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Thread: San Francisco International Film Festival 2012 (year 55)

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    San Francisco International Film Festival 2012 (year 55)

    (Including films seen at NYFF 2011, R-V [Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2012], ND/NF [New Directors/New Films 2012]; FCS [Film Comment Selects]; and in Paris 2011.)

    17 Girls (Delphine Coulin, Muriel Coulin 2011)--R-V
    Alps (Yorgos Lanthimos 2011)
    Back to Stay (Milagros Mumenthaler 2011)
    Bernie (Richard Linklater 2012)
    Bonsái (Cristian Jiménez 2011)
    Chicken with Plums (Parannaud, Satrapi 2011)--PARIS
    Choked (Kim Joong-hyun 2012)
    Crulic -- The Path to Beyond (Anca Damian 2011)--ND/NF
    Day He Arrives, The (Hong Sang-soo 2011)
    Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey (Ramona S. Diaz 2012)
    Dreileben (Petzold, Graf, Hochhäuser 2011)--NYFF
    Farewell, My Queen (Benoît Jacquot 2011)--R-V
    Found Memories (Júlia Murat 2011)--ND/NF
    Giants, The (Bouli Lanners 2011)
    Gimme the Loot (Adam Leon 2012)--ND/NF
    Goodbye (Mohammad Rassoulof 2011)--ND/NF
    Guilty (Vincent Garenq 2011)--R-V
    How to Survive a Plague (David France 2011)--ND/NF
    Hysteria (Tanya Wexler 2011)
    I Wish (Hirakasu Koreeda 2011)--FCS
    Informant (Jamie Melzer 2012)
    Intouchables, The (Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache 2011)
    Land of Oblivion (Michale Boganim 2011)
    Last Screening (Laurant Achard 2011)--R-V
    Last Winter (John Shank 2011)
    Law in These Parts, The (Ra'anan Alexandrowicz 2011)
    Lonieliest Planet (Julia Loktev 2011)--NYFF
    Neighboring Sounds (Kleber Mendonça Filho 2012)--ND/NF
    Okay, Enough, Goodbye (Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia 2011)
    Oslo, August 31 (Joachim Trier 2011)--ND/NF
    Oversimplification of Her Beauty, An (Terence Nance 2012)--ND/NF
    Policeman (Nadav Lapid 2011)--NYFF
    Polisse (Maïwenn 2011)--PARIS
    Rebellion (Mathieu Kassovitz 2011)--FCS
    Secret World, A (Gabriel Mariño 2012)
    Sleeping Sickness (Ulrich Köhler 2011)--NYFF
    Smugglers' Songs (Rabah Ameur-Amèche 2011)--R-V
    Snows of Kilimanjaro (Robert Guédiguidigian 2011)--R-V
    Step Up to the Plate (Paul Lacoste 2011)
    Summer Games (Rolando Colla 2011)
    Terraferma (Emanuele Crialese 2011)
    Twixt (Francis Ford Coppola 2011)
    Waiting Room, The (Peter Nicks 2012)
    Where Do We Go Now? (Nadine Labaki 2011)--ND/NF

    The 55th annual San Francisco International Film Festival is coming. It runs April 19 to May 3, 2012. This year's festival website is now (Mar. 27) up and running. You'll find it here. They have a "slide show" of "competition" films. I've seen some of them just recently, such as 17 Girls, Found Memories, Neighboring Sounds, and Policeman. Highlighted in blue. You will find reviews of them on Filmleaf.

    F I L M S... I N... C O M P E T I T I O N

    Official Selections 2012 New Directors Prize (Narrative Feature) Competition

    Back to Stay, Milagros Mumenthaler, Argentina 2011, U.S. Premiere
    Buenos Aires at the end of summer. Marina, Sofia and Violeta are alone in the family home after their grandmother, who had brought them up, has died. This strange situation will affect their interactions with one another and with the world.

    Choked, Jong-hyn Kim, South Korea 2011
    In a recession-battered Seoul, a young man in the dodgy relocation business must deal with loan sharks and aggrieved parties owed large sums by his vanished entrepreneur mother. Director Kim Joong-hyun gradually turns up the heat and watches his characters boil in this intelligent and nuanced feature debut.

    Found Memories, Júlia Murat, Brazil 2011
    A young photographer drifts into the tiny Brazilian village of Jotuomba, charming the elders with her camera and learning the fine art of baking bread in this disarming meditation on memory, aging and letting go of the past.

    Land of Oblivion, Michale Boganim, France/Ukraine 2011
    This compelling debut feature tallies up the fragile human cost of one of the first truly global disasters, the cataclysm at the nuclear power facility at Chernobyl. Ukrainian Bond girl Olga Kurylenko plays emotionally damaged Anya, one of many unanchored survivors whose memories and ambitions are impacted by the strangely magnetic pull of a desolate hometown.

    Last Winter, John Shank, Belgium 2011
    A young farmer in central France tries to sustain his spiritual connection to the land amid the crushing pressures of modern agriculture in this elegiac drama. Vincent Rottiers is the taciturn Johann, who goes it alone in the landscape he loves, a terrain captured in shimmering cinematography.

    Mosquita y Mari, Aurora Guerrero, USA 2011
    Set in Huntington Park, near downtown Los Angeles, this earnest and beguiling coming-of-age tale follows two Chicana teens in the midst of the delicate dance of self-discovery and sexual awakening as they explore a new friendship and young love.

    Neighboring Sounds, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Brazil 2012
    This magnificently sculpted story about life on an upscale street in the bustling city of Recife encompasses an entire city block’s worth of characters, incidents and encounters. The totality becomes symphonic in its structure and power.

    OK, Enough, Goodbye., Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia, Lebanon 2010
    A forty-something Lebanese pastry shop owner who looks like an escapee from a film by Judd Apatow and still lives with his mother is the unlikely protagonist of this marvelously crafted deadpan comedy. After his mother skips town, he searches cluelessly for various maternal substitutes.

    Policeman, Nadav Lapid, Israel 2011
    This fascinating journey into Israel’s changing political landscapes doubles as a formally puzzle-like narrative. Story lines involving a counter-terrorism police unit and class-war guerillas merge into a telling picture of a long-embattled region.

    17 Girls, Delphine Coulin, Muriel Coulin, France 2011
    A young girl’s decision not to terminate an accidental pregnancy sets off something like an airborne outbreak of teen reproduction, transmitted via loneliness and peer pressure, in this startling debut feature based on real-life events.

    Valley of Saints, Musa Syeed, India 2012
    Using Kashmir’s picturesque Dal Lake as its backdrop and underpinned by the political unrest in the region, this heartfelt drama explores the relationship between two best friends and the female researcher, studying environmental degradation, who threatens to distract them from their dreams of escape.

    In addition to these 11 first features in competition, the New Directors section of SFIFF55 includes 19 out-of-competition films, which will be announced at the Festival’s press conference Tuesday, March 27.

    Official Selections 2012 Golden Gate Awards Documentary Feature Competition

    Golden Slumbers, Davy Chou, Cambodia 2011
    This exceptional documentary summons the spirits of Cambodian cinema’s golden age, which ended during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror between 1975 and 1979. Blending interviews with surviving filmmakers, classic songs and poetic examinations of former movie palaces, Golden Slumbers is a testament to the captivating power of art in the face of tragedy.

    In My Mother’s Arms, Atia Jabarah al-Daradji, Mohamed Jabarah al-Daradji, Iraq 2011
    In violence-ridden Baghdad, one determined man tries to create a safe haven: an independent orphanage with no government support, where 32 Iraqi boys live, eat, play, sleep and go to school together. It is a fragile ecosystem shielding them from a life of suffering and extreme danger.

    Informant, Jamie Meltzer, USA 2012, World Premiere
    Brandon Darby, liberal activist turned FBI informant turned FOX news commentator and Tea Party darling, tells his side of the story.

    It’s the Earth Not the Moon, Gonçalo Tocha, Portugal 2011
    Filming on the remote Azores island of Corvo, director Gonçalo Tocha aims “to be everywhere at the same time and not miss a thing.” The result is a wonderfully poetic take on the anthropological documentary, the travel essay and the armchair adventure, made with almost naïve sincerity.

    The Law in These Parts, Ra’anan Alexandrowicz, Israel 2011
    This film, winner of the Sundance 2012 World Documentary prize, offers a rare insider’s view of the logic, structure and moral cost of Israel’s parallel military legal system that governs Palestinians under occupation. Interviews with the men who created and uphold these laws, artfully juxtaposed with archival footage, call into question concepts of justice and rule-of-law.

    Meanwhile in Mamelodi, Benjamin Kahlmeyer, Germany 2011, U.S. Premiere
    Set against the raucous backdrop of the 2010 World Cup, this beautifully crafted portrait of a place and a family features stunning cinematography and a lively score, as the Mtswenis’ day-to-day struggles and victories echo the promise of a new South Africa.

    Off Label, Donal Mosher, Michael Palmieri, USA 2011
    An alternatively tragic and bleakly comic road trip through the methods and madness of pharmaceuticals in our culture. Setting personal storytelling against archival and industrial footage, it examines the medicated margins of American life, from the testing, marketing and consumption of pharmaceuticals to the alienation, perseverance and spiritual striving of individuals living in a society that pathologizes our desires for health, happiness and even our sense of identity for profit.

    Patience (After Sebald), Grant Gee, England 2012
    This moving tour through the landscape of W.G. Sebald’s genre-bending novel, The Rings of Saturn, presents a multilayered, many-voiced homage to his discursive, elegiac and perfectly illusion-free style by poets, mapmakers, novelists and acquaintances—admirers haunted and inspired by the voice of the German writer, who died in 2001.

    The Source, Maria Demopolous, Jodi Wille, USA 2012
    An exploration of the controversial Source Family, a ’70s Southern California experiment in communal living whose eccentric leader, Father Yod, championed Eastern mysticism, healthy living and sexual liberation. Using archival footage and interviews with former members, the documentary chronicles the Family from inception through implosion, examining its lasting impressions on pop culture.

    Step Up to the Plate, Paul Lacoste, France 2011
    Hawkeyed master chef Michel Bras is ready to hand the keys to his Michelin-recognized restaurant in rural southwestern France to his talented son. A sublime, contemplative study of artistry, family and tradition calibrated to the turning of the seasons, this lovely documentary is about much more than food.

    The Waiting Room, Peter Nicks, USA 2012
    Dire situations are often illuminated by extraordinary acts of compassion in this intimate and intense day-in-the-life documentary portrait of the patients, doctors, nurses and social workers at Oakland’s Highland Hospital—Alameda County’s busiest medical center for trauma cases, the uninsured and indigent.

    Winter Nomads, Manuel von Stürler, Switzerland 2012, North American Premiere
    800 sheep, three donkeys, and several dogs are led by two shepherds through Swiss fields and suburbs in a film that combines its beautifully photographed images with a keen ear for sound to situate this vanishing profession and lifestyle within a changing environment.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-05-2014 at 03:59 PM.

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    Today (March 27, 2012) was the SFIFF 2012 introductory press conference and the whole program was officially announced. This will be found on their website


    "More than 75,000 filmgoers attend the San Francisco International Film Festival, which plays at venues throughout an enthusiastically responsive Bay Area. The Festival features a bonanza of narrative feature films, live action and animated shorts, television and theatrical documentaries, experimental work and a variety of new digital media, as well as a smart lineup of industry panels and seminars, awards events, onstage tributes, retrospectives and the highly acclaimed Schools at the Festival program."
    There are 31 new directors narrative films. Of these 11 are in competition, as announced earlier. But some of the ones not in competition would be important for festival goers to see, for instance Joachim Trier's OSLO, AUGUST 31 (2011), and various others, depending on your interests. I heard of Bouli Laners' GIANTS last year and that sounds interesting, plus there are Latin American and Korean selections that are promising.

    Now that we have the whole program, I have put up a:

    Filmleaf SFIFF 2012 Festival Coverage Thread.

    Links are up there for the narrative features already reviewed on this site as part of the NYFF, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, New Directors/New Films, or Film Comment Selects. There is also one that was in my Paris Report in October. All together there are 11 selections of the 31 new directors films already covered on the site, and 23 total that I've already seen and reviewed here.

    There were also some awards and special events announced. Kenneth Brannagh will be the honored person. Jonathan Lethem (but we already know this) will be the State of Cinema speaker. FAREWELL MY QUEEN will be the opening night film (this was in the Rendez-Vous). 23 is a good head start. With luck I may be be able to watch another 25 or thirty out of the festival selections that I have not seen -- a few of the many. There are also many events and revival items in connection with tributes that I won't be able to cover.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-04-2012 at 11:23 AM.

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    Some SFIFF preview press screenings.

    There are some preview screenings of festival films. I will try to attend these:


    SF Film Society Cinema STEP UP TO THE PLATE [Hold Review]
    Tuesday, April 3 (Paul Lacoste, France, 90 min)

    12:00 noon Festival dates: Fri April 27, 6:00 pm, Kabuki; Sat April 28, 3:45 pm, Kabuki;
    out 1:30 pm Sun, April 29, 1:00 pm, PFA

    SF Film Society Cinema CHOKED
    Wednesday, April 4 (Kim Jong-hyun, South Korea, 110 min)

    11:30 am Festival dates: Sat April 21, 1:30 pm, Kabuki; Sat, April 28, 6:00 pm, Kabuki;
    out 1:20 pm Tue May 1, 9:00 pm, Kabuki

    Variety Club BERNIE [Hold Review]
    Monday, April 9 (Richard Linklater, USA, 99 min)

    3:00 pm Festival date: Sat April 21, 9:30 pm, Kabuki

    SF Film Society Cinema BONSÁI [Hold Review]
    Tuesday, April 10 (Cristián Jiménez, Chile, 95 min)

    10:30 am Festival dates: Fri April 20, 9:30 pm, Kabuki; Sun April 22, 12:45 pm, Kabuki;
    out 12:05 pm Tue, April 24, 6:30 pm, PFA

    Variety Club DARLING COMPANION [Hold Review]
    Tuesday, April 10 (Lawrence Kasdan, USA, 103 min)

    2:00 pm Festival dates: Mon April 23, 6:45 pm, Kabuki; Tue April 24, 12:00 pm, Kabuki

    SF Film Society Cinema THE WAITING ROOM
    Wednesday, April 11 (Peter Nicks, USA, 80 min)

    11:00 am Festival dates: Sat April 21, 3:50 pm, PFA; Mon April 30, 1:00 pm, Kabuki;
    out 12:20 pm Tue May 1, 6:30 pm, Kabuki

    Variety Club HYSTERIA [Hold Review]
    Tuesday, April 17 (Tanya Wexler, USA/England, 99 min)

    2:00 pm Festival dates: Tue May 1, 9:30 pm, Kabuki; Thu May 3, 6:00 pm, SFFSC
    out 3:40 pm

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    SF Film Society Cinema STEP UP TO THE PLATE [Hold Review]
    Tuesday, April 3 (Paul Lacoste, France, 90 min)

    12:00 noon Festival dates: Fri April 27, 6:00 pm, Kabuki; Sat April 28, 3:45 pm, Kabuki;
    out 1:30 pm Sun, April 29, 1:00 pm, PFA

    As promised I saw this film at the new (but not brand new; inaugurated during the late Graham Leggett's time as Film Society Director) San Francisco Film society Theater on Post Street just up the street from the Kabuki Sundance Cinema, the main venue of the SFIFF. This was my first time at the theater. It's a small but handsome screening room, 140 seats I believe, equipped with some of the finest-designed theater seats I've ever sat in, sleek, not puffy, good on the back. Upstairs is a little cafe serving Blue Bottle Coffee, one of the area's elite local brands. I was shocked at how many businesses have shut down or changed recently in Japan Town, where this is.

    Paul Lacoste: STEP UP TO THE PLATE (2012)

    This rather austere, quite moving documentary film describes the slow turning over of the direction of the Michel Bras restaurant in the Hautes-Pyranées (southwest France) from father to son. Lacoste focuses on essentials and doesn't bother to mention that this is one of only 26 three-star Michelin restaurants in the country and 106 in the world. The creativity and intense dedication to excellence of both men speak for themselves. This film will be shown in the SFIFF at the PFA (Pacific Film Archive) and the San Francisco Sundance Kabuki Cinemas as follows:

    Fri April 27, 6:00 pm
    Sat April 28, 3:45 pm
    Sun, April 29, 1:00 pm

    On request from the film's rep locally, this is not a full review, only an introduction. A fuller review will appear later. This film is in the festival's documentary competition.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-23-2012 at 01:57 AM.

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    Kim Joong-hyun: CHOKED (2012)

    A strikingly handsome but too passive young man is plagued by three women, his mother, her friend, and his snobbish fiancee in this study of contemporary materialism set in present-day Seoul. The otherwise interesting characters may need more development in the second half but this is a promising debut feature, with a fresh point of view and admirable restraint.

    Choked is one of the San Francisco International Film Festival's official selections for the 2012 New Directors Prize (Narrative Feature) Competition and it will be shown in the festival as follows:

    Sat Apr. 21, 1:30 pm
    Sat. Apr. 28, 6:00 pm
    Tue. May 1, 9:00 pm.

    Director Kim
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-23-2012 at 01:41 AM.

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    Richard Linklater: BERNIE (2012)

    A droll version of the true story of the nicest murderer in East Texas, an assistant funeral director who did away with his patron and companion the mean widow Marjorie Nugent. Starring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine, and Matthew McConaughey.

    To be screened as part of the SFIFF:

    Sat, Apr 21 9:30pm

    A full review willl appear in the Festival Coverage section when the film goes into theatrical release in a few weeks.

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    Cristian Jiménez: BONSÁI (2011)

    This sophomore effort by the Chilian director was in Un Certain Regard at Cannes last year, and at Toronto. It is the story, both sardonic and romantic, of an aspiring writer, Julio, seen when in college in the south and eight years later in Santiago when he writes a story of his first love, Emilia, now lost, presenting it to his sometime current lover as the novel in progress of a famous writer whose handwritten manuscript he pretends to be transcribing. "Bonsai gets much of its quiet comic energy from Julio's tendency to coast by on a sea of lies, which he then must confront."--Robert Koehler, Variety. The film is a faithful adaptation of a near-classic (and ingeniously constructed) novella by the Chilean writer Alejandro Zambra. My previous favorite Chliean filmmakers were Alicia Scherson (Play) and Pablo Larraín (Tony Manero and Post Morten). I may need to add Jiménez to this small list, but I have some reservations. This wasn't as much fun, and didn't grab me, quite as much as I would have hoped. Still it is intelligent filmmaking. And it recently won the highest ($30,000) feature Grand Jury Prize and an adidtional $5,000 screenwriting award at the Miami Film Festival.

    Bonsái will be shown at the 2012 SFIFF at the following locations and times:

    Fri, Apr 20 9:30pm
    Sun, Apr 22 12:45pm
    Tue, Apr 24 6:30pm

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-23-2012 at 01:45 AM.

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    Peter Nicks: THE WAITING ROOM (2012)

    Emmy Award winner Nicks' documentary feature debut is a hybrid, a film and a social media "storytelling project" that greatly augments the data about staff and patients covered in the 81-minute film about Oakland's Highland Hospital ER during what appears to be a day. The film's short duration contains many hours of tedium and suffering. It doesn't editorialize but focuses on human experience. It does, however, dramatize in very concrete terms how America's economic crisis and the inadequacy of a system dependent on private insurance companies overtax the capacities of even the best run big city emergency room. A tough watch, but a vital experience. Both a stark contrast and a perfect supplement to Michael Moore's Sicko. The ER is the pressure point that shows where the system is breaking down. But that does not mean that there is not humane and compassionate treatment and that people are not helped.

    Sat, Apr 21, 2012 3:50 pm
    Mon, Apr 30 1:00 pm

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-23-2012 at 01:59 AM.

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    Milagros Mumenthaler: BACK TO STAY (2011)

    In this Argentinean first film, a contender for the SFIFF New Directors Prize, three sisters uneasily occupy a house owned by their grandmother, who was their guardian and has recently died. Seeming at first too listless or worn down by the heat to grieve properly and troubled by mysteries, they each eventually find their own way of moving on. The film won the Golden Leopard at Locarno and has been shown at major festivals since, but some may feel that the gliding camera work and the sense of a confining space (which must be overcome) are more interesting than the minimal action, and the film may seem much too low keyed for many of us. Can Mumenthaler be added to the list of great newer directors from Argentina, Bielinsky, Trapero, Martel, Sorín? Time will tell.

    San Francisco International Film Festival showings:

    Sat, Apr 28, 2012 8:50 pm
    Mon, Apr 30 4:00 pm
    Wed, May 2 9:30 pm

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-23-2012 at 01:35 AM.

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    John Shank: LAST WINTER (2011)

    The film is the debut feature in French by an American who studied filmmaking in Belgium and has chosen to live and work there and has done so for well over a decade. This is an elegiac Western about a young cow rancher in the Massif Central who after taking on the farm upon the death of his father refuses to adjust to economic necessities and becomes a sacrificial hero of doomed small time cattlemen. With his pale blue eyes and a face that mixes Marlon Brando and Bob Dylan, Vincent Rottiers is riveting and utterly dedicated in the lead role of Johann, the young rancher. It's a contender for the New Directors Prize at the SFIFF.


    Sat, Apr 28 3:15 pm
    Mon, Apr 30 6:45 pm
    Wed, May 2 6:30 pm

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-05-2014 at 04:02 PM.

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    Bouli Lanners: THE GIANTS (2011)

    In this French language Belgian film, two middle class boys apparently abandoned by their mother for the summer at the house of their recently deceased grandfather run out of money and must live by their wits, joined by a third boy. Very mixed adventures follow. This prolific actor turned director (this is his third feature) blends elements of Stand by Me and Mark Twain with dark grotesque humor, great chemistry among the three 13 3/4 - 15-year-old actors and moments of hilarity. It doesn't go quite as deep as it might emotionally, or have anything but a wandering picaresque story line, but it has beautiful landscapes. One French reviewer says this is the world of "The Goonies" transported to that of Bruno Drumont. If that makes sense to you, you'll understand that though this is a slight coming of ager, it has something unique about it, particularly some good scenes, like 15-year-old Seth driving a stolen car around in a field to escape from cops; Russian moving men emptying out their grandfather's house. And in the end, they light out for the territory, just like Huck Finn.

    This debuted at Cannes and was in the BFI London FF. At the SFIFF it shows as follows:

    Fri, Apr 20 6:15 pm
    Sat, Apr 21 4:45 pm

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    Hong Sang-soo: THE DAY HE ARRIVES (2011)

    Hong returns to form with a very short film where a filmmaker, given to heavy drinking (as usual) visits Seoul from the provinces and keeps running into the same old flame while hanging out with a friend. Things go round in circles and we don't know if this represents bad memory, strange coincidence, fantasy, or a look at the inner workings of filmmaking. But it remains lighthearted social comedy, even if it's a little 'meta.' The acting is excellent. In black and white, except for the wordless, witty trailer.


    Fri, Apr 20 7:15 pm
    Mon, Apr 23 9:30 pm
    Wed, Apr 25 9:00 pm
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-05-2014 at 04:04 PM.

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    The Filmleaf Festival Coverage SFIFF 2012 thread provides access 32 of my reviews of festival films, 23 seen at earlier events and 9 seen here recently, all that is prologue. The San Francisco International Film Festival, year 55, 2012, officially opens Thursday, April 19. The film program begins in earnest Friday, April 20, and it runs through Thursday, May 3. The festival website has a rundown on their numerous


    The highest profiles ones are those listed below. Click on the titles for details:

    Founder’s Directing Award
    This award is given each year to a master of world cinema in memory of Irving M. Levin, founder of the San Francisco International Film Festival. This year's recipient is Kenneth Branagh.

    Peter J. Owens Award
    Named for the longtime San Francisco benefactor of arts and charitable organizations Peter J. Owens (1936–1991), this award honors an actor whose work exemplifies brilliance, independence and integrity. This year's recipient is Judy Davis.

    Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award
    Established in 1997, the Persistence of Vision Award each year honors the achievement of a filmmaker whose main body of work is outside the realm of typical narrative feature filmmaking, crafting documentaries, short films, television, animated, experimental or multiplatform work. This year's recipient is Barbara Kopple.

    State of Cinema Address
    Each year, the Festival invites a leader in the world of cinema to address the issues facing the film world today. Past speakers include Peter Sellars, Tilda Swinton, Brad Bird, B. Ruby Rich, Michel Ciment, Kevin Kelly, Mary Ellen Mark, Walter Murch and Christine Vachon. This year, the State of Cinema Address will be delivered by author Jonathan Lethem.

    They are also showing Carol Reeds' The Third Man in honor of Bingham Ray, the successor to Graham Leggett as SFFS director who unfortunately also died within a few months of taking on the job. It was his favorite film, and the kind one can watch again and again and not get tired of it.

    Awards Night ("black tie optional") concludes the festival, and this is when the important strictly cinema prizes (and monetary awards) based on the competition and program films are given out for the best New Director, the Golden Gate Awards for "documentaries, animation, shorts, experimental film and video, youth works and work for television"; and the FIPRESCI Prize, which goes out at various festivals and comes from the International Federation of Film Critics. Not mentioned on the awards page, there is always the Audience Award, compiled from sort of "exit polls" of the public coming out of the films.

    Featured films.
    Opening night film will be Farewell, My Queen (Benoit Jacquot), which I reviewed as part of the Rendez-Vous this year. It's a more subtle and interesting version of the Marie Antoinette story than Sofia Coppola' candy-cane one. It's certainly a classy ceremonial item with its nice costumes, glamorous women and elegant filmmaking, but it's more than just that. The festival Centerpiece is Lynn Shelton's 'Your Sister's Sister,' with Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass and Rosemarie DeWitt; Shelton's previous film was 'Humpday,' probably the most publicized of her five films so far; she has also done some TV. Nice to have an independent American film in a featured spot. 'Your Sister's Sister' (picked up by IFC), with a focus on ladies in contrast to Shelton's 'Humpday' and with DeWitt and Blunt, represents an advance from 'Humpday' (from Mumblecore toward more slick mainstream work) and Chang of Variety says it "boasts solid appeal for indie fans and mainstream moviegoers interested in trying a safe, tasty item from the smarthouse menu." Closing night film is 'Don't Stop Believin'', an inspirational rock doc, and I'll be reviewing that one. Due to having already watched about 60 festival films in the past couple months and due to the more difficult logistics for me here compared to NYC events, I don't promise to go to many public screenings, but I will go to some.

    This is a large festival with some "200 films and live events, 14 juried awards and $70,000 in cash prizes, upwards of 100 participating filmmaker guests and diverse and engaged audiences with more than 70,000 people in attendance." I prefer to focus only on seeing new films. It has not been since 2005 that I went to a festival event. This was when I went to the Werner Herzog evening with Travis Kirby (then a cinephile teenager, now pursuing music and in college up morth, who contributed a few festival reviews then) and his dad to the Castro Theater where they give out the prizes and stage the festival's gala events. We saw a new film by him and saw Werner Herzog get the Director's Award , and I'm glad to have seen Herzog interviewed, as authentic and unique an individual in real life as his films suggest. This year, I'm not terribly excited about the award choices, though I am sure the recipients are worthy, especially Barbara Kopple, the crusading documentary fimmaker.

    Festival piecking order.
    The SFIFF is a great event for west coast cinephiles but it feels a bit more like the end of something than the beginning, because just two weeks after it ends the festival calendar begins, big time, withh Cannes, the most glamorous and highly publicized festival of them all (May 16-27, 2012). For some reason though it runs almost concurrently with the SFIFF, this is not so true of New York City's Tribeca Film Festival,, which has almost wholly new material -- nearly all its films have a 2012 date on them and were not previously shown at any New York film event. There is a fair amount of overlap between what I saw in New York last fall and earlier this year and what is scheduled at San Francisco, but there is almost no overlap in content between SF and Tribeca. In their 2012 narrative feature slate (not counting revivals) there are three titles that are in SFIFF55, Chcken with Plums, Hysteria, and Polisse. Tribeca was cofounded by Robert DeNiro with Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in 2002 to revitalize the cultural life of lower Manhattan after the blow of 9/11. Its being relatively new is not a disadvantage. This year Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon and Dakota Fanning will Serve on the Tribecal's Juries. The next western festival is the small but significant Telluride, founded in 1974 and co-directed (with a guest director) by Tom Luddy. Telluride doesn't announce its slate in advance. It comes in early September, withs all new material and an edge the SFIFF seems to lack, despite its being bigger.

    With these reservations, SFIFF, especially after the way the late Graham Leggett revitalized the SF Film Society context, is a film festival of great depth. It's also a last best chance to see many recent festival films that won't be easy to catch on DVD. Last year these included five good-to-great documentaries, the English social one The Arbor, the art one The Mill on the Cross (thought that has had limited US release), the beautiful portrait of the rebirth of a ravaged El Salvador town, The Tiniest Place, the Silicon Valley venture capital doc Something Ventured, and Pago One: Inside the New York Times. And there were three great features I couldn't see elsewhere, the Catalan Black Bread, the exciting and elegant German corporate thriller The City Below, and the delicate Uruguayann cinephile tale A Useful Life. In other words, it's worth i., Even if only about 10% of festival films turn out to be truly memorable, this is par for the course in festivals. My filmleaf coverage aims to expand a bit your awareness and mine of the world film scene today.

    Next SFIFF 2012 review.
    Tomorrow (April 18, 2012) there will be a commercial press screening in San Francisco of The Intouchables (also called 'Intouchables' and 'Untouchable'), directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. It is a SFIFF selection, and it was in the Rendez-Vous in NYC but not shown to the press. This film is the second biggest box office success in France of all time. Variety called it "cringe-worthy" and "claptrap." Stephen Holden of the NYTimes called it "a crass escapist comedy that feels like a Gallic throwback to an ’80s Eddie Murphy movie" and said it "exploits every hoary stereotype of the black man as cultural liberator." 'Intouchables' is in the US under the aegis of Harvey Weinstein. He has promoted it by lashing out at the French right-wing politician LePen for attacking it. Weinstein has also bought the rights to an American remake. Whatever its merits it's a cultural phenomenon must-see for a student of French film. It obviously works for many as entertainment. Kurt Brokow, of The Independent online and my colleague at Lincoln Center screenings, had nothing but praise for it and called it "a street-smart, museum-smart movie that richly deserves its Opening Night status" (which it had at the Rendez-Vous in New York in early March when Kurt reviewed it). On Allociné it received a good critical rating (3.7), but some touchstone critical publications, Cahiers du Cinema, L'Humanité, Télérama, and Les Inrockuptibles, totally panned it. A Guardian article last November argued that it has been such a huge successs in France because it provides a story "of class transcendence and national unity," what the country needs as an alternative to the divisiveness of Sarkozy's "divisive politics."
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-25-2012 at 05:54 PM.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area
    Tanya Wexler: HYSTERIA (2011)

    This wink-wink costumeer set in London in the days of Queen Victoria mixes the invention of the electronic dildo with a rom-com involving Hugh Dancy, Felicity Jones, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, with Jonathan Pryce and Rupert Everett on the side.

    A preview: the film has opened in many other countries but opens in the US May 18.

    SFIFF screenings:

    Tue, May 1 9:30
    Thu, May 3 6:00

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    I have screeners coming of

    Ramon Diaz's DON'T STOP BELIEVIN' (US music doc)
    Ra'an Alexandrowicz's THE LAW IN THESE PARTS (Israel doc)
    Rania Attiah and Daniel Garcia's OK, ENOUGH, GOODBYE (Lebanon comedy)
    Gabriel Mariño's A SECRET WORLD (Mexican feature)

    I'll be trying for public screenings of:

    Harmony Korine et al.'s THE FOURTH DIMENSION
    Emmanuele Crialese's TERRAFERMA

    I hope to get DVDs of:

    SUMMER GAMES (Italian/Swiss)
    LAND OF OBLIVION (Russian)
    ALPS (Greek -- Yorgos Lanthimos)
    INFORMANT (doc by Jamie Meltzner--relates to last year's BETTER THIS WORLD)

    Potentially important ones I can't see during the festival -- unless the unexpectedly come up with screeners of them -- due to my schedule:

    Andrea Arnold's WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    Francis Ford Coppola's TWIX
    Michael Winterbottom's TRISHNA

    With luck they will turn up in commercial releases later; this is pormised for WUTHERING HEIGHTS and TRISHNA.

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