Embarrassment of Riches

Hard Choices Need to be Made For Bay Area Cinephiles This Week

by Meredith Brody

Despite the fact that it has often been said that the San Francisco Bay Area is host to some 70 different film festivals, I rarely feel as though I can’t decide which screening to attend on any given night.

But, after spending last weekend wishing I could be in two places at once – SFFilm’s Doc Stories and The French Had a Name For It 4 – I anticipate the upcoming film traffic jam, with no less than 4 festivals and events calling my name, with extreme dread.








I chose the rare French film noirs over the enticingly-programmed documentaries because most of the docs will be appearing on local screens – including those in our very own homes – in short order. And I love Donald Malcolm’s exciting noir programming, which was especially enticing this year, with its three-film tribute to Jean Gabin and Jeanne Moreau double bill. But it was very difficult to miss Filmworker, Tony Zierra’s portrait of Stanley Kubrick’s right-hand man Leon Vitali, and the sure-to-be poignant The Final Year, following three key Obama officials in the last year of his presidency, in the presence of Director Greg Barker and subjects Samantha Power and Ben Rhodes.

But how to choose among the upcoming New Italian Cinema festival, the Fifteenth 3rd i INTERNATIONAL South Asian Film Festival, the Berlin and Beyond Autumn Showcase, and SFFilm’s daylong tribute to “The Art and Craft for The War for the Planet of the Apes” with actor Andy Serkis and VFX master Joe Letteri?

(And I’m not even throwing in the 17th Napa Valley Film Festival with a special emphasis on American Independent films and a section of movies about food and wine to accompany the many tastings and special dinners; or the year-round screenings at the Pacific Film Archive, or the newly-revitalized film program at SF MOMA.)

The New Italian Cinema program includes 19 different movies, opening with three at the Castro Theatre, and then moving over for four four-film days at the Vogue Theatre. Many are unknown quantities, as New Italian Cinema is known for presenting the work of young filmmakers. Seven dramatic features by up-and-coming directors—a number of whom will be in attendance—are featured in the City of Florence Award competition. The City of Florence Award, which honors a first or second feature by an Italian director, will be decided by audience ballot and announced before the Closing Night presentation of Nicolás Carreras’ The Duel of Wine. on Sunday, November 12. In addition to the seven features in competition, New Italian Cinema will showcase dramatic films by veteran Italian directors—as part of the Panorama Section—along with five award-winning documentaries. (EatDrinkFilms co-presents The Duel of Wine, a follow-up to The Ways of Wine (featured at Food Day, Film Day event), once again featuring wine expert Charlie Arturaola who played a fictionalized version of himself as a sommelier who lost his sense of taste in the first film. With his buds recovered he needs to find his way back into the wine world and becomes a “ghost taster” in this hilarious sequel.

The four-day Third i Festival includes more than a dozen films from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Canada, Australia, and the USA, screening at New People Cinema and the Castro Theatre, with an additional day in Palo Alto (November 18) at the Cinearts Palo Alto Square. I’m especially looking forward to the November 11th screening of the Tenth anniversary screening of the Bollywood classic Om Shanti Om at the Castro Theatre at 8:15 pm. It’s a wonderful film to experience with an audience.This fascinating article expounds upon Om Shanti Om’s witty homage to Hindi film, and will increase your enjoyment of it.

(Though the trailer does not have English subtitles the screening will though much of the movie is in English)

The Berlin and Beyond Autumn Showcase opened with two intriguing thrillers, Tiger Girl and The Verdict on November 9 at the Roxie, and continues at the Goethe Institut  on November 10 and 11. Though the dramatic pseudo bio FRITZ LANG is a stylish but flawed movie, I loved it, especially the creative mixture of documentary footage and recreations. The chance to see Lang’s classic M is always a treat and it follows. This is a movie that seen with an audience brings gasps. The Divine Order is a terrific selection for the closing film with it’s mixture of humor and serious look at why women in Switzerland still did not have the right to vote in 1970. The Swiss Official Entry for the 2018 Academy Awards as Best Foreign Film.

And SFFilm’s “Planet of the Apes” orgy starts at noon with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, continues at 2 pm with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, followed by a 6 pm conversation with Serkis and Letteri, and a 7 pm screening of War for the Planet of the Apes.


Oops. I’ve just noticed that the Roxie is also the home, this weekend, for the twentieth edition of the San Francisco Transgender Film Festival (the “world’s first transgender film festival,” of course). Truly a cinematic banquet is being set out before us – and, as Auntie Mame said: “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

November could be called “Film Festival Central.”

Just wrapped:

Upcoming in December:

  • A Day of Silents– The San Francisco Silent Film Festivals Winter mini Fest is a full day, December 2, packed with surprises.
  • Noir City Xmas always delights and this year’s double feature won’t disappoint on December 20.

(Thank you to Lincoln Spector and his BayFlicks blog for keeping readers informed about festivals and other film screenings on a weekly basis. Worth a free subscription.)

proxyMeredith Brody, a graduate of both the Paris Cordon Bleu cooking school and USC film school, has been the restaurant critic for, among others, the Village Voice, LA Weekly, and SF Weekly, and has written for countless film magazines and websites including Cahiers du Cinema, Film Comment, and Indiewire. Her writings on books, theater, television, and travel have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Interview. She also contributes an occasional column to EatDrinkFilms called “Meals with Meredith,” where she talks about food and film with filmmakers at restaurants in northern California, writes about vintage cocktails and where she eats during film festivals at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco.




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