Five countries celebrate their national film industries in Bay Area festivals and series

From mid-September through early November, the Bay Area will host film festivals and series celebrating recent movies from China, Italy, Iran, Hong Kong (which isn’t really a country, but…you know), and Japan. As far as I can tell, none of these films have been screened locally.

I have not seen any of the films to be screened, so I cannot separate the must-sees from the don’t-sees. You’ll have to use your own intuition.

Four of the five events call themselves film festivals, but only three qualify by my standards. If the event doesn’t allow you to spend a whole day watching curated movies, I don’t consider it a film festival.

Chinese Film Festival
September 18 – October 2

Running six films over two weeks, and never screening more than one picture a day, I consider this a series, not a festival. The Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, the Chinese American Librarians Association, and the China Arts Festival are running this series at the Laney College Library.

As near as I can tell, the series lacks a website. There’s an online image that should help a bit. Here’s a webpage for the opening film; it doesn’t offer links to the others.

Italian Film Festival
September 22 – November 3

Like the Chinese series above, this “festival” is really a series, screening only one or two features a weekend, and never screening two films on the same day.

On the other hand, each film gets an afternoon and an evening screening.

The programming starts with comedies, then goes on to a thriller and several dramas. The screenings are at the Showcase Theatre in San Rafael (which is nowhere near the Rafael.

Iranian Film Festival
September 22 – 23

Unlike the other festivals and series here, these movies don’t all come from the same country. In addition to actual Iranian films, there are pictures from the USA, Italy, France, Singapore, Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, Austria, and Morocco. But they’re all about Iranians.

And this is a real film festival, although a short one. Each of the two days starts at 11:00am, and ends probably around 11:00pm. These long days at the movies will happen at the San Francisco Art institute, at 800 Chestnut Street in San Francisco.

Hong Kong Cinema
September 28 – 30

SFFILM doesn’t call this a festival, but it fits my definition – even if it’s a small one. Covering a weekend, you can see four of the seven movies on Saturday, alone. The festival screens at the Vogue.

A lot of people associate Hong Kong cinema with action movies, and there’s some of that here. The Brink, which closes the festival, promises gold smugglers, a cop who doesn’t follow the rules, and “a femme fatale with a penchant for setting explosive booby traps.” But the festival also offers several dramas, a pop music biopic, and a horror comedy called Vampire Cleanup Department.

Japan Film Festival
September 28 – October 7

This is a true film festival, running all day on weekends, along with single screenings on weekdays. It has epic history with Sekigahara, horror with Before We Vanish, food porn with the documentary Ramen Heads, several animated films, and dramas.

It all happens in the New People Cinema.