Stars have long lured moviegoers to the theater, and for half a century festivals have used that gravitational pull to generate media attention, raise the glamour quotient, and lure hoi polloi. This year's SFIFF is no different, judging from the series of award ceremonies and special events on offer.
The headliner, so to speak, is Francis Ford Coppola, recipient of the Founder's Directing Award (Friday, May 1, at the Castro). In lieu of the de rigueur Q&A, Coppola will share the stage with director George Lucas, editor Walter Murch, and screenwriter Matthew Robbins. Robert Redford, another larger-than-life personality who reigned supreme in the '70s, is honored with the Peter J. Owens Award for acting (Wednesday, April 29, at the Castro) and a revival of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The movie showcases Redford's charm and sex appeal and reminds us that he was a great star in his prime, though hardly a great actor.
In a ploy to attract the younger set, the festival instituted the Midnight Awards (Saturday, April 25, at W San Francisco Hotel) a few years ago to fete a next-generation actor and actress. This year's honorees, Evan Rachel Wood and Elijah Wood, aren't seasoned enough to deserve trophies, I daresay.
A clear highlight and the most rockin' show of the fest features L.A. band Dengue Fever performing its new score to The Lost World (Tuesday, May 5, at the Castro), the silent 1925 adventure yarn that presaged King Kong and showcased the stop-motion genius of technical supervisor Willis H. O'Brien (who also worked on the great ape movie). Shit-disturber extraordinaire James Toback, no dinosaur he, picks up the Kanbar Award for screenwriting (Saturday, May 2, at the Sundance Kabuki), sitting for an interview with film critic David Thomson before a screening of his latest provocation, Tyson.
Cinema lovers should be out in force to applaud programmer and revivalist Bruce Goldstein of New York City's Film Forum and Rialto Pictures, recipient of the Mel Novikoff Award (Sunday, May 3, at the Castro). Goldstein chats with local comrade-in-arms (and one-time Castro programmer) Anita Monga, followed by a screening of Federico Fellini's immortal Nights of Cabiria.
Veteran local documentary queen Lourdes Portillo receives the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award (Monday, April 27, at the Sundance Kabuki) for her brave and remarkable oeuvre, capped by a screening of her latest, Al Más Allá, a marvelous send-up of self-important, self-obsessed docmakers. Photographer Mary Ellen Mark delivers the annual State of Cinema address (Sunday, May 3, at the Sundance Kabuki), arguably the most thought-provoking event in the festival every year.
The most electric bash, however, is one that the public tends to overlook — the annual Golden Gate Awards ceremony (Wednesday, May 6, at Temple Nightclub-Prana Restaurant). The fest's great schmoozefest — even more so than the informal nightly rendezvous at Tosca Cafe —boasts a daunting gathering of Bay Area and visiting filmmakers, and not a single movie star.
Best of the Fest
There are 150 films to choose from at this years S.F. International Film Festival. Our critics tell you which ones are must-sees.
Q&A with David Lee Miller
My Suicide director talks about death and the Internet.
Films with Bay Area ties.