A Personal Look At The San Francisco International Film Festival 2012

Behold – my tickets

Yesterday marked the end of the San Francisco International Film Festival and its fifteen days worth of world cinema. While I wasn’t able to see as many things as I would have liked, I did get to see films that I know I probably would not have been able to see elsewhere.

The first film I saw was entitled The Fourth Dimension, which was directed by three directors: Harmony Korine, Alexy Fedorchenko  and Jan Kwiecinski. The screening I attended was actually the world premiere of the film, which I must say is probably not like anything else you’re likely to see this year. The following day I was lucky enough to conduct an interview with all three of the filmmakers, which you can read here.

Barbara Kopple at a Q&A after the screening of her film Harlan County USA

The next film I saw was Barbara Kopple’s 1976 Academy Award-winning documentary Harlan County USA. The director was on hand before the film to receive the festival’s Persistence of Vision award. She also gave a Q&A after the film’s screening. Sadly, it was cut short by a fire alarm (which proved to be a false alarm), but for the ten minutes or so that Kopple talked, her passion and dedication to the art of documentary filmmaking was palpable.

Frank Langella in Robot and Frank

Later that evening I saw Robot and Frank, with the director Jake Schreier and writer Christopher D. Ford in attendance before and doing a Q&A afterwards. The film is set in “the near future” and is just bleak enough to be interesting, but not so bleak as to be wholly depressing. I expect an Oscar push for Langella later this fall, as he gives one of his best performances ever in this film.

On Monday, April 23rd I started the day with a very depressing French-funded film called La terre outragée (Land of Oblivion), which was set the day before the historic nuclear accident at Chernobyl in the Ukraine and then dealt with the aftermath ten years later. Here we have an example of a bleak, bleak film.

Luckily, my depression caused from said film all but vanished later that night over at the Castro Theatre, where Merrill Garbus of tUne-yArDs presented live scores to Buster Keaton and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle shorts. You can read more of my reactions to that event here.

Mathieu Kassovitz in L’ordre et la morale (Rebellion)

I wasn’t able to see another film until that Thursday, April 25th with Mathieu Kassovitz’s L’ordre et la morale (Rebellion), which tells the story of a hostage taking in the French colony of  New Caledonia in 1988. This film was kind of a hybrid between a tense political thriller and an anti-war war film. I dare you to get through this film without being really frustrated with the French government.

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