SF Film Festival pick of the crop 

Out of the hundreds of festival films, here’s just a handful of personal choices — based on preference for the unusual, the civilized, and substance over flash.

‘Ad Lib Night’

Country:Korea (2006)

Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Director: Lee Yoon-ki

Screens: May 7, 9 p.m.; May 8, 3:45 p.m. and May 10, 5 p.m. at the Kabuki

A young woman in Seoul resembles the estranged daughter of a dying man. She is asked to pretend to be the other woman to ease the last moments of the father. Instead of a soap, the film turns out to be complex, unpredictable and fascinating. Hyo-ju Han, playing the girl, makes a huge impression.

‘All in This Tea’

Countries: USA/China (2006)

Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Directors: Les Blank, Gina Leibrecht

Screens: Sun., 4:45 p.m. and Wed., 4 p.m. at Kabuki

Passion combined with expertise makes an exciting story, whatever the subject. Here, it’s all about tea, specifically on the Chinese branch of the ancient preoccupation with the brew. Follow Marin tea importer David Lee Hoffmann’s quest for the very best, cost be damned. And what is Werner Herzog doing in the film?


Country: Japan (2006)

Running time: 2 hours, 7 minutes

Director: Kore-eda Hirokazu

Screens: Sat., 4:30 p.m. and Wed., 6:45 p.m. at the Kabuki; May 5, 5:45 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive

The director of the quirky contemporary urban drama "Nobody Knows" pays loving tribute to Kurosawa with this vibrant historical drama about the ronin, samurai without masters wandering as the old order falls apart. Junichi Okada and Rie Miyazawa (memorably of "Tony Takitani") are superb, along with the large cast.

‘Love for Sale: Suely in the Sky’

Countries: Brazil/Germany/France/Portugal (2006)

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Director: Karim Ainouz

Screens: May 4, 9:45 p.m., May 7, 6:15 p.m. at Kabuki

Karim Ainouz’s "Madame Sata" was a big hit here four seasons ago, and lively, robust "Love for Sale" is sure to follow suit. Hermila Guedes plays the role of a spunky, down-on-her-luck woman who sets up business in a small northeastern town in Brazil, selling the only asset she has.

‘Wonders are Many’

Country: USA (2007)

Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Director: Jon Else

Screens: Sat., 9 p.m. at the Castro; Mon. and May 3, 6:30 p.m. at the Kabuki

This drama of global import is all local: Jon Else’s documentary is about J. Robert Oppenheimer’s leadership in developing the atom bomb, John Adams’ "Doctor Atomic" premiering at the San Francisco Opera and director Peter Sellars charming and cursing his way through preparations so that the saga of the Bomb didn’t turn out to be one.

‘The Yacoubian Building’

Country: Egypt (2006)

Running time: 2 hours, 52 minutes

Director: Marwan Hamed

Screens: May 6, 2 p.m.; May 9, 1:30 p.m. and May 10, 7 p.m. at the Kabuki

Lives intersect in this Cairo apartment house along with Egyptian past and present. Religions, family traditions and the contemporary world mix in a historical, and yet human-scale story, including family feuds, Islamic revolutionaries and police brutality — all told clearly and well. At three hours, "The Yacoubian Building" goes by in a flash.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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