Get ready for a massive injection of cinema. The 61st San Francisco International Film Festival opens April 4 and closes two weeks later on April 17. And you know what that means? For the third year in a row, the SFilm Fest conflicts with Passover. You would think that someone would check a Jewish calendar.
The festival opens with A Kid Like Jake, about a young boy who just might prefer to be a young girl. It closes with Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, a biopic about quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan, starring Joaquin Phoenix. In between, the April 12 Centerpiece will screen the locally-made Sorry To Bother You, Boots Riley’s satire about rising in the corporation while black. This movie will screen twice (same night, different times) at the Castro and Oakland’s Grand Lake. The Grand Lake screening is already sold out (there may be At Rush tickets).
A Kid Like Jake
Speaking about theaters, the New Mission will not be part of the Festival this year. And yes, this is because of Alamo Drafthouse’s issues with sexual harassment. The Festival’s Executive Director, Noah Cowan, hopes that the issues can be cleared up and that the New Mission can be part of the festival next year.
Venues that will be part of the festival include the Castro, Roxie, SFMOMA, Victoria, Dolby Cinema, and across the Bay, at the Pacific Film Archive.
SFFilm doesn’t just present films. It also helps finance them. Four features and five shorts in this festival were made at least partly with SFFilm money. These include We the Animals, The Rescue List, and the above-mentioned Sorry To Bother You.
Sorry To Bother You
This festival has a tradition of screening silent films with unique and unconventional live music. Sometimes it works beautifully. Sometimes it stinks. This year, the silent film will be Yasujirô Ozu’s brilliant family comedy, I Was Born, But…, with music by an alt-rock group called Blonde Redhead. I have no idea if this will work.
It wouldn’t be a film festival if it didn’t honor filmmakers. Both Charlize Theron and Wayne Wang will receive tributes. The Theron event will include a screening of her newest film, Tully. Wang’s celebration will screen his 1995 film, Smoke. Nathaniel Dorsky will receive the Persistence of Vision Award. The George Gund III Craft of Cinema Award goes to Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman, with a screening of their short documentary, End Game. The Mel Novikoff Award, given to someone who has enhanced the film-going public’s appreciation of world cinema, goes to Columbia University Professor Annette Insdorf. I’m not familiar with her, but I like her choice for a movie to screen: Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be
(you can read my Blu-ray review). Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin will give the State of Cinema Address.
To Be or Not to Be
This year’s festival has quite a few biographical documentaries, covering the lives of Robin Williams, Fred Rogers, Hal Ashby, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In all, this year’s festival will screen 183 films, including 57 narrative features, 37 documentary features, four new vision features (I’m not sure what that means, either), two episodic programs (in other words, parts of TV shows), and 83 shorts. The films will be in 46 different languages. Eight will be world premieres, and six will be US premieres.
Don’t even think of trying to see all of them.
I’ll be reporting on what to see and what to skip before and through the festival. Check my SF Intl 2018 category to see what I’ve written.
One thought on “This year’s San Francisco International Film Festival announced”
The New Visions category has been a key part of the Golden Gate Award for short-form work for decades. It includes work that defies easy classification into narrative, documentary, and animation categories. Some of the work falls derives from the experimental film traditions founded by folks like Oskar Fishinger, Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, etc. or the video art & installation world, but some of it defies even those handy classifications.
For the last couple years the festival has carved out a category of form-expanding features in a similar spirit. The catalog this year calls it “vanguard” but I guess they interchange that with “Mew Vision” as well. This year’s slate includes a collage work made up entirely of shots of outer space from other films, a documentary/fiction hybrid from a director whose past work tries to get the viewer to question the line between fiction and non-fiction, something called Carcasse I know nothing about beyond the program description positing it as the “first science-fiction documentary”, and a political essay film that, if it resembles its director’s prior work I’ve seen, will visually consist of depopulated landscape shots.
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