Indies Win Big as SFIFF Wraps; Turkish "Somersault"
Takes Top Award
by Carl Russo
"Only in San Francisco" became the mantra as Artistic Director Peter Scarlet
reeled off favorite anecdotes during the closing awards ceremony at the 41st
San Francisco International Film Festival: Danny Glover stepping out of a
post-screening audience to engage the film's director in a dialogue about
armed resistance to political oppression; a tearful viewer's testimony
after seeing his first Korean film; a documentary-maker receiving a large
donation from two attendees so that a second print of his film could be
78,000 attendees from all walks packed the Kabuki Theater and neighboring
venues in search of artistic truth, glitzy parties, and maybe a few
celebrity autographs. "It's like Superbowl tickets were being given away
for free," enthused Mayor Willie Brown about his visits to the Kabuki.
The two-week fest will have wrapped by press time with a star-studded gala
following a screening of Wayne Wang's new release, "Chinese Box."
Guest indie filmmakers have much to celebrate, too, as many walked away with
This year's $10,000 Skyy Prize, bestowed upon one of 15 features seeking a
US distributor, went to the Turkish entry "Somersault in a Coffin," Dervis
Zaim's humorous and harrowing account of a homeless drunk surviving a freezing
winter in Istanbul was on the lips of many attendees recalling festival
But it was the announcement of the Audience Favorite Award that brought the
festival to a poignant climax. South Korean director Im Kwon-Taek's
"Surrogate Mother," the story of a servant girl tapped to bear a male heir
for a wealthy family, emerged as the Best Feature. The film was screened as
part of a retrospective of Im's films, who was present to receive this year's
main prize: the Akira Kurosawa Award for lifetime achievement in film
Audiences gave the Best Documentary award to "Black Tears," Dutch filmmaker
Sonia Dolzí rousing trek across Europe with five Cuban musicians whose ages
range from 62 to 84. Honarable mentions went to Lee Dickersonís "Blind
Faith" (USA), Ademir Kenovicís "Perfect Circle" (Bosnia), and Henny
Hodigmannís "The Underground Orchestra" (Netherlands).
The festival's Golden Gate Awards, judged by an international jury, awarded
"Off Season" with the Grand Prize for Best Documentary. German filmmakers
Pepe Danquart and Mirjam Quinte's focus on age-old conflicts festering in the
divided city of Mostar in the former Yugoslavia. Vicky Funari and Jennifer
M. Taylor's "Paulina" took Best Bay Area Documentary for its astonishing
account of an heroic Mexican peasant woman overcoming a childhood rife with
abuse and exploitation.
Awards were also given to Jim Trainor's "The Fetishist" (USA) for Best Short
and Luci Kwak's "Return to Grace" for Best Bay Area Short. Fatima Jebli
Ouazzani's "In My Father's House" (Netherlands) received a Special Mention.
Peter Scarlet's final words at the ceremony became the opening announcement
for next year's festival. SFIFF's 1999 Persistence of Vision Award will be
presented to Dutch filmmaker Johan van der Keuken. Who? Only in San
[For information about the San Francisco International Film Festival, call:
(415) 931-FILM. Their web site is at www.sfiff.org/fest98]