FESTIVAL: Speaking in Tongues: San Francisco Fest's New World Revue
by Carl Russo
(indieWIRE/ 05.09.02) -- Doubt has filled the minds of San Francisco filmgoers ever since Peter Scarlet left town for a choice gig in Paris last year. The departure of the San Francisco International Film Festival's venerable programmer of 19 years created a void that seemed impossible to fill. How would the new tag team of outside programmers -- including L.A.'s Roxanne Messina Captor and Seattle's Carl Spence -- pull off the 45th edition of this world-class event? The answer: with flying colors.
Despite the Bay Area's current economic slump, the new SFIFF crew boosted attendance and expanded its Asian and Latin American offerings, and even scored the pre-Cannes world premiere of Woody Allen's "Hollywood Ending" for its May 2 closing. Fifteen days,180 films, and 87,000 tickets later, the new question from the locals is, how can the festival top itself next year?
Splashy tributes for Warren Beatty and Kevin Spacey notwithstanding, the meat of the festival is its global survey of capital-A art films, which always attracts a marvelously multiculti audience. Indeed, the babble of tongues filling the glass-and-steel lobby of the Kabuki Theater gives the impression of a bustling, Pei-designed train station at a crucial foreign crossroad.
Zhang Yimou met fans of his charming new comedy "Happy Times," while white-haired poststructuralist guru Jacques Derrida discussed the Kirby Dick documentary that bears his name. The world premiere of "The Green Cold/The Mirror of the Soul," Nasser Saffarian's lyrical tribute to Iranian poetess Forough Farrokhzad, played to a packed house of Persian descendents. And director Luis R. Vera fielded comments in Spanish, Swedish and Romanian following "Bastards in Paradise," his unfortunate sub-Dogme entry into immigrant hell in Stockholm.
The subject of immigrants has become a clich