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47th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival
So many films, so little time...
by Hubert Huang on Feb 27, 2005
Spring is here and so is the 47th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival. As the cherry blossom trees flourish with pink buds, the screens of movie theaters all over the Bay Area- the Kabuki, the Castro, the Pacific Film Archive, Brava Theater Center, and Century Cinema- will be lit with films from all over the world in an extravaganza of domestic and world cinema.
Where else will you be able to watch films from Armenia, Iceland, Cuba and Gabon? Below are some of our critics' picks for movies to catch at this year's festival:
Save the Green Planet!
One of the four movies that comprises the Exteme Cinema program, Save the Green Planet! epitomizes the edgy, outrageous, and darker type of film that the program is trying to promote. Jang Jun-Hwan's fantastical story of an unassuming bee farmer with the thankless onus of saving the world from an alien destruction that only he knows to be in progress melds together seemingly mismatched genres, opening as a slapstick comedy before transitioning into a police thriller, and even integrating some Matrix-like commentary on the state of human civilization. When searching through what can be an intimidating catalog of films, this is one to circle, highlight or mark in whatever way that will remind you to buy tickets. (H.H.)
When brothers Silvio and Victor relocate to Santiago from a small town, all they hope for is to carve out a modest life for the two of them. But soon after their arrival, the big city prods them toward a lifestyle for which they are not adequately prepared. For the brash Silvio, he becomes enthralled by the seedy underworld of Chile's sex industry, while the innocent Victor is prematurely introduced to his sexuality in a chance encounter with an exotic dancer. However, when they both become enchanted by the same woman, the crime boss' mistress Gracia, they not only find themselves challenged by the learning curve of their new world, but also in competition with each other. The story unfolds details through a separate story arc for each of its protagonists that finally intersect in an exciting conclusion. (H.H.)
The Man Who Copied
Jorge Furtado's film from Brazil is a delightful mixture of comedy, drama, romance, crime thriller, and (!) cartoon. It takes a great nugget of an idea for a film and runs wild with it. André mans the photocopier in a small store in Porto Alegre. By virtue of spending his days reading fragments of poems, plays, essays, and novels that pass through his hands and the copy machine, he learns a little about everything but not a lot about much. He papers his bedroom walls with the copier's rejects and sketches the varied life he sees outside his window every night. After work he goes to clubs with a sexy, flirtatious coworker and her tagalong, yearning-for-sex boyfriend. One night André spies a young woman in a neighboring apartment (ŕ la Rear Window) and he falls in love. Although he discovers her name and where she works, he knows only half the story. Money is on everyone's mind because no one has any; if they did, they'd all live very different lives. Thanks to Furtado's engaging and creative screenplay, they get their chance, even though luck has other plans in store for them. This fast-paced, enjoyable film - with breezy cinematography by Alex Sernambi - portrays a fascinating, complex world of love and desire that's equally unexpected and familiar. (S.G.)
Home of the Brave
What are the consequences of sacrificing your life for social justice? In 1965 in Selma, AL, Viola Liuzzo, a white mother of five from Detroit who came down to take part in the struggle for civil rights, was brutally murdered. Thus, forever marking her as the first white woman to die in the fight. This must-see documentary directed by Paolo di Florio examines the life of this extraordinary woman while also looking at how her death changed and shaped the lives of her bereaving children. Featuring exceptionally high production values, skillfully melded archival and historical footage, a moving soundtrack and a story that will break your heart, this film at once inspiring and thought-provoking. (A.P.)
Chisolm '72: Unbought and Unbossed
This lo-fi documentary is a rousing and intense look into the campaign of the first woman, and an African American at that, to run for President. And I don't mean of the PTA- we're talking of the United States government. Shirley Chisolm, an outspoken and fiery Congresswoman from Brooklyn, literally takes on 'the man' in her 1972 bid for President during a time of both civil and gender inequality. Just hearing her speeches can give you goosebumps; they sure don't make them like they used to! Director Shola Lynch does an outstanding job of unearthing this nearly forgotten story from the dregs of history. She weaves interviews with passionate Chisolm '72 campaigners and supporters with lovely jingles, political advertisements and archival footage. You even get to see former Mayor Willie Brown make an appearance at the National Democratic Convention! (A.P.)
Silent Waters (Khamosh Pani)
Directed by Sabiha Sumar, this beautifully created tale shows how one woman's life was transformed during the India-Pakistan partition. Stars the indelible Kirron Kher as Ayesha, a Muslim single-mother living in a Pakistani village in 1979 with her lackadaisical son. When two Islamic fundamentalists, trying to galvanize and garner support for their particular views of how Pakistanis should live, come into town, the lives of all the villagers change from one of easy-going openness to one of fear, hatred and danger. Ayesha is forced to face her own demons as a terrible secret from her past is revealed, and as her once loving son becomes ensnared into the fundamentalists' beliefs of intolerance. While this movie could easily have been presented in a melodramatic and sensationalistic fashion, Sumar instead unfolds the tale with subtlety and balanced poignancy, making in all the more moving. (A.P.)
Quirky is the best way to describe director Ryuchi Hiroki's latest feature. A bulimic woman, Rei (Shinobu Terashima), with a very loud stream of consciousness whose ache for human interaction leads her to pick up a man, Okabe (Nao Ohmori), in a convenience store, ends up taking an unexpected road trip with the mysterious yet totally matter-of-fact truck driver/drug runner. They discuss menial topics like life on the road and the intricacies of CB culture in between bouts of hot sex in the back seat of the cab. This movie is at once absurd and all too real; Hiroki looks at life full in the face but also mixes in Rei's random little thoughts and presents them in endearing fragments reminiscent of those found on Japanese stationery. (A.P.)
by Hubert Huang on Feb 27, 2005