Set amid arrests and subsequent trials surrounding the 2008 Republican National Convention, this portrait of two young activists caught in the web of an opportunistic mentor and a desperate justice system poignantly describes both the problems of power and the power of forgiveness and love.
GOLDEN GATE DOCUMENTARY FEATURE AWARD: BETTER THIS WORLD
This intimate look at the coming together of a female prisoner and the two pro bono lawyers fighting for her release is a must-see documentary for those interested in the power of film to change the course of events. Shot over a five-and-a-half year period, the saga of one woman’s case resounds with broader social implications.
GOLDEN GATE INVESTIGATIVE DOCUMENTARY FEATURE AWARD: CRIME AFTER CRIME
North Korean defector Seung-chul is a refugee living on the harsh edges of Seoul. Bewildered by exploitative employers and cynical urbanites, he’s no good for business. A powerful realism underscores this prize-winning feature debut about the struggle to survive in a strange new world.
With an enthralling central performance by Gilbert Sicotte, this masterful debut feature examines the life of the top car salesman in a fading Quebec town as events challenge the 67-year-old’s sense of identity and the meaning of life at the most profound level.
The Film Society is proud to present the 2011 Founder's Directing Award to three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone, one of the most popular and respected filmmakers in the United States. Stone will be honored at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas with an onstage interview about his extensive directing career and a selection of clips from his films will be followed by a screening of Salvador on the 25th anniversary of its release.
The Film Society is proud to present the 2011 Peter J. Owens Award to an iconic actor that has created memorable onscreen characters with a remarkable blend of élan, intensity and charisma for nearly fifty years. Terence Stamp will be honored with an onstage interview about his extensive acting career, and a selection of clips from his films will be followed by a screening of one of his signature works: Federico Fellini's phantasmagoric masterpiece Toby Dammit.
This year's Persistence of Vision Award recipient, multimedia artist Matthew Barney, joins the Festival for an onstage interview followed by a screening of Drawing Restraint 17, the latest installment in his monumental Drawing Restraint series, which merges sculpture, athleticism and cryptic symbolism into a stunning meditation on art-making and physical exertion.
The Kanbar Award for excellence in screenwriting acknowledges the crucial role that screenwriting plays in the creation of great films. This year's recipient is Frank Pierson, the voice behind some of the freshest and most enduring films in the canon of American cinema, including Cool Hand Luke and Dog Day Afternoon.
Named in honor of legendary San Francisco film exhibitor Mel Novikoff (1922–1987), this award is given to an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the filmgoing public's knowledge and appreciation of world cinema. This special program hosted by Novikoff Award recipient Serge Bromberg presents early examples of 3-D motion pictures as well as some contemporary gems with gifted raconteur Bromberg himself providing a delightful piano accompaniment. Photo by Pamela Gentile.
Each year, the Film Society invites an industry leader to ruminate on the intersecting worlds of contemporary cinema, culture and society. This year, indie film maverick Christine Vachon discusses her remarkable career.
Tindersticks, the groundbreaking British chamber rock band known for its distinctive orchestral sound and the baritone of lead vocalist Stuart Staples, will perform the scores that they have created for six films of French director Claire Denis. Viewed—and heard—anew, Denis’s singular images will soar as the band’s live music envelopes the majestic Castro Theatre.
LIVE & ONSTAGE: TINDERSTICKS: CLAIRE DENIS FILM SCORES
A graphic artist (Ewan McGregor) who has always been unlucky in love embarks on a new relationship and gradually absorbs the lessons imparted by his father (Christopher Plummer), who emerges from a long, passionless marriage at 75 and comes out of the closet, refusing to let even a cancer diagnosis blunt his eagerness to let love into his life.
Terri is a heavy, shambling, pajama-wearing junior high student, the physical incarnation of all the insecurity and awkwardness that accompanies emerging adolescence. When vice principal Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly) tags Terri as an at-risk student, an unexpected friendship blooms between two misfits in this hilariously touching tale of youth in transition.
French actor Mathieu Amalric directs and stars in this sexy yet wistful comedy about a disgraced French TV producer making a comeback with a troupe of buxom, brassy American burlesque performers touring the French countryside. Their manager may be seeking redemption, but these ladies are pros, so regardless of the outcome the show must go on.
This debut feature—winner of a Sundance Film Festival Audience Award—is an exhilarating political drama and love story about a burgeoning romance between two young Iranian women and the fraught allegiances of a single Tehrani family.
The director of such cult hits as Ichi the Killer (SFIFF 2002) changes pace with this well-crafted homage to the glory years of '60s Japanese samurai films. A noble warrior played by Koji Yakusho (Babel) is charged with organizing a dirty dozen's worth of men to assassinate a psychotic lord. The only thing between them and the job? Hundreds of killers.
Come meet the inimitable Zellner Bros.! The Austin-based filmmaking duo (Fiddlestixx, SFIFF 2010) will present selections from their considerable oeuvre of short films, the newest of which is a look at the mysteries of nature entitled Sasquatch Birth Journal 2. The Zellners' films run the gamut from heartfelt and touching to raucous and absurd, usually moment by moment.
In a crumbling town, a father prepares for death as his daughter awkwardly journeys into adulthood. Marina craves life amid her desolate world: She experiments with sex, rocks out to the band Suicide and watches nature documentaries on TV. As her father deteriorates, she tries to glean from him some of the secrets of life.
A Danish mother and daughter, living in a rundown house in Portugal, bemoan their vanished wealth and present circumstances. Through old photos and home movies and present-day footage, The Good Life constructs an insightful portrait of an eccentric, dysfunctional relationship.
Viorel negotiates bleak wintertime Bucharest with dispassion and an obscure anger. But when he begins planning a shooting, his predictable world gets recast in a new, mysterious light. This haunting portrait presents a penetrating revision of the traditional crime drama, subtracting the romance and keeping the doom.
This collage-style documentary combines recently rediscovered Swedish footage of the American 1967–75 Black Power movement with new and insightful commentary by leading African American artists, activists, musicians and scholars, all set to an evocative soundtrack with original music by Questlove of the Roots and Om'Mas Keith.
Children of all ages will root for the undercats in this beautifully animated caper set against the cityscape of Paris. A sneaky feline, a mute girl, her police detective mom and a big-hearted cat burglar join forces to combat a gangster and his bumbling sidekicks.
Intrepid explorer of the exotic Werner Herzog is the first filmmaker allowed into the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc caverns in southern France, site of the world's oldest prehistoric art. Who better to ponder these enigmatic drawings? And what cinematic plunge into the unknown could be better served by 3-D?
Featuring candid discussion about hopes and dreams, love and heartbreak, family and friends, this engrossing documentary makes an inspired connection between classic literature and contemporary teen life in modern-day Marseille as one high school class studies the 17th-century novel La princesse de Clèves. With short Aglaée (20 min).
This eye-opening and bittersweet chronicle of the Yugoslavian film industry recounts how the cinema was used—often with direct intervention from President Josip Broz Tito—to create and recreate the young nation's history, replete with heroes and myths that didn't always hew closely to reality.
Every stage of life comes with its own set of challenges, but youth and old age are particularly fraught. This selection of narrative and documentary shorts covers this tricky territory with humor and pathos, from a kid who uses fake fangs to announce his nonconformity to an elderly woman whose extremely varied life establishes hers.
Detroit: A postapocalyptic landscape of decay or an empty pasture or the newest Mecca for urban pioneers? Filled with arresting images, this beautifully crafted travelogue focuses on people as well as ruins, and suggests that Detroit's possible futures are more complex than most of us might imagine.
Two wounded souls commiserate through drinking and aimless wandering while acting out the roles of the happy relationships that elude them in reality. Greta Gerwig and Olly Alexander deliver beautifully-tuned comic performances in their portrayal of young adults learning to cope with the unavoidable perils of emotional dependency.
Federico Fellini's classic panorama of "the sweet life" in postwar Rome sparkles anew in a gorgeous restored print. Marcello Mastroianni stars as a journalist floating between the decadent high society lifestyle he seeks with his rich lover and a Swedish bombshell, and the stifling domesticity offered by his suicidal girlfriend, all amid Italian society in glamorous decay.
This powerful documentary for the 21st century combines animation, minute-by-minute Twitter feeds, blog accounts and cell phone video footage alongside conventional on-camera testimonies to recount the abortive 2009 antigovernment Iranian revolt called the Green Wave—a revolution in flux, yet evergreen with hope.
In this black comedy the lives of a timid small-time printer and his young wife are turned inside out by the arrival of a stranger who moves in and takes over their world. Set in a village-like outpost in the heart of Tokyo, this is a wry commentary on Japanese xenophobia. Kiki Sugino heads a spritely ensemble cast.
This finely acted, delicate and provocative new film by one of France's most impressive filmmakers—working here with his son, Nathan—depicts the troubled life of an adopted boy who, as a taciturn adult, visits his birth mother and strikes up a relationship fraught with tension and emotion.
This gloriously sprawling Academy Award–nominated epic has Canadian twins traveling to the Middle East, charged by their late mother's will with finding their long-lost father and a brother they didn't know existed. Along the way, they uncover the scars left on their mother's life by the war she fled, and the sources of her mental and emotional instability.
Jean Remy is a Haitian man struggling to find employment in the Dominican Republic. Confronted with rejection and discrimination in the city, he sets off to try his luck in the countryside. Imbued with a naturalistic grace, this deeply sympathetic portrait speaks eloquently to the trials of humanity.
Uplifting and unconventional, this tale of genocide and reconciliation in Rwanda uses a series of parallel and overlapping narratives from various Tutsi and Hutu perspectives. Together, they illuminate the complex fabric of life in Rwanda, while dramatizing the sites of refuge during the 100-day rampage.
This inspiring coming-of-age story about a preteen girl dealing with several family crises, including her mother's battle with AIDS, pits the community-ravaging effects of teenage prostitution, alcoholism, infant mortality and the HIV epidemic against a single household and one heartbreakingly resilient child.
An invigorating mix of genres gives us a humorous, and ultimately tragic, story about Julie, a 23-year-old French woman trying to make it on her own. Floundering in her attempts to hold a job and reckless in love, she makes a bid for freedom with a charming young man of dubious employment.
Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters' infamous cross-country trip from California to Tomorrowland at the New York World's Fair was documented in 16mm film, audio recordings and photographs. These rich sources were recently unearthed and in this transporting documentary breathe new life into a special moment in American history and the counterculture.
Michelle Williams stars in Reichardt's (Wendy and Lucy) eagerly anticipated new feature. Three families take a perilous journey along the Oregon Trail in 1845. Led astray and running out of water, they must wrestle with where to place their trust in this fine-tuned drama that resonantly strips away the grandeur of the mythic Old West.
The Midnight Awards were created to honor a dynamic young actor and actress who have made outstanding contributions to independent and Hollywood cinema and bring intelligence, talent and depth of character to their roles. This year's recipients are Clifton Collins, Jr. and Zoe Saldana.
At once a detailed social history of 16th-century Flemish life and a keen study of the artistic imagination, Lech Majewski's brilliant film brings to life before our eyes The Way to Calvary, Pieter Bruegel's dense frieze of Christ's passion set within a busy rustic Flanders scene.
Counts and Fathers, Marquis and Madames, orphans and nobility all spin their yarns in Ruiz's magisterial new gambit on the art of storytelling, based on a 19th-century Portuguese novel yet more like Dickens filtered through a surrealist's gaze. It's a tale of tales, all set in a decadent, baroque old-world Portugal.
The 18th-century Indian painter Nainsukh of Guler receives a poetic, visually stunning tribute from a young Indian filmmaker employing an arresting pictorial language. Shot in the region where Nainsukh produced his most celebrated work, this is a meditative and meticulous recreation of the world of an artistic genius.
The renowned Chilean documentarian goes to one of the highest, driest places on earth, the Atacama Desert, to examine the work of astronomers who search the skies to understand our universe at the same time that relatives of those disappeared under the Pinochet dictatorship search the sands for the bodies of the victims.
Kitano's long-awaited return to the gangster genre is a startling attack on the morally corrupt power structures and hypocritical honor system of the Japanese yakuza, where "loyalty" is just another word for betrayal. A powerful syndicate boss orders a low-level chief (Kitano) to "send a message," and in the process triggers an all-out war.
Sampat Pal Devi, founder of India's Gulabi ("Pink") Gang and fearless defender of the rights of untouchable women, challenges husbands, fathers-in-law and policemen in this immersive study by acclaimed documentarian Kim Longinotto. More than a profile of an everyday heroine, the film captures the courage and sacrifice necessary for social progress.
A young biracial woman raised in France travels to Burkina Faso in search of the mother she hasn't seen in many years. Meanwhile, in Paris, an émigré from Burkina Faso who makes her living as a cleaner teaches the Dioula language to a white middle-class office worker, in this affecting story of global displacement.
To every thing there is a season in this disarmingly lovely, surprisingly humorous and moving meditation on the revolving cycles of life in a quiet medieval hilltop hamlet in Calabria, Italy, where tree-climbing villagers peacefully coexist with scene-stealing goats, a troublemaking dog and a tenacious pot of snails.
This psychological drama and coming-of-age story explores the friendship and rivalry between two teenage girls competing for a spot on the local equestrian vaulting team. Manipulating each other with physical challenges and budding sexuality, they find themselves locked in an escalating battle for control that only one of them can win.
The rites and rituals of the Merja people, an ethnic minority from the Volga region of Russia, form the backbone of this lyrical, sensual and dreamlike film about love and loss. After his beloved wife dies, Miron calls on his best friend, photographer (and the film's narrator) Aist, to help him with his final goodbye.