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Thread: San Francisco International Film Festival 2009

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    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    San Francisco International Film Festival 2009

    San Francisco International Film Festival 2009

    Introduction. The opening press conference and announcement of the program was held in San Francisco today, Tuesday, March 31, 2009, on the top floor of the St. Francis Hotel...


    SFIFF 2009 (April 23-May 7)

    This year's edition, we learned, will comprise 151 films, whose production involved 61 countrues, screebed in 105 separate "programs". None Egyptian, none Vietnamese, none in the German language, but the best the festival programmers could find.

    Somewhat weakly positioned in the calendar after the best festivals of last year and before the best ones of the present year and shortly before Cannes steals the show, this is a festival that nonetheless serves its community well and enthusiastically and receives strong local support in return. Under the recent leadership of Graham Leggett (in his third year as director) the SF Film Society has grown and now includes an Italian series and much more, with new venues in the Disney-owned Presidio to come, community outreach including a school program of 15 films, 11,000 square feet of residency space, and $3 million of annual grant money to give out to filmmakers. Leggett declared that in the downturn some corporate sponsors have been lost, but private ones remain generous and the funding level is excellent. If there are any chinks in the armor, this tough Scott isn't telling and the programs continue to expand.

    The Bay Area's sense of regional identity is reflected in an emphasis on local artists and films. Opening night's La Mission illustrates this. It's about a man trying to live a better life in San Francisco's Hispanic Mission District, and after the screening parties will be held in Mission night spots. La Mission's directed by Peter Bratt and stars his brother, Benjamin.

    Besides James Toback, whose new film Tyson will have a special showing, and Mr. Sundance, Robert Redford, the festival honors longtime northern California resident Francis Ford Coppola. From the Pacific Northwest, ace on-locaton still photographer (and director and producer) Mary Ellen Mark will give the festival's annual State of Cinema address.

    Benjamin Bratt in Peter Bratt's La Mission

    The films

    It would be nice to list all of them but the catologue is 208 pages long. It includes lists of the selections by director, country, and "causes" (themes). The big ones are Family Issues, World Culture, The Arts, and Youth. Of course Immigration, Social Justice, War, Politics, Religion, Free Speech, Heath and Woman's Issues are in there too.

    Leggett rejected a question about what the most controversial selections were on the grounds that they're all exciting and adventurous, but he did suggest some titles: My Suicide, a teen story collaboratively produced by teens. Z32, An Israeli soldier's actual confession about being involved in attrocities, and Bullet in the Head, whose style many have found infuriating.

    Many more, especially documentaries, are political. Leggett mentioned that the 2006 doc The Bridge was controversial. The dierctor got permission from the authorities to film the Golden Gate Bridge, "to capture the powerful, spectacular intersection of monument and nature," when he was actually looking for and succeeded in filming 23 suicides. That bothered people.

    The festival includes recent work by some famous names:

    OLIVIER ASSAYAS' Summer Hours, a family tale about inheritance, has already been reviewed here as part of the NYFF 2008.
    JOHN BOORMAN'S A Tiger's Tale is about a nouveau riche businessman in Dublin being pursued by a doppelganger.
    CATHERINE BREILLAT'S Bluebeard is a rethinking of Perrault's 17th-century fairytale of misogyny.
    CLAIRE DENIS' 35 Shots of Rum was an outstanding part of the 2009 FSLC Rendez-Vous series.
    ATOM EGOYAN'S Adoration's thumbnail summary is too tricky to figure but has to do with a young man and his family and the Internet.
    PETER GREENAWAY'S Rembrandt's J'Accuse interprets the painters famous 'The Night Watch' as an indictment of Amsterdam's ruling elite.
    HIROKAZU KOREEDA'S Still Walking is a chronicle of family ties and loss.
    JAMES TOBACK'S Tyson, shown only in a special 'Afternoon with James Toback,' a is an in-depth and sympathetic portrait of the fighter, a longtime friend of the maverick director.

    Also included are revival showings of restored prints of works by these filmmaking greats:

    MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI'S Le amiche is an early (1955) story of a web of desperate upper class Italian housewives.
    JOHN CASSAVETES' A Woman Under the Influence (1974), a defining role by Gina Rolands as a woman beset by mental illness; Rolands herself will be on hand at screenings.
    FEDERICO FELLINI'S Nights of Cabiria (1957) will be shown as part of a celebration of Film Forum repertory programmer, Rialto Pictures founder and showman Bruce Goldstein, who receives the Mel Novikoff Award.

    Antonioni's Le amiche

    Filmleaf reviews

    Besides Summer Hours and 35 Shots of Rum, we already have reviews on the site of these SFIFF 2009 selections:

    JAIME ROSALES' Bullet in the Head
    (which is already in release in New York and is coming to Bay Area theaters some time soon)
    JEAN-FRANCOIS RICHET'S Mesrine, Part 1 (Jean-Francois Richet 2008)
    and Mesrine, Part 2
    , and
    CELINA MURGA'S A Week Alone .

    In addition Oscar Jubis at the Miami Festival has reviewed several SFIFF selections, including:
    KARIM DRIDI'S Khamsa
    LANCE DALY'S Kisses
    JAIME ROSALES' Bullet in the head
    (Jubis' review of which could be considered an eloquent defense)
    as well as, like me
    CELINA MURGA'S A Week Alone

    So we already have eleven SFIFF 2009 titles covered on the site, two of them twice. Links to all the new Filmleaf SFIFF 2009 reviews will be posted here when they're ready. Discussion and new links to the reviews will be found on the General Film Forum SFIFF 2009 thread.

    The full SFIFF program can be accessed online at the SF Film Society's 2009 festival web page.

    Catherine Breillat's Bluebeard
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-18-2013 at 10:53 AM.


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