The San Francisco Film Society wrapped its 54th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 21–May 5) with 265 screenings of 193 films from 48 countries, which were attended by 278 filmmakers and industry guests from 22 countries around the globe. An enthusiastic Festival crowd filled the Castro Theatre Thursday night for the Closing Night film, Mattieu Amalric’s On Tour, which was accompanied by a randy performance by Mimi Le Meaux, Kitten on the Keys, Evie Lovelle and Roky Roulette, four of the burlesque dancers in the film. Festival director Graham Leggat brought the 54th International to a close by announcing the winners of juried prizes and the Audience Awards. It all came to a rollicking crescendo at the raucous afterparty in SoMA at the Factory, where the burlesque performers spewed feathers from their nethers for hours on end. Anyone who witnessed the pogo-sticking Roky Roulette whip off his jeans in one deft move mid-hop on the Factory stage will never forget it.
Read the complete list of winners of Golden Gate Awards, the New Directors Prize and the FIPRESCI Prize.
Read a wrap report on the Festival, including attendance figures, prominent guests in attendance and audience award winners.
SCOOP DU JOUR PRINT EDITORS Damon O’Donnell, Michael Read. PRINT REPORTERS Robert Avila, Maria Belilovskaya, Kathryn Hassanein, Gustavus Kundahl, Monique Montibon, Kim Nunley, Jennifer Preissel, Ryan Prendiville and Galina Stoletneya. VIDEO REPORTER Erin Coker. VIDEO EDITOR Harlen Mallis. VIDEOGRAPHER Paige Bierma. ASSISTANT VIDEOGRAPHER Shani Heckmann. PHOTOGRAPHERS Pamela Gentile, Tommy Lau, Pat Mazzera. PRODUCTION TEAM Barbara del Rio, Howie Severson, Mihai Manoliu. MUSIC DIRECTOR Marc Capelle. CREATIVE DIRECTOR Miguel Pendás.
To wrap things up, following is some bonus Scoop coverage for events you might have missed.A Rich Discussion
The group assembled at SFIFF54 for the premiere of Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine’s documentary about the early days of venture capitalism, Something Ventured, included several of its early pioneers: Arthur Rock, Tom Perkins and Don Valentine as well as entrepreneurs Mike Markkula and Nolan Bushnell.
The documentary presents the subjects as some of the most influential men of the last century, responsible for driving technical innovations that enabled the space program, genetic engineering, and home computing. The packed house at the Kabuki seemed to agree. Codirector Dan Geller thanked everyone for taking the time to participate in the film (Consider their hourly rate.) For some, it was personal. Rock stated, “It’s very important, at least to me, that the story gets out correctly.” And Tom Perkins pointed out, “The culture of venture capital as it evolved in the Bay Area has been one of a very high ethical standard. There’s never been a venture capital scandal, yet there’s no end of Wall Street scandals.”
The Q&A also featured questions about women in the field. An audience member asked the assembled to name emerging female VCs, and following an unencouraging response, producer Paul Holland offered a list of names, saying, “I wouldn’t try to gloss it over and say that issues of inequality are gone. But I have three daughters, and when I think of them coming of age I would want them to compete for venture capital from the firms represented here and others like it, because I think that it is one of the most meritocratic experiences they could have in life.” Cisco founder Sandy Lerner, the only woman in the doc, was regrettably absent from the theater. Arthur Rock, one of the early innovators of VC, said “What you’ve got to realize is that we’re the older generation here.” (Or, as filmmaker Dayna Goldfine put it, the Mad Men of Silicon Valley.)
They acknowledged that times were changing, not just in terms of gender, but also geographically. “What used to be Westward, ho! is now Eastward, ho!” said Don Valentine, pointing towards the development of Asia as a center of innovation. And he seconded Rock’s criticism of visa restrictions on highly skilled foreign workers, saying “We’re talking about people with masters and PhDs and they’re talking about losing jobs at McDonald’s.” This part of discussion came after someone asked what regulations were necessary in the financial industry. “Regulations are never needed,” said Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, who came back from Burning Man to be interviewed for the documentary. It got a laugh, but when Valentine added, “Some of us, in a nonprovocative way, might suggest that the government go away,” it became less clear whether anyone was joking.
A trim Black woman, dressed to impress, turned to her husband as she was leaving the theater. “Hold on a second,” she told him, “I’m going to see if I can get their business cards.” —RPMasters of the Universe
New to the San Francisco International Film Festival this year was the Master Class series, a collection of three sessions, each offering a unique, intimate look at the inner-workings involved in creating cinema. The series featured acclaimed guests, including French film critic Jean-Michel Frodon, who discussed the ever-evolving roles of film critics; legendary screenwriter Frank Pierson, who offered a step-by-step look at writing the 1975 film Dog Day Afternoon; and Alison Dickey and Azazel Jacobs, makers of this year’s Centerpiece film, Terri, who discussed the working relationship between the producer and director.
Renowned producer and screenwriter Frank Pierson, known for penning numerous films including Presumed Innocent, as well as being the one responsible for the famous declaration in Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate,” shared his process of developing Dog Day Afternoon. Pierson discussed the struggle he had writing the main character, who was based on real-life bank robber John Wojtowicz, without having had the opportunity to talk with Wojtowicz. “I was ready to quit, but I had already spent the advance from [Warner Brothers] and I was going through a divorce.” He tried to look for consistent traits expressed about Wojtowicz from those he did talk to. “I found that all of the characters felt betrayed [by Wojtowicz]. In every case he was always making a promise that he would do good things for them.”
Since meeting in 1997, producer Alison Dickey and Azazel Jacobs were looking for a project to work together on, and they expressed their shared determination to get Terri finished, no matter the challenges. Despite the up and downs securing finances, the pair, “kept proceeding as if funding was coming.” “Really, what we did was just start making the movie,” Dickey said. “When people ask, ‘How do I start?’ You just break it down and start on what you can.”
Although Terri has already received critical acclaim, offering such acclaim is not what critics should be doing, according to French critic Jean-Michel Frodon. He argued that the work of film critics has been simplified in the United States, now offering a simple ‘thumbs up or down’ rating for film. “A critic is not meant to impose on people’s taste,” he argued. “It is to try and elaborate, because you have a bigger understanding.” —KNInto Adulthood
The Centerpiece film Terri proved to be a sweet and tender bridge for the upcoming films and events at SFIFF 54’s second week. With Terri, Azazel Jacobs—director of the acclaimed Momma’s Man and son of avant-garde filmmaker Ken Jacobs—takes a new, fresh turn in the stream of countless coming-of-age stories on the high school dysfunction by crafting a larger-than-life personality of an outcast teenager with a big heart. It is almost impossible to imagine the film without the discovery of Jacob Wysocki, who plays the main protagonist—an awkward kid burdened with having to carry around his ungainly pajama-clad body and take care of his mildly mentally ill uncle (Creed Bratton). The inimitable John C. Reilly, in his role of the high school's assistant principal who takes special interest in the troubled student, balances out the somber tone of Terri’s existence by adding a gentle, comic touch of a similarly lonely, troublesome adulthood. Following last Saturday’s screening to a packed Kabuki Theater, there were bursts of applause for Wysocki, Bratton and, of course, Reilly. The crew spoke about the creative collaboration and discussed with the audience the easily recognizable plights of growing up. For Wysocki, who had to come in pajamas to the first audition only to spend several hours in a bathtub, the experience became a crash course in acting. Reilly, claiming to have always wanted to play a school counselor, cited as a source of inspiration his guidance counselor in high school, a certain Mr. Cummings. The highly enjoyable evening of laughter ended with a chic lounge party at CLIFT, where filmmakers, actors and spectators danced all their post-adolescent anxieties away. —GS
Today’s Scoop contributors are Ryan Prendiville, Kim Nunley and Galina Stoletneya.