Festivals Not in Mill Valley

A lot of film festivals arrive in the Bay Area in the coming weeks, and not all of them are in Mill Valley. Here are some others, listed chronologically:

Berkeley Video & Film Festival, September 26-28: This three-day festival of extremely independent fare has an interesting ticket policy. A $13 ticket buys you entry for an entire day. On Saturday, that’s from 1:00pm to nearly midnight…with, I’m glad to say, some modest intermissions. At the Shattuck.

Iranian Film Festival, September 27-28: A decade or so ago, Iranian films like Children of Heaven were an art-house rage, and deservedly so. Does Iran still make movies that good? You can find out this weekend when this brand new festival (“First Annual,” according to the announcement) plays at the San Francisco Art Institute.

French Cinema Now, October 8 – 12: The San Francisco Film Society presents five days of contemporary French cinema not released in this country. From their press release: “Covering a broad spectrum of subject matter and genres, the films in this series — ranging from a rowdy rural comedy to an intricate equine nonfiction feature to a tense science-fiction thriller — build a comprehensive picture of the current moment in French cinema.” At the Clay.

CounterCorp Anti-Corporate Film Festival, October 15-17: This three-day event at San Francisco’s Brava Theater includes “films, panel discussions, and related events.” And, I suspect, political agendas. As I write this, the schedule has not yet been posted.

Arab Film Festival, October 16-28: According to the press release, its 70 films include “the first film from Bahrain, a multi-layered Moroccan feature film about child labor, a Sundance award-winner that follows a kind airport janitor in Jordan, comedies and feature films about love and families facing challenges.” The movies screen at various locations in San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, San Jose, and (I know this one doesn’t count) Los Angeles. I’ll be able to preview and report on two films before the festival opens.

DocFest, October 17-November 6: IndieFest’s annual documentary festival used to follow the San Francisco International Film Festival; now it follows Mill Valley. It runs October 17 – 30 at the Roxie and October 31-November 7 at the Shattuck. I believe this is the festival’s first Berkeley run. I’m missing the press conference as I type this, and will fill you in when I have more information.

Good News on Universal Fire

You may remember my post from last month, Precious Prints Lost to Fire. Universal Studios lost almost its entire collection of archival 35mm prints in the fire that also damaged parts of the amusement park. While new prints could be struck from the unharmed negatives (stored in Philidelphia), economic realities suggested at that time that few such prints would be struck.

But according to Eddie Muller of The Film Noir Foundation, “a quickly paid insurance settlement will allow [Universal] to work virtually round-the-clock striking new prints of everything that was lost or damaged…The plan is to start with films that have upcoming screenings scheduled, so those bookings can be met. Eventually all the lost films will be resurrected in new prints.”

That’s great news all-around. Maybe some local revival house will do a series called “Saved from the Flames: New Prints from Universal.”

Precious Prints Lost to Fire

You’ve probably heard about the big fire at Universal Studios, and about how nothing irreplaceable was destroyed. While that’s true in the technical sense, economic realities control what does and does not get replaced. Thus, thanks to that fire, many an old Universal and Paramount movie will probably never be properly screened again (Universal owns the pre-1950 Paramount library).

According to an article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, Universal stores its negatives in Philadelphia, far from its studio/amusement park and the fire. But it stored archival 35mm prints of its older films in an on-studio vault. According to one Universal estimate, the “fire destroyed nearly 100% of the archive prints kept here on the lot.”

Of course, Universal could strike new prints from those Philadelphia-based negatives, but will they? Striking a new print off of an old negative costs thousands of dollars. I could see them doing that for something hugely popular, like Vertigo, but not, say, for King Kong Escapes.

I didn’t randomly pick that last example. The Cerrito scheduled King Kong Escapes as part of a June 13 Thrillville event. According to Speakeasy programmer and Thrillville host Will Viharo, writing to the Speakeasy mailing list, “the single existing 35mm print…has…gone up in flames, and it is highly unlikely it will ever be replaced, because of its, shall we say, selective appeal.” Viharo will screen the movie off of a DVD. The Cerrito has a good DVD projection system, but it’s no substitute for 35mm.

Viharo has dropped one other previously-screened movie, Curse of the Werewolf, from a future Thrillville booking.

Yesterday’s News

Quite a day. The Academy announces the Oscar nominations, and Heath Ledger dies in what looks like a suicide.

I first saw Ledger in The Patriot and Monster’s Ball. Both performances impressed me, but they left me wondering if I would ever see this young man alive in a final fade-out. I finally did, of course, in Brokeback Mountain; alive, but very sad, standing both literally and figuratively in a closet. I finally saw him in a happy ending with Casanova.

But there was no happy ending for Ledger himself. We still don’t know why.

Should we care more about Ledger than about the many other people who must have died before their time that day–including, I’m sure, others who left young children behind? I suppose not. Yet we do, because we’ve all lost something: the chance to watch a talented young artist mature and improve with age.

And what about the Oscar nominations?

I have yet to see There Will Be Blood, which seems to have momentum behind it. I’ll have to rectify that. I liked the other four Best Picture nominees, although only Juno made my top ten (and topped it). I’m rooting for Juno, but I don’t think it will win. It’s not the sort of movie that does.

On the animation front, I loved both Persepolis and Ratatouille, although I don’t think of Persepolisas a 2007 film because it didn’t open in the Bay Area before 2008. And, of course, I’m hoping No End in Sight makes Best Feature-Length Documentary.

But we’ll have to wait until February 24 to answer the big question: What is an Oscar ceremony like during a writer’s strike?