San Francisco International Film Festival Complete Lineup Includes Julie Delpy with ‘Before Midnight,’ ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers,’ A2E Lab

San Francisco International Film Festival Complete Lineup Includes Julie Delpy with 'Before Midnight,' 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers,' A2E Lab

The arrival of the annual San Francisco
International Film Festival (April 25 — May 9, 2013) is like finding
water in the desert — and this in a supposedly sophisticated film-going
city.  At this year’s press conference, the usual phrase “we’re showing
over 200 films from xyz countries” lacked the second quantifying
number, but a quick count of the Country Index in the program book
yields 50. (By far the largest number — 68 — come from the United
States, but the lineup is international indeed.)

Highlights from the lineup announcement include Philip Kaufman receiving the Founder’s Directing Award, along with a screening of his San Francisco-set 1978 remake “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”; Julie Delpy will join director Richard Linklater in an in-depth conversation following the closing night screening of “Before Midnight”; and the launch of A2E: Artist to Enterpreneur, a four-day lab designed to match indie filmmakers with tools for digital distribution and outreach.

The full public program, which includes 158 films representing 51 countries, can be browsed here.

suffers a bit from its placement in the festival calendar: the
professional film world’s attention is turned towards May’s Cannes Film
Festival, the unofficial start of the film festival year (despite
Sundance, Berlin, and Rotterdam), and this year it overlaps with Tribeca
(April 17 — 28), whose New York location guarantees a certain amount
of press coverage. Nowadays the endless festival circuit means that some
films in the program debuted at last year’s Cannes festival  —
“Therese,” the last film of Claude Miller; “In the Fog,” Sergei
Loznitsa; the animated film “Ernest and Celestine” — and others have
been on the long march: “The Act of Killing” making stops since August
at Telluride, Toronto, Copenhagen, Denmark, Berlin, Luxembourg, Sweden,
Thessaloniki, and New Directors/New Films in New York, just to trace the
journey of the very first film in the program book. Not for nothing did
Olivier Assayas once say to me “Make a movie — see the
world!”  (And his new movie about French youth growing up after May ’68,
“Something in the Air” will be screened in the festival, although he’s
not currently listed among guests expected — a list in progress.)

San Francisco Film Society, which puts on the festival, operates
year-round, and not just as a screening venue: new Director Ted Hope
mentioned with pride in his introduction that the Society
provided financial support not only for last year’s Sundance Grand Jury
prizewinner “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” (and eventual Academy Awards
Best Picture nominee), but also for the 2013 Sundance Grand Jury Award
prizewinner, “Fruitvale,” and “Short Term 12,” which won both the Grand
Jury and the Audience awards at this year’s South By Southwest.

seemed slightly churlish of me to ask why neither of them had made it
into this year’s SFIFF, but without naming names, Ted Hope alluded to
Cannes (where “Fruitvale” is indeed scheduled, and “Short Term 12”
rumored) and the fact that both films now had distributors —  The
Weinstein Company for “Fruitvale,” and Cinedigm for “Short Term 12” —
whose release plans take precedence.

The Festival opens with
“What Maisie Knew,” from ex-Bay Areans Scott McGehee and David Siegel,
which Hope said his mother had recently announced was (a) her favorite
book and (b) unfilmable, and closes with Richard Linklater’s “Before
Midnight,” the third in his trilogy (after “Before Sunrise” and “Before
Sunset”) about star-crossed lovers Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.  Both
Linklater and Delpy will attend the festival, and in addition to the
movie screening, there’s A Conversation scheduled with the two, and a
broad hint was given that Ethan Hawke might also be in attendance, if
the festival could entice him.

Programmers Rachel Rosen, Sean
Uyehara, Rod Armstrong, and Director of the Golden Gate Awards Audrey
Chang previewed the multi-pronged program: live
events, world cinema, conversations, prizes. Two
unintentional threads that emerged in the programming: first, the local
angle — both settings, such as Michael Polish’s “Big Sur,” with scenes
set in City Lights bookstore and Tosca, and filmmakers: Jacob
Kornbluth’s “Inequality for All,” the Centerpiece film of the festival,
featuring Berkeley professor Robert Reich; and Rick Prelinger presenting an
interactive found-footage movie, “No More Road Trips?” And
then, “welcoming back old friends” — that is, showing movies by
directors who’ve been shown at SFIFF before, including Linklater. 
Another minor theme: “the enduring popularity of gangster cinema,” (stop
the presses!) as seen in films from Russia (“Dom: A Russian Family”),
Korea (“Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time”), and Japan (“Outrage

I’m most excited about two special programs: Steven
Soderbergh is giving the State of Cinema address, especially interesting
in light of his recent announcement that he’s retiring from directing
movies (followed almost immediately by another announcement that he’s
planning a 12-hour miniseries adaptation of John Bath’s “The Sot-Weed
Factor — plus ca change).  And the presentation of the Mel Novikoff
award to beloved polymath cinephile Peter von Bagh, co-director of the
Midnight Sun Film Festival and co-director of Il Cinema Ritrovato in
Bologna, exciting not only because SFIFF will screen von Bagh’s 2008
“Helsinki Forever,” but because it means that his health has recovered
from the illness that prevented him from attending the 2012 Bologna

Of the movies I’ve seen, I can wholeheartedly
recommend the winner of this year’s Persistence of Vision award, for a
body of work “outside the realm of narrative filmmaking,” Jem Cohen’s
“Museum Hours” (which is indeed a narrative); Bernardo Bertolucci’s
quixotically overlooked “Me and You,”; and Sarah Polley’s extraordinary
more-than-a-documentary about her family, “Stories We Tell.” 

I look forward, of course, to the discoveries I’ll make among the
movies I haven’t seen.  Most anticipated, in addition to several
mentioned above: “Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky
Jay”; “Eight Deadly Shots,” from Finland, and 316 minutes long; the
Czech “Marketa Lazarova,” favorite film of eccentric film lover and
recently deceased festival benefactor George Gund, to whom the festival
is dedicated; “Populaire,” a French film, set in the late 50s, that
looks like pure kitsch pleasure; “The Search for Emak Bakia,” a
documentary about the 20s Man Ray film; three restored films from local
hero Les Blank; “Twenty Feet from Stardom,” a documentary about backup
singers; and Justine Malle’s autobiographical film, “Youth, ” about her
relationship with her father Louis.

But tonight I’m staying in. 

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