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
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).
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.
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
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.
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
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
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 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 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
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
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 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
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
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–
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
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.
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, 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.
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
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
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
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.
A scene from Joshua Oppenheimer’s “Act of Killing,” a documentary executive produced by Werner Herzog, that paints an extraordinary portrayal of the Indonesian genocide. In Indonesia, a land ruled by gangsters, death squad leaders are celebrated as heroes and the filmmakers challenge them to re-enact their real-life mass killings in the style of the American movies they love. Playing at SFIFF 56. Photo: courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society
The 56th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF56) opens Thursday and runs for 15 days, featuring 158 films and live events from 51 countries—67 narrative features, 28 documentary features, 63 shorts, over a dozen juried awards, and over 100 participating filmmakers present. Organized by the San Francisco Film Society, this is THE premiere festival for film in the Bay Area and is well-known for its emphasis on experimental storytelling, 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, in many cases, getting to participate in Q&A’s with their directors and actors, most of whom reside in other countries. SFIFF also distinguishes itself with excellent live onstage special events that feature filmmakers in enthralling moderated discussions. While its parties are great, this festival is all about film. In addition to this festival overview, stay turned to ARThound for coverage of Iranian films and art-related films.
This year both opening and closing night films address relationships and family and the dirty little secrets that can drive huge wedges in supposedly sacred bonds. OPENING NIGHT (Thursday, April 24) kicks off with Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s emotional drama What Maisie Knew (USA 2012) starring Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan and Alexander Skarsgård. The film explores the collateral damage
Juliette Moore and Onata Aprile in a scene from Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s “What Maisie Knew” which opens the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 25 – May 9, 2013. Photo: courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society
of divorce through the eyes of six year-old Maisie (Onata Aprile) who is silent but, like a sponge, soaks up all the toxic waste her negligent parents put out. When they do succeed in splitting, they re-partner rapidly. Maisie attaches quite readily to her mother’s new husband, Lincoln, a bartender (Alexander Skarsgård) who has no obvious child-rearing skills but rises to the occasion. Not surprisingly, this crushing portrait of affluence, indifference, self-absorption, hope and innocence shows that you can’t choose the family you are born into but you’d be better off if you could. (opens SFIFF56 on Thursday, April 25, 2013, 7 p.m. Castro Theatre, followed by a gala party at Temple Nightclub )
This year’s CENTERPIECE is Saturday, May 4, and celebrates Jacob Kornbluth and his insightful Inequality For All (USA 2013), featuring local UC Berkeley economist Robert Reich, one of the world’s leading experts on work and the economy, Clinton’s former Labor Secretary and named one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last decade by Time magazine. This powerful documentary, winner of the Special Jury Award at this year’s Sundance festival, makes the argument that capitalism has fatally abandoned the middle classes while making the super-rich even richer. Based on Reich’s bestselling Aftershock (2011, Vintage Press) which explores the roots of American economic stagnation and blames lack of middle class prosperity and spending, the highly entertaining film is billed as An Inconvenient Truth of the economy. (Screens Saturday, May 4, 6:30 PM, Kabuki, followed by a party at Roe nightclub from 8:30 -11 PM)
A scene from Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight,” which follows Jesse (Hawke) and Celine (Delpy), who first met on a train to Vienna (“Before Sunrise”) and reconnected in Paris nine years later (“Before Sunset”), and now another nine years have passed and they are navigating the complications of careers, kids, a long-term committed relationship and unfulfilled dreams. Closing night film at SFIFF 56. Photo: courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society
CLOSING NIGHT: The festival closes with a live on-stage discussion featuring celebrated indie director Richard Linklater (Bernie, SFIFF55 2012) and actress Julie Delpy in conversation about their latest film Before Midnight (USA 2013), the third film in Linklater’s romantic trilogy starring Delpy and Ethan Hawke. The film was raved about at Sundance. It’s now eighteen years later and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Delpy), the couple who met on that train from Budapest to Vienna in Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995), are vacationing in Greece and living in Paris as a middle-aged couple with two twin girls, and negotiating all the minefields of a committed long-term relationship. He’s got a young son living in the States with his remarried ex-wife and the pressure of holding it all together and remaining true to their own creative drives has left them exhausted. Before Midnight catches the couple in random conversation that oscillates between clever banter and passive-aggressive swipes and then, suddenly, takes the plunge to full-on below-the-belt game-changing blows. All unfolds as they are vacationing in Greece—beautiful, troubled, ancient, modern—it too becomes a character in the film. Before Midnight screens as the Closing Night film at the Castro Theatre on May 9. The screening and conversation will be followed by a celebration party.
ARThound’s top picks:
Below are capsule reviews of my top picks from this year’s line-up. Thematically, you can go in any direction your taste takes you. This festival has something for everyone. I am focusing on films that tell great and important stories that you aren’t likely to see screened anywhere else. Stayed tuned to ARThound for full reviews in the coming days.
Jem Cohen, recipient of the 2013 POV Award at the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 25 – May 9, 2013. Photo: courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society
Museum Hours (Jem Cohen, (2012, USA 107 min) New York based filmmaker Jem Cohen, who over the past 30 years has made over 60 films, will be presented with this year’s POV Award (2013 Persistence of Vision Award). Cohen will appear in conversation before a screening of his latest feature film Museum Hours, a delicately-paced but psychologically vivid film where ideas and environment are as important as the actors. The story captures a random encounter between Johann (Robert Sommer) a middle-aged museum guard at Vienna’s grand Kunsthistorisches Art Museum, who, over the years, has nearly melded into his splendid surroundings and watches the visiting crowds looking at art works with detachment, and Anne (Canadian songwriter Mary Margaret O’Hara), a woman of roughly the same age who’s visiting Vienna out of duty—she tending to her dear ill cousin and coping with grief. Sensing Anne’s isolation in the big city, a physically overwhelming sensation that reflects her inner turmoil, Johann breaks from his normal detachment and quickly bonds with her and keeps her company around Vienna. The museum itself also becomes a character, revealing itself and its rich treasures and, in turn, stimulating a rich dialogue between these two seemingly very ordinary individuals who have a remarkably palpable rapport. In much the same way that one can pass by or become completely engrossed in a painting, Johann and Anne come into sharp focus as individuals, discussing an accumulation of topics best summarized as the art of living life. (POV Award, conversation and screening Sunday, April 28, 2013, 5:30 PM Kabuki)
The Act of Killing: (Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark, Norway, England, 2012, 116 minutes) In this chilling and highly-inventive new documentary, executive produced by Errol Morris (The Fog of War) and Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man), the filmmakers give us Indonesia, like it’s never been seen before. In 1965-66, Suharto’s anti-communist purge following a failed coup attempt led to the slaughter of an estimated 500,000 people, alleged to be communists. The pretext for this mass genocide was the assassination of six army generals on the night of October 1, 1965 by The Thirtieth of September Movement made up of some disaffected junior Indonesian Armed Forces Officers. Suharto launched a counter-attack and drove the Movement from Jakarta and then accused the Communist Party of masterminding the Movement. He then went on to orchestrate a purge of all persons deemed Communists. Under Suharto’s rule, anti-communism became the state religion, complete with sacred sites, rituals and dates and a sophisticated campaign of controlling the media and planting false stories presenting the opposition as murderers collectively responsible for exaggerated crimes against the State. The mass killings were skipped over in most Indonesian history books and have received little introspection by Indonesians and comparatively little international attention. Until Now. The filmmakers brazenly invited the death squad leaders who carried out these killings, and are now celebrated heroes, to reenact the real life mass killing in the style of the movies they love best. The result—“An extraordinary portrayal of genocide. To the inevitable question: what were they thinking, Joshua Oppenheimer provides an answer. Its starts as a dreamscape, an attempt to allow the perpetrators to re-enact what they did, then something truly amazing happens. The dream dissolves into night mare and then into bitter reality.” (Errol Morris) (Screens Sat, April 27, 9:15 PM, Kabuki AND Thursday, May 2, 8:55 PM BAM/PFA)
A River Changes Course (Kalyanee Mam, Cambodia/USA 2012, 83 min, GGA Documentary Feature Contender): If you’ve been to Cambodia, chances are you landed in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap via a transfer from Hanoi or Thailand and hit the breathtaking Angkor Wat, one of the most spectacular sites on earth, and then left. No matter how little time you spent there though, it’s impossible to overlook the pace of development that is displacing traditional culture and the life and work patterns of the vast majority of Cambodians. Kalyanee Mam’s new documentary, shot in gorgeous cinéma vérité style, is a moving and intimate portrait of the rapidly vanishing world of rural rice farmers and fisherman told through three Cambodian families who are struggling in the face of rapid and uneven modernization.
A scene from Kalyanee Mam’s award-winning documentary “A River Changes Course,” playing at SFIFF 56. In a small village outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Khieu Mok must leave and find work in a garment factory to support her familyʼs mounting debt. But life in the city proves no better and Khieu finds herself torn between her obligations to send money home and her duty to be at home with her family. Photo: Courtesy of San Francisco Film Society
Mam spent many months deep in the Cambodian countryside capturing the daily rhythms of life there. She built trusting relationships with and then filmed two female breadwinners and a fishing family, all challenged by the plight of diminishing yields and increasing costs of living. Her thoughtful film was the first by a Cambodian to have its premiere at Sundance, where it was won the World Cinema Grand jury Awrd. The Yale and UCLA Law School-educated cinematographer for the Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job, does not believe the answer to her native country’s problems lie in retaining all old traditions though. This child of refugees who escaped Pol Pot’s hellish regime and ultimately landed in the U.S.. gives the path forward thoughtful consideration. (Screens Saturday, April 27, 7 PM, Kabuki AND Monday, April 29 6:30 PM, BAM/PFA AND Sunday, May 5 1 PM, New People)
Downpour (Ragbar): (Bahram Beyzaie, Iran, 1971, 128 min) Every year SFIFF screens a recently restored classic of world cinema and this year it’s acclaimed Iranian filmmaker, playwright, stage director and producer Bahram Beyzaie’s 1971 debut feature Downpour. The film was the first Iranian feature to cast a woman in a role other than a prostitute or cabaret girl and ushered in a new filmmaking movement in Iran. The story revolves around Mr. Hekmati, an educated teacher who is transferred to a school in the south of Tehran, a poor conservative area. His pupils are unruly and he is forced to expel one of them. The next day, the boy’s sister, `Atefeh, comes to the school and, thinking that Mr. Hekmati is the headmaster, protests the expulsion. Another student sees them together and spreads rumors that Mr. Hekmati and `Atefeh are having a love affair. While trying to set the record straight, he suddenly finds he really is in love with her. Caught between the hyperactive imaginations of his students and the idle gossip of neighborhood busybodies, the idealistic Mr. Hekmati quickly finds himself at the center of controversy. Soon all eyes in the community are on him.
A scene from Bahram Beyzaie’s “Downpour” (1971), hailed as one of the great Iranian films for its poetic approach to editing, dialogue and context. Restored by World Cinema Foundation in 2011, the film screens at SFIFF 56 with Beyzaie in attendance. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society
“The tone puts me in mind of what I love best in the Italian neorealist pictures,” writes Martin Scorsese, “and the story has the beauty of an ancient fable—you can feel Beyzaie’s background in Persian literature, theater and poetry.” This screening presents the film as restored in 2011 by the World Cinema Foundation at Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna/L’immagine Ritrovata laboratory. (Screens Sunday, April 28, 12:15 PM, Kabuki AND Sunday, May 5, 3:20 PM BAM/PFA) Bahram Beyzaie will attend and participate in a Q&A following the April 28th screening.
The Daughter (Alexander Kasatkin, Natalia Nazarova, Russia, 2012, 111 minutes) Life in the unforgiving provinces is a well-explored theme in Russian literature and film. Russian duo Natalia Nazarova and Alexander Kasatkin, (Listening to Silence, 2007) throw a serial killer into a provincial village to liven things up for naïve 16 year-old Inna (Maria Smolnikova) who’s strict widowed father (Oleg Tkachev) keeps her on a tight leash. Enter the rebellious and fun vixen Masha (Yana Osipova), a girl from a slightly larger town, who quickly educates Inna about alcohol, sex and how to have fun. Also new to the village is the family of an Orthodox priest, brimming with traditional Christian virtues and values, and Inna falls for the priest’s son, Il’ia (Igor’ Mazepa). Meanwhile a serial killer is on the prowl and the suspense builds as those close to Inna are killed and implicated. Filmed in Elat’ma and Kasimovo, two small villages in Russia’s Riazan’ region, the film’s evocation of the slowed rhythms of rural life, lingering traditions and modern impingements create a bleak post-Perestroika commentary, with the lingering question of what the role of the Orthodox church should be. (Screens Friday, April 26, 6:15 PM and Sunday, April 28, 1 PM both at Kabuki AND Monday, May 6, 9 PM at BAM/PFA)
SFIFF56 DETAILS: SFIFF 56 runs April 25-May 9, 2013. 5 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. Event Venues (all San Francisco): Bimbos 365 Club, 1025 Columbus Avenue; Roe, 651 Howard Street; Rouge, 1500 Broadway; Ruby Skye, 420 Mason Street; Temple Nightclub and Ki Restaurant, 540 Howard Street
Tickets: $15 for most films with a variety of multiple screening passes. Special events generally start at $20
More info: (415) 561-5000, www.festival.sffs.org
The 55th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 19 – May 3, 2012, features 174 films and live events from 45 countries, 14 juried awards, and upwards of 100 participating filmmakers present.
The 55th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF55) opens this Thursday and runs for 15 days, featuring 174 films and live events from 45 countries, 14 juried awards, and upwards of 100 participating filmmakers present. Organized by the San Francisco Film Society, the festival is well-known for its emphasis on experimental storytelling, its support of new filmmakers and for championing independent films that are unlikely to screen elsewhere in the Bay Area.
Opening night is dedicated to SFIFF executive director, Graham Leggat, who passed earlier this year. The Thursday evening festival opener is Benoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen, (Les adieux à la reine) (France 2012, 99 min), a lush and captivating historical drama about the early days of the French Revolution that dovetails perfectly with March’s celebrated Bay Area screenings of Abel Gance’s silent film Napoleon. Set in July 1789, Farewell, My Queen, covers the final 4 days at the court of Louis XVI at Versailles as seen from the perspective of palace servant Sidonie Labord (French actress Léa Seydoux), Marie Anionette’s personal reader. The film quickly rises beyond the standard historical costume drama into territories aptly explored by Jacquot—the internal world of women all at levels of society and how French royalty dealt with the very rapidly approaching societal changes at hand. Self-absorbed Marie Antionette (Diane Kruger), oblivious to politics, has an obsessive crush on Gabrielle De Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen), who reciprocates just enough to keep the exquisite baubles coming. As Sidonie aptly navigates the enormous passages of Versailles trying to secure information about what is happening, she is constantly called upon to console the desperate queen through reading, the intimacy of which spawns her own platonic infatuation with the queen.
Below are capsule reviews of the festival’s art-related line-up, which is strong this year. Stayed tuned to ARThound for full reviews in the coming days.
ARThound’s recommendations: ART, ART, ART!
Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present (Mathew Akers, 2011, 105 min) This riveting documentary tracks the prolific career and struggle of the so-called grandmother of performance art—Yugoslavian Marina Abramović— who it turns out is youthful, outspoken, glamorous, shrewd, very talented, and craves the validation of the big leagues. The film is the perfect companion piece for Lynn Hershman Leeson’s riveting !Women Art Revolution (2010) which screened at SFIFF54 and was a shocking visual primer for the oft-repeated statement “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Anyone familiar with Abramovic knows that she’s not—and never has been—well-behaved, which is a large part of her enduring intrigue. The film’s framework is her preparation for her celebrated 2010 MOMA retrospective—Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present— and the film is the longest-duration solo work of her career. As she brutally questions her own relevancy, we see a very serious artist at work. Filmmaker Mathew Akers and Marina Abramović will attend. (Sat, Apr 21, 2012, 4:15 p.m. and Sat, April 28, 2012, 3:30 p.m., both at Kabuki, and Sun, April 29, 2012, 5:40 p.m., PFA.)
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (Alison Klayman, 2012, 91 min) An authentic and thorough portrait of renowned Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei’s chronic pursuit of art, freedom of speech and human dignity using imagination, skill, and social media savvy. Weiwei came to global prominence via Twitter after he doggedly probed the deaths of over 5,000 in the Sichian earthquake. The Chinese government held him for 81 days in solitary detention This riveting documentary by American journalist Alison Klayman is a persuasive portrait of the harsh underbelly of today’s China and of the union of art and politics in our increasingly networked world. The film gives a glance to time Ai spent in New York in the 1980’s and his recent major installation at London’s Tate Modern in which he carpeted the Tate’s Turbine Hall with 100 million sunflower seeds made of porcelain (all hand-fabricated in China, of course). The emphasis is primarily on his political activism though which keeps him in the news. (Mon, Apr 23, 2012, 6 p.m. and Wed, Apr 25, 2012, 9:15 p.m., both at Kabuki.)
Architect, inventor and designer Buckminster Fuller, subject of Sam Green’s “The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller,” playing at the 55th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 19 – May 3, 2012. Photo: John Loengard/Time Life Pictures, courtesy of San Francisco Film Society
The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller (Sam Green, 2012, 60 min) Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Sam Green presents the world premiere of his “live documentary” on Buckminster Fuller. The piece is a follow-up to his internationally acclaimed live film Utopia in Four Movements, which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. In this new piece, Green looks at the projects Fuller proposed for the Bay Area, including a gargantuan floating tetrahedral city in the middle of the Bay, and explores his utopian vision of radical change through a “design revolution.” Green’s narration draws inspiration equally from old travelogues, the Benshi tradition, and TED talks, and will be a live collaboration with experimental indie band Yo La Tengo. The film itself is part of a larger Green project that includes a multi-channel installation (built by Obscura Digital) on display in a concurrent exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, “The Utopian Impulse: Buckminster Fuller and the Bay Area” (Tues, May 1, 2012, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. SFMOMA)
The Sheik and I (Caveh Zahedi, 2012, 109 min) Commissioned by the 10th Sharjah Biennial, a huge contemporary art event in the Persian Gulf region to make a film on the theme of “art as a subversive act,” independent Iranian-American filmmaker Caveh Zahedi (I Am a Sex Addict (2005)) goes for it in a big way. Told that he can basically do whatever he wants except make fun of the ruler, Sheik Sultan bin Muhammad-al-Qasimi, who finances the Biennial, Zahedi decides to do just that. He turns his camera on the Biennial itself and presses every culturally sensitive button he can find which is a big no-no in the most conservative Islamic state of the seven that make up the United Arab Emirates. His antics fail to amuse. Zahedi’s film is banned for blasphemy and he is threatened with a fatwa. (Sat, Apr 21, 9 p.m., Wed, Apr 25, 2012, 6:30 p.m., Sat. Apr 28, 9 p.m.—all at Kabuki.)
Golshifteh Farahani as Irâne (left) and Mathieu Amalric as Nasser Ali
in Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s “Chicken with Plums,” screening at SFIFF55. Photo by ©Patricia Khan, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Chicken With Plums (Poulet aux prunes) (2011, 91 min) Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s drama based on Satrapi’s best-selling graphic novel of the same name which, in 2005, won the Prize for Best Comic Book of the year at the prestigious Angoulême International Comics Festival. I’ve placed this film in the art category because it’s as riveting a portrait of an artist and all his brilliant and disturbing excesses that you’ll find. Set in 1958 in post-Mossadegh Tehran (deftly filmed in German and France), the winding story captures the last eight days of Nasser Ali’s life. The virtuoso tar player (a Persian string instrument) has resigned himself to die after he runs into his old love, Irâne, who does not recognize him, and then returns home to find that his wife has smashed his prized musical instrument beyond repair. As he miserably, egocentrically and brilliantly winds down, only his daughter, Farzaneh, his memories, and his favorite dish, chicken with plums, rouse his desire. Imaginative sets, lighting and animation all enhance the drama. (Mon, April 30, 2012, 6:15 p.m. and Wed, May 2, 2012, 12:30 p.m., both at Kabuki.)
Gimme the Loot (Adam Leon, 2012, 85 min) Malcolm and Sofia, two Bronx teens, are the ultimate graffiti-artists. When a rival gang buffs their latest masterpiece, they must hatch a plan to get revenge by tagging the iconic Home Run Apple during a Mets game, but they need to raise $500 to pull off their spectacular scheme. Over the course of two whirlwind, sun-soaked summer days, Malcolm and Sofia travel on an epic urban adventure involving black market spray cans, calling in favors, selling pot or even committing robbery. (Fri, Apr 20, 2012, 9:15 p.m., Kabuki; Sat, Apr 21, 2012, 9:30 p.m., FSC; Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 6:30 p.m., Kabuki)
The Double Steps (Los pasos dobles) (Isaki Lacuesta, 2011, 87 min) Isaki Lacuesta, representative of a new Spanish cinema and winner of the Golden Shell in San Sebastián, tells a poetic story which unfolds in the deserts of Mali, northwest Africa, with an odd group of people in search of a bunker in a remote, undisclosed location that is covered with frescoes—a rumored Sistine Chapel. The 20th –century French painter and writer, Francois Augiéras, supposedly left behind these frescoes but covered the bunker with sand to protect the paintings for future enlightened humans—ones who can decipher the cryptic clues to its whereabouts that he left behind. “The best way to escape from your pursuers without leaving any trail,” says Augiéras, “is to walk backwards over your own footprints.” In this layered tale, the fractured logic of poetry prevails over any linear reality. The film uses two different characters to investigate the clues and mysteries that could lead to this secret artistic trove. A black African, Bokar Dembele, is cast as a soldier who imagines he is Augiéras and goes in search of the bunker. The real-life artist Miquel Barceló, who has a spent time painting in Mali, creates intriguing Rorschach-like watercolors throughout the film, which serve as another thread in the fabric of conundrums, mysteries, riddles and paradoxes, woven from the folk wisdom of the Dogon people. (Sat, Apr 21, 2 p.m., PFA, Sun, Apr 22, 2012, 3:30 p.m. and Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 6:45 p.m., both at Kabuki.)
55th S.F. International Film Festival
When: Thursday, April 19, 2012 through Thursday, May 3, 2012
5 Venues: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post Street, San Francisco, S.F. Film Society Cinema, 1746 Post Street, San Francisco, Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street, San Francisco, SFMOMA, 151 Third Street, San Francisco, Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
Tickets: $11 to $13 for most films with a variety of multiple screening passes. Special events generally start at $20
More info: (415) 561-5000, www.sffs.org
Opening night: Benoît Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen, (Les adieux à la reine) (France 2012, 99 min), a historical drama about the French Revolution, screens Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 7 p.m., Castro. Followed by Opening Night Party, 9:30 p.m.-1 a.m, with live music, Terra Gallery, 511 Harrison Street (at 1st), San Francisco
Film Society Awards Night Gala: Benefitting SFFS and its Youth Education programs, the evening honors exceptional directing, acting and screenwriting—Thursday, April 26, 2012, VIP cocktail reception; 7 p.m. dinner and awards program, both at Warfield Theatre, 983 Market Street, San Francisco. Individual Ticket starts at $625. To book, phone Margi English at (415) 561-5049
Persistence of Vision Award: Filmmaker Barbara Kopple appears before a screening of her Oscar-winning 1976 documentary, Harlan County, USA, a vivid historic film about a Kentucky coal miners’ strike using arresting cinematography and poignant protest songs to call up the sights and sounds of underclass Appalachia in the 1970’s. Sunday, April 22, 2012, 3:30 p.m., Kabuki.
Founders Directing Award: Kenneth Branagh appears in an onstage interview at a screening of his film Dead Again. Friday, April 27, 2012, 7:30 p.m., Castro.
Centerpiece Presentation: Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister (USA, 2011, 90 min) features Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass. Saturday, April 28, 2012, 7 p.m., Kabuki
Closing night: Ramona Diaz’s inspirational Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey follows the iconic band Journey on tour and tells the AMAZING story of their lead vocalist Arnel Pineda’s rise from poverty and obscurity in the Philippines to becoming Journey’s lead singer. This is one of the best stories you’ll ever hear about making it in the topsy-turvy music industry. Thursday, May 3, 2012, 7 p.m., Castro Theatre.