Local flavor mixes with world cinema at S.F. International Film Festival 

“What Maisie Knew,” a film directed by David Siegel and Scott McGehee and based on a Henry James novel, opens the 56th S.F. International Film Festival. See selected highlights below the article. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • “What Maisie Knew,” a film directed by David Siegel and Scott McGehee and based on a Henry James novel, opens the 56th S.F. International Film Festival. See selected highlights below the article.

Under the guidance of its new executive director Ted Hope, the 56th annual San Francisco International Film Festival promises to be an exciting affair.

Opening April 25, the 15-day event hosts 95 feature films and full-length documentaries and 63 shorts.

The 2013 lineup, announced Tuesday, is dedicated to the memory of George Gund III, longtime board chairman of the San Francisco Film Society, the festival’s parent organization, who died in January.

“A festival staple for 40 years, George’s generosity supported the growth of the Film Society into the year-round organization it is today,” Hope said.

Hope, a veteran film producer with several independent film companies including Good Machine and Double Hope Films, moved from New York in the fall to lead the Film Society. He is succeeding the late Bingham Ray and Graham Leggat.

Earning the title “international,” the festival will present only 37 U.S. productions or co-productions among its 95 full-length films.

At the same time, this year’s offerings have a stronger local emphasis than in past years. Among honorees and participants are Bay Area icons such as Philip Kaufman, earning a directing award, and filmmakers Les Blank, Dan Krauss and Kalyanee Mam.

Former locals David Siegel and Scott McGehee directed the opening-night film, “What Maisie Knew,” featuring Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan. The contemporary adaptation of Henry James’ 1897 novel about an unraveling marriage’s impact on a young child screens at 7 p.m. at Castro Theatre, followed by a gala party at Temple Nightclub.

Rick Prelinger and Robert Reich are the subject of the event’s centerpiece presentation. “Inequality for All,” an award-winning documentary about the widening gap between rich and poor. The film screens at 6:30 p.m. May 4 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.

Richard Linklater’s “Before Midnight,” at 7 p.m. May 9 at the Castro, is the closing feature. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy again play Jesse and Céline, who  met on a train 18 years ago in Linklater’s 1995 “Before Sunrise” and met up again in his 2004 “Before Sunset.” The romance continues, but now the characters embrace (or fight) middle age.

In the world cinema spotlight is “Mob Rules: The Enduring Popularity of Gangster Cinema,” a genre originating in the U.S., and now spreading worldwide. New South Korean, Russian and Japanese films are featured.


56th annual  S.F. International Film Festival

  • Where: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St.; New People Cinema, 1746 Post St.; Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street
  • When: April 25 through May 9
  • Tickets: $15 general for most screenings; $80 opening night  
  • Contact: (415) 561-5000, http://festival.sffs.org

Selected highlights

  • “Stories We Tell”: Sarah Polley, director of “Away From Her,” presents a personal documentary about her family that explores the history of her mother, who died when the filmmaker was a child.
    [6:15 p.m. April 29, 1:30 p.m. April 30, Kabuki]
  • “Leviathan”:  The unusual, hypnotic documentary by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel is about the commercial fishing industry in the North Atlantic. [9:30 p.m. April 26, 4:15 p.m. April 28, Kabuki]
  • “Key of Life”: Kenji Uchida’s comic, upbeat twist on a suspense story is about a failed actor unwittingly switching identities with a stranger, who turns out to be an elite assassin. [12:45 p.m.
    April 27, 6 p.m. May 1, Kabuki]
  •  “Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time”: Yoon Jong-bin directed what reviewers hail as the best recent South Korean gangster film — high praise in a crowded field of a prime movie genre there. [9:45 p.m. April 27, 9:30 p.m. May 2 and 1:15 p.m. May 3, Kabuki]
  • “Marketa Lazarová”: Frantisek Vlácil’s 1967 starkly dramatic and surreal work about medieval times, when Christianity was forcefully replacing paganism, is considered by many as the greatest Czech film of all time. [8:45 p.m. May 3, New People]
  • “Sing Me a Song that Says I Love You”: The film showcases memorial concerts and memories of Anna McGarrigle, who wrote and performed with her sister, Kate, and is the mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright.
    [1 p.m., May 2, and 9:30 p.m. May 4, Kabuki]

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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