By Brian Brooks | Indiewire April 1, 2009 at 1:14AM
With a roster of 151 films from 55 countries, the San Francisco International Film Festival will host its 52nd edition April 23 - May 7 with four world, eight North American, four U.S. and 47 West Coast premieres on tap. As previously announced, SFIFF will open with Peter Bratt's second feature, "La Mission" in the city's historic Castro Theatre. The film, which was shot in San Francisco's colorful Mission District and debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, is a story of "transformation and reconciliation, set in a neighborhood often battling to end its own cycles of violence and conflict." Peter Bratt, cast members Benjamin Bratt, Erika Alexander, Jeremy Ray Valdez, many members of the film's local crew and lowrider cars from the film are expected at the hometown premiere.
Screening as this year's Centerpiece is the West Coast debut of Marc Webb's "500 Days of Summer," an indie romantic comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel that traces the course of an office romance in a nonlinear narrative spurred on by a rocking soundtrack.
As previously announced, three major award recipients--Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Redford and James Toback--will be feted at the annual Film Society Awards Night on Thursday, April 30 in the Grand Ballroom of the Westin St. Francis Hotel. This year's "Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award," which honors a filmmaker working in forms other than narrative feature, will be presented to documentarian Lourdes Portillo. She will discuss her work in an onstage interview with film critic John Anderson, followed by a screening of her latest film, the teasing, prodding "anti-documentary," "Al Mas Alla." Evan Rachel Wood and Elijah Wood, meanwhile, will be presented with SFIFF's Midnight Awards, which "honor a dynamic young American actress and actor entering the prime of their careers."
Argentine filmmaker Alexis Dos Santos' "Unmade Beds" (West Coast debut) will close SFIFF May 7. The film is the quirky story of Vera (Deborah Francois) and Axl (Fernando Tielve) who both live in the same London warehouse but who's paths never cross until fate steps in.
13 Documentary competition films with prizes totaling $60,000:
"The Age of Stupid" by Franny Armstrong, England
"Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country" by Anders Ostergaard, Denmark
"California Company Town" by Lee Anne Schmitt, USA
"City of Borders" by Yun Suh, USA
"Crude" by Joe Berlinger, USA
"D tour" by Jim Granato, USA
"Kimjongilia" by N.C. Heikin, USA
"My Neighbor, My Killer" by Anne Aghion, USA
"New Muslim Cool" by Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, USA
"Nomad's Land" by Gael Metroz, Switzerland
"The Reckoning" by Pamela Yates, USA
"Speaking In Tongues" by Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider, USA
"Z32" by Avi Mograbi, Israel.
Eleven films in SFIFF's New Directors Prize ($15,000 cash award given to a debut feature filmmaker)
Oezcan Alper's "Autumn," Turkey
Esther Rots's "Can Go Through Skin," the Netherlands
Ivy Ho's "Claustrophobia," Hong Kong
Cruz Angeles's "Don't Let Me Drown," USA
Souad El-Bouhati's "French Girl," France/Morocco
Julio Hernandez Cordon's "Gasoline," Guatemala
Ursula Meier's "Home," Switzerland
Barmak Akram's "Kabuli Kid," France/Afghanistan
Gianni di Gregorio's "Mid-August Lunch," Italy
Gabriel Medina's "The Paranoids," Argentina
Aida Begic's "Snow," Bosnia and Herzegovina.
[For more information including a full line up, visit the SFIFF website]