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Geneva Anderson digs into art

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.

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

“Snow White’s” moment—three films, from 1916, 1937 and 2012, are the ones to see and savor now

Macarena García is Carmen or “Blancanieves” in Spanish director Pablo Berger’s “Blancanieves,” a black and white silent film which situates the Snow White story in 1920’s Spain and has Snow White fighting bulls.  Spain’s official 2013 Academy Award entry.

Macarena García is Carmen or “Blancanieves” in Spanish director Pablo Berger’s “Blancanieves,” a black and white silent film which situates the Snow White story in 1920’s Spain and has Snow White fighting bulls. Spain’s official 2013 Academy Award entry.

Suddenly, it’s “Snow White’s” moment.  Adaptations of the 19th century Brothers Grimm fairy tale are popping up everywhere, from J. Searle Dawley’s 1916 silent feature “Snow White” to Walt Disney’s 1937 animated classic to Spanish director Pablo Berger’s Oscar-nominated 2012 “Blancanieves.”  There are two Hollywood films—Rupert Sanders’ 2012 action adventure “Snow White and the Huntsman” and Tarsem Singh’s 2012 “Mirror Mirror” with Julia Roberts as the couture-clad queen—and the TV series, “Once Upon a Time” which has a woman with a troubled past in a New England town where fairy tales characters are real.   At its core, the Snow White story is one of transformation.  A motherless and oppressed young girl—with hair as dark as ebony, skin as white as snow and lips as red as blood— defies death and matures into a young woman whose heart of gold is obvious to all.  Her victory requires suffering, a journey into a dark forest, hard work, and a healing kiss.  If you’re a fan of the enchanting story, here are three “Snow White” film events in the Bay Area you’ll want to catch—

Disney Museum’s 75th anniversary celebration of Walt Disney’s 1937 film— Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic, at the Walt Disney Family Museum, San Francisco, through April 14, 2013.   Art exhibition, two new books, daily screenings of “Snow White”

"Snow White Greets a Baby Bird"; Disney Studio Artist; Reproduction cel setup; airbrushed post production background on paper; Walt Disney Animation Research Library; © Disney Enterprises, Inc.

“Snow White Greets a Baby Bird”; Disney Studio Artist; Reproduction cel setup; airbrushed post production background on paper; Walt Disney Animation Research Library; © Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Walt Disney’s 1937 animated film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was the first full-length animated feature in motion picture history, the first film produced in full color and the first to be produced by Walt Disney Productions.  The Walt Disney Family Museum, at San Francisco’s Presidio, is celebrating this revered film’s 75th anniversary with a comprehensive retrospective, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic (November 15-April 14, 2013),  two new books, and almost daily 4 p.m. screenings of “Snow White.”  (check the screening schedule here.)

Guest Curated by Lella Smith, Creative Director of the Walt Disney Company’s Animation Research Library (ARL) in Los Angeles, the exhibition features over 200 artworks, including conceptual drawings, character studies, detailed story sketches, and animation drawings, along with thumbnail layout watercolors, pencil layouts, rare watercolor backgrounds, and vintage posters.  Many of these have never been exhibited before and appear for the first time in print in the exhibition catalogue written by Disney scholar J.B. Kaufman.  The artworks are drawn from the Disney Family Museum and from the ARL which acquired an important collection of cleanup animation, layouts, backgrounds and Snow White story sketches from art collector Steve Ison about five years ago.

If you haven’t visited the museum before, now is the time to go as this is a delightful and comprehensive exploration of the film and all that went into it.  It is also the museum’s first exhibit in its elegant special exhibition hall in the Riley building, just behind the main museum.  Built in 1904, this spacious hall was previously the military post’s gymnasium.

Film historian J.B. Kaufman has two new books out celebrating the 75th anniversary of Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Film historian J.B. Kaufman has two new books out celebrating the 75th anniversary of Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Especially fascinating are the detailed story sketches which trace the evolving storyline that Walt Disney and his artists had for the film and the massive collaborative process this entailed. It literally took a village—32 animators, 1032 assistants, 107 “in-betweeners,” 10 layout artists, 25 background artists, 65 special effects animators, 158 inkers and painters and countless production staff—working non-stop for three years.

The exhibition shows every aspect of this collaboration from concept to layout to design—and everything is painstakingly hand-drawn.  Also on display is artwork from scenes that were never fully developed, or that were deleted from the film such as one of Dopey where he is sent up to look for Snow White, or one in which the dwarfs build and carve a bed for Snow White, and another in which she dances in the stars.

“Snow White” continues to garner accolades—it is on the American Film Institute’s 2007 list of the 100 greatest American films of all time, ranking 34th and in 2008, the AFI also named it “the greatest American animated film of all time.”

Two lavish publications, both by film historian and Disney scholar J.B. Kaufman, trace the film and its art work in breathtaking detail. These were published in November 2012 when the exhibition opened at the Disney Family Museum.

The hardcover catalogue, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: the Creation of a Classic (2012, 256 pages) covers the entire exhibition and includes never-before-seen art and behind-the-scenes stories.  The book, The Fairest One of All: The Making of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (2012, 320 pages) is the definitive story of the film. It covers the origins of the fairy tale, the impact that the 1916 silent feature had on Walt Disney, the genesis of each sequence in the picture, the conception and development of each of the characters, the merchandising the film generated, the film’s success in subsequent theatrical reissues, and the reuse of the Dwarfs in a handful of wartime short films.

J. Searle Dawley’s 1916 silent feature film “Snow White”—screens Saturday, February 16, 2013 at 10 a.m. at Castro Theatre, San Francisco as part of The San Francisco Silent Winter Film Festival sponsored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFS).

Marguerite Clark and Creighton Hale in J. Searly Dawley’s “Snow White,” (1916). SF Silent Film Festival.

Marguerite Clark and Creighton Hale in J. Searly Dawley’s “Snow White,” (1916). SF Silent Film Festival.

Thought of as a lost film until a print was recently found in the Netherlands and restored, this 1916 motion picture feature stars Marguerite Clark as Snow White.  Clark was 33 at the time and had played the role in the popular 1912 play “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”  Clark’s popularity in the play and other Broadway productions had led to a silent film contract in 1914 with Famous Players-Lasky Corporation.   The 1916 film is one of the first features that Walt Disney watched as a 16-year old newsboy in Kansas City and would remember all his life. Disney attended a special free screening attended by sixteen thousand children, all packed into the Kansas City Convention Center.  The hall was arranged with four separate screens set in the center of the room and the children circled round. Four projectors ran simultaneously and the film included live musical accompaniment. “I thought it was the perfect story. It had the sympathetic dwarfs, you see? It had the heavy. It had the prince and the girl. The romance. I just thought it was a perfect story.” Walt Disney

“Although this film is quite different from Disney’s animated film, I think you can see sparks of Marguerite Clark’s performance in Walt’s Snow White,” said Anita Monga, SFSFS Artistic Director.  “There are also big differences, notably in the depiction and feel of the wicked stepmothers.”

Marguerite Clark as Snow White in J. Searly Dawley’s 1916 silent film “Snow White.”  Clark was 33 at the time but had youthful features and at just 4’10,” she could pull off much younger characters quite convincingly.  Still courtesy: SFFS.

Marguerite Clark as Snow White in J. Searly Dawley’s 1916 silent film “Snow White.” Clark was 33 at the time but had youthful features and at just 4’10,” she could pull off much younger characters quite convincingly. Film still courtesy: SFFS.

The website “A Lost Film blog” (www.alostfilm.com) has a fascinating side-by-side comparison of film stills from the 1916 film with the 1937 Disney film, showing four cases where Disney drew heavy inspiration from the 1916 film (click here to go to the article)

Film historian and Disney scholar  J.B. Kaufman will introduce the film on Saturday and speak about its enduring impact on Walt Disney who was clearly influenced by the film but made his own artistic statement through brilliant and unforgettable animation.

Following the screening, Kaufman will sign his two new books on Snow White, which will be for sale, in the lobby of the Castro Theatre  (“Snow White” screens February 16, 2013 10 a.m. with Musical Accompaniment by Donald Sosin on grand piano and Introduction by J.B. Kaufman.

Buy tickets, $15, online here.  For more information: The San Francisco Silent Winter Film Festival.

“Blancanieves,” Spanish director Pablo Berger’s mesmerizing Oscar-nominated black and white silent film—coming soon to select Bay Area theatres 

Carmen (Sofía Oria) right is brought up by her flamenco dancer grandmother (Ángela Molina) in Pablo Berger’s “Blancanieves” (2011).

Carmen (Sofía Oria) right is brought up by her flamenco dancer grandmother (Ángela Molina) in Pablo Berger’s “Blancanieves” (2011).

A spellbinding original!  This lush black and white silent film from 2011 inventively situates the Snow White story in 1920’s Seville where a young girl Carmen/Snow White (played as a child by Sofía Oria, and later by Macarena García) is the daughter of the once-renowned matador Antonio Villalta (Daniel Giménez Cacho).  He was crippled in the ring and is still grieving for his wife, who died during childbirth.  Carmen is brought up by her flamenco dancer grandmother (Ángela Molina), then tormented by her tyrannical narcissistic stepmother Encarna (Maribel Verdú).  She is secretly schooled in the art of bullfighting by her father, just before his malicious new wife enacts a terrible revenge on him.  Knowing that she’s in grave danger, Carmen escapes Encarna’s custody and joins a travelling troupe of bullfighting dwarves, eventually rising to fame in the corrida under the stage name Blancanieves.  The drama, infused with fascinating story twists, is propelled by Alfonso de Vilallonga’s hypnotic musical score which includes thrilling flamenco passages.  Kiko de la Rica’s chiaroscuro photography, with its compelling close-ups, adds even more interest to this remarkable dram.  (2011, 104 minutes, in Spanish with English subtitles, Spain’s official foreign language entry to the 2013 Academy Awards.)   To see this film, check the listings for art-house theatres that are screening Oscar nominees.  Last month, the film screened to a full house at San Rafael’s Smith Rafael Film Center and it is sure to emerge again.  With its cinematography and captivating story, this is a silent film to savor on the big screen.

February 12, 2013 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment