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The 50th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival

50 Years of Celluloid Celebration

Fifty years and thousands of films later, the San Francisco International Film Festival is alive and kicking. This year’s line up reflects the same kind of depth, breadth, and diversity of artistic voices that SFIFF has been known for from the very beginning.

Specifically, you’re looking at 200 films and industry guests expected, 54 countries represented, 75 narrative features, 33 documentary features, and the list goes on. In short, you’re looking at simply the best film festival in Northern California in SFIFF 50.

A few industry notables making an appearance this year include: Steve Buscemi, Chris Columbus, Rosario Dawson, Danny Glover, Hal Hartley, Ron Howard, Spike Lee, George Lucas, and Parker Posey among others. Many of the aforementioned are on hand to accept awards, present, or entertain.

Some may wonder if this year’s SFIFF offers anything unique or distinctive given that the festival has flourished now for fifty years. Eloquently stated by Executive Director Graham Leggat, "This year’s festival is a summation of the first fifty years of the festival."

With 200 films in the line up, selecting a handful of notable entries is no walk in the park. Nevertheless, below is a brief sampling of a few of SFIFF 50’s finest.


The Key of G
This fascinating documentary takes a close look at the world of a developmentally disabled 22-year old, Garnet (aka G-Man, Mr.G, etc.). Garnet suffers from a form of brain damage that prevents the left and right half of his brain from communicating properly. Garnet sees, hears, and feels things, but his brain fails to process them correctly. The Key of G is a sad, but in many ways inspiring documentary that reveals how someone with Garnet’s challenges can still lead a rich and rewarding life.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Punk’s Not Dead
In the vein of last year’s Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey, Punk’s Not Dead explores an oft maligned and misunderstood genre of music. Director Susan Dynner explores the social discontent and unrest that laid the foundation for punk. She interviews some of the most influential artists of the punk movement such as Black Flag, The Sex Pistols, Minor Threat, etc. Dynner also looks at the evolution of the punk genre and how the sound and feel of punk has been successfully co-opted by a number of current "pop punk" bands. Punk’s Not Dead offers a compelling and insightful look into a profoundly influential genre of music.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Everything’s Cool
In the wake of An Inconvenient Truth, global warming has unquestionably become a hot (forgive the pun) topic as of late, opening the doors for films such as the darkly comedic documentary, Everything’s Cool. The film tracks a group of global warming messengers who in their own words, "seek to reduce the chasm between scientific understanding and political action." Regardless of your individual stance on the issue, Everything’s Cool manages to entertain while providing some enlightening insights into the convoluted issue of global warming.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

World Cinema

Private Fears in Public Places
Alain Resnais is back with yet another intriguing (and darkly amusing) gem that examines the complicated inner and outer lives of six Parisians during one snowy winter. Somewhat reminiscent of Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, Private Fears in Public Places deftly intertwines the lives of these six Parisians examining their respective challenges in connecting with others in often clever and humorous ways.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

New Directors

The Heavenly Kings
The Bay Area’s Daniel Wu is one of Hong Kong’s biggest movie stars. Where does one go once the Hong Kong box office has been conquered? Form Hong Kong’s biggest boyband, "Alive", of course! The Heavenly Kings is a quasi-documentary that takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the formation of Hong Kong’s biggest boyband comprised of four actors cum "musicians". Wu’s directorial debut never fails to amuse as we witness the fairly absurd manufacturing of a boyband that arguably has little more talent than some karaoke bar regulars.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Along the Ridge
Vaguely reminiscent of Italian neorealism, Along The Ridge follows the largely painful trials and tribulations of an eleven-year old boy, Tommy. Tommy’s philandering mother Stefania has left him, his sister, and father behind to fend for themselves. Compounding an already stressful situation is the volatility and instability of Tommy’s father, Renato, who lashes out at Tommy and his sister regularly. If familial torment is your bag, Along The Ridge more than ably delivers.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Rocket Science
Rounding things out is the narrative feature directorial debut of Jeffrey Blitz (he was the director of the breakout documentary hit Spellbound). Just as Spellbound focused on a number of extraordinarily talented, but quirky young people, Rocket Science also revolves around a number of exceptionally talented young debaters, who are a bit on the eccentric side as well. Plagued by a marked stuttering problem, Hal Hefner (Reece Thompson) in a bizarre turn is invited by the attractive Juliet (Lisbeth Bartlett) to join the debate team. Seduced by the possibility of getting closer to Juliet, the awkward Hal stumbles into a bizarre plot that opens his eyes to the mysteries of life, love, and everything in between.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

For SFIFF details and showtimes: