Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Top 6 Choices for the SF International Film Festival

Our glorious and historic Castro Theatre tonight is the location for the launch of the 56th San Francisco International Film Festival. The open night film is  "What Maisie Knew" starring Julianne Moore, based on a Henry James novel, and is sure to entertain the crowd because the festival always starts with a wise and pleasing choice.

Tomorrow is when we cineastes start gorging all the other films, with upwards of two-dozen screenings daily at the Sundance Kabuki Cinema and the New People Cinema, both located on Post Street in Japantown, and across the bay at the Pacific Film Archive.

Last year, I was ill and could catch only one film, so I'm quite pleased to be well and ready to see as many films as I can squeeze in before the SFIFF comes to an end on May 9.

The program is full of dozens of films I'd like to find the time for, and I've chosen six that are of top interest and could use a bit of attention. In alphabetical order, here they are with notes from the festival:

From Russia, "The Daughter":

A serial killer is on the loose and targeting teenage girls in a parochial Russian village, where Orthodox beliefs and strict nationalist tradition prove to be just as dangerous for sensitive Inna and defiant Masha in this aesthetically austere yet emotionally explosive coming-of-age tale.

The USA-Uganda co-production "God Loves Uganda":

Eye-opening connections between American Christian Fundamentalist evangelism and homophobic practices in both church and government in Uganda are exposed in this investigative documentary. 

The Mexico-Japanese co-production "Inori":

Pedro Gonz├ílez-Rubio (Alamar, New Directors Prizewinner SFIFF 2010) blends documentary and narrative as he observes the few remaining inhabitants of an isolated Japanese town as they pray to their gods, collect flowers for graves and worry about “crossing the great river.”

From Hungary "Just the Wind":

As rumors of a right-wing death squad fill their community, a marginalized Hungarian Romany family goes about their daily routines in this powerful, intimate work from the director of Dealer (SFIFF 2005).

From Mexico "Mai Morire":

In the ethereal, nearly pre-Columbian landscapes of the Mexican town of Xochimilco, a stoic woman returns home to care for her 99-year-old mother nearing the end of her life. Haunting and meditative.

From Senegal "Tall as the Baobab Tree":

Inspired by true stories, Jeremy Teicher tells the moving story of a teenage girl who hatches a plan to rescue her sister from an arranged marriage. Non-professional actors play roles that mirror their own lives, intimately capturing the emotions of the traditional and modern worlds colliding in rural Senegal.

One of the best features of the SFIFF is that there really is something for every movie-mad person in the Bay Area. Name a genre or area of special interest - horror, American comedies and dramas, provocative documentaries, short and feature-length animation, European art-house - and you'll find something worth seeing.

Not enough to pique your interest, yet? Maybe lectures with directors Steven Soderbergh or William Friedkin will get you to the festival, or perhaps revivals of Francesco Rosi's "Mattei Affair" or the stunning black-and-white Czech masterpiece "Marketa Lazarova" is your cinematic cup of tea. 

Don't miss out on the fun and pleasures of motion pictures at the SFIFF. Go see a few movies or catch a discussion!

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