San Francisco International Film Festival turns 60

We don’t have Sundance or Toronto in the Bay Area, but we do have the oldest film festival in the Americas. The San Francisco International Film Festival turns 60 this year, and the organization that runs it is now it’s called SFFILM. This year, it’s running 181 separate films (104 of them feature length) from April 5 through April 19.

Let’s look at what’s coming. I haven’t seen most of these films, so I can’t tell you if they’re worth seeing. I can only guess.

Big Nights

Patti Cake$

  • Opening Night: Landline. Set in 90’s New York, it follows the lives of a young woman unsure of her future and her problematic family.
  • Centerpiece: Patti Cake$. A 23-year-old woman dreams of hip-hop stardom and sets out to win a competition. A “unqualified breakout hit of this year’s Sundance Festival.”
  • Closing Night: A San Francisco Fantasia With Kronos Quartet. Now this is something unusual. Guy Maddin put together a montage of San Francisco visuals which he describes as “parallel-universe version” of Vertigo – without any images from the film. Kronos Quartet will perform composer Jacob Garchik’s score live.

Special Events

A Long Happy Life

  • Mel Novikoff Award: Tom Luddy – A Long Happy Life: It’s about time that Luddy, an important figure in the Bay Area film scene for decades, gets this award. He’ll screen Gennady Shpalikov’s A Long Happy Life – a Russian film from 1966 – along with a little-known Goddard short.
  • Citizen Kane with William R. Hearst III: Of course you know Citizen Kane, and you probably know that William Randolph Hearst tried to suppress the movie. This screening includes a discussion with William R. Hearst III and David Thomson. That
    should be interesting.
  • A Tribute To James Ivory: Maurice. Remember when the name Merchant Ivory meant intelligent films like Room with a View and Remains of the Day? The festival will honor the surviving member of the team with a screening of the recently restored Maurice from 1987.

Promising Narratives

The Human Surge

  • Discreet. A drifter returns to the small Texas town where he grew up. When he visits his mother (a recovering alcoholic), he discovers more about himself than he wanted to know, taking him into “a dangerous spiral of self-exploration.”
  • Marie Curie. the Courage of Knowledge. More than a century after she won her second Nobel Prize, Marie Curie is still the only woman scientist that most people can name. This fictional adaptation of her life promises to plunge “the viewer into Curie’s subjective experiences and memories.”
  • The Human Surge. Three stories, set in Argentina, Mozambique, and the Philippines, seem connected by strange, possibly electronic forces.

Promising Documentaries

Bill Nye: Science Guy

  • Bill Nye: Science Guy. Yes, it’s a documentary about the man behind the bowtie. The filmmakers follow him as he runs The Planetary Society, debates religious fanatics, and explains things. The festival website falsely describes him as a scientist; he’s actually a science educator. Nye and the directors will be at the first screening April 10.
  • City of Ghosts. People living in ISIS-controlled territory risk their lives using social media to let the world know the truth about what’s happening.
  • Chasing Coral. Jeff Orlowski, the director of Chasing Ice, once again uses cutting-age technology to show us just how dangerously fast we’re changing our environment.

I’ll be screening these and other films before and during the festival. Check the SF Intl 2017 section in this blog to see what’s worth watching.

As with last year, the festival’s geographic center of gravity will be in the Mission, with the New Mission, the Roxie, and the Victoria. But it’s also spreading to downtown to Dolby’s new Cinema and SFMOMA, and The City’s northwest with the Vogue. Most of the really big events, of course, will be at the Castro. The only venue outside of San Francisco proper will be Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive. You can check out all the venues.

Note: This article was altered on March 16 to reflect the festival’s new name.