A Toast to SFIFF56!

Yesterday we toasted to the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival with our Press Conference, Member's Night, and Festival website launch! Our trailer has gone public, film guides are out, and merchandise is in and on sale.  Hats off to our amazing staff, volunteers, members and supporters who made last night a blast!

George, Sean & Willie Welcome the Annual SFIFF UFO

George Gund III was an avid film lover and distinguished philanthropist, and his unwavering support of the San Francisco Film Society spanned more than four decades. He led SFFS and its annual San Francisco International Film Festival into a period of unprecedented growth and success, resulting in a robust year-round cultural organization that now reaches more cinema enthusiasts and supports more filmmakers than any other time in its history.

Just for fun, George joined Sean Penn, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and Bay Area writer Armistead Maupin in making a cameo appearance in the 41st San Francisco International Film Festival trailer at Tosca Cafe.

And just so you know - The press conference for our 56th San Francisco Interplanetary Film Festival is just a few days away (April 2)!!

SFIFF56 In-Depth: Honoring An Audio Tech Pioneer

The San Francisco Film Society announced today that Ray Dolby, inventor of numerous recording technologies and founder of local industry powerhouse Dolby Laboratories, will be the recipient of the George Gund III Award at Film Society Awards Night during the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 25–May 9). The George Gund III Award, given in tribute to the longstanding Film Society chairman of the board who passed away earlier this year, honors a worthy member of the filmmaking community for their outstanding and unique contributions to the art of cinema.

Ray Dolby, founder and director emeritus of Dolby Laboratories, pioneers Dolby’s work in noise reduction and later in surround sound has earned extensive recognition worldwide. He holds more than 50 U.S. patents, and has received many accolades for his work, among them an Academy Award for Scientific or Technical achievement and an Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Flashback Friday: A dramatic slice of SFIFF40 Life

We've been working hard over here at the Film Society to prepare for our exciting 56th SF International Film Festival and thought a flashback in time would be a good reminder for us to remember where all this hard work is going. Take a break and remember the glitz, glamor, and celebrations of SFIFF Life from 1997, because as our announcer says:

An international film festival is a dramatic slice of life.

Get ready to enjoy our 56th!

SFIFF56 In-Depth: Big Nights

Our countdown is going, and our much anticipated SF International Film Festival is just 34 days away!  We're excited to announce that we'll be opening our 56th with Scott McGehee and David Siegel's film What Maisie Knew, celebrating our Centerpiece with Jacob Kornbluth's film Inequality for All, and closing with the last of the beloved trilogy Before Midnight by Richard Linklater.

Member tickets available for Big Night films today.
Open to the general public tomorrow, March 22.

Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel (USA 2012)

In this loose adaptation of Henry James's 1897 novel of the same name, Scott McGehee and David Siegel focus on the effects of a marriage's unraveling as viewed through the eyes of a couple's six-year-old daughter. Shuttling between narcissistic parents and bemused but compassionate parental stand-ins, young Maisie comes face to face with the mercurial world of grown-ups who are anything but. With Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård, Onata Aprile, Steve Coogan.

Directed by Richard Linklater (USA 2012)

They're still the same romantic, articulate and gorgeous couple that met on a train in Linklater's Before Sunrise (1995), but now, nearly 20 years on, Jesse and Céline (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) are approaching middle age and facing questions of commitment, family and, as ever, the staying power of love. Before Midnight, with a funny and touching screenplay cowritten by Linklater and his two lead actors, is that rare sequel (rarer still: a sequel to a sequel) that not only delivers the charm and energy of its antecedents but adds layers of poignancy, standing firmly on its own as a mature observation of love's pleasures and discontents. With Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Jennifer Prior, Charlotte Prior.

Directed by Jacob Kornbluth (USA 2013)

In this Inconvenient Truth for the economy, the Sundance Special Jury Award-winning Inequality For All introduces former Secretary of Labor (and current UC Berkeley professor) Robert Reich as an inspirational and humorous guide in exploring the causes and consequences of the widening income gap in America and asks what is means for the future of our economy and nation. Passionate and insightful, Reich connects the dots for viewers by providing a comprehensive and significantly deeper understanding of what's at stake if we don't act.

Flashback Friday: State of Cinema by Tilda Swinton

The San Francisco International Film Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary of the State of Cinema Address this year with Steven Soderbergh. The Festival has had many talented speakers including: author Jonathan Lethem, film producer Christine Vachon, film editor Walter Murch, photographer Mary Ellen Mark, Wired publisher Kevin Kelly, writer/directore Brad Bird, cultural commentator B. Ruby Rich, longtime editor of the influential French film magazine Positif Michel Ciment and actress Tilda Swinton.

Here are a few highlights from the magnificent Tilda Swinton's speech when she delivered the annual State of Cinema address at the 49th San Francisco International Film Festival in 2006.

SFIFF56 In-Depth: Live & Onstage

We just announced that Steven Soderbergh, one of the world’s most celebrated figures in contemporary filmmaking, will deliver the tenth annual State of Cinema Address at the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival. The State of Cinema will headline the Festival’s Live & Onstage program of unique one-time-only events featuring elements of live music, multimedia presentations and audience participation - read what we have lined up below:

State of Cinema Address by Steven Soderbergh
Saturday April 27, 1:00 pm
Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

On the 10th anniversary of SFIFF’s annual State of Cinema Address, we are excited to present iconoclast and (currently designated) filmmaker Steven Soderbergh as he discusses the intersecting worlds of contemporary cinema, culture and society. Always riveting and defying expectation, Soderbergh doubtlessly will clarify and challenge one’s current views on where cinema is going and what it should be.

$20 for SFFS members - On sale today! Not a member? Join here.
$25 for the general public - Box office opens March 15.


Show or Tell
Friday April 26, 9:15 pm
New People Cinema

Bay Area artists and visiting filmmakers of SFIFF present their passions, experiences, relationships and obsessions with the moving image. This will be a true variety show with music, an illustrated lecture, surprises and a behind-the-scenes story or two. The show will include musician/cinephile Mark Eitzel (American Music Club), writer/editor/designer Eli Horowitz (former McSweeney’s managing editor), artist/filmmaker Lucy Raven (RP31, China Town) and musician/activist Boots Riley (The Coup) and others to be announced. (Photo by Tommy Lau.)


Inside the Drunken Mind of Derek Waters
Saturday April 27, 9:15 pm
Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

Friend of the Festival, writer-producer-actor-comedian, hyphenate Derek Waters (A Drunken Evening with Derek Waters SFIFF 2010, Only the Young SFIFF 2012) will be on stage presenting a program whose origins are best described as welling from deep inside Waters’ mind. Waters will share his personal discoveries of media from around the world, plus we get a peek at his new Drunk History television show for Comedy Central.


No More Road Trips?
Sunday May 5, 4:30 pm
Castro Theatre

Founder of the Prelinger Archives, Rick Prelinger brings us No More Road Trips?, a dream ride through 20th-century America made entirely from home movies that asks whether we’ve reached the end of the open road. The soundtrack for this fully participatory film is created by audiences at each screening.

Waxworks with Mike Patton, Scott Amendola, Matthias Bossi and William Winant
Tuesday May 7, 8:30 pm
Castro Theatre

As has become a tradition at SFIFF, we again unite vital contemporary musicians with classic silent film. Mike Patton and three percussionists—Scott Amendola, Matthias Bossi and William Winant—team to create an original score for the classic German expressionist film Waxworks (1924) that they will present in a live world premiere.

Tickets on sale now!

SFIFF56 In-Depth: Golden Gate Awards Documentary Feature Competition

Yesterday the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 25–May 9) announced 22 films in competition for the New Directors Prize and the Golden Gate Award nominees for documentary feature (in-depth look about the New Directors Prize were posted yesterday). The International will award $20,000 to the GGA documentary feature winner and $15,000 to the Bay Area documentary feature winner. Independent juries will select the winners, which will be announced at the Golden Gate AwardsWednesday, May 8.

View this year's documentaries below and remember the best value to watch them all is to purchase an Early Bird CineVoucher 10-pack!


After Tiller
Martha Shane and Lana Wilson

After the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas in 2009, there are now only four doctors left in the country who provide third-trimester abortions for women. After Tiller moves between the rapidly unfolding stories of these doctors, all of whom were close colleagues of Dr. Tiller and are fighting to keep this service available in the wake of his death.


Before You Know It
PJ Raval

Before You Know It explores the fascinating, but until now, rarely seen world of aging gay men. This provocative, poignant and life-affirming documentary details the lives of three different and remarkable individuals, the joys and hardships they experience, the difficulties of aging and being overlooked and also the support and uplift they find in their particular communities.


Mika Mattila

This revelatory and visually striking documentary follows a pair of political pop artists—the hugely successful middle-aged painter and sculptor Wang Guangyi and the gifted young photographer Liu Gang—as they grapple with their place and purpose in a new China of pervasive materialism and Western influence.


Cutie and the Boxer
Zachary Heinzerling

After 39 years of marriage, painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko, have weathered many storms of creative conflict. Clearly the nurturer in the relationship, Noriko endeavors to support her fiery partner while also endeavoring to find space for her own artistic efforts. Capturing them both, at work and at play, the result is a skillfully crafted portrait of art and long-term companionship.


God Loves Uganda
Roger Ross Williams

A powerful exploration of the evangelical campaign to change African culture with values imported from America’s Christian Right, the film follows American and Ugandan religious leaders fighting “sexual immorality” and missionaries trying to convince Ugandans to follow Biblical law.


Pedro González-Rubio

In the small mountain community of Kannogawa, Japan, the laws of nature reshape the human blueprint of what used to be a lively town. While the younger generations have gone to the cities, the few people who remain perform the everyday activities with a brave perspective on their history and the cycles of life.


The Kill Team
Dan Krauss

In this chilling documentary, Bay Area–based Dan Krauss (The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club, Golden Gate Award winner, SFIFF 2005) explores the deeply disturbing story of U.S. soldiers, stationed in Afghanistan in 2009, who were convicted of murdering innocent civilians. Their motives, and the culture that enabled their crimes, are as complex as they are nightmarish.


Let the Fire Burn
Jason Osder

In 1985, the Philadelphia Police Department dropped two pounds of military explosives on the house belonging to the radical black liberation group known as MOVE. Constructed entirely of archival materials and judicious intertitles, the film cannily juxtaposes startling images from the bombing, the resulting fire—left to burn for over an hour—and their aftermath to create a vivid portrait of a tragic injustice. 


Rent a Family Inc.
Kaspar Astrup Schröder

Filmmaker Kaspar Astrup Schröder’s (The Invention of Dr. Nakamats, SFIFF 2009) alternately fetching, absorbing and offbeat documentary revolves around a 44-year-old Japanese family man who owns and operates a professional stand-in business that rents out fake relatives, spouses, friends and parents to a rapidly growing Japanese customer base “desperate…to cover up a secret.”


A River Changes Course
Kalyanee Mam

Bay Area filmmaker Kalyanee Mam presents an intimate and moving portrait of the vanishing world of rural farmers and fishermen in Cambodia.  Focusing on three families in vivid cinéma vérité style, Mam reveals how the encroaching modern world is destroying the rich and sustaining cultures of the past and forcing the young to seek work in factories or plantations. 


The Search for Emak Bakia
Oskar Alegria

In 1926, avant garde artist Man Ray shot a film titled Emak Bakia, a Basque expression that means “Leave me alone.” Intrigued by the fanciful conundrums and coincidences of Ray and his art, filmmaker Oskar Alegría ignores Ray’s dictum and sets out to plumb the mysteries of Emak Bakia, leading to an unforgettable journey of whimsical discoveries and charming surprises


Sofia’s Last Ambulance
Ilian Metev

On the front lines of a degraded emergency-care system in Sofia, Bulgaria, an over-extended, yet emphatically humane, paramedic crew hurtles frantically from one call to the next in a dilapidated ambulance. Filmed primarily through the lenses of three dashboard-mounted cameras, Sofia’s Last Ambulance unfolds in a series of unflinching, real-time vignettes shot over the course of two years. 

SFIFF56 In-Depth: New Directors Narrative Feature Competition

Today the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 25–May 9) announced 22 films in competition for the New Directors Prize and the Golden Gate Award nominees for documentary feature (in-depth look about the documentaries will be posted tomorrow). The International will award $15,000 for the New Directors Prize, which will be given to a narrative first feature that exhibits a unique artistic sensibility and deserves to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. Independent juries will select the winners, which will be announced at the Golden Gate Awards, Wednesday, May 8

View this year's narrative features below and remember the best value to watch them all is to purchase an Early bird CineVoucher 10-pack!


The Cleaner
Adrián Saba

As a mysterious epidemic eviscerates Lima’s adult population—but spares its children—a solitary middle-aged forensic worker discovers an orphaned boy at one of his cleanup sites and decides to shelter the traumatized youth until he can find a relative to take him. As time passes, a subtle transformation takes hold of both man and child in this gently haunted and affecting study of social alienation and redemption. 


Habi, the Foreigner
María Florencia Álvarez
North American Premiere

Highlighted by an impressive and subtle performance by Martina Juncandella, first-time director María Florencia Álvarez’s film traces a 20-year-old woman’s spontaneous attempt to create a new identity for herself as a Lebanese orphan in Buenos Aires. Sensitively examining the role of culture in self-definition, Habi, the Foreigner is a beguiling coming-of-age story detailing the feeling of being an outsider in your own land.


Memories Look at Me
Song Fang

In this strong feature debut, Song Fang directs and plays herself as she pays a visit to her parents at their home in Nanjing. Intimate and contemplative, Memories Look at Me muses on life, death and tradition while touching on the essence of family life with a mixture of melancholy and serenity.


Our Homeland
Yang Yonghi

Based on the director’s own experience, this powerful drama tells the story of a family torn between Japan and North Korea. Rie, an ethnic Korean, lives with most of her family in Tokyo. The arrival of the family’s son, repatriated 25 years earlier to North Korea, forces the family to navigate difficult political and emotional waters.


Present Tense
Belmin Söylemez

A recent divorcée named Mina takes a job as fortune-teller, reading coffee grounds in a cafe, but longs to move to the U.S. Using her own personal experiences and frustrated dreams to inform her work, she offers penetrating psychological readings for her customers and develops a loyal following.


La Sirga
William Vega

Uprooted from her destroyed village by the armed conflict in Colombia, young Alicia tries to start a new life in La Sirga, a ramshackle inn on the shores of a great lake in the Andes highlands. The house belongs to her uncle Oscar, an old solitary hermit. There, on a swampy and murky beach, she will try to settle down until her fears and the threat of war resurface again.


The Strange Little Cat
Ramon Zürcher
North American Premiere

Initiated in a seminar taught by Béla Tarr and inspired by Kafka’s Metamorphosis, this startling debut feature takes place almost entirely within the apartment of a family where relatives gather to prepare dinner, repair a washing machine and talk. With its quirky choreography of movement, sound and words, the film imbues the mundane with an odd sense of otherworldliness.


Tall as the Baobab Tree
Jeremy Teicher
U.S. Premiere

Working with local communities and non-professional actors playing roles that mirror their own lives, Jeremy Teicher tells the moving story of a teenage girl who hatches a plan to rescue her sister from an arranged marriage. The film is also the first full-length international feature in the regional dialect of the Pulaar language of Senegal.


They’ll Come Back
Marcelo Lordello

A potent exploration of class and adolescence, They’ll Come Back tells the story of Cris, a privileged 12-year-old who—after being left on the side of the road as punishment for her and her brother’s constant bickering—embarks on a journey that will open her eyes to a world she never knew as she tries to find her way home.


Justine Malle

A nuanced portrait of identity coming into focus and a young woman willfully emerging from the shadow of a strong parent, the semi-autobiographical debut feature by the late, great Louis Malle’s middle daughter follows an inexperienced college student (Esther Garrel, daughter of Philippe and sister of Louis) whose sexual awakening coincides with her filmmaker father’s terminal diagnosis.

12 Questions Toward The Future Of Film Festivals

12 Questions Toward The Future Of Film Festivals

by Ted Hope

On December 2, SFFS Executive Director Ted Hope gave the following keynote address at the International Film Festival Summit in Austin, Texas.

Thank you for inviting me into your community. I have been in the film business for close to 30 years now – but it is as if I lived on the other side of a wall from you. I had one vision of what it took to put on festivals, but that was just a pale shadow of the brutal reality I have come to face in my two months on the job at the San Francisco Film Society. It’s hard work running a film festival! If any of you have played my films over the years and I didn’t bestow flowers and thanks on you, please line up at the end of this talk and you can slap my hand, twice! I owe you guys!

I like to think the kind invite to speak today, though, is symbolic of us crashing down that wall, and the start of a new era – but then I have always been a tad grandiose… I mean, I did get drawn into this show business thing, after all.

Today, I think we all come for answers, but I have to warn you: my search for those answers has only led me to more questions. Those are the gifts I have to share after two months on the job as the Executive Director of The San Francisco Film Society. Questions that come from looking at our film culture and wondering how we can serve it best.

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