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The San Francisco International Film Festival celebrates its 60th with expanded programming, new venues and name tweaks—Wed, April 5, through Wed, April 19, 2017

A still from Bay Area artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson’s new documentary, “Tania Libre,” a portrait of the radical Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, whose work blurs the line between art and activism. The film, Leeson’s seventh, continues her ongoing exploration of groundbreaking women artists. Her influential “!Women Art Revolution” (2010) (SFIFF 54) turned the camera on women artists who are underrepresented in leading museums. Leeson will be awarded the SF International Film Festival’s Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award on Tuesday, April 11 at YBCA. “Civic Radar,” a retrospective of Leeson’s extraordinary career runs through May 21 at YBCA and an exhibition with Tania Bruguera will open in June there. The 60th SF International Film Festival runs April 5-19, 2017. Image: courtesy, SFFilm

The 2017 San Francisco International Film Festival opened Wednesday at the historic Castro Theatre with Gillian Robespierre’s sentimental indie comedy, Landline (2016), and runs for the next 14 days, offering 181 films from 51 countries, 6 world premieres, 57 women directors and upwards of 100 participating filmmaker guests.  This grand festival, the longest running film festival in the Americas, celebrates its 60th anniversary with a few changes and expanded programming that tackles urgent social issues and captures the immense talent as well as the heart of its Bay Area locale.

New this Year

This mammoth fest is now called “SF International Film Festival,” instead of SFIFF, and that’s because its sponsor, SFFILM, changed its name; it was formerly the San Francisco Film Society.  SFFILM’s mission remains to “champion the world’s finest films and filmmakers through programs anchored in and inspired by the spirit and values of the San Francisco Bay Area.”  Other changes in the festival include: a start date that is two weeks earlier than usual; closing night festivities that occur two days before the festival’s actual end date; the main Festival Box Office is now headquartered in SOMA, in the YBCA Grand Lobby; and the festival itself is spread all over in 14 San Francisco and 1 Berkeley venue, including the Castro Theatre, the Roxie, the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission Theater, SFMOMA’s new state of the art Phyllis Wattis Theater, the new Dolby Cinema (on Market St.) and PFA (inside Berkeley’s new BAMPFA).

The sprawl presents a logistics nightmare for those driving in who require parking.  Your best bet is to buy all your tickets in advance and plan to see films within walking distance of one another.   It’s worth the hassle to get there.  Nothing beats seeing a film the way it was meant to be seen—on the big screen with state-of-the-art acoustics and an engaged audience to keep you company.   This festival delivers one of the highest ratios of face time with creative talent and flies in special guests from all over the world for nearly every film who participate in engaging post-screening Q & A’s.  These are the exchanges that build lifelong memories and a foundation for understanding cinema.

Shah Rukh Khan (SRK), the undisputed King of Bollywood, will be honored in a special tribute at the Castro on Friday, April 9.  Following an on stage conversation with the charismatic mega-star, Karan Johar’s moving drama, “My Name is Khan” (2010), will screen.  Khan stars as Rizvan Khan, an Indian Muslim Indian battling Asperger’s syndrome, who moves to San Francisco to stay with his brother after their mother dies.  In this stand-out dramatic performances, Khan is forced to navigate the post-9/11 prejudicial landscape. His lot only worsens when he falls in love with and marries a Hindu woman who demands that he tell the U.S. president directly, “My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist.” As he embarks on this epic quest, with quite showy drama, his warm personality wins hearts and becomes his saving grace. Image: courtesy SFFilm

Special programs

Be on the lookout for a series of high-profile tributes and awards: (Ethan Hawke (April 8, YBCA), Tom Luddy (Mel Novikoff Award, April 9, Castro), Eleanor Coppola (George Gund III Craft of Cinema Award, April 10, SFMOMA), Lynn Hershman Leeson (Persistence of Vision Award, April 11, YBCA), John Ridley (April 12, Alamo Drafthouse), Gordon Gund (April 13, SFMOMA), James Ivory (April 14, SFMOMA), Shah Rukh Khan (April 14, Castro).

Do you love Eastern European and Russian film? Tom Luddy, the recipient of this year’s Mel Novikoff Award, is largely responsible for laying the groundwork for BAMPFA’s vast collection of Soviet-era film when he was the director of PFA, way back in the day by collecting prints that might have otherwise been lost. He then went on to co-found the Telluride Film Festival and, after that, went on to become director of special projects for Francisco Ford Coppola and Zoetrope Studios and then on to collaborate with filmmakers such Agnès Varda, Chris Marker, and Jean-Luc Goddard. The Novikoff Award is presented to an individual whose work has enhanced the film-going public’s appreciation of world cinema. For his afternoon film screening, Luddy has selected the rarely screened Gennadi Shpalikov film, “A Long Happy Life” (Russia, 1966), one of the richest and truest depictions of love in Soviet-era Russia ever created, along with Jean-Luc Goddard’s short “Une bonne à toute faire,” (1981), which was filmed at Coppola’s American Zoetrope and evokes a tableau from a Georges de La Tour painting. (Screens: Sunday, April 9, 4 pm, Castro) Image: courtesy SFFilm

There’s an enhanced music and film schedule.  This year’s Centerpiece feature  is Geremy Jasper’s Patti Cake$, about an aspiring rap star (April 12, Castro).  The Man With a Movie Camera with Devotchka (April 13, Castro) combines Dziga Vertov’s 1929 avant-garde trip through three Soviet cities with a live Devotchka performance.)

Australian actress Danielle Macdonald as aspiring rapper Patricia Dombrowski—a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$—in a scene from Geremy Jasper’s feature debut “PattiCake$,” this year’s Centerpiece Film and the unqualified breakout hit of this year’s Sundance Festival. Cheered on by her grandmother (Cathy Moriarty) and only friends, Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay) and Basterd (Mamoudou Athie), Patti somehow manages to shoulder her mother’s (Bridget Everett) heartaches and misfortunes and keep her swagger. This film was in part funded by a grant from SFFilm. Both Jasper and Macdonald will be in attendance. Screens: Wednesday, April 12, 7:30 pm, Castro. Image: courtesy SFFilm

The festival is also unveiling new programs involving the technology world.  An inaugural Creativity Summit will launch with Dr. Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Dsiney Animation Studios giving the State of Cinema address (April 8, Dolby Cinema).

Structure:

The first weekend is dedicated to parties, special events and major new films.  Following that is a week of international and Bay Area cinema mixed with cross-media explorations culminating in the festival’s 60th anniversary commission at Castro on April 16: The Green Fog–A San Francisco Fantasia, an exciting new collaboration by SFFilm and Stanford Live in which the renowned Kronos Quartet will perform a new score by composer Jacob Garchik to accompany a visual collage by filmmaker Guy Maddin.  In addition, the festival continues to tip its hat to new and global filmmakers through its awards.  Ten narrative features and ten documentary features will compete for the Golden Gate Awards (GGAs) and nearly $40,000 in total prizes.

A scene from Guy Maddin’s “The Green Fog” in which the filmmaker challenged himself to remake Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” without using any footage from Hitchcock’s classic. Assisted by Evan Johnson, his “Forbidden Room” collaborator, the duo used a variety of Bay Area-based footage from studio classics, ’50’s noir, documentary and experimental films, and 70’s prime time TV —and employed Maddin’s assemblage techniques— to create what Maddin describes as a “parallel universe” version. “The Green Fog–A San Francisco Fantasia” closes the 60th SF International Film Festival,” on April 16 at the historic Castro Theater. The special commission by SFFilm, in collaboration with Stanford Live, includes the world renowned Kronos Quartet performing a new score by composer Jacob Garchik that “collides and converses with Maddin and Johnson’s irreverent footage. Image: SFFilm

Stay-tuned, ARThound will next preview the festival’s top films.

Festival Details:

When:  The 60th SF International Film Festival runs 14 days─ Wednesday, April 5 –Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

Tickets: $15 most films, more for Special Events and Parties which generally start at $20.   Passes—the popular CINEVOUCHER 10-pack ($140 general public and $120 for SFFilm members) and the exclusive CINEVISA early admittance to every screening, party, and program (with exception of Film Society Awards Night) ($1350 SFFilm members and $1675 general public).   How to buy tickets—purchase online at http://www.sffilm.org/festival/attend/tickets or in person during the festival.  Main Festival Box Office: is YBCA Grand Lobby, open daily Thursday, April 6 – Sunday, April 16, noon to 8 pm. During the festival , other screening venues also sell tickets.

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

Day-of Noon Release Tickets: Each day of the Festival, tickets may be released for that day’s rush screenings. Pending availability, tickets may be purchased online or in person at the main festival box,  starting at noon. Not all shows will have tickets released, and purchasing is first-come, first-served.

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. No rush tickets for screenings at BAMPFA

More info: For full schedule and tickets, visit: http://www.sffilm.org/festival

 

April 5, 2017 Posted by | Art, 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

ARThound looks at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s Sunday line-up

Johann Sigurjonson’s classic “The Outlaw and His Wife,” newly-restored by the Swedish Film Institute, screens Sunday at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.  Edith Erastoff plays the strong widow, Halla, who falls in love with drifter Berg-Eyvind, played by Victor Sjöström.  Image: courtesy Swedish Film Institute

Johann Sigurjonson’s classic “The Outlaw and His Wife,” newly-restored by the Swedish Film Institute, screens Sunday at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Edith Erastoff plays the strong widow, Halla, who falls in love with drifter Berg-Eyvind, played by Victor Sjöström. Image: courtesy Swedish Film Institute

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival wraps this Sunday with a program worth devoting the entire day to.  The festival’s spectacular historical footage of foreign lands and old customs is always a huge draw.  This year, they have outdone themselves.  Victor Sjöström’s The Outlaw and His Wife (1918), newly restored by the Swedish Film Institute, and German director Friedrich Zelnik’s The Weavers (1927), based on actual weaver uprisings of 1892, are both screening on Sunday afternoon. And just before The Weavers, the festival is gifting the audience with a screening of Aleksander Rodchenko’s newly discovered short trailer for Dziga Vertov’s The Eleventh Year (1928), along with the world premiere of the musical score performed by Beth Custer and Ken Winokur. Sunday afternoon also includes the world premiere of the restoration of Emory Johnson’s The Last Editon (1925), focused around the San Francisco Chronicle and featuring rich historical footage of San Francisco.  The day begins and ends with two classic comedies—in the morning, Kings of Silent Comedy is a delightful pastiche of comedy clips featuring the titans of the silent era and, at 9 p.m., the festival close with Safety Last! (1923) featuring Harold Lloyd, one of the masters of silent-era comedy.

Johann Sigurjonson’s classic “The Outlaw and His Wife,” newly-restored by the Swedish Film Institute, is one of cinema’s great romances.  Edith Erastoff plays the widow, Halla, who falls in love with drifter Berg-Eyvind, played by Victor Sjöström, and gives everything up to run away with him.  Image: courtesy Swedish Film Institute

Johann Sigurjonson’s classic “The Outlaw and His Wife,” newly-restored by the Swedish Film Institute, is one of cinema’s great romances. Edith Erastoff plays the widow, Halla, who falls in love with drifter Berg-Eyvind, played by Victor Sjöström, and gives everything up to run away with him. Image: courtesy Swedish Film Institute

The Outlaw and His Wife (Berg-Ejvind och Hans Hhustru) (Sweden, 1918, ~105 min)

Adapted from a play by Johann Sigurjonson, director Victor Sjöström’s Berg-Ejvind och Hans Hhustru is one of Swedish cinema’s first major films. The 1918 silent drama features dramatic footage of vast expanses of wild nature and is one of the finest examples of Sigurjonson’s life-long exploration of the theme of spirituality’s connection to nature and the elements.  It is also hailed as a work of remarkable psychological complexity, which had a strong influence on the work of Ingmar Bergman and Carl Theodor Dreyer.  It stars Victor Sjöström (Bergman’s Wild Strawberries) as Berg-Eyvind, a drifter who begins working on the farm of a generous and extremely self-sufficient widow named Halla (Edith Erastoff).  The couple falls in love only to have it revealed that Berg-Eyvind is a thief on the run. When a jealous rival alerts authorities to Eyvind’s true identity, the lovers escape together into the mountains of Iceland where they manage to eke-out a rather enviable existence until they are discovered by another fugitive and the story takes a very dark turn.  “The film is incredible love story that takes place in a beautiful vista and it’s based on an old Icelandic tale, with amazing cinematography and story,” said SFSFF director Anita Monga.  “It just had its premiere last week at Il Cinema Ritrovato, the Bologna Film Festival, and now it’s here for its second-ever screening after its restoration.”  The Matti Bye Ensemble from Sweden provides musical accompaniment. (Screens Sunday, July 20, at 1 p.m.)

Friedrich Zelnik’s “The Weavers” (1927) (Die Weber) dramatizes a Silesian cotton weavers uprising of 1844 and features intertitles designed and hand-drawn by George Grosz.  Pictured: Theodor Loos (in white shirt), Wilhelm Dieterle (in beret), Herta von Walther (bending), Dagny Servaes (woman on the right).  Photo: courtesy of F.W. Murnau Stiftung

Friedrich Zelnik’s “The Weavers” (1927) (Die Weber) dramatizes a Silesian cotton weavers uprising of 1844 and features intertitles designed and hand-drawn by George Grosz. Pictured: Theodor Loos (in white shirt), Wilhelm Dieterle (in beret), Herta von Walther (bending), Dagny Servaes (woman on the right). Photo: courtesy of F.W. Murnau Stiftung

The Weavers (Die Weber) (Germany, 1927, ~ 97 min)

Friedrich Zelnik’s The Weavers is based on the 1892 play by Gerhart Hauptman dramatizing a Silesian cotton weavers uprising of 1844.  The film was once known as the German Potemkin.  It is a high budget German drama focused on class struggle, a subject matter that resonated closely with epic works of Soviet cinema.  The film has a strong sense of drama and tragedy and shows the poor workers being exploited by the rich manufacturers and the devastation which ensues when the crowd degrades into a mob which destroys the textile magnate’s manor and proceeds to break the textile machines which threaten the traditional livelihood of the weavers. Some of the workers refuse to participate in the revolt but are harmed nonetheless.  Its creators downplayed its radical message, but The Weavers resonated with viewers in 1927 whose social reality reflected a chasm between rich and poor.  “This is a very rousing film,” said Anita Monga. The incident itself had a major impact throughout the world and it was a touchstone for Marx and Engels writing the Communist Manifesto

The excellent 2012 restoration, by F. W. Murnau Stiftung and Transit Film GmbH, showcases the work of the great graphic designer George Grosz, from his animal vignettes in the opening credit sequence and continuing with the animated graphic design of the intertitles which goes further than in Metropolis: there is a 3D mobile approach to certain key sentences which become moving lettrist vignettes.  The standoff scene between the revolutionary crowd and the police and military are epic.  Musical accompaniment is by the acclaimed Günter Buchwald, the director of the Silent Movie Music Company and conductor of the Freiburg Filmharmonic Orchestra, which he founded in 1992. Buchwald has incorporated a very Brechtian folksong into the accompaniment. (Screens Sunday, July 20, at 6 p.m.)

Aleksander Rodchenko’s newly discovered trailer for Dziga Vertov’s The Eleventh Year with the world premiere of the musical score performed by Beth Custer and Ken Winokur

Ken Winokur of the Alloy Orchestra made an amazing discovery while the orchestra was traveling in the Ukraine—a two-minute trailer for Dziga Vertov’s THE ELEVENTH YEAR, created by famed Constructivist artist Aleksander Rodchenko.  As a special gift to San Francisco, Winokur and Beth Custer will perform the World Premiere of their score accompanying Vertov’s trailer on Sunday, July 21, just before the 6 p.m. screening of The Weavers. (For ARThound’s previous coverage of this, click here.)

In 2011, the last surviving copy of Emory Johnson’s “The Last Edition” (1925), whose story is set around the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, was found in the Netherlands.  The world premiere of the new restoration is Sunday, July 21, 2013 at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.  Image: courtesy SFSFF.

In 2011, the last surviving copy of Emory Johnson’s “The Last Edition” (1925), whose story is set around the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, was found in the Netherlands. The world premiere of the new restoration is Sunday, July 21, 2013 at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Image: courtesy SFSFF.

The Last Edition (USA, 1925, 105 min)

One of the few surviving films created by Emory Johnson in the mid-1920’s, The Last Edition stars veteran actor Ralph Lewis as a pressman at the San Francisco Chronicle who has been denied a well-deserved promotion by his boss, publisher Jerome Hamilton (Louis Payne).  The film’s last known screening was on November 28, 1930, in Utrecht, the Netherlands, so Sunday’s premiere of its new restoration is a cause for celebration.  This gem is filmed on location in and around the Chronicle pressroom with major footage of Market Street, Civic Center and Mission Street and includes a thrilling car chase throughout the City as newsmen valiantly tackle the forces of corruption.  The film was unearthed in an archive in the Netherlands two years ago and was in poor condition due to having been shot on highly-degradable nitrate film.  Its painstaking two-year restoration was a collaboration between the archive, Eye Film Institute Netherlands and the film festival.  Leading silent film accompanist Stephen Horne will be on piano. (Screens Sunday, July 21, 3:30 p.m.)

Harold Lloyd’s romantic silent comedy “Safety Last” (1923) closes the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and includes one of silent film’s most iconic images—Lloyd clutching the hands of a giant clock while dangling from ledge of a skyscraper above moving traffic.  Lloyd’s performance cemented his status as one of the leading figures in early motion pictures.  The film's title is a play on the expression, "safety first," which emphasizes safety as the primary means of avoiding accidents.  Image: courtesy SFSFF.

Harold Lloyd’s romantic silent comedy “Safety Last!” (1923) closes the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and includes one of silent film’s most iconic images—Lloyd clutching the hands of a giant clock while dangling from ledge of a skyscraper above moving traffic. Lloyd’s performance cemented his status as one of the leading figures in early motion pictures. The film’s title is a play on the expression, “safety first,” which emphasizes safety as the primary means of avoiding accidents. Image: courtesy SFSFF.

Full festival schedule—Chronological View and Calendar View

Details: SFSFFruns Thursday, July 12, 2012 through Sunday, July 15, 2012 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (between Market and 18th Streets), San Francisco. Tickets: $14 to $20; $180 to $215 for passes. Click here to purchase all tickets and passes. Information: (415) 777-4908 or www.silentfilm.org

Parking Alert: If you plan on coming by car, street parking is the only parking available. Plan to arrive 45 minutes early to leave sufficient time for parking and walking to/from the theatre.

July 20, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

San Francisco’s 18th Annual Silent Film Festival: celebrating the silent era with premieres, restorations and wonderful live music, at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre—opens this Thursday, July 18, 2012

Ralph Lewis (left) and Tom O’Brien (right) are pressmen for the San Francisco Chronicle in Emory Johnson’s newly restored “The Last Edition,” screening for the first time in 83 years at the 18th SF Silent Film Festival on Sunday.  The film was found in a film archive in the Netherlands two years ago.  Originally shot on highly degradable nitrate film, it required two years of dedicated restoration.  Image: courtesy SFSFF.

Ralph Lewis (left) and Tom O’Brien (right) are pressmen for the San Francisco Chronicle in Emory Johnson’s newly restored “The Last Edition,” screening for the first time in 83 years at the 18th SF Silent Film Festival on Sunday. The film was found in a film archive in the Netherlands two years ago. Originally shot on highly degradable nitrate film, it required two years of dedicated restoration. Image: courtesy SFSFF.

The 18th San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) begins Thursday, July 17, 2013 and runs through Sunday, July 21, 2013, presenting films from nine countries and 17 programs celebrating the wonder of silent film, all at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre. Thursday night, the festival kicks off and Friday, Saturday and Sunday each offer a full day of
5-6 film events, all with live music, making every performance unique.  In addition to re-introducing some oft-forgotten talents from cinematic history, the festival brings in experts on film history and restoration to talk about specific issues related to each film so this is a chance to learn about a film’s entire social context while seeing it on the Castro’s big screen.

The annual festival, the largest in the country, is held every July at the Castro Theatre and is sponsored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the artistic, cultural and historic value of silent film.

Thursday: Opening Night Film: PRIX DE BEAUTÉ – France 1930

The festival opens on Thursday with a beautiful new restoration (from the Cineteca di Bologna) of Louise Brooks in her last starring role in Augusto Genina’s Prix de Beauté.  Less known than her work with G.W. Pabst (Pandora’s Box, Diary of a Lost Girl), Prix de Beauté was marred by its less-than-successful foray into early sound (Brooks’s voice was dubbed). The San Francisco Silent Film Festival presentation is the superior silent version recently restored in Bologna. Brooks is stunning as Lucienne, the “every girl” typist who enters a beauty contest and is introduced to a shiny world of fame and modernity.  But Prix’s script, a collaboration between René Clair and G.W. Pabst, doesn’t leave Lucienne in a fairy tale bubble but leads to a powerful, moving denouement. Cinematographers Rudolph Maté and Louis Née make beautiful use of Brooks’s glorious face. Accompanying the film will be world-renowned pianist (and festival favorite) Stephen Horne who has a special musical surprise in store for viewers at the end of the film.

Opening Night Party: After the film, at 9 p.m., the SFSFF 2013 kicks off with its fabulous opening night party at the McRoskey Mattress Company, a short walk from the theatre.  There will be drinks, hors d’oeuvres, dancing to the Frisky Frolics, and the first-ever SF Silent Film Festival Beauty Contest and a raffle for a chance to win a $3000 shopping spree! (Drawing will be held on Closing Night.)  Wear your best 1910s – 1920s-inspired Glad Rags and parade in front of a panel of Celebrity Judges for fabulous prizes including the Grand Prize of a Styling Consultation with Artful Gentleman! Whether you raid your closet or arrive in your newest acquisition, everyone is eligible.

Actor, writer, and producer Miles Mander plays British politician Sir Hugo Boycott and Madeleine Carroll is Lady Madeleine Boycott in “The First Born,” 1928.  The film touches on the very adult themes of infertility and adultery and the disintegration of a marriage in a wealthy British upper-class milieu.  Image: courtesy BFI.

Actor, writer, and producer Miles Mander plays British politician Sir Hugo Boycott and Madeleine Carroll is Lady Madeleine Boycott in “The First Born,” 1928. The film touches on the very adult themes of infertility and adultery and the disintegration of a marriage in a wealthy British upper-class milieu. Image: courtesy BFI.

Friday:  Into the 1920’s bedroom, THE FIRST BORN –UK 1928

Miles Mander, famous for his moustache, has his directorial debut and stars in a film that was adapted from his own play The First Born, a tale of philandering politician Hugo Boycott (Mander), and his young wife Madeleine (played by Madeleine Carroll).  Unable to have a child, their marriage is strained, so in desperation Madeleine attempts to dupe him into believing that someone else’s baby is his own.  Set in a British upper-class milieu and touching on morality, politics, and the disintegration of a marriage, the film present’s a fascinating glimpse back in time as well as exceptionally rich characters.  The screenplay was co-written by Alma Reville, most known today as Hitchcock’s wife, but someone who had already established herself in the industry before her husband picked up a camera.  Musician Stephen Horne, who has accompanied the film several times before and wrote a full score for the BFI’s restoration gala screening in London in 2011, will perform.   The film screens Friday, July 19, at 2 p.m.

Saturday: A Brand New Restoration of THE HALF-BREED – USA 1916

On Saturday, July 20th at Noon, the Festival will premiere a brand new restoration of a “lost” Douglas Fairbanks film, The Half-Breed—the result of a partnership between the Cinémathèque française and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.  The great Allan Dwan directed this western drama set amongst the redwoods and filmed in part near Boulder Creek (with Victor Fleming behind the camera). Based on a story by Bret Harte and adapted by Anita Loos, The Half-Breed stars Douglas Fairbanks as Lo Dorman, a half-Indian outcast from society, who lives in the forest and makes his home in a hollow tree. The coquettish pastor’s daughter (Jewel Carmen) toys with his affections, but it is Teresa (Alma Reuben) on the run from the law, who shares Lo’s status as an outsider. Founder and conductor of the Freiburg Filmharmonic Orchestra, Günter Buchwald will accompany The Half-Breed on the Castro’s Mighty Wurlitzer.

In G.W. Pabst’s “The Joyless Street” (1925), two women from the same poor neighborhood try to better themselves during the period of Austrian postwar hyperinflation.  Marie becomes a prostitute while Grete (Greta Garbo in her final European film before she was snapped up by MGM in Hollywood) does not.  Photo: courtesy Filmmuseum München

In G.W. Pabst’s “The Joyless Street” (1925), two women from the same poor neighborhood try to better themselves during the period of Austrian postwar hyperinflation. Marie becomes a prostitute while Grete (Greta Garbo in her final European film before she was snapped up by MGM in Hollywood) does not. Photo: courtesy Filmmuseum München

Saturday: sensational restoration THE JOYLESS STREET – Germany 1925

Not only one of the most important films of Weimar-era Germany, The Joyless Street (Die freudlose Gasse) is also one of the most spectacular censorship cases of the era. The story from the inflationary period in Vienna in the years immediately after World War I was considered too much of a provocation with its juxtaposition of haves and have nots and its frank sexuality. G.W. Pabst’s film was twice shortened by the German censors and other countries made cuts or outright banned the film. This painstaking restoration, supervised by Stefan Drössler for Filmmuseum München, has reconstructed the film as close as possible to Pabst’s intention.  “Tons of research went into trying to figure out what the original film actually was,” explained Anita Monga.  “It is not completely clear because this film was circulated around to different countries that received different parts and versions due to censorship, so the issues of continuity and what belonged and what didn’t was a huge challenge.  The Munich archive did extensive research and gathered materials from around the world and put together what they  feel is the most comprehensive restoration of the film, making it longer but also what we feel is the most complete version.  In terms of the acting, the film has the Danish actress, Asta Nielsen, who was huge, an international star who made over 70 films in Germany but she’s not well known in the States because her work was considered too erotic and was heavily censored in the U.S.   And there’s Garbo.  Her performance in Gosta Berling’s Saga (1924), which really launched her career, caught the eye of Pabst who then brought her in to this film, where she is wonderful.  This was just her second feature performance which occurred just before she left Europe for Hollywood in 1925.”  The Joyless Street will play Saturday, July 20th at 8:30 PM. The extraordinary Matti Bye Ensemble will perform their original score to accompany The Joyless Street.

Sunday: a story set around our own San Francisco Chronicle THE LAST EDITION – USA 1925

One of the few surviving films created by Emory Johnson in the mid-1920’s, The Last Edition stars veteran actor Ralph Lewis as a pressman at the San Francisco Chronicle who has been denied a well-deserved promotion by his boss, publisher Jerome Hamilton (Louis Payne).  The film’s last known screening was on November 28, 1930, in Utrecht, the Netherlands, so Sunday’s premiere of its new restoration is a cause for celebration.  For those with an interest in history in San Francisco history, this gem is filmed on location in and around the Chronicle pressroom with major footage of Market Street, Civic Center and Mission Street and includes a thrilling car chase throughout the City as newsmen valiantly tackle the forces of corruption.  The film was unearthed in an archive in the Netherlands two years ago and was in poor condition due to having been shot on highly-degradable nitrate film.  Its painstaking two-year restoration is a collaboration between the archive, Eye Film Institute Netherlands and the film festival.  Leading silent film accompanist Stephen Horne will be on piano to accompany the screening of this film Sunday, July 21st at 3:30 PM.

Sunday:  Aleksander Rodchenko’s newly discovered trailer for Dziga Vertov’s THE ELEVENTH YEAR with the world premiere of the musical score performed by Beth Custer and Ken Winokur

Ken Winokur of the Alloy Orchestra made an amazing discovery while the orchestra was traveling in the Ukraine—a two-minute trailer for Dziga Vertov’s THE ELEVENTH YEAR, created by famed Constructivist artist Aleksander Rodchenko.  As a special gift to San Francisco, Winokur and Beth Custer will perform the World Premiere of their score accompanying Vertov’s trailer on Sunday, July 21, just before the 6 p.m. screening of THE WEAVERS.

Winokur describes his find:

In May of this year, while traveling in the Ukraine with Alloy Orchestra, I had the great pleasure of visiting the National Oleksandr Dovzhenko Centre (the Ukrainian National Film Archive). Located in a building that once, during the Soviet Era, housed a massive film processing lab, the archive has rapidly developed into an impressive collection of films, particularly films of the Ukraine. The curators at the archive seem to have a special interest in silent films, and also run the Mute Nights, Silent Film festival, every June in Odessa Ukraine.

Shortly before leaving the archive, curator Stas Menzelevskyi, beckoned me to look at a film he had on his computer.  He explained that it was a trailer for the Dziga Vertov film THE ELEVENTH YEAR, and that it is believed to be animated and directed by Aleksander Rodchenko, a noted graphic designer and one of the founders of the Constructivist movement in the Soviet Union.  I was stunned! This 2 minute film is like nothing I have ever seen from the silent era. Swirling circles, and dancing stick figures—the film looks more like something from the summer of love in San Francisco than a film from the 1920s.

Stay tuned to ARThound for more festival coverage

Full festival schedule—Chronological View and Calendar View

Details: The 18th San Francisco Silent Film Festival is July 18-21, 2013 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (between Market and 18th Streets), San Francisco.  Festival passes are available at McRoskey Mattress Company (1687 Market St., S.F.) and online at www.silentfilm.org.   Tickets: $15 to $25 for parties; $185 to $220 for passes. Click here to purchase all tickets and passes. Information: (415) 777-4908 or www.silentfilm.org

Parking Alert: If you plan on coming by car, street parking is the only parking available. Plan to arrive 45 minutes early to leave sufficient time for parking and walking to/from the theatre.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment