San Francisco Film Society Unveils 57th Festival Lineup

Categories: Film Festivals

A scene from Gia Coppola's Palo Alto.
Barely two months into his new role as executive director of San Francisco Film Society, Noah Cowan held court for a packed audience at the Fairmont Hotel Pavilion Room, where he and other film society programmers announced their lineup for the 57th International Film Festival.

This year's showcase -- like its analogues in Toronto and Cannes and Telluride -- will
pair ebullient coming-of-age stories with "urgent, journalistic documentaries," and other films that evoke the frisson of danger, according to director of programming Rachel Rosen. And it will star James Franco.

Perhaps that's the film society's concession to younger patrons, who will ultimately have to keep San Francisco's art institutions alive. Or maybe it's an easy form of Hollywood cachet. Or perhaps Franco is using this medium-sized, highly aspirational gala as a testing-ground for his own artistic muse -- the festival's centerpiece film, Palo Alto, is based on his book of short stories; another film, Child of God, is his screenplay adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel.

Franco fans will get their share of the doe-eyed actor, too, since he'll appear in the first film (directed by Gia Coppola) and star in the latter. Unfortunately, he won't actually be available for in-person interviews, since the festival conflicts with his Broadway production of Of Mice and Men. Alas.

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Check Out San Francisco's Ocean-Themed Film Festival

Categories: Film Festivals

San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival

Not sure what to do with your weekend? Check out the 11th annual San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival at the Bay Theater on Pier 39 from March 5-9. Dedicated to "celebrating all things ocean," the festival will feature almost 50 films from over 17 countries.

The festival opens with a masquerade gala at Aquarium of the Bay tonight. The gala includes a silent auction, wine, sustainable seafood, a silent auction and film screenings. It will also feature a talk by Captain Don Walsh, who is one of three people to have ever gone to the Mariana Trench, which is the deepest part of the ocean in the world.

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The Sisterhood of the IndieFest

Categories: Film Festivals

Robin Wright in The Congress.
Any number of themes may be found percolating within the 2014 IndieFest -- "Sweet Sixteen" is the official one, on account of it being the 16th annual -- but this year's event seems to be especially and encouragingly full of feminist undertones. Which isn't to say feminism is a first-priority programming agenda, necessarily, or that men and their various concerns aren't represented among the festival's dozens of relatively diverse films. (As is regrettably still so often the case with these things, maleness, well, dominates.) But for viewers in search of women's stories, there is a lot going on here.

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Mostly British Film Festival Readies to Return to S.F.

Mostly British Film Festival

Ruthe Stein, co-director and main programmer of the Mostly British Film Festival, most definitely knows British films -- and she also knows San Francisco. That's why, Stein, along with a 10-person board, saw to it that in it's sixth year MBFF brought the City the goods with a power-packed line-up. The eight-day program is a showcasing of 25 films from the U.K., Ireland, Australia and South Africa, February 13-20 at San Francisco's historic Vogue Theater.

Like any year, Stein attended the Toronto International Film Festival to scope out the scene. In addition, Stein tells SF Weekly that she keeps a close watch on films showing at the London Film Festival as well as festivals in Edinburgh, Dublin, Sydney and Melbourne before deciding on a final line-up for MBFF.

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Berlin & Beyond Film Fest: 5 Highlights

(Pictured: Ludwig II.)

Easily the best German language film festival west of the Rhine, Berlin & Beyond is back in town this week and back in its rightful midwinter slot on the crowded Bay Area cinematic calendar. Being collectively a portrait of modern European culture, these recent films from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland tend to work best when grappling with heavy histories, be they national, personal, or both. Many of this year's festival highlights look like they've been powered by intense reflection.

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100 Years of Indian Cinema: 3rd i's 11th Annual South Asian Film Festival Celebrates Women

Nishtha Jain's Gulabi Gang

In its 11th annual incarnation, the 3rd i International South Asian Film Festival celebrates 100 years of Indian cinema. According to festival director, Anuj Vaidya, "what make's it special for us is that it is also a celebration of the strides made by women in South Asian cinema."

"A century ago, women were absent from the cinema landscape -- both off-screen and on-screen. While things began to change on-screen pretty early (in the 20s and 30s), it has taken a lot longer, more so in the last two decades, for women to be recognized as directors, editors, cinematographers, etc." says Vaidya. "So we are very pleased that 100 Years of Indian Cinema means that our 2013 festival's opening, closing and 2 centerpiece films, all showcase women filmmakers!"

Opening the festival on Wednesday is The Revolutionary Optimists, in which Emmy winning filmmakers Nicole Newnham and Maren Grainger-Monsen depict a lawyer's power to instill strength and spirit into three children who appear destined to live a marginalized life in their Calcutta slum.

On Thursday's screening, the bravely intimate Mohammed to Maya follows one year in the life of Maya (formerly Mohammed), a Tamil Muslim, as she journeys to Singapore to have sexual reassignment surgery.

A third documentary, Nishtha Jain's thriller Gulabi Gang, closes the festival with an empowering look at the women of Bundelkhand, India; the "Gulabi Gang" is on the cusp of a revolution as they fight against gender violence, caste oppression, and widespread corruption.

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The Hong Kong Film Festival is One Hell of a Ride

What do a surrogate mother, wily detectives, Kung Fu, a young man on the hunt for his parents' killer and a grasshopper all have in common? Why, it's the Hong Kong Film Festival. The festival, presented by the San Francisco Film Society kicks of this Friday with a whole host of films that will stimulate the senses and challenge many a person's conception of what Hong Kong is all about.


The small island, resting on the edge of a vast continent and spilling out into the sea, has an inordinately wealthy population, high density, a rigorous free trade market and a prodigious film industry. As such it mirrors that other great Metropolis -- New York City, the birthplace and oft used subject of American film. Not surprisingly, Hong Kong is known as the place where East meets West and could be considered our partner in crime, capitalism and carpe diem.

Many of the films revel in stylistically gritty cinematography, fast-paced editing and heart attack producing action sequences. In this vein is Conspirators, a contemporary interpretation of the traditional tale of the vendetta.

The film tells the story of Malaysian-born Chan Tam (Aaron Kwok) who navigates the treacherous underworld in order to track down the men who murdered his parents 30 years earlier.

Other film offerings include love and corruption in 1930s Shanghai, the international phenomenon of the Hong Kong pop scene and a few beloved Kung Fu classics.

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Student's Thesis Film Brings Jonestown Massacre to Life

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre -- one of the most infamous mass murders in American history.

The tragedy's origin is rooted in San Francisco, however, its journey to the big screen comes by way of Norwegian filmmaker David B. Berget.

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Sex Worker Pirate Radio: The WhoreCast Goes Live

Siouxsie Q

The Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival kicks off nine days of film, performance, and lectures in an exuberant manner this week. Sex work activist Siouxsie Q is opening the festival with a live version of her acclaimed podcast, The WhoreCast, at the Center for Sex and Culture this Saturday.

Siouxsie and The WhoreCast have been through a lot this year. The show, formerly known as This American Whore, underwent an identity crisis when Chicago Public Media, which produces This American Life, demanded that she change the name.

Although she eventually had to comply, Siouxsie Q didn't come out of it too badly: The WhoreCast is now the only show about whores that has been publicly endorsed by Ira Glass as "charming."

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Linklater's Before Midnight Completes Two Decades of Hawke-Delpyism and the S.F. International Film Festival

Categories: Film Festivals


Happily ever after, as most of us over the age of 20 well know, doesn't exist. Despite this truth or perhaps because of it, most films dearly love that heady pursuit of romantic bliss -- the beginning. Mostly this is fine, as film is a perfect tool for the catharsis of fantasy. But for many a person like myself, we children of messy and neglectful parents, films have also been our teachers. Through their influence and engagement, I have grown up. Which is why the film Before Midnight, the latest of the Before trilogy by Richard Linklater, is such a gift. Delving deep into the story of a middle-aged couple in the midst of marriage, parenthood, and a certain poignant bitterness, It is a much-needed telling of what happens after the shoe is found to fit.

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