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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Quiet, Please: SF Silent Festival Celebrates 20 Years

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 12:00 PM


The San Francisco Silent Film Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary at the Castro Theater next weekend with an expanded program that adds an additional full day to the event.

Twenty years ago, who would have thought that a small event with a shoestring budget celebrating a so-called dead medium would grow into one of the great cinema treasures in a city blessed with more than its share. Yet grow it did, from one film to two, from one day to three, and now to four full days (plus one night). The festival, which starts Thursday night, May 28, and runs through Monday, June 1, draws audiences from across the country and around the world, along with some of the best practitioners of silent film accompaniment — musicians from Colorado, New York, England, Sweden, and Germany.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Tiny Dance Film Festival Lets Artists Share Big Dreams

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 at 8:00 AM

Quake by Erin Malley
  • Quake by Erin Malley

April 24-25 brings the return of the third annual Tiny Dance Film Festival, a growing festival of short dance flicks curated by detour dance's Kat Cole and Eric Garcia. This year's program brings a healthy selection of local artistry into contact with filmmakers from regions remote as Helsinki, Amsterdam, Melbourne, and Israel, with a spirit that emphasizes the scrappy creativity of emerging artists, artists of color, and others short on resources but long on vision. Cole and Garcia discussed the development and aims of the Tiny Dance Film Festival with SF Weekly.

What inspired you to create the Tiny Dance Film Festival?

Garcia: We are filmmakers ourselves, so we wanted to create opportunities for people with similar interests and also start a grassroots approach to making dance films.

Cole: It was also out of curiosity. We made our first dance film [Drift, 2009] five years ago on our own in a silo, and we wanted to have a community. Putting on a film festival was a way for us to see what was out there and to make connections with others who were making work. The San Francisco Dance Film Festival has been a great platform, but we thought there could be room for a grassroots festival that supports emerging artists.

ME-Story of a Performance by Jopsu Ramu
  • ME-Story of a Performance by Jopsu Ramu

What opportunities do you think dance and film create for each other?

Garcia: In our curation, we stand strongly by people who use the camera as a major component to the choreography, not just to record or document. The camera is being used as a partner. We call it dancing with the camera versus for the camera. We don't think of one long chunk of choreography — we think in fragments and storyboards. Film also allows us to create a setting and context for the movement.

Cole: With the camera, you're really choreographing the audience's perspective, and film can be a way of bringing emotions or characters reactions to each other life than if you were in a more distant proscenium setting. The camera is another dancer, and dance has a different life on film.

Would you say that the camera redefines what dance is?

Cole: It's another tool in the toolbox. It's a framework that can enable a lot of people who haven't seen dance before to view it in a new way. I think it's like any other tool that you can use to reframe dance if you want.

Has film altered what you create for the stage?

Garcia: We have a cinematic approach, more theatrical than abstract contemporary dance. We're thinking of creating vignettes, how we can use light to highlight a nuanced, highly detailed solo, or part of someone's arm or hand.

Cole: Making dance film was our first entree into combining dance with a lot of character work and motivation. Storytelling on film has changed how we stage work — we talk to our dancers about motivation, character arcs, whereas previously we were thinking more through a contemporary dance lens, which is less about character and more about movement for movement's sake.

Knock by Thomas Pollard
  • Knock by Thomas Pollard

What really excites you about this year's festival?

Garcia: We had an insane amount of submissions this year, about 300 films from all over the country and the world, and a wide variety in terms of production level.

Cole: We have to acknowledge the breadth of work that is happening, the variety we can track over the past few years

Garcia: it has allowed us to curate not based on kinds of dance films or different genres of dance, but who we are going to represent onscreen. Who are the people who are submitting the films? We're excited to be presenting a lot of young artists, young artists of color, AXIS, a physically integrated dance company. We're not just curating based on the dance, and we're excited to have the opportunity to represent different demographics.

What are your hopes for next year's festival?

Garcia: We're constantly blown away by the number of people who submit films. We hope we continue to get a bunch of submissions from young, emerging artists. We love a good high production dance film but we secretly love the young artists who are making work on their crappy little cameras — because that's what we're doing.

Cole: Part of it is acknowledging how much of a barrier there can be in making dance films, in the same way that it can be a big barrier to think you need to rent a theater for two weeks to produce your work. We want the festival to be able to support and encourage people — even if you don't have the financial means to make a high production video, you can still create a film that can show your awesome idea, and there would still be a platform in which to share it. Lowering that barrier to entry is what we hope will continue. 

detour dance presents 2015 Tiny Dance Film Festival, Friday and Saturday, April 24-25, 8 p.m., at Ninth Street Independent Film Center, 145 9th St., S.F. Tickets $17-$25; $35 for festival pass.
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Monday, April 20, 2015

SFIFF Opens with Alex Gibney's Steve Jobs Documentary

Posted By on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 at 2:00 PM

  • Courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society
  • Director Alex Gibney

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine
 was chosen to open the San Francisco International Film Festival this year for a lot of reasons – besides be ing a great film – says Noah Cowan, the executive director of the San Francisco Film Society. He considers Alex Gibney, the wildly prolific director, whose films include Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Client 9: The Rise & Fall of Eliot Spitzer, The Armstrong Lie, and the recent, much hyped HBO presentation Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, one of the most important filmmakers around. And this latest movie about Jobs has particular meaning here, Cowan thinks.

“It’s so relevant to our identity in the Bay Area,” he said. “He was a titanic figure for the world, and I think a lot of people in tech wonder who they are in relation to his success.”

Gibney combines investigative journalism with a philosophical point of view, Cowan says. He adds Gibney begins with a question and addresses it in a thoughtful way. The question in The Man in the Machine has to do with people’s strong response to Jobs’ death.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

City Planning and Cinema Meet at the SF Urban Film Festival

Posted By on Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 1:35 PM

  • SPUR (flickr)
Urban planning is not meant to be arousing. Very few people are going to drop $12 at the theaters to watch a movie about public parks or the urban canyon effect, especially if there is no sex to see. 

Still, urban planning is an integral, and often sadly overlooked, part of our daily lives as urban dwellers. To combat our under-appreciation for the precise science that keeps our city chugging along, the SF Urban Film Festival, taking place Nov. 6 through 9 at the SPUR Urban Center, will be screening films that highlight the role urban planning plays in the Bay Area and beyond.

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Good Ol' Freda, The Story of the Woman Behind the Beatles' Fans

Posted By on Mon, Apr 29, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Freda, hard at work
  • Freda, hard at work

The San Francisco International Film Festival is underway, and while we recently offered our 10 Must See-Films, those certainly aren't the only 10 movies you should see. Indeed, if that list had gone up to 11 -- and, really, shouldn't they all? Down with base-10 tyranny! -- we absolutely would have included Good Ol' Freda. So, consider this our official extra recommendation: You should totally check out Ryan White's heartwarming documentary about the Beatles' secretary, Freda Kelly.

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Saturday, April 27, 2013

What Maisie Knew Kicks Off SF International Film Festival

Posted By on Sat, Apr 27, 2013 at 9:07 AM


The 56th annual San Francisco International Film Festival kicked off last night at the Castro Theater, screening What Maisie Knew to a packed house of well-coiffed cinephiles clamoring for buttered popcorn and a plush seat beneath the silver screen.

As dusk crept along the streets of the Castro, so, too, did bevies of stilleto-ed blondes and blazer-ed critics; all types of culture hounds gathered to celebrate on the makeshift red carpet outside the theater.

By 6:45 (the movie didn't start until 7:12) the Castro was a pleasant madhouse; staff darted about with clipboards, the candy counter churned out its confections and the throng of movie-goers already seated clapped along with the gilded organ.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Steven Soderbergh to Discuss the "State of the Cinema" at S.F. International Film Festival

Posted By on Mon, Apr 22, 2013 at 3:35 PM

Knows a lot about movies
  • Knows a lot about movies

Director Steven Soderbergh's much-discussed retirement from directing feature films notwithstanding, there is quite possibly no better filmmaker to assess the current status of the filmmaking arts, as Soderbergh will do this Saturday at the San Francisco International Film Festival's State of the Cinema address.

A restless innovator and a lifelong student of the movies, Soderbergh's eclectic filmography demonstrates the kind of searching, experimental creative energy that is difficult to imagine petering out. Despite swearing off features, Soderbergh's desire to create has in no way flagged; he has discussed focusing on painting, on directing plays and musicals, on a 12-hour miniseries adaptation of John Barth's enormous satirical novel, The Sot-Weed Factor, and on an extensive revision of his own 1991 film, Kafka.

I think it's safe to say that Soderbergh isn't retiring at all -- but he is, apparently, leaving behind a medium that is undergoing vast changes, after spending 25 years (and 25 features) immersed in it.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

USF's Human Rights Film Festival is Free in More Ways Than One

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2013 at 12:08 PM


The Human Rights Film Festival at the University of San Francisco is the 11th annual event, and like previous years, the lineup is sure to galvanize audiences with a mixture of shorts and features that span the globe. Shorts programs feature work by USF students and alumni. The award-winning feature, Dear Mandela, which follows three South Africans who struggled to prove that the Slums Act was unconstitutional, is followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

East by Northwest: CAAMFest Begins

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 1:56 PM

  • Linsanity

Marking a transition from what was formerly the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, this year the Center for Asian American Media introduces CAAMFest, an 11-day smorgasbord of music, food, digital media -- and film -- featuring the work of Asian and Asian-American artists from all over the world. Although the festival's artistic horizons have expanded to include other forms of expression, the primary focus is on film, with a number of high-profile screenings and premieres scheduled.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Linsanity Shows a Rarely Seen Side of Basketball Star Jeremy Lin

Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 3:30 PM

Evan Jackson Leong, the director of "Linsanity" - COURTESY 408 FILMS
  • Courtesy 408 Films
  • Evan Jackson Leong, the director of "Linsanity"

In the opening minutes of Evan Jackson Leong's documentary, Linsanity, basketball star Jeremy Lin remembers security guards stopping him when he was walking into the players' entrance at Madison Square Garden, not recognizing he was on the team.

"That scene has a lot of layers," Leong says. "It shows a lot about racism and how Jeremy deals with it -- he can laugh about it. He doesn't let it bother him. He's on the team, and they don't know he's on the team and never think an Asian guy would be on the team."

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