Variety is spice of San Francisco International Film Festival 

click to enlarge Fairy tale: From left, Damian Lewis, Perry Eggleton and Bob Hoskins appear in “Will,” director Ellen Perry’s moving story about an English boy’s love of soccer. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Fairy tale: From left, Damian Lewis, Perry Eggleton and Bob Hoskins appear in “Will,” director Ellen Perry’s moving story about an English boy’s love of soccer.

Nearly 200 movies by dozens of directors from across the world are lined up for the 55th San Francisco International Film Festival, opening next week and running through May 3. Here’s a brief look at just a few exceptional offerings:

In England, soccer is more a religion than a sport. For Will, an 11-year-old in an orphanage, it provides a focus to deal with the multiple traumas of the reappearance of his father after a long absence and his dad’s subsequent sudden death. His impossible dream is to use a ticket his father left him to attend his Liverpool team’s championship game in Istanbul.

The boy’s trans-European adventure is a Dickensian fairy tale, moving and often excessively sentimental. Director Ellen Perry heads a sterling cast, including Perry Eggleton as the title character, Alice Krige, Damian Lewis, Bob Hoskins and Kristian Kiehling as a Bosnian soccer player, who helps Will while completing his own difficult journey. [11:30 a.m. April 22 and 6 p.m. May 1 at the Kabuki]

Step Up to the Plate
Paul Lacoste’s documentary is a saga about a family that  runs a Michelin-recognized restaurant in rural southwestern France. Reluctantly retiring, master chef Michel Bras follows tradition by handing over the business to his son. Sébastien, the man and chef, is different from his father, but the love of family and profession, and passionate dedication to the restaurant, bind the two together. [6 p.m. April 27 and 3:45 p.m. April 28 at the Kabuki]

Wuthering Heights
Hollywood seemingly forever put its stamp on Emily Brontë’s 1847 book “Wuthering Heights” with William Wyler’s 1939 film; it’s difficult to think of Catherine and Heathcliff without visualizing Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier. Yet viewers happily get a different picture in this new version, with the relatively little-known Kaya Scodelario and newcomer James Howson in the lead roles.  

Oscar-winning actor-director-writer Andrea Arnold has come up with a new, gritty, less romantic, more dramatic version. The script introduces Heathcliff as a “dark-skinned gypsy.” Howson, 24, a convicted drug dealer who rose to festival fame with this film debut, is currently being prosecuted for “racial abuse” of his Asian girlfriend, and also recommitted to psychiatric care. [6:45 p.m. May 2 and 3 p.m. May 3 at San Francisco Film Society Cinema]


55th S.F. International Film Festival

Where: Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., S.F. · S.F. Film Society Cinema, 1746 Post St., S.F. · Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., S.F. · SFMOMA, 151 Third St., S.F. · Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
When: April 19 through May 3
Tickets: $11 to $13 most films; more for special events
Contact: (415) 561-5000,

Main attractions
Opening night: Benoît Jacquot’s “Farewell, My Queen,” a historical drama about the French Revolution, screens. [7 p.m. April 19, Castro]

Persistence of Vision Award: Barbara Kopple appears before a screening of her Oscar-winning documentary, “Harlan County, USA.” [3:30 p.m.April 22, Kabuki]

Founders Directing Award: Kenneth Branagh appears in an onstage interview at a screening of his film “Dead Again.” [7:30 p.m. April 27, Castro]

Centerpiece presentation: Lynn Shelton’s “Your Sister’s Sister” features Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass. [7 p.m. April 28, Kabuki]

Closing night: Ramona Diaz’s “Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey” follows the band Journey on tour and Filipino lead vocalist Arnel Pineda’s homecoming in Manila. [7 p.m. May 3, Castro]

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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