S.F. International film fest releases 50th year lineup 

Graham Leggat might have been inspired by Oscar Wilde in making plans for the San Francisco International Film Festival’s 50th season, unspooling between April 26 and May 10: "Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess."

Leggat, executive director of festival parent organization San Francisco Film Society, "surely would prefer "just right" to "excess," and if all goes well that will be true, too. From an observer’s initial viewpoint, however, the overabundance of SFIFF-50 is simply stunning.

Simply put, this is BIG. Look for yourself, at the festival's official web site.

(Courtesy photo)
"Golden Door" screens opening night of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

At a press conference announcing the festival lineup in San Francisco today, Leggat said, "We are proud and humble in presenting both an annual edition and the summation of the first 50 years."

How in this world of hundreds of competing film festivals do you get to put together some 220 different programs and live events including 108 feature films and 92 shorts from 54 countries, organize 25 juried awards, and present more than 100 notable filmmakersin person? No wonder an audience of 80,000 is expected during the event’s 15 days — and many times that number when including Internet participation.

No movie news — even of sophisticated festivals — is complete without name-dropping, so here’s just a taste of "look who’s coming to the banquet" — George Lucas (to receive the Irving Levin Award), Spike Lee (SFS Directing Award), Peter Sellars (to give the State of the Cinema address), Robin Williams (Peter J. Owens Award), Peter Morgan (Kanbar Award), film historian Kevin Brownlow (Mel Novikoff Award), Rosario Dawson and Sam Rockwell (Midnight Awards), a procession of actors, directors and even a Hollywood star or two.

The country’s oldest festival started modestly back in 1957, when Eisenhower was president, precious few "foreign films" were shown outside New York’s Thalia, gasoline was pumped for you by a uniformed attendant at 29 cents a gallon (19 cents during price wars), first class mail took a 3-cent stamp, and the Oscar went to "80 Days Around the World" — yes, that long ago.

Fifty years ago, the Metro Theater served as the festival venue; today, it’s all over the Bay: the newly renovated and renamed Sundance Kabuki Cinema, Castro Theatre, Museum of Modern Art, Cowell Theater at Fort Mason, Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, Landmark’s Aquarius Theater in Palo Alto, as well as several satellite and "nontraditional" venues, such as the McBean Theater, around a giant outdoor screen at Justin Herman Plaza, the Intersection for the Arts, and elsewhere.

As always at these festivals, great discoveries can be made at any old screening, so attention should not be limited to the special events, but here they are anyway:

  • Opening night is Emanuele Crialese’s historical drama, "Golden Door," with Charlotte Gainsbourg, about a Sicilian family’s immigration to America.

  • The Centerpiece presentation is Tom DiCillo’s comedy, "Delirious," about paparazzi.

  • Closing night features Olivier Dahan’s "La Vie en Rose," a film biography of Edith Piaf, with Marion Cotillard.

Here’s just a brief list from the others, brought to you by the letters A, B and C: "Ad Lib Night," "After This Our Exile," "Agua," "All in this Tea," "Along the Ridge," "Amour Legende," "Aria," "Audience of One," "Bamako," "Black Sheep," "Born and Bred," "Brand Upon the Brain," "Broken English," "Bunny Chow," "Caiman," "Carved Out of Pavement," Cecil B. "DeMille’s America," "Cold Prey," "Colossal Youth," "Congorama."

As with any film festival worth its salt, these titles mean nothing yet, unlike ad-saturated, endlessly promoted, over-hyped commercial newcomers. If after the festival, a place to make your own discoveries, some names are associated with lasting memories, it will be not only a huge event, but a good one as well.

Tickets, which go on sale Thursday, are $8 to $12 for most screenings and up to $125 for some special events. Call (925) 866-9559 or visit sffs.org.  

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Staff Report

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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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