Festival Update

Festivals, festivals, festivals, festivals, and festivals. I take a few weeks off, and film festivals spread like the flu in February. Okay, a quick rundown on what’s here and what’s coming.

Let’s start with Cinequest, which, as you read this, has already opened. As an organization,

Minnie Driver will receive a
Maverick Spirit Award at Cinequest

Cinequest is primarily about watching little-known, independent films at home, not in movie theaters. You can buy DVDs through them, or download movies for a fee. But once a year they hold a big film festival at various theaters around San Jose–an appropriate town for a high-tech event.

This year’s festival, which runs from February 28 through March 11, will include 160 features and shorts from 34 countries. The last four features screened were selected not by the programmers, but by Cinequest’s online customers. There will be four day-long forums on filmmaking, and a Maverick Spirit Award presented to Minnie Driver.

The Irish Film Festival is less ambitious, but is also already running, in this case through Sunday at the Roxie. Selections include the commercially successful (at least in Ireland) comedy Man About Dog Magners N’Shorts

Starting March 16, we can attend the Asian American Film Festival. Or, more specifically, the 25th San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival–one of those nice-round-number anniversaries. Among the more promising highlights are the opening night comedy Finishing the Game, a documentary called Hollywood Chinese, and a complete retrospective of Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo. The Festival closes on March 25 with Dark Matter.

Dark Matter closes the
Asian American Film Festival

All three festivals will screen silent movies. Oddly, it’s self-declared maverick Cinequest that’s sticking with the safe bets here, presenting The General and Pandora’s Box with Wurlitzer organ accompaniment by Chris Elliott and Dennis James, respectively. Not that one should sneeze at another chance to see either of these in a big theater with live accompaniment–their classic status is well deserved –but they’re hardly new discoveries. The Irish Film Festival found something more obscure: Irish Destiny, a 1926 drama of the Irish rebellion and the birth of the IRA. Unfortunately, the festival is presenting Irish Destiny with recorded music, despite all the outstanding Irish musicians in the Bay Area. The Asian American Film Festival screens an Anna May Wong vehicle, Pavement Butterfly, with Robert Israel on the Wurlitzer.

Even though it’s two months away, the drumbeat has already started for the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival. The Pacific Film Archive is running A Tribute to the San Francisco International Film Festival at 50, and in the Chronicle, Ruthe Stein reminisces daily about past festivals. But I’ll wait until the festival is closer to tell you about it.