SFIFF58 Opening Weekend Picks

The 58th San Francisco International Film Festival is upon us! The program, which this year features more live events than ever and a huge number of filmmaker guests — kicks off tomorrow tonight at the Castro Theatre. Heading into the first few days of Festival, the team at the Film Society has curated some Opening Weekend picks to guide you through the SFIFF craziness.

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine with director Alex Gibney
Thursday, April 23, 7:00 at the Castro Theatre

When Steve Jobs died in 2011, the world mourned. But why, asks Alex Gibney, were people who never knew him moved to tears by the death of a businessman who sold them products? Featuring frank interviews with close friends and former colleagues, the film adds detail, nuance and counterpoint to the burnished tale of Jobs’ journey from garage to corner office, offering a bracingly candid inquiry into his genius and his flaws as well as our own relationship to technology.

What Happened, Miss Simone? with director Liz Garbus
Friday, April 24, 6:00 at the Castro Theatre

This documentary leaves audiences awestruck at the genius, tenacity and musical prowess of Nina Simone. A full biography filled with candid conversations, interviews, letters and performances, this film is the definitive take on Simone’s life. Paying special attention to her career-jeopardizing choices during the Civil Rights movement and her insistence on justice and unflinching when presenting her surprising weaknesses, What Happened, Miss Simone? is a fitting portrait of an inimitable and powerful artist.

54: The Director's Cut with director Mark Christopher & actors Ryan Philippe & Breckin Meyer
Friday, April 24, 9:30 at the Castro Theatre

The restored Director’s Cut of 54 is being hailed as a lost, gritty masterpiece, featuring career-defining performances from both Mike Myers and Ryan Philippe. A rediscovered classic of unbridled excess and existential longing, its story of a Jersey boy sucked into a web of depravity is framed by sweaty abs, jeroboams of quaaludes and the pulsing beat of music’s most celebrated and reviled era.

Wanda with writer and Telluride Film Festival Guest Director Rachel Kushner
Saturday, April 25. 4:00 at the Castro Theatre

Director Barbara Loden’s lone feature-length film—which she also wrote and starred in—is an arresting, controlled and stark realist gem. This gorgeously restored film focuses on Wanda, a wanderer in 1970s Rust Belt Pennsylvania who rejects the soul-sucking prospect of immersing herself in impoverished motherhood, goes on the road and eventually falls in with a petty criminal. 

An Evening with Guillermo del Toro, recipient of this year's Irving M. Levin Directing Award
Saturday, April 25, 8:00 at the Castro Theatre

Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone serves up a dollop of political allegory along with goosebump-raising chills in this creepily atmospheric masterwork of psychological horror set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. In the film, ten-year old Carlos is left at a remote orphanage, where he runs up against creepy caretaker Jacinto who is convinced there is gold on the premises. This screening will follow a presentation of clips from del Toro’s career, a moderated discussion of his work and a sneak peek at his upcoming projects.

Saint Laurent with director Bertrand Bonello & actor Gaspard Ulliel
Sunday, April 26, 2:00 at the Castro Theatre

This latest study of the fashion great ignores the rise and cuts straight to the dizzying, delirious peak of Saint Laurent’s career and the verge of his substance-fueled emotional deterioration. Plenty of screen time is devoted to the creation of clothes, but Bonello’s portrait is more concerned with mood than historical documentation. With a fragmented chronology, the film reveals facets of the man and the era, from boardroom to bedroom, in a kaleidoscopic exploration of artistry and excess.

An Evening with Richard Gere, recipient of this year's Peter J. Owens Award
Sunday, April 26, 6:30 at the Castro Theatre

Join us and screen legend Richard Gere for an evening at the Castro Theatre, where the actor will be honored with the Festival's Peter J. Owens Award and discuss his prolific career before screening his latest film, Time Out of Mind, a stunning, soulful observational portrait of a man who must cope with homelessness in New York.

Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno Live! with director Jody Shapiro & subject Isabella Rossellini
Sunday, April 26, 8:00 and Monday, April 27, 2:30 at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

Animal reproduction has rarely been as sexy and amusing as it is under the keen and playfully creative eye of Isabella Rossellini. Having created a series of short films and then an original series about the mating habits of animals including whales, spiders and praying mantises, she takes her act on the road and presents her wild and wooly treatises on creature copulation to ecstatic audiences around the world.

Founded in 1957, the San Francisco International Film Festival is the longest-running film festival in the Americas. Held each spring for two weeks and highly anticipated by its loyal and passionate audiences, SFIFF is an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in one of the country's most beautiful cities, featuring some 150 films and live events with more than 100 filmmakers in attendance and nearly two dozen awards presented for excellence in film craft.