The longest-running film festival in both North and South America, San Francisco International Film Festival, kicks off its 56th edition this Thursday evening and runs through Thursday, May 9. This is the first festival with new Executive Director Ted Hope at the helm, bringing a welcome and familiar leadership to the organization after the tragic back-to-back deaths of his respected predecessors Graham Leggat and Bingham Ray. He’s brought with him Colin Stanfield as Managing Director, with longtime Director of Programming Rachel Rosen providing continuity and her regular keen curatorial eye. This year’s lineup includes over 150 films, including nearly thirty documentary features. I’ll be in town for the festival’s first weekend and may try to catch a few titles I haven’t already seen, time and schedule permitting. Regardless, here’s a quick look at some of the selections to consider checking out if you’re in the Bay Area:
“Big Nights” is San Francisco’s gala section. Included as this year’s Centerpiece is Jacob Kornbluth’s Sundance-winning exploration of the income gap, INEQUALITY FOR ALL. A number of fellow Park City alum also make their Bay Area debut at the festival, including such standouts as AFTER TILLER, CUTIE AND THE BOXER, A RIVER CHANGES COURSE, BLACKFISH, GOD LOVES UGANDA, GOOGLE AND THE WORLD BRAIN, SALMA, STORIES WE TELL, and TWENTY FEET FROM STARDOM.
Other titles I’ve seen but haven’t yet written about that I would recommend are Jason Osder’s LET THE FIRE BURN, an archive-driven exploration of a shocking and deadly standoff between Philadelphia authorities and a militant black organization in the 1980s; and Oskar Alegria’s THE SEARCH FOR EMAK BAKIA (pictured), a playful investigation into the work and inspiration of modernist artist Man Ray.
Among the doc features that I’ve not yet seen that are on my list are: Mika Mattila’s portrait of Chinese artists at a crossroads, CHIMERAS (pictured); Raoul Peck’s indictment of the failure of international relief efforts to Haiti, FATAL ASSISTANCE; PJ Raval’s consideration of aging among gay men, BEFORE YOU KNOW IT; Dan Krauss’ exploration of a case of US soldiers killing Afghan civilians for sport, THE KILL TEAM; and Pedro González-Rubio’s hybrid meditation on a dying Japanese mountain town, INORI.