The San Francisco International Film Festival, the longest running American film festival, is back for it’s 55th year. With nearly 175 film screenings, the film festival celebrates innovative and original films April 19 through May 3.

Farewell, My Queen

 

Those who have attended past years’ festivals know that SFIFF is about more than celebrating great movies. It’s also about appreciating film as a serious art form as well as a tool for cultural education and social change. With 45 countries represented, it’s a global event bringing not only films but filmmakers, writers, musicians and cultural icons for for two weeks of cinema.

Kicking things off April 19 at the famed and historic Castro Theatre is Farewell, My Queen. This French film stars Diane Kruger as Marie Antoinette during the invasion of the Bastille. Much of the film revolves around Antoinette’s devoted servant Sidnoie Laborde (Lea Seydoux) as her queen seems mostly oblivious to the cultural upheaval around her. It’s an inside glimpse to the last few days of a dying world, the uprooting of an old and contested way of life. An opening night party will follow the screening (where director Benoit Jacquot is expected to attend) at Terra Gallery with cocktails, food served by local restaurants and dancing.

This year’s centerpiece film is Your Sister’s Sister. After the success of 2009′s indie, and some say mumblecore, Humpday Lynn Shelton delivers her follow up with a darkly humorous, yet truly heartfelt, film about loss and human connection. Still unable to cope with his brother’s death a year later, Jack (Mark Duplass) heads to a remote cabin at the behest of his friend Iris (Emily Blunt). When he arrives he finds Iris’ sister Hannah (Rosmarie Dewitt) there, also having escaped to deal with a bad break up. However, when Iris arrives to find that the two have a newfound connection over their sadness and sorrows, the gloves come off and their true souls are finally bared. With much of the dialogue improvised, it’s a film that explores not only the human core but also the elasticity of the film medium itself. Lynn Shelton is expected to be in attendance with a post-screening party following at Clift Hotel.

The third film rounding out and bringing the festival to a close is the documentary Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey. Ramona S. Diaz’s documentary brings the festival full circle and back to the Bay Area with a film that documents Arnel Pineda’s true rags to riches story. It chronicles Pineda’s humble and struggling beginnings as a singer for Journey cover band Zoo. However, the real story begins after Journey, the real band from San Francisco, came across footage of Zoo on YouTube and decided to hire Pineda as the band’s new lead singer. It’s a film that sheds light on real miracles as well as Pineda’s sudden rise to fame while remaining a true everyman. A final, closing night party will follow at Sloane Squared with special guests and live music.

Of course, these are only three of 174 films scheduled to screen at the festival and that’s not including the many non-screening events. This year two dozen awards will be given out for cinematic excellence. Amongst them are the Founder’s Directors Award being awarded to Kenneth Branagh, the Peter J. Owens Award for excellence in acting to Judy Davis, the Kanbar Award for excellence in screenwriting to David Webb Peoples and this year’s State of the Cinema Address will be given by none other than Jonathan Lethem. Many of the films screening will also be in competition for a number of awards and prizes including the coveted New Director’s Prize.

Visit the official festival website for more information.