Summing Up This Year’s San Francisco International Film Festival

It’s over. Two weeks of very heavy, mostly serious cinema in San Francisco–and none of it even near a BART station.

Over those weeks, I saw 15 new feature films. If you include the three I saw at press screenings before the festival, and the two on screeners (DVDs sent to press), the total was 20. In addition, I attended four events that allowed me to revisit old classics, and another where I saw short works by a young and interesting animator.

With a few exceptions, the films were very good to excellent this year. I gave seven of them an A or A-. Another six got a B+.

The best new feature? That would be a three-way tie between By the Fire, Headhunters, and Guity. These films were so different that I couldn’t honestly pick one as better than the others.

The worst? Smugglers’ Songs. I never guessed that a swashbuckler could be so boring.

An interesting technical note:

This film festival had barely any film. Almost every picture I saw at the festival as projected digitally. I had a discussion about this with the head projectionist at the Kabuki, and he estimated that only about 7% of the festival was projected off film.

That didn’t bother me, although it apparently caused some headaches for the festival. A great many HD formats had to be accommodated, and DCP (the standard for professional digital projection) doesn’t you to test the picture before it screens. This can cause serious problems for a single screening.