For 56 years and counting, the San Francisco International Film Festival has been presenting the world’s most innovative film to the Bay Area. It’s time to gear up for the newest installment beginning April 25 through May 9.

America’s longest running film festival, the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) is all about the celebration of the medium — where it is, where it’s heading and where it came from. 2013 is no different. Screening 158 films from 51 countries, 2013 is poised to be a great year. This year offers, as always, a plethora of film, including some highly anticipated domestic and foreign releases, talks and lectures from some of the most esteemed names in the business, and, of course, some great parties to mingle with fellow film fans.

The festival kicks off April 25 with Opening Night Film What Maisie Knew, starring Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan, a loose adaptation of the Henry James novel. Directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel are expected to attend the screening, which segues into the opening night party at Temple Nightclub. From there it will be non-stop for two weeks, with San Francisco’s Castro Theatre, New People Cinema and Sundance Kabuki Cinema handling the bulk of the screenings. Further highlights are the festival’s Centerpiece Inequality for All, winner of this year’s Special Jury Award at Sundance, a documentary which explores the ever increasing gap between the rich and poor in America; Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, starring and co-written by Greta Gerwig; Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay, a documentary about the famed character actor and magician; A Hijacking, hailing from rising Danish director/writer Tobias Lindholm; Me and You, the latest from Bernardo Bertolucci; Joss Whedon’s much talked about adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing; and David Gordon Green’s return to indie film with Prince Avalanche, among many other worthwhile picks. Closing up shop this year will be Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, the third and perhaps final chapter in the ongoing romance of Jesse and Céline (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy). Linklater and Delpy are expected to attend as the festival draws to a bittersweet close with a dance party at Ruby Skye.

As much as SFIFF is about watching great films, it’s just as much about discussing and dissecting them. This year’s State of Cinema will be delivered by iconic, and retiring, filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. A genre-hopper known for his blockbusters, namely Ocean’s 11, and Oscar-winning films Erin Brokovich and Traffic as much as for his small budget and experimental pieces like Che, Bubble and The Girlfriend Experience, to name a few, his talk will surely be one of the more interesting events of the festival. Soderbergh is as known for his thoughts on the art form as he is on creating it. His impending retirement is sure to also make its way into the discussion. But Soderbergh isn’t the only filmmaker on hand to offer their insights into filmmaking and film culture. Richard Linklater will appear, aside from his expected appearance on Closing Night, to discuss his thoughts on the medium in A Conversation with Richard Linklater on May 8. Like Soderbergh, Linklater is a filmmaking chameleon moving with ease between indies Slacker and Bernie to genre pieces Dazed and Confused to family blockbusters School of Rock.

Every year SFIFF descends upon San Francisco, inundating the city with film overload. Yet, even with so much to offer, and with a two week running time, it always vanishes too soon. It’s one of the country’s leading film festivals, and with good reason. Even those with only a passing interest in the global culture of film should seek out a screening or event to truly understand what the festival means to the film community and to the city.

Tickets are already on sale so head over to the official site of SFIFF for more information on films and screenings.