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Geneva Anderson digs into art

Three Great Film Festivals North of the Golden Gate Open in Early October—get ready!

Brian Percival’s film adaptation of Markus Zusak’s New York Times best seller “The Book Thief” (2013) is one of two films opening the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival, October 3-13, 2013.  Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson star as a couple raising a young German foster child (Sophie Nélisse) and hiding a Jew from the Nazis during World War II.

Brian Percival’s film adaptation of Markus Zusak’s New York Times best seller “The Book Thief” (2013) is one of two films opening the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival, October 3-13, 2013. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson star as a couple raising a young German foster child (Sophie Nélisse) and hiding a Jew from the Nazis during World War II.

The fall film festival season we’ve been waiting for kicks off in early October with three film festivals North of the Golden Gate—the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival (Oct 3-13, 2013), the 18th Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival (Oct 3-Nov 21, 2013) and the 5th Petaluma International Film Festival (Oct 11-13, 2013).

Stay-tuned to ARThound for detailed coverage, but below are the bare bones and ticketing information on each.  The three-day Petaluma International Film Festival overlaps with the final Fri-Sat-Sun of the Mill Valley Film Festival and the Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival and Mill Valley Film Festival both share an October 3 opening, With some planning though, you can easily see plenty of films at each of these festivals.

Mill Valley Film Festival (Oct 3-13)

Heading into its 36th year, the acclaimed Mill Valley Film Festival (MVFF36) kicks off Thursday, October 3, 2013 in high style with the Co-Opening night films Nebraska, from director Alexander Payne, and The Book Thief from director Brian Percival.  Bruce Dern and Will Forte will be in attendance for the Bay Area Premiere of Nebraksa at CinéArts@Sequoia in Mill Valley and Academy Award®-winner Geoffrey Rush and Sophie Nélisse and Brian Percival will be in attendance for The Book Thief at the Century Cinema Corte Madera in Corte Madera.  An Opening Night Gala at the Corte Madera Town Center will follow the Opening Night Screenings where guests will enjoy delicious local cuisine and wine and music.

A scene from Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska” (2013), one of two films opening the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival, October 3-13, 2013.  Bruce Dern plays a father who receives a sweepstakes letter in the mail and goes on a road trip across America’s heartland with his son Macgruber, played by Will Forte, to claim the prize. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

A scene from Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska” (2013), one of two films opening the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival, October 3-13, 2013. Bruce Dern plays a father who receives a sweepstakes letter in the mail and goes on a road trip across America’s heartland with his son Macgruber, played by Will Forte, to claim the prize. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

On the heels of the prestigious Venice and Toronto festivals, MVFF has the proud distinction of presenting Bay Area premieres of the last five Academy Award-Winners for Best Picture—Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, The King’s Speech, The Artist and Argo—and festival organizers Mark Fishkin and Zoe Elton expect no less this year.  Aside from its array of big premieres, big nights, stars and luminaries, and tributes and awards, the carefully planned 11 day festival offers over 150 films and events that fit the informed, progressive and Bohemian zeitgeist of Northern California.  A few of the special interest categories include—animation, animal rights, Asian, Central Europe, Children’s Festival, comedy, environment/nature, fine arts, food, health, history, human rights, indigenous peoples, women, world cinema, and war.

There’s a huge buzz about Judy Dench’s performance in Philomena Steven Frears’ heart-tugging adoption story starring Dench and Steve Coogan.  Philomena tells the story of a down-on-his-luck journalist (Coogan) who teams up with older woman (Dench, 78 in real life) whose son was taken away after she became pregnant as a teenager and was forced into a Catholic convent cum slave-labor home for unwed pregnant girls run by Northern Irish nuns. The movie is based on a true story of Irish woman Philomena Lee’s 50-year struggle to find her son, who was sold for adoption in America, as told by Martin Sixsmith in his 2009 book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee: A Mother, Her Son and a Fifty-Year Search.

Because MVFF makes ticket available to California Film Institute members in advance of the general public, many of the films and special tributes are nearly sold out before they are publicly available. (For a list of films currently at rush,  click here.)  I’ll be pointing out several films over the next few days that still have availability and are unlikely to screen elsewhere, or, that have special programming combined with their screening that make them a must-see at Mill Valley.

Details:  The festival’s homepage is hereAdvance ticket purchase is essential as this festival sells out. To purchase tickets online for MVFF screenings, browse the film listings—the full list and scheduling information are online here.  Most tickets are $14 and special events and tributes are more.  Tickets can also be purchased in person at select Marin ticket outlets.

Rush tickets: If seats become available, even after tickets have sold out, rush tickets will be sold. The rush line forms outside each venue beginning one hour before show-time. Approximately 15 minutes prior to the screening, available rush tickets are sold on a first-come, first serve basis for Cash Only.)

Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival 2013 (Oct 3 – Nov 21)

The Jewish Community Center, Sonoma County presents the 18th annual Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival (SCJFF) which opens Thursday October 3, 2013 at Rialto Cinemas, Sebastopol, and ends November 21, 2013.  The festival conveniently runs on Thursdays at 1 PM and 7:30 PM and presents seven carefully selected films from Israel, France, Germany, Austria and the USA.  “You don’t have to be Jewish to love these films,” says Ellen Blustein, Film Festival Director who emphasizes their great stories. “We’re committed to providing high quality, entertaining, independent films to our loyal audience – after all – they are our community.”

Alice Taglioni and Patrick Bruel in Sophie Lellouche’s romantic comedy “Paris-Manhattan,” which opens the 18th Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival on Thursday, October 3 at Sebastopol’s Rialto Cinemas.  Photo: courtesy SCJFF

Alice Taglioni and Patrick Bruel in Sophie Lellouche’s romantic comedy “Paris-Manhattan,” which opens the 18th Sonoma County Jewish Film Festival on Thursday, October 3 at Sebastopol’s Rialto Cinemas. Photo: courtesy SCJFF

Opening the festival is Sophie Lellouche’s debut film, the romantic comedy Paris-Manhattan (2012) screening Thursday, October 3, at 1 PM and 7:30 PM Alice (Alice Taglioni) is beautiful, successful pharmacist in her 30s who is obsessed with Woody Allen and his films.  In lieu of a manly shoulder, she spills her secrets to an iconic poster of Woody that hangs in her bedroom.  She even prescribes his films to her customers who need advice and guidance beyond the traditional medicine she dispenses. France, 77 minutes, French with English subtitles.  click for trailer. Screens with Woody Before Allen, Short film, USA, 13 minutes, English.

The SCJFF always has a special event and on Thursday, October 31 presents a screening and a special musical performance.  The evening begins with music—a quartet from the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra will perform for the first time ever in Sonoma County.  Then, Josh Aronson’s acclaimed documentary Orchestra of Exiles (2012) will screen—the suspenseful chronicle of how one man, Bronislaw Huberman, helped save Europe’s premiere Jewish musicians from obliteration by the Nazis during WWII.  This densely layered story of the creation of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra (which in 1948 became the renowned Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, now conducted by Zubin Mehta) involves key characters including the high Nazi official, Goebbels; renowned conductors, Furtwangler and Toscanini; a future head of state, Chaim Weizmann; the families of victimized Jewish musicians who made up the ranks of orchestras across central Europe and Albert Einstein, who was an amateur violinist who liked to read music with Huberman.  The film features the music of Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, Pinchas Zukerman, Joshua Bell and others.  After the screening, there will be a reception where audience members can mingle with the musicians.  Details:  Click here for tickets and information about the entire festival or call 707-528-4222 or visit the Rialto Cinemas Box Office. Ticket prices range from $10-$20.

Petaluma International Film Festival (Oct 11-13)

5th Annual Petaluma International Film Festival (PIFF) runs Friday, October 11 through Sunday, October 13th at Petaluma’s Boulevard 14 Cinemas.  Organized by Saeed Shafa who founded the popular annual Tiburon Film Festival in 2002, PIFF’s programming also reflects a strong emphasis on international points of view and great storytelling.  The festival offers six screenings daily, starting at noon and running till about 11 PM, each time slot allocated to a full-length film and at least 1 short (30 minutes or less) for a total of 17 full-length films and 23 shorts. This year, filmmakers and/or films span the globe from Athens to Kosovo to remote Papua New Guinea to Senegal to Yemen.

Opening Day: The festival opens Friday, October 11 with a noon screening of Hermann Vaske’s Balkan Spirit (2013, Germany, 80 minutes).  Vaske and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek explore the cultural, philosophical, political and artistic renaissance that is literally breathing life into this amazing region after decades of war and stagnation.  The engaging film features Angelina Jolie, Isabelle Huppert, Emir Kusturica, Dušan Makavejev, Abel Ferrara, Jasmila Zbanic and many other who will be forever on your creative radar.

5 Films by Sonoma Flimmakers, Saturday October 12, 6 PM—PIFF will present a collection of films made by Sonoma County filmmakers in support of the community’s rich and diverse talent.  All the filmmakers will be on hand for a post-screening Q&A.  On the program- Greg Blatman’s Kitty Litter (2012, 9 min, shot in Petaluma); Beth Nelson’s The Sky is the Roof (2013, 30 min—historical overview of pre-colonial Napa Valley); Laura Owen & Aron Campisano’s Chocolatés (5 min); Bret Smith’s Rat-Face Burattino (2013, 5 min) and Paul Winston’s The World is My Stage (2013, 26 min).

Salem Salavati's documentary The Last Winter (Zemestane akhar) (Iran, 2012, 95 min) won the FIPRESCI  Prize at the Yerevan International Film Festival and screens Sunday, October 13, at the 5th Petaluma International Film Festival.  With beautiful cinematography, it tells the story of rural family in a remote corner of Iran and, like many Iranian films, it employs allegory to make a larger statement the threatened culture of Iranian Kurdistan.

Salem Salavati’s documentary The Last Winter (Zemestane akhar) (Iran, 2012, 95 min) won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Yerevan International Film Festival and screens Sunday, October 13, at the 5th Petaluma International Film Festival. With beautiful cinematography, it tells the story of rural family in a remote corner of Iran and, like many Iranian films, it employs allegory to make a larger statement the threatened culture of Iranian Kurdistan.

Shafa has a passion for the great poetic of film.  This year’s gem from Iran is Salem Salavati’s documentary The Last Winter (Zemestane akhar) (Iran, 2012, 95 min), an elegant parable about the threatened culture of Iranian Kurdistan told through the story of a family who is unable to change and to come to terms with a tragedy. Salavati’s documentary is an expanded version of his previous short Snowy Dreams with the same picturesque winter scenery, calm, realistic life style and culture of Iranian Kurdistan.  Screens with the short Double Occupancy at 6:15 PM on Sunday, October 13, 2013.

PIFF Details: Tickets are $11 for all PIFF screenings and are available in person or for online purchase at Petaluma’s Boulevard Cinemas, 200 C Street, Petaluma.  All inclusive festival pass is $150 and can be obtained by phoning (415) 251-8433 or by emailing info@petalumafilmfestival.org.  Full schedule here.  Film descriptions here.

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September 25, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

French Cinema Now, starts Wednesday and offers a week of the best new French film, at San Francisco at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema

In French-Swiss director Ursula Meier’s “Sister” (L’enfant d’en haut), self-absorbed Louise (Léa Seydoux) is supported by her crafty twelve-year-old brother (Kacey Mottet Klein) who steals ski equipment from wealthy tourists at a posh ski chalet and re-sells it. The film won the Silver Bear at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival and screens on Tuesday, October 30, 2012, closing French Cinema now. Image courtesy: SFFS.

When it comes to French film, nothing beats French Cinema Now, the San Francisco Film Society’s annual October homage to Francophile cinema. This year, the week-long festival screens 10 films and begins on Wednesday, October 24, and runs through Tuesday, October 30, 2012.  Programming runs in the evenings on weekdays and starts in the afternoon on Friday through Sunday.

Opening Night kicks off with Noémie Lvovsky’s comedy Camille Rewinds (Camille redouble), the wry French reply to our Peggy Sue Got Married, which has stressed out 40-something Camille being informed by her husband of 25 years, Éric (Samir Guesmi), that he’s done with their marriage. When Camille passes out drunk, she wakes up in a hospital room back in 1985 and appears to everyone as a 15-year-old girl but she has the consciousness and memories of her 40-year-old self. She revels in being reunited with her deceased parents and finds high school a hoot (walkmen but no cell phones).  Despite knowing everything that will happen and should be avoided, like a fist kiss with her first love, her husband to be, this gentle comedy has her going ahead anyway. Director Noémie Lvovsky will attend.  Following the screening, the festival officially opens with a party at Credo, open to the public.

The festival closes with French-Swiss director Ursula Meier’s Sister (L’enfant d’en haut), the winner of the Silver Bear at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival and Switzerland’s official nominee for Oscar consideration.  The film set in Le Valais, a French-speaking part of Switzerland where the mountains serve as a seasonal retreat for affluent skiers and the village below the poor who are supported by tourism.  Scrappy 12-year-old Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein) supports himself and his older sister Louise (Léa Seydoux) by stealing ski equipment on the slopes and re-selling it.   Meir, who directed young Klein in a supporting role in Home (2009), excels at family dynamics and coaxes naturalistic and interesting performances out of Klein and Seydoux, who for all purposes seem a screwed up sibling match made in heaven.  While Seydoux needs no introduction after starring next to Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) , her riveting performance as a palace servant to Diane Kruger’s Marie Antoinette in Benoît Jacquot’s lush historical drama Farewell, My Queen, (Les adieux à la reine) (2012) (screened at SFIFF 55) demonstrated her emotional resonance as one of France’s leading young actresses. This young woman, capable of mesmerizing glances, is not to be missed. But in all fairness, the film gains all its pop from young Kacey Mottet, who plays the hustling young urchin with such intensity and bravado, you’ll want to go home and watch him as a 9-year-old in Home (Maison) on Netflix, for which he won the Swiss Film Award for best Emerging Actor.   Meier will be in attendance.

ARThound recommends:  

Salome Blechmans experiences religious visions about crucifixion in Djinn Carrenard’s “DONOMA,” playing at French Cinema Now, October 24 – 30 at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema.

Donoma: Haitian-born, Paris-based filmmaker Dijnn Carrénard’s breakout first feature, rumored to be shot with 150 euros (and a lot of goodwill) is one of the reasons this film festival exists—it captures the French cinema right now.  Winner of the prestigious Louis Delluc Prize (Prix Louis-Delluc) for 2011, it has a fascinating storyline that dissects love, faith and identity through a series of intersecting multicultural relationships of teens and youngish twenty-somethings, all teetering on implosion.  If Sister sounds good, this gem offers an equally dark, but far more raw portrait of modern life that takes place outside the confines of family.  And there’s something very intriguing about the intimacies transgressed upon.Opening the film is a young couple who at first seem pretty normal—Salma’s (Salome Blechmans) the daughter of rich parents and Dacio (Vincent Perez) is poor and they get into it when he comes on to her and she refuses him.  We soon discover she’s got problems that money can’t solve—disturbing visions about crucifixion.  There’s a teacher (Emilia Derou-Bernal) in a Spanish foreign language school who comes on to Dacio, who is her student and third story involving a shy photographer and recent immigrant from Ghana (Laura Kpegli) who uses her camera voyeuristically to fall in love.  A lot of the dialogue, conducted in Gallic  inner-city slang— 30 minutes of which could be cut—feels improvised but it’s very real and gets right into the gritty mess of human communication and emotions which can flip back and forth on a euro.  The up-close camerawork itself feels fresh. Rich color saturation and graininess  heighten the drama of these intensely human moments.  Anyone who’s ever crashed and burned and then done something stupid to add further fuel to the fire (and who hasn’t?) will find something to relate to.  (2010, 140 min, in French and Spanish with English subtitles)  To watch a great trailer, click here.  (Screens Wednesday, October 24 at 6:30 p.m.)

For the full film descriptions, visit sffs.org/cinema.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 24
6:30 Camille Rewinds – DIRECTOR IN PERSON
9:00 Opening Night Party
9:15 Donoma

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 25
6:30 Aliyah
8:45 My Worst Nightmare (pictured)

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26
4:00 All Together
6:30 Mobile Home – DIRECTOR IN PERSON
9:15 A World Without Women

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27
1:15 All Together
3:30 Camille Rewinds – DIRECTOR IN PERSON
6:30 My Worst Nightmare (pictured)
9:00 Hors Satan

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 28
1:30 Donoma
4:30 Louise Wimmer
6:30 A World Without Women
9:00 Mobile Home – DIRECTOR IN PERSON

MONDAY, OCTOBER 29
6:15 Hors Satan
9:00 Aliyah

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 30
6:15 Sister – DIRECTOR IN PERSON
9:00 Louise Wimmer

Details:  All films screen at Landmark’s Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco.  Tickets are $13 per film general admission; $12 student/senior/disabled.  Click here to buy tickets online.  Advance ticket purchase recommended as the festival is very popular.  Park at One Embarcadero Center for up to 4 hours for $2, with validation from cinema. Otherwise $3/hour from 5 p.m.- midnight.  Garage entrance will be on your immediate left-hand side, right after crossing Sacramento Street.  If crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, allow ample time for southbound traffic congestion leading up to GG bridge and to get to destination and park.
When it comes to French film, nothing beats French Cinema Now, the San Francisco Film Society’s annual October homage to Francophile cinema.  This year, the week long festival screens 9 films and begins on Wednesday, October 24 and runs through Tuesday, October 30, 2012.  Programming runs in the evenings on weekdays and starts in the afternoon on Friday through Sunday.

October 23, 2012 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment