This year’s San Francisco International Film Festival was officially launched with a press conference and the opening of its website this morning (Tuesday). The festival will run from April 21 to May 5 at the Castro, the Pacific Film Archive, but mostly has several theaters in the Mission, including the Roxie and the New Mission.
The move to the Mission is the biggest news about this year’s festival. I’ve already discussed the new location, so I’ll skip that here, except for one update: In the previous article, I expressed concern that none of the theaters in the mission have a capacity equivalent to the Kabuki’s Theater 1, which seats 497 (I thought it held about twice that when I wrote that article, but I was proved wrong). The Victoria–one of the Festival’s Mission theaters–seats almost 450, so the problem isn’t serious.
- The Festival opens with the Jane Austin adaptation, Love & Friendship.
- The Centerpiece film is James Schamus’ directorial debut, Indignation. Schamus is one of the most interesting people working in American independent film these days (if you’re an Ang Lee fan, you’re also a James Schamus fan; you just don’t know it), and I’m eager to see what he will do with this Philip Roth adaptation. It screens April 30 at the Victoria Theatre.
- The Irving M. Levin Directing Award (AKA the Award Formerly named for Akira Kurosawa) goes this year to Mira Nair–which makes her the first woman to get the Directing award, and first woman of color to win any award at this Festival. Festival director Noah Cowan admitted that “It’s about time.” Nair’s event on April 24 will include a screening of Monsoon Wedding.
- This year’s Mel Novikoff Award, which annually goes to a person or an institution that keeps the flame of cinema appreciation alive, goes to two companies that often work together: Janus Films and The Criterion Collection. The April 30 afternoon event will include a new restoration of the Coen brothers’ first feature, Blood Simple.
- The Persistence of Vision Award will go to the British company Aardman Animation, creators of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run. The May 1, 5:00 screening will include various short subjects.
- This year’s State of the Cinema speech will be given by Wesley Morris, a former Bay Area film critic who is now the New York Time’s Critic at Large. He plans to “argue for the radicalization of Sidney Poitier and how it parallels the current climate of race in the movies.”
- VR Day will look at how new technologies create new forms of cinema.
- And speaking of technology, Werner Herzog’s new documentary, Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World, screens April 23 at the Castro.
- The Festival closes May 5 with The Bandit, a documentary about the making of Smokey and the Bandit.
This year, the festival will screen 99 feature-length films and 74 shorts. Clearly, none of us will see all of them. But I’ll see what I can, both during and before the festival, and tell you about what I see.