Learning to Speak with Filmmakers & Their Films

We do our best to bring as much international filmmaking talent as possible to the Bay Area for the San Francisco International Film Festival each spring. Last year, we programmed films from nearly 50 countries and hosted 315 filmmakers and industry guests representing over 15 different nations.

Our Fall Season, too, has historically featured a high density of international programming. For years, we have presented mini-festivals spotlighting new cinemas from Taiwan, Hong Kong, France and Italy. Fewer filmmakers join us for these weekend events, but those that do maximize their visits, collaborating with our Education team to connect with students and teachers. Truly, we hope that any filmmaker passing through the Bay Area—regardless of whether or not they are featured in our programming—will reach out to us if they want to bring their work into local classrooms.

This past October, we were joined by Italian filmmaker Simone Borrelli and his short Eddy. Along with his directing credit, Simone also wrote, acted and scored the film, which tackles a number of challenging contemporary issues, including violence against children and terrorist attacks in Syria.

The energy that people and students are giving me all over the world, sharing their love for what I’ve done—it’s one of the reasons why I do this.
— Filmmaker Simone Borrelli

Eddy was named the Official Human Rights Movie of 2015 by the Council of Europe and has garnered support from the Presidency of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic, Unicef, Doctors Without Borders, International Red Cross, and Amnesty International. With Simone, we brought the film to Lowell High School, where he presented a screening and conducted an entire class in Italian for local foreign language students.

In November, the Film Society collaborated with directors from our New Italian Cinema series to design special classes and screenings for schools. These filmmaker visits gave students studying Italian the opportunity to learn more about the culture of Italy and also provided a unique opportunity to practice conversational skills.

Matteo Bini, co-director of I, Harlequin, joined us for sessions at San Francisco School of the Arts and Lowell High School. His film was perfectly suited to each class, as students at both schools had just begun studying the Italian theatrical tradition of commedia dell’arte.

It was great for my students to see a film in the language that they are studying. I think this brings the language to life.
— Teacher

Our educational exploration of Europe through film continued with our French Films & Schools screenings. This was the tenth year of this program, which began as a collaboration with the French Consulate of San Francisco and aims to expose high-school level students of French to the larger culture of the country. Past films and filmmakers who have participated in this program include Cyrano de Bergerac by Jean-Paul Rappeneau; L’Enfant by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne; and The Class by Laurent Cantet.

This year's selections were All Cats Are Grey and the animated film Asterix – the Mansions of the Gods—both of which were featured in our French Cinema Now series. Our week began with Asterix director Louis Clichy, who joined us for visits with animation and French language classes at a local middle school and for a packed lunchtime screening of Asterix for his former colleagues at Pixar.

In the following days, we held two screenings of Asterix and a single screening of All Cats Are Grey. Just over 650 Bay Area students took part in the visit and screenings, with some classes traveling in from as far away as Woodside and Concord to join us.

By including Asterix, we were able to reach a much younger audience demographic this year with our programs. Parents and teachers expressed their deep appreciation, as most of our French screenings in the past have only been appropriate for high school and above.

Hearing real French outside of the classroom is exciting for them. It is also beneficial for them to see the auditorium packed with other French students.
— Teacher

As the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival approaches, the local educational community can look forward to another exciting year of Schools at the Festival, which hosts more than 4,000 elementary, middle and high school students and their teachers for weekday matinees at the Festival. This program also brings dozens of local and visiting filmmakers from around the world into Bay Area classrooms to share their work and interact with students.

To learn more about SFFS Education, contact Keith Zwölfer at kzwolfer@sffs.org.


SFFS Education programs serve more than 11,000 students and teachers every year, from kindergarten through college, to develop media literacy, cultural awareness, global understanding and a lifelong appreciation of cinema. SFFS Education aims to cultivate students' imaginations, prepare them for filmmaking careers and empower them to succeed in a media-saturated world.