Berlin & Beyond, January 29 – February 3
The Bay Area’s German language festival returns with a modest selection of movies from Germany, Austria, and the German-speaking part of Switzerland. In 2008, B&B ran for seven days at the Castro; this year, it only gets three. On the other hand, it will do a day each in Palo Alto and Berkeley.
It opens with To Life!, about a Jewish, suicidal cabaret singer who rediscovers the joys of life. It stars Hannelore Elsner, who will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the screening. Other films that look promising (I haven’t seen any of them) include Inbetween Worlds and the centerpiece, Exit Marrakech, both of which deal in very different ways with the middle east.
IndieFest, February 5 – 19
I’m never sure if I should count IndieFest has a genre festival, such as DocFest and Noir City, or as a general festival, such as Mill Valley and San Francisco International. If it’s a genre festival, the genre is independent film. But that’s pretty much all you’ll see at Mill Valley and SF International.
But then, the independent films at IndieFest are arguably more independent than those at the bigger festival. Besides, when you’re talking about independent cinema, it’s best to keep the categories fluid.
The festival opens with David Cross’ Hits, about a small town’s reaction to a city council video going viral. It closes with Jacky In the Kingdom of Women, a gender-bending satire that I’ve seen and cannot recommend (I’ll tell you more about it later). The films in between, most of which I hope are better than Jacky, include:
- Uncertain Terms: A drama set in a home for pregnant teens
- Sex and Broadcasting: A documentary about a small, independent, listener-supported radio station
- For the Plasma: Security cameras in the woods can predict the stock market in this sci-fi comedy. Both the New Yorker and IndieWIRE listed For the Plasma in their Best Undistributed Films of 2014.
- Beyond Clueless: A documentary about teen movies.
Oh, and there’s the now traditional Big Lebowski Party.
Mostly British Film Festival, February 12 – 19
The full schedule isn’t out yet for this selection of films from English-speaking countries not on the North American continent. Think of them as foreign films without subtitles.
The website currently tells us about six of the movies to be screened, without giving us dates. Out of those six, we have two romantic comedies(Standby and My Accomplice), a "quirky" comedy (Gold), a biopic called Winnie Mandela, a story about modern Australian aborigines (Charlie’s Country), and Jimmy’s Hall, a drama about Ireland in the 1920s.