The Mostly British Film Festival fills local niche 

The Mostly British Film Festival launches its third annual lineup Thursday, and Anglophiles and cinema lovers of all stripes are likely to find something to savor.

Domestic dramas, war stories, culture-clash comedies, gangster flicks, award-winning documentaries and a quirky indie about two traveling psychics are on the bill — some before a regular theatrical run and some that local filmgoers may otherwise never have the chance to see.

Twenty-six films from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand screen at the festival, whose talent lineup includes Om Puri, Rachel Ward, Colin Firth, Michael Caine and two yodeling, joke-telling twins. Show dates are Thursday through Feb. 10 at the Vogue Theatre in San Francisco and the Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael.

While films made by notables such as Mike Leigh or containing stories about dysfunctional royals tend to receive U.S. distribution, many worthy British films aren’t so lucky. Mostly British helps bring such fare to Bay Area audience, filling a “British niche.”

“The festival has become quite successful in a short period of time,”  says Jack Bair, cofounder of Mostly British and one of the founders of the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation, which owns the Vogue Theatre and is presenting Mostly British with the California Film Institute.

Bair also cites the support of the local community and the appeal of a neighborhood-theater setting as elements in the festival’s favor.

“West Is West,” the sequel to the 1999 dramedy “East Is East,” opens the festival. The film depicts generational culture clashes in a 1970s Manchester family, with Om Puri again portraying the Pakistan-born patriarch.

Also new from Britain is “Cameraman,” a documentary about renowned cinematographer Jack Cardiff (“Black Narcissus”).

“Dorian Gray,” meanwhile, is an over-the-top rendition of Oscar Wilde’s story starring Colin Firth and Ben Barnes.

“Skeletons” is a whimsical, melancholy-tinged Scottish comedy centering on two traveling clairvoyants.

Oldies include “Get Carter” and “The Ipcress File” — British noir gems screening back-to-back and starring an early-career Michael Caine.

Australia’s vital cinema, too, receives spotlight, with the fact- based World War I drama “Beneath Hill 60” topping the bill.

Also look for the Aboriginal love story “Samson & Delilah,” and the award-winning documentary “Contact.” The latter revisits the first contact, in 1964, of a desert-dwelling Aboriginal tribe with the outside world.

From New Zealand comes “Topp Twins.” Two yodeling, joking lesbian twins are profiled in this popular documentary.

“Boy,” also from New Zealand, closes the festival. The childhood experiences of Maori filmmaker Taika Waititi inspired the coming-of-age crowd-pleaser.


Mostly British Film Festival

Vogue Theatre, 3290 Sacramento St., San Francisco

When: Thursday through Feb. 10

Tickets: $10 to $30 per screening; $55 to $75 pass includes admission to films and parties

Contact: (415) 346-2288,

Note: Screenings also are Sunday through Feb. 10 at Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St., San Rafael; call (415) 454-1222 or visit

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Anita Katz

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