,” originally commissioned by the World Economic Forum and created at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.

An Evening with Nonny de la Peña: Immersive Journalism—(Monday, April 27, 6:30 PM, Sundance Kabuki)   Nonny de la Peña is a pioneer in “immersive journalism,” a new form of journalism that aims to place viewers within news stories via virtual reality.  Once immersed in the story, viewers feel an extraordinary emotional connection as witnesses.  Her project “Gone Gitmo,” created in collaboration with artist Peggy Weil and originally launched in virtual environment Second Life, was a groundbreaking approach to reporting through virtual experience.  Amongst her many projects, de la Peña’s newest VR work, “Project Syria” recreates both a street corner in Aleppo that comes under attack and a camp for refugee children that grows more crowded over time.   In this talk, de la Peña will present her work, its intents and consequences and lay out prospects for the future of nonfiction reporting.  Her vision has also culminated in Emblematic Group, a content- and VR hardware-focused company that she runs along with her brother in Los Angeles.

American director and screenwriter, Paul Schrader, will receive the Kanbar Award for storytelling.   Photo:  The Independent

American director and screenwriter, Paul Schrader, will receive the Kanbar Award for storytelling. Photo: The Independent

Paul Schrader: Kanbar Award—(Tuesday, April 28, 6:30 PM, Sundance Kabuki)  SFIFF will honor American  screenwriter and director Paul Schrader with an onstage interview prior to screening one his most acclaimed films, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985, 121 min).  Schrader’s breakthrough moment came at age 26, when he wrote the script for Taxi Driver (1976) which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and was the first of several collaborations between Schrader and Scorsese, a list that includes Raging Bull (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Bringing Out the Dead (1999).  Mishima blends a recreation of Mishima’s (Ken Ogata) final day when the extent of his dedication to altering Japan’s political landscape and to bushido is made manifest; snippets of biography rendered in black and white that explore the psychology of one of postwar Japan’s most celebrated authors; and beautifully staged, luridly colored scenes from three key Mishima novels—Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko’s House and Runaway Horses—that further explicate his psyche.  John Bailey’s luminous cinematography and Philip Glass’s sweeping, pulsating score add further texture to this mesmerizing drama, a portrait of one exceptional artist made by another.

Renowned British documentarian Kim Longinotto has devoted the bulk of her career to exploring various forms of activism, especially in relation to the plight of women around the world.  She won the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award at Sundance this year and SFIFF honors her with its POV Award which celebrates the achievement of a filmmaker whose work is outside the realm of narrative feature. Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Renowned British documentarian Kim Longinotto has devoted the bulk of her career to exploring various forms of activism, especially in relation to the plight of women around the world. She won the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award at Sundance this year and SFIFF honors her with its POV Award which celebrates the achievement of a filmmaker whose work is outside the realm of narrative feature. Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Kim Longinotto Persistence of Vision Award (Sunday, May 2, 3 PM, Sundance Kabuki) Renowned British documentarian Kim Longinotto has devoted the bulk of her career to exploring various forms of activism, especially in relation to the plight of women around the world.  She won the World Cinema Documentary Directing Award at Sundance this year and SFIFF honors her with its POV Award which celebrates the achievement of a filmmaker whose work is outside the realm of narrative feature.  Longinetto will participate in an in-depth conversation and her latest documentary, Dreamcatcher (2015), will be screened.  The film follows the life of Brenda Myers-Powell, a former prostitute, who works in a Chicago jail counseling sex workers and who also runs a weekly “Girl Talk” at the local school that mentors a group of at-risk girls.  Along with her friend Stephanie Daniels-Wilson, she runs the Dreamcatcher Foundation.  As Brenda unearths the horrific secrets and lies that have plagued the community for generations, she encourages girls and young women to change their lives by challenging the culture of silence and denial.  You’re inserted right into these girls’ lives which allows you to experience their daily struggles and judge for yourself whether or not one committed person can really make a difference.

Lenny Borger, recipient of SFIFF 58’s Mel Novikoff Award, is both a subtitler and an archivist who has been responsible for finding many important lost films.   Borger’s stellar work making French cinema come to life for English-speaking audiences and his passion for bringing lost classics back to the screen make him a true behind-the-scenes hero of world cinema,” says Rachael Rosen, SFFS director of Programming.  Borger taught himself French at a young age by simply listening to chansons francaises.  Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Lenny Borger, recipient of SFIFF 58’s Mel Novikoff Award, is both a subtitler and an archivist who has been responsible for finding many important lost films. Borger’s stellar work making French cinema come to life for English-speaking audiences and his passion for bringing lost classics back to the screen make him a true behind-the-scenes hero of world cinema,” says Rachael Rosen, SFFS director of Programming. Borger taught himself French at a young age by simply listening to chansons francaises. Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

 

Lenny Borger Mel Novikov Award (Sunday, May 3, 1 PM, Sundance Kabuki) Brooklyn-born Parisian Lenny Borger is the recipient of this year’s Mel Novikoff Award.  The legendary archivist and master subtitler who has labored behind the scenes to bring French cinema to life for English-speaking audiences will participate in an on stage conversation with Variety’s Scott Foundas about the hunt for “lost” films and the unsung art of subtitling followed by a screening of the rediscovered 1929 silent masterpiece Monte Christo.  Borger originally came to France on a research grant to pursue doctoral work in Paris in 1977.  He abandoned his academic work to devote himself to covering the French film scene as a correspondent and film reviewer for Variety.  At the same time, he began scouring the European continent in search of rare and “missing” French films from foreign archives. His first discovery was the nitrate camera negative of Raymond Bernard’s The Chess Player, found in the vaults at the East German Film Archives where it had been concealed by the Nazi occupiers of France. A trip to Prague yielded even more exciting results: incomplete Czech distribution prints of Henri Fescourt’s Monte-Cristo—one of the highlights of the SFIFF tribute.

Douglas Trumbull, who has revolutionized movies more times than we can count, will deliver this year’s State of Cinema address, discussing the highs and lows of dreaming big and what the future looks like for the movies.  His short film UFOTOG, which he wrote and directed demos his radical new innovation, the MAGI process, a digital-projection method optimized for the eye-popping trifecta of 3-D, 4K, 120fps imagery.  Photo: Courtesy POdCAST

Douglas Trumbull, who has revolutionized movies more times than we can count, will deliver this year’s State of Cinema address, discussing the highs and lows of dreaming big and what the future looks like for the movies. His short film UFOTOG, which he wrote and directed demos his radical new innovation, the MAGI process, a digital-projection method optimized for the eye-popping trifecta of 3-D, 4K, 120fps imagery. Photo: Courtesy POdCAST

State of Cinema: Douglas Trumbull—(Sunday, May 3, 6:30 PM, Sundance Kabuki) director, writer, inventor, engineer and visual effects master Douglas Trumbull will deliver the highly-anticipated state of Cinema address.  Trumbull first stunned film audiences in the late sixties with the development of cutting-edge visual effects for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, including the epic “Stargate” sequence.  He was the visual effects supervisor on many works that pushed the limits of film fantasy such as Close Encounters of The Third Kind, Blade Runner and Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  He also directed science-fiction classics Silent Running and Brainstorm and was a visual effects consultant for Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life.  He continues to work as an inventor and engineer, is a sought-after consultant, and holds numerous technology patents.  His ingenious suggestion for capping the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill went viral.  Currently, Trumbull is rethinking the immersive cinematic experience to include ultra high frame rates, high resolution, high brightness, high dynamic range, and ultra wide hemispherical screen projection. His talk will challenge everything you think movies can and should be.

2015 SFIFF Details:

When:  SFIFF 58 runs April 23-May 7, 2014

Where:  Main Screening Venues: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post Street, San Francisco; Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street, San Francisco; Landmark’s Clay Theatre, 226 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, Roxi Theater, 3117 16th Street, San Francisco,  Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Theatre, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley.

Tickets: $15 for most films.  Special events generally start at $20 or $35.   Two screening passes—the popular CINEVOUCHER 10-pack ($140 general public and $120 for Film Society members) and the exclusive CINEVISA early admittance to every screening, party, and program (with exception of Film Society Awards Night). ($1350 Film Society members and $1700 general public).   How to buy tickets—purchase online at www.festival.sffs.org or in person during the festival at Sundance Kabuki, Landmark’s Clay Theatre, Roxie Theater*, Pacific Film Archive and Castro Theatre*.  (*Day of show only and cash only)

Advance ticket purchases absolutely recommended as many screenings go to Rush.  Click here to see which films are currently at rush (the list is updated frequently).

Arrive Early!  Ticket and pass holders must arrive 15 minutes prior to show time to guarantee admission.

noon release tickets, daily : Every day, tickets may be released for that day’s rush screenings and may be purchased online or in person at Sundance kabuki, starting at noon.

Rush tickets:  Last-minute or rush tickets may be available on a first served basis to those waiting in line for cash only about 10 minutes before show time.  If you want rush tickets, plan to line up at least 45 minutes prior to screening time.

More info: For full schedule and tickets, visit http://www.sffs.org/sfiff58/program

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 18th Sonoma International Film Festival starts Wednesday—the art line-up is wonderful

An interior view of artists’ Leda Levant and Michael Kahn’s sculptural home, “Eliphante” in Cornville, Arizona (red rock country near Sedona).  The house is featured in Don Freeman’s “Art House,” screening twice at the 18th Sonoma International Film Festival (March 25-29, 2015).  The gorgeously shot documentary explores the handmade homes crafted by and lived in by eleven American artists.  Levant and Kahn created their home over 28 years, entirely out of re-purposed materials and it evolved naturally form their mutual love of stone, wood, pottery and stained glass.  An elephant’s trunk-like entrance to one of the structures gave rise to the name.   They began building their magical home when they first arrived in Arizona, even though they did not yet own the property.

An interior view of artists’ Leda Levant and Michael Kahn’s sculptural home, “Eliphante,” in Cornville, Arizona (red rock country near Sedona). The house is featured in Don Freeman’s “Art House,” screening twice at the 18th Sonoma International Film Festival (March 25-29, 2015). The gorgeously shot documentary explores the handmade homes crafted by and lived in by eleven American artists. Artists Levant and Kahn created their home over 28 years, entirely out of re-purposed materials and it evolved from their mutual love of stone, wood, pottery and stained glass. An elephant’s trunk-like entrance to one of the structures gave rise to the name. They began building their magical home when they first arrived in Arizona, even though they did not yet own the property. The stories told in the film are as artful as the D.I.Y. houses. Commentary from cultural critic Alastair Gordon and an original score by Jamie Rudolph evoke the spiritual dimension of the sites and argue the case that the intuitive vision of artists can create great architecture.

The 18th Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) starts Wednesday and will screen over 90 films from more than two dozen countries over 5 nights and 4 days.  The big nights have been well-covered in the media.  Among the treasures that you might not have yet discovered are several films, each an artwork in itself, on artists and designers, some virtually unknown, whose gift for creative expression will inspire and delight.  $15 tickets are available for pre-purchase online for all of the films mentioned below.  Victor Mancilla’s documentary, ART and Revolutions, about Mexico’s famed artist-engraver, José Guasalupe Posada, will screens Saturday at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, will have an accompanying art exhibition and a lively post-screening Q& A with the director and Jim Nikas, the collector.  The opening night film, Alan Rickman’s  A Little Chaos, which has Kate Winslet playing an unorthodox thinking widow hired to design part of the gardens at Versailles, has also peaked my interest.  I love how  Winslet embodies strength on scene and I’m intrigued with garden design, which poses interesting questions, artistic and otherwise.  What is nature, how do we fit into it and how should we shape it when we can both physically and visually?  Some of these fascinating issues are practical and others philosophical but we can only hope that Winslet’s Sabine de Barra tackles them substantively as she (predictably) snuggles up with the court’s renowned landscape architect artist André Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts) to design one of the most exquisite gardens ever conceived.

Now, on to the art line up—

One of two known images of Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913), who is pictured with his son.  Posada is the subject of Director Victor Mancilla’s documentary “Searching for Posada: ART and Revolutions,” which screens Saturday at the Sonoma International Film Festival.  Photo: courtesy: Jim Nikas

One of two known images of Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913), who is pictured with his son. Posada is the subject of Director Victor Mancilla’s documentary “Searching for Posada: ART and Revolutions,” which screens Saturday at the Sonoma International Film Festival. Photo: courtesy: Jim Nikas

Searching for Posada: ART and Revolutions  (Mexico/USA, 2014, 41 minutes)  Called a “revolutionary artist of the people” and hailed as “the Goya of Mexico” and yet virtually unknown, Mexican artist and printmaker José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) created a vast portfolio of important work.  Mexican director Victor Mancilla (201 Squadron: The Forgotten Eagles (2009) Best Historical Documentary award, Smithsonian Institution) tells Posada’s story through Jim Nikas (of Marin), an obsessed American collector of Posada’s works.  Nikas, who has the largest collection of Posada’s in the U.S., embarks on a passionate search for the truth about the artist.  Traveling to the Posada’s hometown of Aguascalientes, to Leon and then Mexico City, Nikas meets art historians and encounters things that would have amazed even the artist Posada himself, including  Fidel Castro’s pajamas and Che Guevera’s backpack.  Three-and-a-half years in the making, ART and Revolutions© was shot on location in Mexico and features music by pianist Natasha Marin, wife of actor and avid Chicano Art collector Cheech Marin. (Screens:  Saturday, March 28, 5 PM, Sonoma Valley of Art, $15 tickets) There is a post-screening Q & A with the director and Jim Nikas and an Exhibition of Posada’s original artwork from the collection of the Posada Art Foundation.

The inside of the Martinez printshop in the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico looks as if it might have been used by José Guadalupe Posada and Manuel Manilla, 20 years his senior, with whom he worked in Mexico City.  In fact, the print shop not only looks that way but the printers bore such a striking resemblance to Posada and Manilla that “Searching for Posada” Director Victor Mancilla and Producer Jim Nikas asked if they would allow a re-creation of Posada's printshop using their shop. They agreed. The prints they are holding are original from the Brady Nikas Collection.  Photo: Jim Nikas

The inside of the Martinez printshop in the colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico looks as if it might have been used by José Guadalupe Posada and Manuel Manilla, 20 years his senior, with whom he worked in Mexico City. In fact, the print shop not only looks that way but the printers bore such a striking resemblance to Posada and Manilla that “Searching for Posada” Director Victor Mancilla and Producer Jim Nikas asked if they would allow a re-creation of Posada’s printshop using their shop. They agreed. The prints they are holding are original from the Brady Nikas Collection. Photo: Jim Nikas

 

Art House—(USA, 90 min) Photographer Don Freeman’s masterful documentary Art House explores the handmade homes crafted by and lived in by eleven American—Frederic Church, Russel Wright, George Nakashima, Raoul Hague, Costantino Nivola, Paolo Soleri, Henry Chapman Mercer, Wharton Esherick, Henry Varnum Poor, Byrdcliffe Arts Colony, and Eliphante.  Embracing the synergy of curves, natural materials and muted light, each glorious home reflects its creator’s distinctive voice and practice as it merges with architecture.  An anthem to creative souls who follow their hearts, this inspirational and gorgeously shot doc makes the sleek pages of Architectural Digest and Dwell seem passé. (Screens: Thursday, March 26, 5:30 PM, Women’s Club; Sunday, March 29, 7:30 PM Sonoma Valley Museum of Art.  $15 tickets)

Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery (Beltracchi: Die Kunst der Falschung)—(Germany, 2014, 93 min)  It’s ironic that 58-year-old German Wolfgang Beltracchi looks like Alfred Durer.  Beltracchi masterminded one of the most lucrative art scams in postwar European history.  For decades, this self-taught painter, and self-proclaimed hippie, passed off his own paintings as newly-discovered masterpieces by Max Ernst, André Derain, Max Pechstein, Georges Braque, and other Expressionists and Surrealists from the early 20th century.  His wife, Helene Beltracchi, along with two accomplices, created convincing backstories and sold the paintings for six and seven figures through auction houses in Germany and France, including Sotheby’s and Christie’s. One fake Max Ernst hung for months in a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2004, Steve Martin purchased a fake Heinrich Campendonk for $860,000 through a Parisian gallery.  Arne Birkenstock’s Lola award winning documentary Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery (“Beltracchi: Die Kunst der Falschung,” 2014), features the larger than life Beltracchi sharing his secrets; those he duped sharing their dismay; and those who caught him talking about the painting that blew it all up. (Screens: Thursday, March 26, 8 PM, Woman’s Club and Sunday, March 29, 5 PM, Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, $15 tickets)

Larger-than-life German art forger, Wolfgang Beltracchi, is the subject of Arne Birkenstock’s engrossing documentary, “Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery.”  For over 40 years, Beltracci duped the cognoscenti of the art world by painting his own masterpieces and selling them for millions.

Larger-than-life German art forger, Wolfgang Beltracchi, is the subject of Arne Birkenstock’s engrossing documentary, “Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery.” For over 40 years, Beltracci duped the cognoscenti of the art world by painting his own masterpieces and selling them for millions.

Generosity of Eye—(USA, 63 min) Octogenarian William Louis-Dreyfus, the father of Julia Louis-Dreyfus  (Elaine Benes on “Seinfeld) and now “Veep” ) started collecting art in the early 1960s, things that caught his eye, not investment pieces. While there are no Warhols, Freuds, or Picassos in his 3,500 piece collection, he conservatively estimates it to be worth at least $10 million and possible as much as $50 to $60 million. (from 5.26.14 Wall Street Journal article)  There are pieces by Paul Gaugin, Vassily Kandinsky, Leonardo Cremonini, George Boorujy, Helen Frankenthaler, and self-taught African-American artist and former slave Bill Traylor.  Louis-Dreyfus served as chairman of Louis Dreyfus Group, a global conglomerate started by his great-grandfather in 1851. Forbes estimated his net worth at $3.4 billion in 2006.  Director Brad Hill, who is Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ husband, has captured the very personal story of her discovering how her father’s passion for art and justice led him to donate most of this collection over the next several decades to the New York-based non-profit, the Harlem Children’s Zone, HCZ.  This touching story of a major art collection transforming into educational opportunity that will help kids in Harlem escape the vicious cycle of poverty has the intimacy of a home movie.  (Click here to view the Louis-Dreyfus Family Collection web site which includes the entire collection) (Screens: Thursday, March 26, 9:30 AM Sebastiani Theatre and Sunday, March 29, 5:30 PM Burlingame Hall. $15 tickets)

The Louis-Dreyfus Family Collection is the subject of "Generosity of Eye," Brad Hall’s documentary about collector William Louis-Dreyfus who decided recently to donate his collection to the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ). The 3,500 piece collection is currently housed in Mount Kisco, N.Y., very close to Louis-Dreyfus’ home and is set up like a private art gallery.  It includes several works by self-taught African-American artist Bill Tylor, who was born into slavery in 1856 and was sharecropper all of his adult life.  He began painting after his eightieth birthday and his subjects were the rhythms and rituals of the rural South.  Photo: Kevin Hagen, WSJ

The Louis-Dreyfus Family Collection is the subject of “Generosity of Eye,” Brad Hall’s documentary about collector William Louis-Dreyfus who decided recently to donate his collection to the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ). The 3,500 piece collection is currently housed in Mount Kisco, N.Y., very close to Louis-Dreyfus’ home and is set up like a private art gallery. It includes several works by self-taught African-American artist Bill Tylor, who was born into slavery in 1856 and was sharecropper all of his adult life. He began painting after his eightieth birthday and his subjects were the rhythms and rituals of the rural South. Photo: Kevin Hagen, WSJ

 

Dior and I —(France, 90 min) There are just a handful of fashion greats who have had French designer Christian Dior’s enduring impact on 20th century style.  Filmmaker Frédéric Tcheng (co-director Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, 2012 and Valentino: The Last Emperor, 2008) delivers another insightful exploration of this style pioneer’s enduring influence through the storied world of the House of Christian Dior.  Dior passed in 1957 but his name has lived on through this contemporary fashion house, now owned by Groupe Arnault.  This thoughtful doc delivers a dramatic behind-the-scenes look at the new Artistic Director, Raf Simons’ very first Haute Couture collection.  From conception through its ultimate exhibition, the process is shown to be a nerve-racking labor of love.  Stoic Simons must coax the very best from his dedicated collaborators who literally make it all happen.  Tcheng’s revealing homage to pressure cooker couture is fascinating.  (Screens: Thursday, March 26, 2 PM Sonoma Community Center and Saturday, March 28, 8:30 PM Sonoma Valley Art Museum $15 tickets)

Art & Design Shorts Program—Fine cinematography comes in various packages.  SIFF has a soft place for shorts, recognizing that, outside of the festival circuit, there is little chance to experience the synergy of a well-executed short.  The festival offers three curated shorts programs and will screen dozens of individual shorts in advance of its feature-length programming.  British artist David Hockney, Italian architect and interior designer Paola Navone, , 5th generation farmer and vintner  Jim Bundschu, multifaceted designer Michael Vanderbyl and various Native American architects, builders and tribal members are the subjects of five Art & Design shorts that are guaranteed to stimulate your senses and fire up your imagination.  Total run time is approximately one hour (Screens: Friday, March 27 12:30 PM and Sunday, March 29, 9:30 AM both at Woman’s Club.  $15 tickets)

Cindy Allen’s short biopic, “Fish Out of Water: The Design of Paola Novone” (2014), premiered in New York at the 2014 Interior Design Hall of Fame.  The 10 minute short showcases the Italian design icon’s endless creativity through interviews with Allen, who is the editor-in-chief of Interior Design magazine.

Cindy Allen’s short biopic, “Fish Out of Water: The Design of Paola Novone” (2014), premiered in New York at the 2014 Interior Design Hall of Fame. The 10 minute short showcases the Italian design icon’s endless creativity through interviews with Allen, who is the editor-in-chief of Interior Design magazine.

 

ARThound’s previous festival coverage:

The Sonoma International Film Festival starts Wednesday—$15 tickets online now for many of the films

Passes for the 18th Sonoma International Film Festival are on sale now and prices will increase on March 1, 2015

SIFF 18 details:

Full festival schedule by film type is available online here.

Full schedule in calendar form is available online here.

Official Full SIFF Film Guide is available online here.

Information about passes and tickets is here.

Screening Locations:

Sebastiani Theatre – 476 First St. East (seats 325)

Sonoma Community Center-Andrews Hall – 276 East Napa Street (seats 150)

Mia’s Kitchen at Vintage House – 126 First Street West (seats 150)

Sonoma Woman’s Club – 574 First Street. East (seats 100)

Sonoma Valley Museum of Art – 551 Broadway (seats 70)

Vintage House– 264 First Street East

La Luz Center – 17560 Gregor Street, Boyes Hot Springs (3.5 miles from town square)

 

 

 

March 24, 2015 Posted by | Art, Film, Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sonoma International Film Festival starts Wednesday—$15 tickets online now for many of the films

Leandie Du Randt and Armand Greyling in a scene from Etienne Fourie’s romantic drama, The Windmill (Die Windpomp) (2014), which has its North American premiere at the 18th Sonoma International Film Festival, March 25-29, 2015.  The romantic drama is the first South African film to screen at SIFF which offers over 90 films from two dozen countries.

Leandie Du Randt and Armand Greyling in a scene from Etienne Fourie’s “The Windmill” (Die Windpomp) (2014), which has its North American premiere at the 18th Sonoma International Film Festival, March 25-29, 2015. The romantic drama is the first South African film to screen at SIFF which, this year, offers over 90 films from two dozen countries.

On Wednesday, the curtain rises on the 18th Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF), pairing 5 nights and 4 days of film with the wine country’s exquisite food, wine and artisan beer.  Over 90 films from more than two dozen countries will play in seven intimate venues, all within walking distance of Sonoma’s historic town square which transforms into “Sonomawood” for the festivities. Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos, with Kate Winslet, has its North American premiere and opens the festival on Wednesday evening at the historic Sebastiani Theater and Michel Hazanavicius’ The Search, starring Annette Bening and Berenice Bejo, also at the Sebastiani, closes the festival on Sunday evening.

You can’t beat Sonoma in spring—the atmosphere is quaint and relaxed; the weather is warm; the streets are popping with roses and lilacs; and the real estate descriptions on the square’s windows will fuel your dreams.   This festival is geared towards pass-holders who pay a premium ($250 to $2,500) for access to all the screenings and the famous “back-lot” tent (an all-you-can-eat-and-drink orgy) and special parties.  Tickets are also available, on a limited basis, for individual film screenings for $15 each.  Many of these include lively post-screening Q&A’s with the directors or cast and generous free samples of locally prepared gourmet treats.  This year, instead of having to go to the festival box office on the town square in person to purchase these tickets, they can be conveniently purchased online, with a small service charge, and are available for many of the films.  If individual tickets are available, there will be a “tickets” hyperlink included in the film description.  Understandably, opening and closing night films (as of this positing) are for pass-holders only.

Full festival schedule by film type is available online here.

Full schedule in calendar form is available online here.

Official Full SIFF Film Guide is available online here.

Stay-tuned to ARThound for an overview of this year’s exceptional art-related line-up.

The festival programmers know exactly what their audience wants and, along with thought-provoking documentaries, drama, art and music, SIFF always offers a number of endearing “rom-drams,” romantic dramas, from all over the world.  This  year SIFF screens its first film ever from South Africa, Etienne Fourie’s The Windmill (Die Windpomp) (2014) which originally started out as a 48 minute student film that swept the prestigious South African AFDA awards and was then developed into a full-length film.  This is one of the few films that I have seen (a screener was provided) and I recommend it highly.  The story revolves around introverted 20 year-old Henri (Armand Greyling) who comes to live with his elderly grandfather in a sleepy retirement village somewhere in South Africa.  As soon as he arrives, Henri begins to have a series of strange interactions with the quirky and affable seniors in the small community who all share one big secret.  When Henri catches the eye of exquisite and fun-loving Margot (Leandie Du Randt), he slowly opens his heart and magical things begin to happen, literally.  Opulently shot and choreographed, the film’s drama builds from an initially light and entertaining story into a complex mystery that is a passionate lament for aging.  Is it better to live forever, or for a finite time subject to all the physical and mental frailties of the human condition?  The delicate love story between Henri and Margot is heightened by Armand Greyling’s remote and introspective performance.  Hearing a film in Afrikaans is a rare treat itself. (114 min, in Afrikaans)

(Screens: Thursday 3/26 8:30 PM Sebastiani and Saturday 3/28 9 AM Vintage House.  Individual tickets available for both screenings.)

March 22, 2015 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love great conversation, food, farming, family and film? Another screening of the sold-out “Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm” has been added to CAAMFest for Saturday, March 21 in Oakland—SO worth the drive

 

CAAMFest, the Center for Asian American Media’s annual film festival, has added another screening of Jim Choi’s documentary Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm, which has its (sold-out) world premiere on Friday, March 20, 7 PM, at the OMCA (Oakland Museum of California).  The OMCA event, which features a pre-film get together, the film screening and the entire Masumoto family on stage in story-telling and conversation is at “Rush.”  This means it is sold out BUT there may be a few tickets released at the last moment.  The new added screening is Saturday, March 21, at Oakland’s New Parkway Theatre at 7PM and there are ample tickets now but this screening too will most likely sell out.  Mas, Nikiko and Marcy will also be in attendance and a lively Q&A will follow the screening.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikiko and David “Mas” Masumoto on Monday evening at UC Berkeley (we’re all alums) and this dynamic father daughter duo touched my heart with their loving connection, positive energy and years of farming wisdom.   I brought along my dear friend, long-time SRJC librarian Karen Petersen, who first introduced me to Mas via Epitaph for Peach, his 1995 lament over the loss of heirlooms.  The public response to Mas’ writing was so encouraging that it essentially led him to re-evaluate the decision to bulldoze his precious heirloom trees.  Our meeting couldn’t have come at a better moment because I’d spent the day, and the previous week, out in the garden paving the way for the plantings to come.  If you’re the type of person who believes as I do that your garden or orchard is a reflection of  who you are, then this is a film and a family that you won’t want to miss.  These famous fourth generation Japanese American farmers are best known for their highly-prized heirloom Sun Crest peaches as well as their tenacious adherence to sustainable practices.  Over years, they’ve reaped a harvest of not only delicious fruits but also dreams, reflections and abiding kinship.   We discussed what it was like to be filmed and the new directions their lives are taking now that Nikiko has returned to home to step into her father’s work boots on their certified organic 80 acre farm in Del Ray (south of Fresno).  That’s 80 acres of organic peaches, nectarines, grapes and a fig tree that all need nurturing, often in grueling heat which it turns out is also the perfect incubator for storytelling.  They’re all highly creative but Mas’ writing on farming and food includes numerous best-selling books which have been lovingly treasured and dog-eared by foodies, farmers and imagined gardeners.

This beautifully shot film, which was funded by CAAM, chronicles the transitions undergone by Mas and his daughter as they lovingly enact the rituals of passing the reins from one generation to the next and reflect back on the family’s WWII internment in a camp near their farm.  Stay tuned to ARThound for the interview.  For more information on CAAMFest 2015, click here.

 

March 17, 2015 Posted by | Film, Food, Gardening | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CAAMFest—Asian American film, food, music and comradery kicks off Thursday, March 12, and runs for 11 days in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland

Nikiko, Korio, Marci and David “Mas” Masumoto have an 80 acre farm in Del Ray, south of Fresno, where they grow several varieties of prized heirloom peaches and nectarines.  They are the subject of the CAAM-produced documentary “Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm,” which lyrically recounts the daughter Nikiko’s decision to take over the reins of the family’s peach business from her father, Mas, the celebrated peach farmer and author.  In their lifelong search for the perfect peach, the Masumotos till much more than the soil; they embrace the soul of farming which is an intimate act of bravely nurturing which life throws at you.  The Masumotos are being honored at CAAMFest 2015 with a CAAMFeast Award and a special evening at the Oakland Museum of California where the film will have its world premiere.  Image: CAAMFest

Nikiko, Korio, Marci and David “Mas” Masumoto have an 80 acre farm in Del Ray, south of Fresno, where they grow several varieties of prized heirloom peaches and nectarines. They are the subject of the CAAM-produced documentary “Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm,” which lyrically recounts the daughter Nikiko’s decision to take over the reins of the family’s peach business from her father, Mas, the celebrated peach farmer and author. In their lifelong search for the perfect peach, the Masumotos till much more than the soil; they embrace the soul of farming which is an intimate act of bravely nurturing what life throws at you. The Masumotos are being honored at CAAMFest 2015 with a CAAMFeast Award and a special evening at the Oakland Museum of California where the film will have its world premiere. Image: CAAMFest

The Center for Asian American Media’s CAAMfest turns 33 this year and continues its morph from a pure film festival into a series of festive happenings that fuse cutting edge independent film with music and food—all with an Asian American twist.  CAAMFest takes place over the next 11 days in venues all around the Bay Area including the Asian Art Museum and the Oakland Museum of California, which add their enticing exhibits to the mix.  Formerly the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF), CAAMFest 2015 offers more than 100 movies and videos focused on the discovery of new talents, voices and visions. It’s by far the largest festival of Asian American movies in North America. Under the leadership of Masashi Niwano, now in his fifth year as festival & exhibitions director, the event has become one of the country’s major platforms for conveying the richness and diversity of the Asian American multicultural experience.  ARThound loves this festival because it’s so excellently curated, delivering rich and unusual stories from around the globe that stay with you for years.

This year, you’ll see Asian American broadly defined too.  Iranian director Rakshan Banietemad’s new film, Tales, which picked up the award for Best Screenplay at Venice, caught the CAAMFest programmers’ eyes, not just because it’s a great film but because the director, working under dior conditions in Iran, creatively stitched together a series of shorts, stories from her previous films, to create a full length film.  In so doing, she managed to navigate the bureaucracy of the Iranian cultural ministry which requires a license for a feature but not for shorts.  Bravo!   There are also stories involving the Asian diaspora.   Juan Martín Hsu’s La Salada is set in Argentina’s bustling discount market, La Salada, just outside of Buenos Aires, and involves an ensemble cast of Korean, Taiwanese, and Bolivian immigrants whose experiences all converge at the market.  It’s thus no surprise that “travel” is this year’s theme.  Opportunities for armchair travel abound and over 200 guests will be flying in CAAMFest.

BIG NIGHTS:

Opening Night:  The festival kicks off at the historic Castro Theatre on Thursday evening (March 12), with Benson Lee’s Seoul Searching (2015), his new feature film which garnered quite a buzz when it premiered at Sundance in January.  A tribute to the 1980’s teen movies of John Hughes, but infused with a Korean sensibility and Lee’s own experiences, this dramedy is set in a state run summer camp in Korea that brings together Korean teens from all over the globe for the purpose of teaching them about their culture. Lee uses the teen’s stories, and their unexpected twists, to explore the Korean diaspora. Lee’s Planet B-Boy, about break-dancers in an international competition, won best documentary and the audience award at CAAMfest in 2008. Lee and several cast members will attend.

Opening Gala:  After the screening, there’s an opening night gala at the Asian Art Museum, with a 1980’s dance party with cocktails and fine food amidst the Seduction exhibit of Edo-period Japan. The exhibition has over 60 works of art and features Japanese artist Hishikawa Moronobu’s (1618-1694) spectacular 58 foot long painted silk handscroll, A Visit to the Yoshiwara, which is shown completely unfurled for the first time. The masterpiece, on loan from the John C. Weber, depicts daily life in the entertainment district in the 17th century.

Kalki Koechlin plays Laila in Shonali Bose’s second feature film, “Margarita with a Straw” (2014), CAAMFest’s Centerpiece film, the first Indian film that introduces a character with cerebral palsy.  Image: CAAMFest

Kalki Koechlin plays Laila in Shonali Bose’s second feature film, “Margarita with a Straw” (2014), CAAMFest’s Centerpiece film, the first Indian film that introduces a character with cerebral palsy. Image: CAAMFest

CAAMfest’s Centerpiece movie:  Shonali Bose’s Margarita with a Straw (2014) screens at Castro on Sunday, March 15th and represents the powerful storytelling and moments of palpable intimacy that CAAMFest is famous for.  Kalki Koechlin plays Laila, a young woman from Delhi who is determined not to let her cerebral palsy interfere with her life —she writes lyrics for a rock band, flirts wildly with her classmates and dreams of going to New York to participate in NYU’s prestigious creative writing program to which she’s been admitted. Set in Delhi and New York, the film is a brave and glorious homage to that old adage—“follow your heart.”

Closing Night:  The festival’s closes with Bruce Seidel’s Lucky Chow, a six-part PBS series which will be showcased over the course of two days—Saturday and Sunday, March 21 and 22—at Oakland’s New Parkway Theater.  The series features Danielle Chang (LUCKYRICE culinary festival founder) as she travel across America, taking in the Asian food landscape.  Accompanying the film will be an Asian-inspired curated menu from the New Parkway kitchen.  Other food-related films are Grace Lee’s Off the Menu: Asian America and Edmond Wong’s Supper Club exploring Bay Area restaurants.

As part of a Spotlight on San Francisco documentary filmmaker Arthur Dong, CAAMFest presents the world premiere of his documentary “The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor” chronicling the period of the Khmer Rouge’s tyrannical stronghold over Cambodia.  The story is told through the eyes of the late Dr. Haing S. Ngor, arguably the most recognizable survivor of the Cambodian genocide.  Ngor fled to the U.S. and became a worldwide ambassador for justice, recreating his experience in the film “The Killing Fields” (1984), for which he won an Academy Award in 1984, only to be murdered in a Los Angeles Chinatown alley in 1996.  Using animation and rare archival material, anchored by Ngor's richly layered autobiography, this remarkable story brings you face to face with a man who embodied the harsh duality of danger and opportunity.   Image: CAAMFest

As part of a Spotlight on San Francisco documentary filmmaker Arthur Dong, CAAMFest presents the world premiere of his documentary “The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor” chronicling the period of the Khmer Rouge’s tyrannical stronghold over Cambodia. The story is told through the eyes of the late Dr. Haing S. Ngor, arguably the most recognizable survivor of the Cambodian genocide. Ngor fled to the U.S. and became a worldwide ambassador for justice, recreating his experience in the film “The Killing Fields” (1984), for which he won an Academy Award in 1984, only to be murdered in a Los Angeles Chinatown alley in 1996. Using animation and rare archival material, anchored by Ngor’s richly layered autobiography, this remarkable story brings you face to face with a man who embodied the harsh duality of danger and opportunity. Image: CAAMFest

Honoring the 40th anniversary of Cambodia’s fall to the Khmer Rouge: Lest we not forget the tragic moments that also define cultures, CAAMfest is presenting a collection of powerful stories of survival and resiliency from Cambodia’s tragic Khmer Rouge period. As part of the Spotlight feature on acclaimed filmmaker Arthur Dong, his new documentary, The Killing Fields of Dr. Haing S. Ngor, chronicles the years encapsulating the Khmer Rouge’s tyranny through the eyes of Dr. Haing S. Ngor, who escaped to America and recreated his experience in the film The Killing Fields, for which he won an Academy Award in 1984.  Dong will be in conversation with film critic and author B. Ruby Rich on Friday, March 20 at New People Cinema.

Perfectly Peachy:  The festival is also honoring the Masumoto Family, fourth generation peach California peach farmers, with a CAAMFeast Award and a special evening of storytelling at the OMCA (Oakland Museum of California) on Friday, March 20, where the CAAM-produced documentary, Changing Season: On the Masumoto Family Farm, will have its world premiere. The entire family— Mas, Marcy, Nikiko and Korio Masumoto—will be in attendance. The Masumotos, who have an 80 acre farm south of Fresno, are famous for their highly-prized heirloom Sun Crest peaches and tenacious adherence to sustainable practices as well as their lyrical writing on farming and food.  When was the last time you visited the Oakland Museum?  CAAMFest provides a perfect opportunity to combine film with art.   Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California (ends April 12) is an exciting collaboration between SFMOMA and OMCA that explores California artists, many of them Bay Area artists. Marion Gray: Within the Light (ends June 21) is a riveting exploration of San Francisco-based photographer Marion Gray’s work over the past 40 years documenting Bay Area artists and art happenings. Bees: Tiny Insects, Big Impact (ends September 20) will educate and entertain the entire family.

In Albert Shin’s second feature “In Her Place,” (2014), Yoon Da-Kyung stars as a wealthy Seoul woman who is desperate to have a child.  She arrives at an isolated farm where a struggling widow (Hae-yeon Kil) is hoping to capitalize on her teen daughter’s pregnancy.  The woman moves in with the family to wait for the birth, telling her friends at home that she’s decided to have her baby in the U.S.  Ahn Ji Hye’s raw performance as the conflicted teen anchors this heart wrenching drama of secret pregnancy.  Toronto based director stumbled upon the story while eavesdropping in a café in South Korea.  In Korea, adopted children are still stigmatized and the act of adoption is a shameful one.  Screens twice at CAAMFest 2015.  Image: CAAMFest

In Albert Shin’s second feature “In Her Place,” (2014), Yoon Da-Kyung stars as a wealthy Seoul woman who is desperate to have a child. She arrives at an isolated farm where a struggling widow (Hae-yeon Kil) is hoping to capitalize on her teen daughter’s pregnancy. The woman moves in with the family to wait for the birth, telling her friends at home that she’s decided to have her baby in the U.S. Ahn Ji Hye’s raw performance as the conflicted teen anchors this heart wrenching drama of secret pregnancy. Toronto based director stumbled upon the story while eavesdropping in a café in South Korea. In Korea, adopted children are still stigmatized and the act of adoption is a shameful one. Screens twice at CAAMFest 2015. Image: CAAMFest

Music:  In addition to the movies, Korean musicians have a strong presence at CAAMFest with performances from Awkwafina (Chinese Korean American rapper Nora Lum from Queens) and Suboi, the Vietnamese “Queen of Hip Hop” and a host of other party rockers who will keep things lively before and after the movies.

Stay tuned to ARThound for an interview with the Masumotos about all things peachy.

CAAMFEST Details:

When/Where: CAAMfest 2015 runs March 12-22, 2014 at 8 screening venues in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland and as well as select museums, bars and music halls.

Tickets: This popular festival sells outs, so advance ticket purchase is highly recommended for most films and events.  Regular screenings are $14 with $1 to $2 discounts for students, seniors, disabled and current CAAM members.  Special screenings, programs and social events are more.  Festival 6-pack passes are also available for $75 (6 screenings for price of 5). All access passes are $450 for CAAM members and $500 for general.  Click here for ticket purchases online.  Tickets may also be purchased in person and various venue box offices open one hour before the first festival screening of the day.  Rush Tickets:  If a screening or event has sold all of its available tickets, there is still a chance to get in by waiting in the Rush line. The Rush line will form outside of the venue around 45 minutes before the screening is set to begin.  Cash only and one rush ticket per person and there are no guarantees.

Unpacking the festival: Click here to see full schedule in day by day calendar format with hyperlinks for film and event descriptions and for ticket purchase.  The official website— CAAMFest 2015

 

 

March 11, 2015 Posted by | Asian Art Museum, Film, Food, Gardening, Oakland Museum of California | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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