San Francisco International Film Festival Opens Today with "The Ax"; to Screen 14 World and 22 North American Premieres
by Brian Brooks
The 48th San Francisco International Film Festival launches today with 185 films from 49 countries, including 14 world and 22 North American premieres slated to screen at locations around the Bay Area. Opening the two-week event is Costa-Gavras' "The Ax," (Le Couperet) starring Josél Garcia (who appears in three films in the festival) and Yolande Moreau, also starring in another SFIFF selection. The dark comedy, one of fifteen films hailing from France in this year's slate, is based on the novel by American author, Donald E. Westlake about a corporate 'drone' who decides to initiate his own form of downsizing, through murder. Both the director and Moreau will attend the event.
Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer's doc "Life in a Box" about the gay country music duo Y'all is among the films having their world premieres at SFIFF, along with Geoff Callan and Mike Shaw's "Pursuit of Equality," a look at last year's controversial granting of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in San Francisco, seen from a "behind-the-scene" perspective. Also making its world debut is short filmmaker Alison Murray's first feature, "Mouth to Mouth" (executive-produced by Atom Egoyan), which according to an SFIFF release, "translates her choreographic expertise into a story about a young woman swept up into a youth cult traveling across Europe." Celebrated Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami's son, Bahman, will debut his film, "Kamancheh," spotlighting Iranian classical music with a focus on the kamancheh.
Eleven films will compete for the SKYY Prize, a $10,000 cash award given to a first-time feature filmmaker, including a roster of international titles. The films are Fernando Eimbcke's 2004 AFI Fest grand jury prize-winner "Duck Season" from Mexico; Marina Razbezhkina's 2004 Thessaloniki winner, "Harvest Time" from Russia; Pete Travis' 2005 BAFTA TV Award-winning "Omagh" from Ireland; Maren Ade's (Germany) "The Forest for the Trees," which won a special jury prize earlier this year at Sundance; Danielle Arbid's Milan Film Festival winner, "In the Battlefields" (Lebanon); Marek Najbrt's (Czech Republic), winner of multiple 'Czech Lions' last year; Miranda July's Sundance and Independent Spirit Award-winning "Me and You and Everyone We Know" (U.S.); Vera Fogwill and Martin Desalvo's (Argentina) "Kept and Dreamless"; Moroccan Mohamed Asli's "In Casablanca, Angels Don't Fly"; Italian director Francesco Fei's "Waves"; and Alison Murray's "Mouth to Mouth" from the U.K. SFIFF will also spotlight films from Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region in its line up.
SFIFF will once again hand out honors, with director Taylor Hackford ("Ray") receiving this year's Film Society Award for Lifetime Achievement in Directing. Joan Allen, meanwhile, will receive the Peter J. Owens Award, which recognizes an actor "whose work exemplifies brilliance, independence and integrity." Hackford will be interviewed onstage and will introduce his feature film debut, "The Idolmaker." Allen will introduce her latest film, "Yes," preceded by an onstage interview with the film's director, Sally Potter. New this year, the San Francisco Film Society, which organizes the festival, will inaugurate a screenwriting award, called the Kanbar Award. This year's recipient of the honor will be Paul Haggis, whose "Million Dollar Baby" (directed by Clint Eastwood) won this year's Academy Award for best picture.
Closing the festival is the directorial debut of playwright Craig Lucas' showbiz satire, "The Dying Gaul," starring Campbell Scott, Patricia Clarkson and Peter Sarsgaard. who will all be in attendance along with producer, George VanBuskirk.
"The films in the 48th festival reflect a world in the midst of great changes," commented executive director Roxanne Messina Captor in a statement. "Filmmakers throughout the world are taking risks and using the medium to speak out about the social issues that effect their country and the world at large, such as economic collapse in Argentina and the Enron corporation, political corruption in Peru and Denmark, the rise of U.S. neoconservatism and Islamic fundamentalism. At the same time, many filmmakers are celebrating life on Earth with films about the music of Iran and Thailand, a blind percussionist and a gay country music duo."
The 48th SFIFF takes place April 21 - May 5 at the AMC Kabuki 8 Theatres, in addition to the Castro Theatre, the Palace of Fine Arts, Kanbar Hall at the Jewish Community Enter and teh Cowell Theater at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. In Berkeley, screenings take place at the Pacific Film Archive, and in Palo Alto at Landmark's Aquarius Theatre. The San Francisco Film Society is a nonprofit arts and educational organization "dedicated to celebrating international film and the moving image."