The 57th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) runs from April 24 to May 8, and it is already shaping up to be a must-attend event for cinephiles. The festival will screen 168 films, including 29 documentary features, from 56 different countries, and in 40 different languages. The festival expects 200 filmmakers and industry guests to attend, so this is a great opportunity to engage with emerging filmmakers as well as some of Hollywood’s elite.
The festival kicks off at the Castro Theatre on April 24 with Hossein Amini’s (screenwriter of “Wings of the Dove” and “Drive”) directorial debut, “The Two Faces of January”, a psychological thriller based on the Patricia Highsmith book, starring Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, and Oscar Isaac. The red carpet will also get rolled out at the Castro for the festival’s Closing Night film, “Alex in Venice”, actor Chris Messina’s (“The Mindy Project”, “Away We Go”) directorial debut. If star sightings are what you seek, check out the screenings of Sundance favourite “The Skeleton Twins” starring Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader, both of whom are expected to attend.
This year’s must-see film is Director Richard Linklater’s 12-year-project, “Boyhood” on May 2 at the Castro, preceded by an on-stage interview with Linklater himself. Linklater will be in town to present the film and pick up the SFIFF Founder’s Directing Award. “Boyhood” charts the growth of Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age six to eighteen in real time, and was widely regarded as the best film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It also garnered Linklater the Silver Bear for Directing at the Berlin Film Festival.
Of course, one of the greatest pleasures of an international film festival is taking in cinema from multiple countries and continents, all in one day. Swedish director Lukas Moodysson’s sensitive and funny “We are the Best!” should be at the top of your list: it’s a touching and smart portrait of a trio of thirteen-year-old punk rocker girls in 1980s Stockholm. For something a bit more off-the-beaten path, check out the post-modern Romanian film “When Evening Falls on Bucharest“ or the Greek New Weird Wave film “Standing Aside, Watching”. There will also be a large selection of Latin American cinema, including the Mexican mother-and-son story “Club Sandwich”, the Brazilian LGBT film “Bad Hair”, and the Costa Rican black comedy, “All About the Feathers”, about a security guard’s relationship with his fighting cock.
One of the standouts among English-language films at the festival is Lenny Abrahamson’s (“What Richard Did”) excellent dark comedy,“Frank”, in which Michael Fassbender spends the entire film inside a giant cartoon paper maché head. Michael Winterbottom’s hilarious sequel to “The Trip”, “The Trip to Italy”, stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as versions of themselves on a culinary vacation, and it is not to be missed either.There will also be plenty of Sundance Film Festival documentary favourites on display, from Katie Couric’s obesity documentary “Fed Up”, to the civil rights doc “Freedom Summer”, to the Nick Cave vehicle “20,000 Days on Earth”.
Although the 2014 Cannes Film Festival follows on the heels of SFIFF, formally announcing the beginning of the new film year, the SFIFF features some of the best films of the 2013-2014 festival circuit. It also offers a great series of exclusive special events, including on-stage conversations with Oscar-nominated production designer K.K. Barrett (“Her”) on April 27, and with film critic and Mel Novikoff Award recipient David Thomson on May 4. The festival will also continue its tradition of screening silent films with live musical accompaniment. Magnetic Fields leader Stephen Merritt will accompany “The Unknown”. Thao Nguyen and her band the Get Down Stay Down will accompany a series of short films, including Charlie Chaplin’s “The Pawnshop”. Of the five world premieres at SFIFF this year, “Heaven Adores You”, a documentary about singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, is one of the most exciting.
Tickets for all programs go on sale to the public today. Keep in mind that many of the films will sell out at least a week before the festival begins, especially those on weekends, so don’t wait too long to choose your films. All regular public screenings will be at the Sundance Kabuki Cinema and the New People Cinema in San Francisco near Geary and Fillmore. There will also be parallel programming at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.