California Independent Film Festival
The Castro Theatre, the New Rheem Theatre in Moraga, and the Orinda Theatre in Orinda
Now in its 18th big year, the California Independent Film Festival features not just Golden State-sourced indie flicks like you might gather from the title, but also mainstream and international movies. Must-see films in the latter category include Cuong Ngo's action thrillerHuong Ga (Rise), about a young woman (Truong Ngoc Anh) who climbs to the top of Vietnam's criminal underworld, and Thomas Cailley's great French romantic comedyLove at First Fight.
Matatu Film Festival
Starline Social Club, Oakland (among other venues)
Now in its third year, this Oakland-based event has expanded and rebranded as a "Festival of Stories," which includes more than just motion-picture media. Its propitious name comes from the Swahili word for a vividly decorated means of personal transportation.
Iranian Film Festival
San Francisco Art Institute
This isthe Iranian film festival, as in the first independent festival of Iranian cinema outside of Iran, and, accordingly a window into one of the most brilliant, resourceful, and highly artful cinematic cultures in the world.
Mill Valley Film Festival
Multiple Marin County venues
You may not find a more easygoing, longstanding, filmmaker-friendly festival on this continent. MVFF also is known for a good balance of crowd-pleasers and undiscovered gems.
United Nations Association Film Festival
San Francisco, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, and Stanford Universitywww.unaff.org/2015
Also reaching the age of consent this year, the United Nations Association Film Festival spotlights documentaries from around the world on a variety of depressing topics, including — but not limited to — famine, racism, and homelessness. Wrist-slashers this time around include Dyanna Taylor'sDorothea Lange: Grab A Hunk Of Lightning,about the famous Depression-era photographer, while Tonje Hessen Schei'sDroneis not about the underappreciated music genre, but the flying robots that spy on and kill people from above.
San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival: Bollywood and Beyond
Oct. 22-25 andNov. 1
The Castro Theatre and New People Cinema in San Francisco, and the CineArts Theater in Palo Alto
3rd i Films continues its mission of presenting diverse images of South Asians while working to create positive change through film. With the 13th Annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival, it throws some Bollywood revelry into the mix along with what's sure to be a jubilant screening of Umesh Aggarwal's documentaryJai Ho, about the Indian superstar A.R. Rahman.