SFIFF 56 in Depth: Focus on Asia

Whether you're hankering for gangster action or stunning non-fiction, SFIFF56 has something for every cinephile, especially in our focus on Asian films. Watch trailers here of some the best films in contemporary cinema from Indonesia, China, Japan, Cambodia, South Korea, and Hong Kong - including the award-winning Cold War.   Don't miss their screenings at this year's festival!

In Memorium: The Great Roger Ebert

We are deeply saddened by the news that legendary film critic, journalist, and screenwriter Roger Ebert, passed away today. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. His work influenced many, and raised the bar high for film criticism.

"A great movie can involve not plot but life, and the daily living of it," he wrote in 2005. "Although movies can amuse and excite us, their greatest consolation comes when they understand us." -Ebert at the Movies by Jason Sanders

We are thankful to have honored him at the 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival with the Novikoff Award.

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.