ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

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

Advertisements

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

The 57th San Francisco International Film Festival opens Thursday evening with a captivating drama and continues with 14 days of film from all corners of the globe

Berkeley native, Sara Dosa’s "The Last Season" makes its world premiere on Friday, April 25th, at the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF 57) which runs April 24- May 8, 2014.  The documentary examines the bonds between some 200 seasonal workers, mostly Asian, who set up a temporary camp each fall in tiny town of Chemult, Oregon, to forage for matsutake, a rare type of mycorrhizal mushroom that is prized in Japan for its distinctive spicy aroma.    Dosa, her film crew, and Cambodian immigrant Kuoy Loch will be in attendance.  The film screens three times at SFIFF 57, which offers 29 documentary features and a total of 168 films.  Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society

Berkeley native, Sara Dosa’s “The Last Season” makes its world premiere on Friday, April 25th, at the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF 57) which runs April 24- May 8, 2014. The documentary examines the bonds between some 200 seasonal workers, mostly Asian, who set up a temporary camp each fall in tiny town of Chemult, Oregon, to forage for matsutake, a rare type of mycorrhizal mushroom that is prized in Japan for its distinctive spicy aroma. Dosa, her film crew, and Cambodian immigrant Kuoy Loch will be in attendance. The film screens three times at SFIFF 57, which offers 29 documentary features and a total of 168 films. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society

 

Not just another film festival, the 57th Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF 57) is the West Coast’s premiere film festival, showcasing stellar global storytelling, homegrown talent, impactful reportage and remarkable cinematography.  SFIFF opens this Thursday evening and runs for 15 days, featuring 168 films and live events from 56 countries in 40 languages—74 narrative features, 29 documentary features, 65 shorts, 14 juried awards, and over 100 participating filmmakers. Organized by the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS), this mammoth festival really does defy categorization.  Its greatly revered for its support of new filmmakers and for championing independent films that are unlikely to screen elsewhere in the Bay Area.  One of the joys of attending SFIFF is getting to see these films the way they were meant to be seen—on a big screen, in digital projection—and getting to participate in Q&A’s with their directors and actors, many of whom reside in other countries and express fresh and unpredictable points of view.  SFIFF also distinguishes itself with excellent live onstage events and awards ceremonies that feature film luminaries in more lengthy moderated discussions.  While many festivals have morphed in multi-sensory entertainment malls, SFIFF is first and foremost film, with a few great parties thrown into the mix.

I am dividing my coverage of this year’s festival into two articles—this first one, below, gives an overview and lets you know what the featured big evenings and tributes will offer; the second one will include short reviews of the top films I recommend.  I haven’t covered the special programs before but I’ve attended several of these honoree chat/screening combos and there is nothing more impactful than watching a film and getting the behind-the-scenes lowdown straight from the creator or actor’s mouth.  Value priced at $15-$25, they’re a no-brainer.  So, here are the high-profile events that ought to be on everyone’s radar–

BIG NIGHTS:

This year, both opening and closing night films focus on two American married couples who develop fractures in their relationships while dealing with issues—work and vacation—that become insanely complicated and high stakes.

Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac, and Kirsten Dunst star in the North American premiere of Hossein Amini's “The Two Faces of January,” a stylish adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith suspense thriller.  The film, which was shot on location in Greece and Turkey, opens the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF 57) which runs April 24- May 8, 2014.  Hossein Amini will be in attendance.  Photo courtesy San Francisco Film Society

Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac, and Kirsten Dunst star in the North American premiere of Hossein Amini’s “The Two Faces of January,” a stylish adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith suspense thriller. The film, which was shot on location in Greece and Turkey, opens the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF 57) which runs April 24- May 8, 2014. Hossein Amini will be in attendance. Photo courtesy San Francisco Film Society

OPENING NIGHT: (Thursday, April 24, 7 p.m., Castro Theatre) The Two Faces of January (Hossein Amini, UK, 2014, 97 min) Hossein Amini will attend.  Intrigue begins at the Parthenon when wealthy American tourists Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen) and his young bride Collette (Kirsten Dunst) meet American expat Rydal (Oscar Isaac), a scammer who poses as a tour guide.  Instead of becoming his latest marks, the two befriend him, but an incident at the couple’s hotel puts all three in danger and creates a precarious interdependence between them.  This American thriller, written and directed by Hossein Amini in his feature directorial debut, is a gripping adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1964 novel of the same name. Filmed on location in Greece and Turkey, Amini evokes the glamor of the 1962 setting through Marcel Zyskind’s cinematography, Alberto Iglesias’ atmospheric score and the Kennedy-era chic of Steven Noble’s costume designs.  The clever screenplay has the two male protagonists seesawing between being allies and adversaries, a handful of unnatural deaths, and a few attempted murders and frame-ups.  Amini was born in Iran and he and his family immigrated to England when he was 11.  He wrote the screenplay for Snow White and the Hunstman (2012) and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing-Adapted Screenplay for Wings of the Dove (1997). (Click here to purchase tickets) Followed by an Opening Night Party at Public Works, a new events space, situated in San Francisco’s Mission district, featuring gourmet treats and beverages from some of San Francisco’s finest restaurants and purveyors. (Ticketed separately)

This year’s CENTERPIECE is Saturday, May 3 and introduces first time writer director Gia Coppola (27-year-old granddaughter of FFC and niece of Sofia) who has adapted Palo Alto, James Franco’s 2010 book of short stories, into a richly layered ensemble drama. I attended a press screening of Palo Alto and Coppola certainly has the family touch. Her film follows an extended group of high school teens, some genuinely disturbed and others just angst ridden, as they experiment with all sorts of vices and struggle with their families and one another. Emma Roberts, is sensitive April, the emotional lynchpin, who falls for introspective artist Teddy (Jack Kilmer, son of Val Kilmer who also appears), while navigating an affair with her soccer coach Mr. B (James Franco). Meanwhile, Teddy’s friend, Fred (Nat Wolff), wreaks personality disorder level mayhem wherever he goes. When he zeroes in on sexually promiscuous Emily (Zoe Levin), things get cruel and so uncomfortable and nasty, you’ll have a hard time watching.  If you’re a parent, take in the signals and enjoy the great retro aura.  If you’re one of the young and disaffected, Coppola’s sharp mirror is sympathetic to your inner demons.  (Screens May 3, 7:30 p.m., Sundance Kabuki with Gia Coppola in attendance. (Click here to purchase tickets.) After-screening party, 9 p.m., at Roe, San Francisco’s premier boutique nightclub and lounge destination. (Ticketed separately)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Chris Messina star in Messina's “Alex in Venice,” SFIFF 57’s Closing Night Film, a very human drama about a workaholic lawyer who struggles to manage her high profile career, her family, and her identity after her stay-at-home husband decides to leave.  Both Winstead and Messina will attend.  Photo: courtesy Milissa Moseley and SFFS.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Chris Messina star in Messina’s “Alex in Venice,” SFIFF 57’s Closing Night Film, a very human drama about a workaholic lawyer who struggles to manage her high profile career, her family, and her identity after her stay-at-home husband decides to leave. Both Winstead and Messina will attend. Photo: courtesy Milissa Moseley and SFFS.

 

CLOSING NIGHT: (Thursday, May 8, 7 p.m., CastroTheatre) Alex of Venice (Chris Messina, USA 2014, 87 min)  In the tranquil suburbs of Venice, CA, Alex, (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a workaholic environmental rights attorney, receives a rude awakening. Her stay-at-home husband George (Chris Messina), who runs the household and takes care of their son Dakota (Skylar Gaertner) and her pot-smoking actor father (Don Johnson), calls it quits. He wants to work on his waning art career and needs space. Thrown for a loop, Alex barely has time to register her own shock and pain because she’s immediately overburdened with the practical responsibilities of two full-time jobs.  As it becomes clear how inept she is on the home front, and how important George is, she acts out.  What eventually follows is Alex’s mini-voyage of self-discovery, resolve and resignation. This is the directorial debut of actor Chris Messina (“The Mindy Project” TV series). Chris Messina and Mary Elizabeth Winstead will attend. (Click here to purchase tickets.) Closing Night Party: Dance the night away with SFIFF’s movie-loving crowd while enjoying delicious hors d’oeuvres and cocktail at The Chapel, San Francisco’s new Mission addition. (Ticketed separately)

AWARDS AND TRIBUTES:

British artist Isaac Julien will receive SFIFF’s Persistence of Vision Award on Sunday, April 27, 2014.  Photo: Courtesy of Graeme Robertson and the San Francisco Film Society

British artist Isaac Julien will receive SFIFF’s Persistence of Vision Award on Sunday, April 27, 2014. Photo: Courtesy of Graeme Robertson and the San Francisco Film Society

British artist Isaac Julien, who will receive SFIFF’s Persistence of Vision Award on Sunday, April 27, is acclaimed for his immersive film installations.  “Ten Thousand Waves” (2010), which will be shown on Sunday, was filmed on location in the ravishing and remote Guangxi Province and at the famous Shanghai Film Studios and various sites around Shanghai. Through formal experimentation and a series of unique collaborations, Julien seeks to engage with Chinese culture through contemporary events, ancient myths and artistic practice.  Isaac Julien Mazu, Silence (Ten Thousand Waves), 2010, Endura Ultra photograph, 180 x 240 cm, Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

British artist Isaac Julien, who will receive SFIFF’s Persistence of Vision Award on Sunday, April 27, is acclaimed for his immersive film installations. “Ten Thousand Waves” (2010), which will be shown on Sunday, was filmed on location in the ravishing and remote Guangxi Province and at the famous Shanghai Film Studios and various sites around Shanghai. Through formal experimentation and a series of unique collaborations, Julien seeks to engage with Chinese culture through contemporary events, ancient myths and artistic practice. Isaac Julien Mazu, Silence (Ten Thousand Waves), 2010, Endura Ultra photograph, 180 x 240 cm, Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

Persistence of Vision Award — (Sunday, April 27 at 3:30 p.m., Sundance Kabuki) British artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien (2001 Turner Prize short-list nominee for The Long Road to Mazatlán (2000) and creator of numerous immersive film and sound installations at world’s top museums) is the winner of this year’s Persistence of Vision Award. He will take the stage for a conversation with author and social critic B. Ruby Rich and for the screening of his acclaimed Ten Thousand Waves (2010), a film installation reflecting the movement of people across continents. This installation, projected onto nine double-sided screens, travelled the world (the UK, China, South Korea, Europe, and Scandinavia) and arrived at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in late 2013, riveting visitors with its three-story arrangement of screens and multiplying sounds, which filled MoMA’s atrium and reverberated through the galleries.  I can’t wait to hear what Julien is planning next.

Jeremy Irons will receive the Peter J. Owens Award for excellence in acting at the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival on May 1 at the Regency Center.  Irons, who won a best actor Oscar in 1990 for his performance as Claus von Bulow in "Reversal of Fortune" and a Tony in 1984 for Tom Stoppard's "The Real Thing," also will be honored with "An Evening With Jeremy Irons at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas" on Wednesday, April 30, 2014.  Photo: courtesy SFFS.

Jeremy Irons will receive the Peter J. Owens Award for excellence in acting at the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival on May 1 at the Regency Center. Irons, who won a best actor Oscar in 1990 for his performance as Claus von Bulow in “Reversal of Fortune” and a Tony in 1984 for Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing,” also will be honored with “An Evening With Jeremy Irons at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas” on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. Photo: courtesy SFFS.

Peter J. Owens Award—Jeremy Irons (Academy Award, Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy, Tony and SAG Award winner) is the recipient of this year’s Peter J. Owens Award for acting, which will be presented to Irons at the very exclusive Film Society Awards Night, Thursday, May 1 at the Regency Center. Irons will also be honored at An Evening with Jeremy Irons at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, Wednesday April 30, 7:30 pm. A screening of a film featuring one of his iconic performances will follow an onstage interview and a selection of clips from his impressive career. (Stay tuned to ARThound for more information about this special evening.)

American indie director Richard Linklater will receive SFIFF’s Founder's Directing Award on Sunday, May 2, 2014.  Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society

American indie director Richard Linklater will receive SFIFF’s Founder’s Directing Award on Sunday, May 2, 2014. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society

Ellar Coltrane, the focus of Richard Linklater‘s “Boyhood” (2014), which follows an American family over the course of more than a decade.  Linklater shot the film, with cast Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and newcomers Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater (Linklater’s daughter), over twelve years.  It’s the real deal—each year, he brought the cast together for a scene or two sensitively documenting the actual growth of two siblings, the evolution of their family and how they navigate the painful beautiful and unfair act of just living.

Ellar Coltrane, the focus of Richard Linklater‘s “Boyhood” (2014), which follows an American family over the course of more than a decade. Linklater shot the film, with cast Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette and newcomers Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater (Linklater’s daughter), over twelve years. It’s the real deal—each year, he brought the cast together for a scene or two sensitively documenting the actual growth of two siblings, the evolution of their family and how they navigate the painful beautiful and unfair act of just living.

 

Founder’s Directing Award— (Sunday May 2, 7 p.m., Castro Theatre) Self-taught American indie director and writer, Richard Linklater is the winner of this year’s Founder’s Directing Award and marks his third consecutive appearance at SFIFF. He joins an elite group— Satyajit Ray and Spike Lee—of directors whose first films were screened at SFIFF and who were subsequently awarded the Founder’s Directing Award. The evening will include a clip reel of career highlights and an onstage interview followed by a screening of Linklater’s entrancing new film Boyhood (2014), shot over 12 years, which received accolades at its premiere at Sundance. The 162 minute film is Linklater’s 18th feature film. It begins in 2002 and tells the quiet story of a boy named Mason as he grows up in Texas. The hook is that this film offers something few if any other films have—Mason is played throughout by the young actor Ellar Coltrane, who we literally and authentically watch grow up, year after year, on camera, from first grade to his departure for college.

Stephen Gaghan, the writer who crafted “Rules of Engagement,” “Traffic” and “Syriana” is the recipient of the Kanbar Screenwriting Award at SFIFF 57, April 24 - May 8, 2014.  Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Stephen Gaghan, the writer who crafted “Rules of Engagement,” “Traffic” and “Syriana” is the recipient of the Kanbar Screenwriting Award at SFIFF 57, April 24 – May 8, 2014. Photo: Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Matt Damon (left) and George Clooney (center) in a scene from Stephen Gagan’s “Syriana” (2005) which will screen at SFIFF 57 on May 3, when Stephen Gaghan receives the Kanbar Award for excellence in screenwriting.  “Syriana” tackles oil and money and the stakes of the haves and have nots in the world through a series of interlocking stories that involve revenge, bribery, betrayal.  The plot is so complex, that it surrounds and engulfs the viewer, so that he becomes just like one of the players in the game who is fighting without understanding the complete picture.

Matt Damon (left) and George Clooney (center) in a scene from Stephen Gagan’s “Syriana” (2005) which screens at SFIFF 57 on May 3, when Stephen Gaghan receives the Kanbar Award for excellence in screenwriting. “Syriana” tackles oil and money and the stakes of the world’s Haves and Have nots through a series of interlocking stories that involve revenge, bribery, and betrayal. The plot is so complex, that it surrounds and engulfs the viewer, making him just like one of the players in the game–compelled to fight without understanding the complete picture.

Kanbar Award(Saturday, May 3, 12:30 p.m., Sundance Kabuki). American screenwriter and director Stephen Gaghan is this year’s recipient of the Kanbar Awardfor excellence in screenwriting.  Gaghan wrote and directed Syriana (2005), for which he received a best original screenplay Oscar nomination, and is well known for his feature script for Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000) for which he won the Academy Award, Golden Globe, Writers Guild of America Award and British Academy Award.  I’ve always admired Gaghan and thought if he’d been so inclined, he would have made a great investigative reporter because he swims like a pro in the clandestine and murky waters of global politics.  The festival will honor Gaghan with an onstage interview prior to a screening of Syriana.

 

San Francisco-based film critic David Thomson is the recipient of SFIFF’s Mel Novikoff Award.  On May 4, he will appear in conversation with writer Geoff Dyer , followed by a screening of Preston Sturges'  “The Lady Eve” (1941).  Photo: courtesy the San Francisco Film Society

San Francisco-based film critic David Thomson is the recipient of SFIFF’s Mel Novikoff Award. On May 4, he will appear in conversation with writer Geoff Dyer , followed by a screening of Preston Sturges’ “The Lady Eve” (1941). Photo: courtesy the San Francisco Film Society

Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck in Preston Sturges' “The Lady Eve” (1941).   Card shark Stanwyck is out to fleece Fonda, the naïve heir to a brewery fortune who is also a snake enthusiast coming home from an Amazon expedition.  Her scheme is quickly abandoned when she falls in love with her prey but is exposed anyway and shunned by Fonda.  Her plan to re-conquer his heart involves assuming a false identity and unabashed flirtation.  No one more convincingly desired a man.  In the famous scene where Fonda adjusts Stanwyck’s shirt downward to expose less skin, Thomson, in his book “Moments that Made the Movies,” linked this act of restraint with the inelastic film censors of the times, observing that Sturges was a brilliant master of the double entendre.   Photo: courtesy the San Francisco Film Society

Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck in Preston Sturges’ “The Lady Eve” (1941). Card shark Stanwyck is out to fleece naïve Fonda, the heir to a brewery fortune and a snake enthusiast coming home from an Amazon expedition. Her scheme is quickly abandoned when she falls in love with her prey but is exposed anyway and shunned by Fonda. Her plan to re-conquer his heart involves assuming a false identity and unabashed flirtation. In the famous scene where Fonda adjusts Stanwyck’s shirt downward to expose less skin, Thomson, in his book “Moments that Made the Movies,” linked this act of restraint to the inelastic film censors of the times, observing that Sturges was a brilliant master of the double entendre. Photo: courtesy the San Francisco Film Society

Mel Novikoff Award— (Sunday May 4 at 3 p.m., Sundance Kabuki.)  San Francisco-based film critic and historian David Thomson, who has authored over 20 books on film, including the best-selling Moments That Made the Movies (2013), is the recipient of the Mel Novikoff Award.  He will be in conversation with writer Geoff Dyer and chose Preston Sturges’ The Lady Eve (1941), starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, as the film he wanted screened on his big day.  You can be sure that he will give a riveting analysis of select moments in this heralded film, some familiar and others not, along with anecdotes and juicy gossip about its filming and stars.

Stay tuned to ARThound.  Tomorrow, I’ll cover the festival’s top films.

SFIFF 57 Details:

When:  SFIFF 57 runs April 24-May 8, 2014

Where:  Four Screening Venues: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post Street, San Francisco; New People Cinema, 1746 Post Street, San Francisco; Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street, San Francisco; Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive Theatre, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley.  Salon and Event Venues (all San Francisco):  Filmhouse, 1426 Fillmore Street, Suite 300 (near Ellis), Disney Family Museum, 104 Montgomery Street (near Lincoln),  The Chapel, 777 Valencia Street (at 18th Street) , The Grand Ballroom at the Regency Center, 1290 Sutter Street (at Van Ness),  Roe Restaurant, 651 Howard Street; Public Works, 161 Erie Street (at Mission)

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). ($1200 Film Society members and $1500 general public).   How to buy tickets—purchase online at www.festival.sffs.org or in person during the festival at Sundance Kabuki, New People Cinema.  Purchase day of show, cash only tickets at Pacific Film Archive and Castro Theatre.

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.

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, info, tickets visit www.festival.sffs.org. or call (415) 561-5000.

April 22, 2014 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment