Wednesday at the San Francisco International Film Festival

I saw two movies Wednesday at the San Francisco International Film Festival. The first was pretty good, the second fantastic. Both were screened at the New Mission‘s huge and beautiful Theater 1.

Both films are on the festival’s Hold Review List, which means that at this point in time, I have to review the films in 100 words or less.

B The Apostate

A scene from Federico Veiroj's THE APOSTATE, playing at the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 21 - May 5, 2016.

Gonzalo Tamayo (Álvaro Ogalla, who also co-wrote the screenplay) wants to separate completely from the Catholic Church that he had no choice being baptized into as a baby. But the Holy Bureaucracy makes this very difficult; they refuse to remove the record of his baptism. That anti-religious setup is just a backbone to a study of a young man sleeping around (with his own cousin) and avoiding responsibilities. A good, but not exceptional, character study about a 30-something trying desperately to not grow up.

This was the festival’s final screening of The Apostate. But since it’s on the Hold Review list, there’s a good chance of it getting an American release.

Sonita

This may be the best documentary I’ve seen since Hoop Dreams. It examines the dilemma of Sonita Alizadeh, a teenage refugee from Afghanistan living in Iran. She wants to be a rapper, and has the talent and determination to succeed. But her mother wants to sell her to a potential husband back home in Afghanistan; she needs the money to buy her son a bride. (By comparison, Iran comes off as an enlightened society–but only by comparison.) A moving, suspenseful true story about one amazing person and the millions in plights much like hers.

Director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami gave a brief talk before the screening, where she gushed that she’d “never saw this movie in such a beautiful theater,” and that she wanted to live in San Francisco.

Two highlights from her Q&A after the movie:

  • On what Sonita is doing now: She’s focused on activism and ending child marriage. She’s traveling to tell her story.
  • On Sonita’s mother, who comes off as the film’s villain: This is all she has experienced in her life. If you have been sold, all the women in your community has been sold… how can I expect her to be a rebel. She’s just a product of the culture and she’s a good Mom.

Sonita will screen one more time at the Festival, at the Pacific Film Archive Saturday, April 29, 8:45. Tickets are available only at rush.

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