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“Golden Door” Opens a Golden San Francisco International Film Festival

"Golden Door" Opens a Golden San Francisco International Film Festival

The San Francisco International Film Festival announced a robust lineup for the festival’s 50th edition during a press conference Tuesday at the Westin St. Francis Hotel, with 200 films on the roster from 54 countries, and awards in more than 13 categories showing at a variety of locations, but centered at the new Sundance Cinemas Kabuki. As described by San Francisco Film Society executive director Graham Leggat, director of programming Linda Blackaby, and programming associates Sean Uyehara and Rod Armstrong, the festival kicks off April 26th with a screening of Emanuele Crialese‘s Venice award-winning “Golden Door,” followed by a party in San Francisco’s City Hall.

SFIFF’s golden edition closes May 10th with Olivier Dahan‘s Edith Piaf biopic, “La vie en rose,” which opened the Berlinale ’07 in February. The fest’s centerpiece film is Tom DiCillo‘s satire “Delirious” with Steve Buscemi and Michael Pitt as paparazzi. As reported earlier, its slate of awardees includes Bay Area heavyweights, up-and-comers, and literati, including George Lucas (one-time-only Irving M. Levin Award), Spike Lee (Film Society Directing Award), Robin Williams (Peter J. Owens Award), Peter Morgan (Kanbar Award), Rosario Dawson/Sam Rockwell (Midnight Awards), Heddy Honigmann (Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award), and film historian Kevin Brownlow (Mel Novikoff Award).

Opera and theater director Peter Sellars–who created “Doctor Atomic” with John Adams for the San Francisco Opera in 2006 and organized the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna, Austria, to commemorate Mozart’s 250th birthday–delivers the festival’s “State of Cinema” address. He commissioned a series of films for New Crowned Hope that have been playing the festival circuit this year, and San Francisco presents two of them: Garin Nugroho‘s “Opera Jawa,” and Mahamat-Saleh Haroun‘s “Daratt.” Sellars will be introducing both, along with Bay Area filmmaker Jon Else‘s documentary on Sellars’ recent opera, which relied heavily on Else’s own work (“Wonders Are Many“).

Leggat told those assembled that the SFIFF approached its golden anniversary with the idea of “capturing at a glance a contemporary moment” and decided to “push forward in the way our predecessors have,” with what the festival’s press materials have characterized as “an abundant, diverse, and rewarding array of films, tributes, parties, panels, performances, and one-time-only special events.”

A scene from Olivier Dahan’s “La vie en rose,” which will close the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival. Image courtesy of San Francisco Film Society.

While a variety of programs offer what Leggat called “echoes, reflections, and resonances” with the festival’s 50-year history (among them, a Porchlight storytelling night with the festival’s “most raucus alums” and a screening of Satyajit Ray‘s classic “Pather Panchali,” which won the festival’s first Golden Gate award), it continues to look toward new platforms and new audiences (the SFFS co-created SF360.org with indieWIRE last year). Along with Yahoo! Video, the festival presents the SFIFF50 GreenWorld contest of shorts on sustainability and environmentalism, to be judged by audiences for a $1,000 cash award, and screened in a party with music by Halou and Tarentel. It also continues showcasing works created by and for mobile technology with a screening of the first feature to be shot on a mobile phone and premiered at a major film festival, “Why Didn’t Anybody Tell Me it Would Become this Bad in Afghanistan.” SFIFF, in partnership with Jaman, also offers downloads of a select portion of the films for a limited time to limited audiences.

At a time when the virtual filmgoing world threatens to bite too far into the actual theatrical world, the SFIFF has created a variety of one-time-only performance-enhanced film “events,” such as the screening of “The Phantom Carriage” with a new, live score written and performed by Jonathan Richman and a screening of Guy Maddin‘s “Brand Upon the Brain” with a 13-piece ensemble, foley artists, Joan Chen as narrator, and a “castrato” in tow.

In highlights of the festival’s “bread-and-butter” programming, its international selection include the West Coast premiere of Satoshi Kon‘s anime, “Paprika,” from Japan, Marwan Hamed‘s “The Yacoubian Building” from Egypt, Pavel Giroud‘s “The Silly Age” from Cuba, Spain and Venezuela, Joachim Trier‘s “Reprise,” from Norway, John Carney‘s “Once,” from Ireland, and Abderrahmane Sissako‘s “Bamako,” from Mali.

This year’s documentary line-up includes Rani Singh‘s “The Old, Weird America: Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music,” the North American premiere of “The Key of G,” by Robert Arnold and about the life of a developmentally disabled 22-year-old, and “Tierney Gearon: The Mother Project,” on embattled photographer Gearon.

A local-to-the-San Francisco Bay Area-presence characterizes the festival in its 50th — not just in the programming of tributes and awards, but also in the Bob Ostertag/Pierre Hèbert’s “Special Forces,” which uses original materials recorded from Beirut this past April, along with sounds from video games, to mix views of the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, as well as Jon Else‘s “Wonders Are Many,” Lynn Hershman Leeson‘s Sundance-premiered “Strange Culture,” and Les Blank‘s “All in this Tea.”

[For more information and a full 50th anniversary SFIFF line up, visit their website.]

[EDITOR’s NOTE: Susan Gerhard edits indieWIRE’s sister site covering the Bay Area film community, SF360–co-published with the San Francisco Film Society.]

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