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If You're Going to San Francisco ... International Film Festival

Four thousand film festivals populate the globe. But more than many, the San Francisco International Film Festival may satisfy a collective hunch of what such a gathering should be. Perhaps age has something to do with it; at 53 years old, SFIFF, held this year from April 22 to May 6, 2010, is the oldest film festival in the Americas.

Then there's the topography of San Francisco, which rises, falls and yields vistas that themselves cop filmic metaphors. Or maybe it's because San Francisco natives form a cultured urban tribe. And if not all that, then its timing — following the previous year's key festivals and preceding mighty Cannes — is enough to drive any fest into compensation mode. Graham Leggett's four years as head of the San Francisco Film Society have spread the enterprise's sticky tentacles in ambitious and effective ways.

Whatever the reason, the Festival styles itself with distinctive flair for its 80,000 or so annual attendees. This year's spin will set in motion some 150 films and live events. By Festival's end, it will have pinned more than 20 ribbons on industry worthies.

Don't you wish you'd been a fly on the wall when the SF Film Society chose John Waters as the man to present Ang Lee's writing partner, James Schamus, with the 2010 Kanbar Award for screenwriting? The transgressive cult director and the Focus Features honcho make one odd couple. By all appearances, the Society's sense of humor has survived the lumpy economy intact.

Walter Murch is its pick for this year's trippy address about "cinema and visual arts, culture and society, images and ideas." The film editor, sound designer and nine-time Oscar–nominee will retell cinema's genesis from the 19th century to now, and dip into the legacies of Beethoven, Flaubert and Edison. Asked to play prophet as well, Murch will foretell how cinema's formative milieu will beget future audiovisual expression.

Such inspired vapors should hover over the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas when Walter Salles receives the 2010 Founder’s Directing Award. For his tribute, an hour-long preview of In Search of On the Road will be screened alongside his other clips. Specially cut for the Festival, this work-in-progress chronicles Salles's efforts to shoot a documentary about Jack Kerouac, his seminal road-trip novel On the Road and the post-war artists, poets and pharmaceutical enthusiasts of the Beat Generation.

In another mix of the vintage and the new, SFIFF will once again screen a silent film to the live accompaniment of an original score by a contemporary musician. This year's pairing is Stephin Merritt and his newly unveiled score for the 1916 epic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The event will take place at the landmark Castro Theatre.

A whiff of the quaint surrounds "An Evening with Roger Ebert and Friends," when directors Jason Reitman, Terry Zwigoff and others will gather at the Castro to give the well-known film critic the Mel Novikoff Award. Named for San Francisco's pioneer art-house exhibitor, the award honors those who have made significant contributions to Bay Area filmmaking.

An especially hot ticket is the Midnight Awards, a cocktail toasting an American actor and actress. Taking the cue from late-night talk shows, the witching-hour event features a confab with the two and a sampling of their work. Live music will be performed by Marc and the Casuals.


Each year the Festival heralds an up-and-coming talent via a "Centerpiece" screening of his or her work. The 2010 choice is Josh Radnor and his directorial debut, happythankyoumoreplease. Zoey Kazan, Malin Ackerman and Pablo Schreiber are among the ensemble joining him in front of the camera, where he plays a struggling writer in this Manhattan tableau of Gen Y in post 9/11 Manhattan. Radnor, who also wrote the screenplay, is expected to attend the Kabuki Sundance screening and Centerpiece party at Manor West.

This year's Peter J. Owens Award goes to Robert Duvall at an event featuring an interview with the actor and a look back on his half-century of performing in such standouts as The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, The Great Santini and Tender Mercies, for which he took the Best Actor Oscar. Also screening will be Aaron Schneider's Get Low, in which Duvall plays a pariah from the Tennessee sticks who opts to put on his own funeral while still breathing.

Don Hertzfeld, one of a handful of animators who produces all aspects of his films, is slated to take the Persistence of Vision Award. The Academy Award–nominated shorts filmmaker will be on hand during a rewinding of his career, including such popular titles as I am so proud of you and Intermission in the Third  Dimension.

SFIFF's roster of trophies — which culminates with the Golden Gate Awards — unfolds alongside a vigorous regime of partying. Following the Opening Night film, Micmacs, celebrations will carry on amid the Beaux Arts architecture of the Regency Center. The Closing Night party will feature music inspired by the brash comedian Joan Rivers, who is the subject of Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg's documentary, A Piece of Work, which will be screened during the Festival.

Students of the human comedy will have a chance to see Hirokazu Koreeda's newest work, Air Doll. The conceit is flippy, or at least Mannequin-esque: an inflatable "love doll" comes to life and falls in love in present-day Tokyo. Billed as an "anti-fairytale," this meditation on love and loneliness stars Korean leading light Bae Doo-na.

Sri Lankan filmmaker Vimukthi Jayasundara returns to San Francisco, following his 2008 film, The Forsaken Land, with Between Two Worlds. His new drama about the scars of his country's 20-year civil war will screen in the New Directors category.

Civil war, or at least its gathering clouds, also informs White Material. Claire Denis' somber tale of a French matriarch (Isabelle Huppert) who insists on weathering Africa's political chop marks the director's first film situated in that continent since Beau Travail. White Material will be screened under the World Cinema rubric, as will Around a Small Mountain, by her fellow French auteur, Jacques Rivette. Erring on the lighter side, his newest film follows the love story between a French circus performer and an Italian quester who hopes she'll trapeze over her fears.

The full lowdown on San Francisco's two-week cinema circus is posted at www.sffs.org.

San Francisco International Film Festival

Apr. 22 - May 6

Sundance Kabuki Cinemas
1881 Post Street

San Francisco

www.sundancecinemas.com

Castro Theatre
429 Castro Street
 
San Francisco
www.castrotheatre.com

Pacific Film Archive Theater
2575 Bancroft Way

Berkeley
www.bampfa.berkeley.edu

Clay Theater
2261 Fillmore Street

San Francisco
www.landmarktheatres.com

Havana Film Festival New York Ready to Rumble

Jointly presented with Havana, Cuba's International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, the Havana Film Festival New York is close, but no cigar. Subways and skyscrapers just can't match that fallen Habanero elegance as a habitat for Latino cinema. But if Cuba isn't on your itinerary and Manhattan is, you could do worse than to savor a week of Big Apple screenings from and about Latin America and the Caribbean, and about Latinos in the U.S.

HFFNY's 11th fiesta is set to rumble April 16 to 23, 2010, with special events on April 7 at El Museo del Barrio and April 9 at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. More than 40 films fill the calendar, alongside parties and chats.

Opening Night will kick off at the Directors Guild Theatre, with the New York premiere of Los Dioses Rotos / Broken Gods. The maiden feature by Cuban director Ernesto Daranas traces a love triangle within present day Havana's underworld paralleling that of early 20th-century politician and gigolo Alberto Yarini. Actress Silvia Aguila will be on hand to discuss the award-winning film.

Earlier on April 16, the New York premiere of Veronica will take place at the Quad Cinema, HFFNY's main screening venue. The thriller by Brazilian director Maurício Farias narrates the escape of a school teacher and her young pupil after the latter's parents are found slain in the Rio de Janeiro slums.

Closing-night rites begin with a screening of Gigante. Set in Montevideo, Uruguay, Adrián Biniez's drama plumbs a night-shift security guard's obsession with a cleaning woman. The Uruguayan-Argentine co-production, which won the Silver Bear in Berlin, is followed by the U.S. premiere of Eso que Anda. Ian Padrón's documentary trails a recent tour by Los Van Van — Cuba's favorite band for 40 years — which attended by more than 1 million people. Padrón will entertain audience Q&A. Filmgoers should be properly jazzed up to conga at the closing-night party at LQ.

Abiding Festival tradition, each year a renowned Latino filmmaker is graced with a tribute. The 2010 honoree is Cuban writer, director, poet, actor and dramatist Enrique Pineda Barnet. Cosmorama, an early forerunner of today's video art movement, will be screened together with such works as La Anunciación, his most recent film about the reunion of Cuban émigrés to the U.S. and their families back home, and Giselle, celebrating the 90th birthday of prima ballerina Alicia Alonso.

Other films about performance include The Extraordinary Journey of Fernando Bujones, dancer Israel Rodríguez' valentine to his mentor; Mambo City, Bette Wanderman's portrait of Puerto Rican singer Awilda Santiago and Salsa/Latin jazz band Grupo Latin Vibe; and Mundo Alas, about a group of disabled artists on tour with "the Argentine Bob Dylan," León Gieco. Gieco fans will have the chance to talk with him following the film, which he co-directed.

To mark its second decade, HFFNY created the Havana Star Prize to salute the Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay. These new Havana Star prizes will be handed out at the closing-night ceremony at the Directors Guild Theatre.

Among the Festival's most heralded Havana Star contenders is Huacho, winner of the Grand Coral in Havana. The drama by Alejandro Fernández Almendras portrays a family in grappling with poverty in Chile. Here are some of the other titles competing for Havana Star prizes:

Fans of Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s classic Memorias del Subdesarrollo (Memories of Underdevelopment) might be curious to see its sequel. Memories of Overdevelopment, by maverick filmmaker Miguel Coyula, presses onward with a Cuban intellectual who emigrates to the U.S. and becomes disillusioned with the "developed" world. The film is based on the novel by Edmundo Desnoes.

From veteran Chilean director Miguel Littín comes Dawson Isla 10 (Dawson Island). It recalls the political imprisonment of toppled President Allende’s cabinet after the 1973 coup.

One of several competition entries from Argentina is Historias Extraordinarias (Extraordinary Stories). Mariano Llinás's Borgesian triptych of seemingly unrelated narratives has a running time of four hours. The three stories in Carlos Enderle's Crónicas Chilangas (Chilango Chronicles) are not only entangled, they become more so as the film progresses. This urban comedy set in Mexico City tracks the lives of a retired teacher with a quadriplegic daughter, a young man who fears extraterrestrials and a fleshy woman obsessed with adult movies.

The national cinemas of Colombia, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Peru, Venezuela and the U.S. are also represented on the slate.

As in past editions, HFFNY will join forces with The Metropolitan Museum of Art to present "Latin American Films For Children." Together with the Queens Museum of Art, it will show Fantasma de Buenos Aires, about a 20th-century ghost awakened by mistake in contemporary Buenos Aires. Other educational partners include El Museo del Barrio, The Bronx Museum of the Arts and NYU’s Cantor Center, Tisch School of the Arts and King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center — site of a Latino film industry panel — with the goal of offering free or low-cost screenings, panels, and programs for all ages.

In a special program marking Mexico’s Bicentennial of Independence and Centennial of its Revolution, the Festival will showcase 26 minute-and-a-half shorts from five of the top Mexican animation directors.

For Festival founder and executive director Carole Rosenberg and programming director Diana Vargas, the more than week-long event offers U.S. audiences a rare, if not singular, opportunity to see new and old gems from the more than century-old Latino film industry.  

All foreign language films are subtitled in English. Additional details are available at www.hffny.com.

Havana Film Festival New York
3 East 69th Street

New York, NY 10021
(212) 946-1839

Newport Beach Film Festival Catches the Wave

Ranked by Portfolio.com as America's richest city, Newport Beach, Calif., can afford to throw a serious party. Newport Beach Film Festival is known to do just that, and even its Web site touts it as a "leading lifestyle" event. So revelers and cinemaphiles are primed for another Orange County-class fiesta this April 22 to 29.

Despite lingering economic challenges, NBFF Executive Director and CEO Gregg Schwenk hopes to build on last year's record attendance of 51,000 strong. Run almost entirely by volunteers, the Festival makes the most of what he touts as its "coastal resort setting, amazing community support and strong filmmaker participation."

The 11th NBFF will show more than 400 films from some 50 countries and host red carpet galas, yacht parties and filmmaker discussions.

Five Star Day holds the Opening Night slot. A romantic comedy starring Cam Gigandet and Jena Malone, it marks the directorial feature debut of Huntington Beach native Danny Buday, who also wrote and produced. The title refers to the protagonist's auspicious birthday horoscope, which turns out to be disastrously inaccurate.

Following the film's world premiere, the opening-night gala on Fashion Island will present specialties from 26 local restaurants, a fashion show and a performance of Mystère by Cirque du Soleil.

The Festival will close with Letters to Juliet, Gary Winikc's modern-day story of star-crossed lovers starring Amanda Seyfried, Gael García Bernal and Vanessa Redgrave. To culminate the week's celebrations, filmgoers will then head over to the closing-night party in the Via Lido Courtyard.

Festival rap surrounds a number of comedies, including Electra Luxx. The sequel to Sebastian Gutierrez' lippy Woman in Trouble tracks the existential crisis of its eponymous porn star, now facing motherhood. Carla Gugino, who is married to Gutierrez, stars alongside Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Timothy Olyphant.

Parenthood and sex also play for laughs in Chris D'Arienzo's Barry Munday, whose titular character — played by Patrick Wilson — loses his testicles. Chloë Sevigny co-stars in this screen adaptation of Life is a Strange Place, a novel by Frank Turner Hollan.

For campy kicks, there's Suck. Featuring a cast of music legends from Iggy Pop (who plays an aging producer) and Alice Cooper (as a bartender) to Moby (a metal rocker), Rob Stefaniuk's vampire spoof may require stronger substance than popcorn to appreciate its aspiring band's quest for immortality and an album deal.

In an action sports lineup to rival Tribeca's, NBFF will kick off a half a dozen world premieres. Surfing culture comes under consideration in such documentaries as Nathan Apffel's essay on anti-commericalism, Lost Prophets-Search for the Collective; Ann Chatillon's Newport Beach remembrance, Living It Forever; and Accidental Icon: The Real Gidget Story, in which Brian Gillogly traces Malibu surfer-turned-cultural-phenomenon Kathy "Gidget" Kohner Zuckerman.

Non-fiction films also abound in a program exploring art, architecture and design. A highlight is Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, in which Tamra Davis looks back on the Lower East Side graffiti artist's cult mystique.

Family stories, shorts and productions by filmmakers from area colleges comprise other returning categories. The Festival also promises the annual harvest of world cinema, with seven titles from Russia.

Upholding a cherished tradition, NBFF will continue with its John Wayne retrospective, which was launched in 2007 to commemorate the actor's 100th birthday. A remastered, Blu-ray edition of The Stagecoach will serve this year's tribute screening.

Were the former Newport Beach resident still alive, he'd surely join other glitterati from nearby Hollywood who add to NBFF's twinkle without detracting from its folksy accessibility. 

For tickets and more information, visit www.newportbeachfilmfest.com.

Newport Beach Film Festival
4540 Campus Drive

Newport Beach, CA 92660
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
949 253 2530

Sarasota Film Fest Brings Gems to Gold Coast

Sarasota, Fla., is considered ground zero for the recent real-estate crash. But any darkness that prevails during April 9 to 18, 2010 will envelope the inky cinemas where the 12th annual Sarasota Film Festival will unfold.
 
Bookended by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman’s The Extra Man and James Franco’s Saturday Night, the Gold Coast cotillion spans 168 films. Thirty countries are represented, yielding what director of programming Holly Herrick tallies as the Festival's most diverse lineup to date.
 
The Extra Man trails a male escort for elderly socialites and the aspiring playwright he grooms. Kevin Kline, Paul Dano, John C. Reilly and Katie Holmes star in this new comedy by American Splendor's Oscar-nominated duo, based on the Jonathan Ames novel of the same name. Opening night festivities continue with the Seriously Sweet Dessert Soiree and — like closing night — with an after-party at Ceviche.
 
Franco’s documentary, which expands on his New York University graduate film school project, chronicles a week in the frenzied creative cycle behind TV comedy show Saturday Night Live. The actor's feature directorial debut reflects unprecedented access to its notoriously veiled subject, a perk of his personal friendships with the cast.
 
Festival innovations include an "Investors Lab" brokering relationships between independent filmmakers and the investment community. As part of the Lab, Steve Buscemi will stage a reading of Oren Moverman's unproduced script for Queer, based on the book by William S. Burroughs
 
Also a first in this year's program are "Cinema Diaspora: International Perspectives on Jewish Identity"; "Views From The Sunshine State: Sarasota & Florida Filmmakers"; and "Through Women’s Eyes," a showcase honoring films by and about women's lives, co-presented with GCC UNIFEM.
 
A 2010 Gala centerpiece is a tribute to John Landis, director of such bedrock comedies as Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places and Beverly Hills Cop III. Following a multimedia presentation of his work, Mr. Landis will muse on his career, and share a laugh from his upcoming comedy thriller starring Simon Pegg, Burke and Hare.
 
The Festival continues its “In Conversation With…” series, hosting director/Walt Disney Feature Animation producer Don Hahn (whose film, Waking Sleeping Beauty, is being shown out of competition), and actors Kevin Kline, Patricia Clarkson and Vincent D'Onofrio.

SFF also carries on with its "youthFEST" outreach and education programs subsidized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and reaching some 4,000 students. Brownstones to Red Dirt is one youth-friendly title kicking up advanced buzz. Dave LaMattina and Chad Walker's documentary charters the bonds that develop between kids from the Brooklyn projects and the orphans from civil-war-torn Sierra Leone who become their pen pals. Another youthFEST attraction is "Hollywood Nights Student Cinema Showcase."

The Festival runs three competitions. Titles vying in its documentary feature category are Con Artist (Michael Sládek), Gasland (Josh Fox), A Good Man (Safina Uberoi), His & Hers (Ken Wardrop), The Kids Grow Up (Doug Block), Life 2.0 (Jason Spingarn-Koff) and The Oath (Laura Poitras).
 
Narrative feature contenders are: Alamar (Pedro González-Rubio), A Brand New Life (Ounie Lecomte), The Father of My Children (Mia Hansen-Love), Holy Rollers (Kevin Asch), I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino), Winter's Bone (Debra Granik) and Women Without Men (Shirin Neshat)
 
The third competition, "Independent Visions," awards low-budget narrative filmmaking from the US. Its entries are: The Adults in the Room (Andy Blubaugh), Cold Weather (Aaron Katz), The Colonel's Bride (Brent Stewart), The Freebie (Kate Aselton), The Myth of The American Sleepover (David Mitchell), The New Year (Brett Haley) and SXSW narrative feature jury winner Tiny Furniture (Lena Dunham).
 
Festival screenings mostly take place at the Regal Cinemas Hollywood 20, though the scatter of other venues may pose a challenge to footloose guests. The Opening Night film will be screened at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center; The Lab holds its panels, funding meetings and presentations at the Longboat Key Club and Resort (though the Florida Studio Theater will host its staged reading of Queer); and the Landis Tribute will unspool at the Sarasota Opera House.
 
Consult www.sarasotafilmfestival.com for additional details.
 
Sarasota Film Festival Main Office
332 Cocoanut Avenue
Sarasota, FL 34236
941 364 9514
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Festival Box Office
Buddha Belly Donuts
Synovus Bank Building
1990 Main Street, Suite 112
Sarasota, FL

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