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San Francisco Film Fest Preview: Christine Vachon’s Keynote, Frank Pierson’s Master Class

San Francisco Film Fest Preview: Christine Vachon's Keynote, Frank Pierson's Master Class

Meredith Brody will be covering the upcoming San Francisco International Film Fest from April 21 to May 5. Here’s a preview of things to come:

What wasn’t announced at the SFIFF 54 press conference – the names of the tributees for the Founder’s Directing Award and the Peter J. Owens award, aka the acting award – was almost as newsworthy as the many other highlights of the 15-day, 189-films-from-over-40 countries program, taking place April 21 – May 5 2011.

Executive Director Graham Leggat took the bullet for this one, apologizing for what he characterized as a couple of late cancellations: “Breaking a little with tradition, we can’t announce all [the tributees]. Wrangling talent is my brief.”

Rumor has it that an acceptance by a director was later rescinded (no reason given), and that the candidate for the acting award had to decline when he/she learned that San Francisco was not, indeed, located in Los Angeles. (We assume he/she is a foreigner, and why shouldn’t an Auslander think that San Francisco is LA-adjacent, as Santa Monica is?) Still and all, we point out that a trip from LAX to SFO can be shorter than one from LAX to Malibu, depending on the state of traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway.

We’d already heard that some filmmakers were surprised to learn that the Festival was programming events on Easter Sunday, which this year falls on April 24, during its first weekend. Killer Films’ Christine Vachon will deliver the State of Cinema address that day, drawing on her long career as producer of over 60 films, as well as forays into television (Todd Haynes’ currently-running HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce) and upcoming online content. That’s this viewer’s equivalent of going to church.

Happily the other tributes are eclectic and starry enough: the Kanbar (aka screenwriter) award goes to Frank Cool Hand LukePierson, who will not only appear at a screening of his 1975 Dog Day Afternoon on April 30, but also teach a Master Class (last year’s, with Walter Salles, was a SFIFF 53 highlight).

The Golden Gate Persistence of Vision award, honoring the lifetime achievement of a filmmaker of documentaries, short film, animations, or work for television, will go to multimedia artist and filmmaker (and consort of Bjork) Matthew Barney, appearing with the North American premiere of his Drawing Restraint 17, also on April 30.

International showman Serge Bromberg, founder of Lobster Films, will receive the Mel Novikoff award – for an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the filmgoing public’s appreciation of world cinema — with another installment of his Retour de Flamme programs, one of which was a hit at last year’s festival. Rare and restored films in 3-D is this year’s focus – requiring not one but two different kinds of 3-D glasses — including works from Lumiere and Melies to Norman McClaren and Chuck Jones. Bromberg will provide his own piano accompaniment and snappy patter on May 1.

Will appropriate honorees for the acting and directing awards be found in time to include their names in the festival’s fat catalogue, whose printing is imminent, or will they have to be printed on tacky blow-in pages? They’ll join the illustrious ranks of, among many others, Satyajit Ray, Robert Bresson, and Francis Ford Coppola, on the one hand, and Gerard Dépardieu, Sean Penn, and Robin Williams on the other. This might be a good time for international film publicists to contact Mr. Leggat on their clients’ behalf.

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