The arrival of the annual San Francisco
International Film Festival (April 25 -- May 9, 2013) is like finding
water in the desert -- and this in a supposedly sophisticated film-going
city. At this year's press conference, the usual phrase "we're showing
over 200 films from xyz countries" lacked the second quantifying
number, but a quick count of the Country Index in the program book
yields 50. (By far the largest number -- 68 -- come from the United
States, but the lineup is international indeed.)
Highlights from the lineup announcement include Philip Kaufman receiving the Founder's Directing Award, along with a screening of his San Francisco-set 1978 remake "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"; Julie Delpy will join director Richard Linklater in an in-depth conversation following the closing night screening of "Before Midnight"; and the launch of A2E: Artist to Enterpreneur, a four-day lab designed to match indie filmmakers with tools for digital distribution and outreach.
The full public program, which includes 158 films representing 51 countries, can be browsed here.
The SFIFF suffers a bit from its placement in the festival calendar: the professional film world's attention is turned towards May's Cannes Film Festival, the unofficial start of the film festival year (despite Sundance, Berlin, and Rotterdam), and this year it overlaps with Tribeca (April 17 -- 28), whose New York location guarantees a certain amount of press coverage. Nowadays the endless festival circuit means that some films in the program debuted at last year's Cannes festival -- "Therese," the last film of Claude Miller; "In the Fog," Sergei Loznitsa; the animated film "Ernest and Celestine" -- and others have been on the long march: "The Act of Killing" making stops since August at Telluride, Toronto, Copenhagen, Denmark, Berlin, Luxembourg, Sweden, Thessaloniki, and New Directors/New Films in New York, just to trace the journey of the very first film in the program book. Not for nothing did Olivier Assayas once say to me "Make a movie -- see the world!" (And his new movie about French youth growing up after May '68, "Something in the Air" will be screened in the festival, although he's not currently listed among guests expected -- a list in progress.)
The San Francisco Film Society, which puts on the festival, operates year-round, and not just as a screening venue: new Director Ted Hope mentioned with pride in his introduction that the Society provided financial support not only for last year's Sundance Grand Jury prizewinner "Beasts of the Southern Wild," (and eventual Academy Awards Best Picture nominee), but also for the 2013 Sundance Grand Jury Award prizewinner, "Fruitvale," and "Short Term 12," which won both the Grand Jury and the Audience awards at this year's South By Southwest.
It seemed slightly churlish of me to ask why neither of them had made it into this year's SFIFF, but without naming names, Ted Hope alluded to Cannes (where "Fruitvale" is indeed scheduled, and "Short Term 12" rumored) and the fact that both films now had distributors -- The Weinstein Company for "Fruitvale," and Cinedigm for "Short Term 12" -- whose release plans take precedence.
The Festival opens with "What Maisie Knew," from ex-Bay Areans Scott McGehee and David Siegel, which Hope said his mother had recently announced was (a) her favorite book and (b) unfilmable, and closes with Richard Linklater's "Before Midnight," the third in his trilogy (after "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset") about star-crossed lovers Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. Both Linklater and Delpy will attend the festival, and in addition to the movie screening, there's A Conversation scheduled with the two, and a broad hint was given that Ethan Hawke might also be in attendance, if the festival could entice him.