SFIFF Report: Last Day

I caught two screenings on the last day of the San Francisco International Film Festival:

Speaking in Tongues. Let me start with a confession. I’m monolingual. Horribly monolingual. I hate being an English-only individual, and after seeing Speaking in Tongues, I suspect that if I had been part of an immersion program in elementary school (such things are rare today and didn’t exist back then). Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider’s documentary looks at four students going through such a program in the San Francisco public schools, and it’s a revelation. Keeping in mind that the filmmakers have an agenda, they give good arguments that teaching children in two languages, only one of which they speak at the beginning, results in a better education, all around. The movie is also well-shot, cleverly put-together, and a lot of fun. Highly recommended.

That is, if you ever get a chance to see it. It doesn’t have theatrical distribution, is doing the festival circuit, and will probably play on on PBS someday. Your best bet is to visit the film’s Web site and get on the mailing list.

The feature was preceded with the short subject was “A Day Late in Oakland,” about the murder of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey, allegedly by members of the Your Black Muslim Bakery. Made by Zachary Stauffer, it was a very good piece of cinematic journalism.

The makers of both films came up to do Q&A after the films. They talked about the difficulties in raising money, how they chose which four children to focus on, and how a filmmaker can be a journalist.

Unmade Beds. People slide in and out of each others’ lives in this quirky drama of London youth, and yet the two propagandists barely make contact with one another. Axl (Fernando Tielve) has come to London to find the father who deserted him as a child. He makes friends, sleeps around, and drinks so heavily at night that he often wakes up not knowing where he is or how he got there. Vera (Déborah François), freshly heart-broken, enters into an anonymous romance–neither names nor phone numbers are to be exchanged. But love has a way of messing up these plans.

Unmade Beds was screened at the Castro to end the Festival. But it’s not the end of Unmade Beds. It was on the Festival’s Hold Review list, which means that it will, or likely will, be getting a regular, theatrical release.

Writer/director Alexis Dos Santos came onstage before and after the film. He looked to be like a kid, himself. He was wearing a backpack and carrying his jacket, as if he’d just run into the theater and had nowhere to set his stuff down. Star Fernando Tielve joined him for the Q&A, where they talked about the writing process, what Tielve brought to his character that Santos hadn’t thought of, and what it was like editing a film that had someone else’s money in it.

After the screening, I attended the closing night party at a club called the Mezzanine. It was too loud and too crowded, and I left within an hour.

4 thoughts on “SFIFF Report: Last Day

  1. It’s great what you are doing with this blog… I am also writing a movies I have watched at the SFIFF… You might want to check them out…

  2. Hi,

    Just wanted to let you know that at long last SPEAKING IN TONGUES will be on KQED, September 26, 2010 at 6 p.m. (Part of the Truly CA series). Maybe your readers would be interested, since you gave it such a nice write up.

    It is also streaming on the PBS website subtitled in Spanish and Chinese from September 3 through the 17th.


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