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San Francisco International Film Festival

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Nine Picks for Great Flicks at the 2016 SF International Film Festival

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 2:00 PM

Miss Sharon Jones! - SFIFF
  • Miss Sharon Jones!
The release of the San Francisco International Film Festival schedule is like Christmas morning to Bay Area movie buffs, and the SF Film Society just dropped the full schedule for its annual two-week smorgasbord of international films and indie flicks. More than 200 screenings are scheduled from April 21-May 5, but we’ve picked out a few standouts showcasing cult favorite directors, glam premieres, spellbinding documentaries, big-deal Hollywood stars in person and wack multimedia events that promise a bleeding-edge cinematic experience.

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Best of SFIFF (and New on Video): Turkish Treasure Winter Sleep

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2015 at 4:01 PM


“You knew this was a three-hour-and-twenty-minute movie, right?”

So said San Francisco Film Society programmer Rod Armstrong, to mostly enthusiastic murmurs from a sizable crowd, while introducing Winter Sleep at the Kabuki Theater the other night. Allowing that running time can be a factor in these things, Armstrong lamented the unfortunate truth that last year’s Cannes champ, from Turkish art-house deity Nuri Bilge Ceylan, had never found a big-screen booking in San Francisco — that is, until the Film Society managed to sneak it in as a late addition to the SFIFF. He added that it was heartening to see such a good turnout on the day the movie happened also to be coming out on DVD.

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Best of SFIFF: Douglas Trumbull's State of Cinema Address

Posted By on Mon, May 4, 2015 at 4:00 PM

  • San Francisco International Film Festival.

On Sunday, May 3, Douglas Trumbull gave the mostly-annual State of Cinema Address at this year's San Francisco International Film Festival. I say "mostly" because there wasn't one last year, for whatever reason; perhaps it's because everyone was still recovering from Steven Soderbergh's now-legendary 2013 speech in which he solidly eviscerated the studio system. Trumbull played a couple clips from Soderbergh's speech (the entirety of which you can read or watch at your leisure, and you should), but this year's speech went in a different, more gloriously gear-headed direction.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

SFIFF: Local Filmmaker Jenni Olson Talks About The Royal Road

Posted By on Wed, Apr 29, 2015 at 11:00 AM

  • Photo by Lydia Markus
Jenni Olson describes her new film The Royal Road as “a cinematic essay in defense of remembering.” It transpires abstractly, by wayfaring along El Camino Real, fixing gazes on vacant urban scenes, meditating on the history of California’s colonization, and yearning for people and places which might ultimately be knowable only through their absence.

Patiently photographed on 16-millimeter film, intimately narrated by the director herself, The Royal Road seems — mesmerizingly, edifyingly — to extend from Olson’s 2005 feature The Joy of Life, a poignant personal history of the Golden Gate Bridge as a suicide landmark. After seeing that earlier masterpiece, and her great short film 575 Castro Street, an elegy for Harvey Milk, I was glad to chip in to Kickstarting The Royal Road, and to talk with Olson in advance of its local premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival tonight.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Best of SFIFF: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films

Posted By on Tue, Apr 28, 2015 at 11:00 AM


We're only human, okay? We try our best, but there's only so much SF Weekly can do. And yet, I have no good excuse for why we didn't properly inform you about the single most important film playing at this year's San Francisco International Film Festival: Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. And it already had its two showings this past weekend — which is another tragedy, that it was only screened twice, and not nightly during the duration of the festival — but I attended the Sunday night screening, and damn, it's good stuff. It's a look back at Israeli producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, and their glorious reign at Cannon Pictures in 1980s.

Among the pictures they were responsible for on various levels include The Apple, Death Wish III, Missing in Action, Superman IV, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Ninja III: The Domination, The Last American Virgin, Invasion U.S.A., Over the Top, and as you may have gleaned from the title, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. And that just barely scratches the surface.

I'm arguably biased because I love documentaries about low-budget / outsider filmmaking, but I can say without fear of contradiction that you'll want to put it at the top of your list when it inevitably hits streaming later this year.

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Monday, April 30, 2012

Health Care on Human Terms: Oakland's Highland Hospital in The Waiting Room

Posted By on Mon, Apr 30, 2012 at 8:30 AM

  • San Francisco Film Society
  • The Waiting Room

Medical professionals at Oakland's Highland Hospital emergency department see about 80,000 patients a year. The hospital also has northern Alameda County's main trauma center, so during the year, more than 2,200 severely injured patients go there, whether they have health insurance or not. Documentary filmmaker Pete Nicks' wife works as a speech pathologist at the hospital, so for years he heard stories about the patients at Highland. He wanted to make a film where the voices of the uninsured would be heard. The finished product is The Waiting Room, which screens this week at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

The film tells the stories of patients including a financially strapped carpet layer with bone spurs, a young man with a testicular tumor, and a child who has a high fever and can't talk. Along with the film, Nicks also created a website that includes more stories from the hospital, and he plans to make it interactive so patients to share their experiences.

Nicks talked with us about getting access to the hospital, the power of asking people to tell their tales, and the amazing staff at Highland.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

French Film Sans Subtitles Causes Exodus

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 1:30 PM

  • San Francisco Film Society
  • Intouchables

At a Tuesday night San Francisco International Film Festival screening of Intouchables, the projectionist found an apropos time to stop the film. Just as protagonist Driss was corralled by cops after a bout of Steve McQueen-like driving and exclaimed "Merde!" the screen went black.

The problem wasn't Driss saying "Merde!" The problem was the subtitle noting its English equivalent. There was none. In fact, the film fest had been mistakenly sent a copy of the movie without subtitles, according to festival staff. But the crowd didn't know this as several attempts were made to remedy the problem. Certainly it turned out to be a boon for the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas' concessionaire.

In the end, the crowd was offered a deal: Stay and watch the film or get a refund/exchange for the ticket. It very quickly became obvious who was and was not a French speaker, as a large portion of the audience filed out.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Alps Is Like Prostitution for the Grieving

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 10:30 AM

  • San Francisco Film Society
  • Alps

A great thing about film festivals is seeing films before their wider release, and in new and intimate settings. Over the weekend we screened Giorgos Lanthimos' film Alps, the follow-up to the strange yet much-loved Dogtooth, in the San Francisco Film Society's New People Cinema. The film turned out to be a perfectly bizarre and endearing study on authenticity, control, and groupthink. It's final screening at the San Francisco International Film Festival is tonight (Tuesday) at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.

A little background for setup: I once had a business idea to be what I called a conversationist for hire. My dad thought it sounded like prostitution. In Alps, the main characters perform an equally questionable service, though much more extreme and terrifically morbid: They temporarily stand in for deceased loved ones through carefully practiced re-enactments as a paid service for the grieving. Mont Blanc, the ringleader who named the group as something irreplaceable and unidentifiable (Alps), is their pimp, and the others, strictly nicknamed and managed as smaller mountains in the range, indulge their clients' erotic fantasies to keep the dead alive, if only through menial activity and tired dialogue.

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Jonathan Lethem Gets Bookish in Cinema Address

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Words on film: Jonathan Lethem - TOMMY LAU
  • Tommy Lau
  • Words on film: Jonathan Lethem

At last year's San Francisco International Film Festival, indie producer and invited speaker Christine Vachon embarrassed her hosts with a sloppy and unprepared "State of Cinema" report. To erase the lingering memory of that lowbrow disaster, organizers lured another New Yorker, best-selling novelist and professor Jonathan Lethem (The Fortress of Solitude), to the big house at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas over the weekend to deliver the annual address. One could say the festival rode the elevator from street level to an upper ivory-tower floor, with appreciably better (though not-quite-scintillating) results.

Conveying a casual likability -- maybe it was the untucked shirt under the gray sportcoat, or the gray shoes with green laces -- Lethem acknowledged the performance requirements of his assignment by beginning with a five-minute "joke" and maintaining a high level of energy and enthusiasm throughout his 45-minute talk. But Lethem is a writer, not a speaker, which is to say that his litany of ideas, feints, parentheticals, and digressions would be better served by reading it on the page than by hearing it delivered. (The festival has posted a video the essay -- a more descriptive word than "speech" -- which you can see here.)

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Monday, May 2, 2011

American Teacher Premieres Tuesday in S.F.

Posted on Mon, May 2, 2011 at 4:00 PM

Jonathan Dearman was a teacher in San Francisco and stars in American Teacher.
  • Jonathan Dearman was a teacher in San Francisco and stars in American Teacher.

The statistics are dire. Nearly one-third of U.S. high school students drop out. And less than one-third of eighth-graders are up to where they should be in reading and math. Kids who live in urban areas and those who come from low-income families are at greater risk of bad grades and quitting school, which means they're far less likely to develop the basic thinking-and-doing skills they need to get by in the world. Where are the teachers in this equation? A lot of them are dropping out too. The pay is so low in so many areas that nearly half of them quit within five years of starting. And many of the teachers who've been at it a long time are due to retire within a few years. It's clear that our education system must change. American Teacher, which has its world premiere Tuesday as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival, is a feature-length documentary that tells the stories of a few people closest to the issue.

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    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"