Rachel Rosen returns to ‘The International’ 

The folks working on the 53rd annual San Francisco International Film Festival, running Thursday through May 6, don’t call the event by that name or by the funny-sounding acronym SFIFF.

To them, it’s “The International.”

The handle is justified by statistics, as enumerated by Executive Director Graham Leggat: “Fifteen days, 176 films, some 100 filmmakers [in attendance], 80,000 filmgoers, 600 staff and volunteers, more than 300 hours of film, more than 200 million media impressions, roughly 100,000 Web visitors, and so on.”

In the driver’s seat is the director of programming, Rachel Rosen, who coordinates selections and is the person ultimately responsible for what festival-goers will see.

She also assures those who may ask that having the same name as the beautiful replicant with false memories in the classic 1982 “Blade Runner” is a meaningless coincidence.

The festival’s Rosen, 48, has many memories, though, and important film-festival positions.

Her career has taken her from her native Washington, to Brown University in Rhode Island, to New York (where she worked as a publicist at TriStar), to Stanford for a master’s degree in documentary film, to New York.

Her documentary “Serious Weather” has been shown at several festivals.

She met Peter Scarlett, then director of the San Francisco festival, on the East Coast and he encouraged her to come here in 1991.

She was a seasonal employee, working on publicity, program coordination and other tasks. She went back to New York, came here again and in 2001, went to the Los Angeles Film Festival as a programmer and later director of programming.

Last year, Rosen returned to The City to start work as program director. In a few months, she headed the effort that put the 200-page festival directory on the table.

Certain themes guide her work:

  • A preference for first-time directors (a tradition in San Francisco, which has given many famous directors their first big chance), and a seemingly coincidental favoring of films by more than one director.
  • “A return to beauty” and cinematic excellence; she cites the Malaysian-South Korean “Woman on Fire Looks for Water,” Sri Lanka’s “Between Two Worlds” and the French-Belgian “The Day God Walked Away” as examples.
  • “Unclassifiable” films, which “start out one way and then turn into something else.” Examples are “Alamar” from Mexico and “Port of Memory” from the United Arab Emirates.

Some films combine the themes.

  • “Marwencol,” a World War II documentary, she says, “has a sense of discovery, it surprises, provides information, but it’s not a conventional documentary.”
  • The French-German “Father of My Children” fits all of Rosen’s categories: By a new director, it’s a fictional narrative based loosely on real-life events, and it “surprises with its shifting focus and the way it provides perspective.”


IF YOU GO

53rd San Francisco International Film Festival

Where: Most screenings at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St.; Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St.; Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., San Francisco

When: Thursday through May 6

Tickets: $10 to $12.50; higher for special events

Contact: (925) 866-9559, www.sffs.org

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Bio:
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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