It's time to wrap-up the 49th San Francisco International Film Festival! As much as I can anyways. First and foremost I want to thank Todd Brown at Twitch for securing me press credentials for the festival and for recruiting me onto the Twitch team to report on Latino film. Secondly, I want to thank Peter Galvin, the publicity intern assigned to me by the San Francisco Film Society, for encouraging my reportage and helping me out whenever he could. Hilary Hart's publicity team—Paula Cavagnaro and Tara Dempsey—have my heartfelt appreciation for arranging my interviews and their overall assistance through the press screenings into and through the festival. Karen Larsen and Chris Wiggums at Larsen Associates are my champions and always a delight to work with. And I'm also grateful to Michelle Jonas at Allied McDonald for her assistance in helping me get an interview with the directors of Half Nelson. Special thanks also go out to Susan Gerhard at SF360 and David Hudson at the Greencine Daily for picking up my entries and helping me gain credence.
I saw 49 and a half films this year at 2006 SFIFF!! Three of those I saw twice so I guess I actually saw 52 and a half films. The half was The Grönholm Method, which stuck halfway through the screener tape (don't you hate that?) and which never timed out for me to catch elsewise during the festival. Anyways, here's what I saw:
Art School Confidential
Brothers of the Head
Cartography of Ashes
Dignity of the Nobodies, The
Drawing Restraint 9
Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai, The
Grönholm Method, The (halfway through)
Guy Maddin Shorts
Heart of the Game, The
House of Sand, The (twice)
Iraq in Fragments
Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple
Le Petit Lieutenant
Life I Want, The
Look Both Ways
News From Afar
One Long Winter Without Fire
Perhaps Love (twice)
Prairie Home Companion, A
Romance & Cigarettes
See You In Space
Seeds of Doubt
Sólo Dios Sabe
State of Cinema: Tilda Swinton
Wayward Cloud, The
Wild Blue Yonder, The
Who Killed the Electric Car?
I look at that list and I grimace at how few of them I had time to actually write up so I hope no one minds if during the next week (month?) or two stragglers come up to take a belated curtain call? For example, I got a great interview with Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden—who won this year's well-deserved FIPRESCI prize for Half Nelson—but, the publicist tells me I can't post it until late August. I'll also have interviews up with Daniel Clowes of Art School Confidential and Dolissa Medina of Cartography of Ashes any day now and I've yet to transcribe Q&A notes for The House of Sand, Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, and the screenings of Turnabout and The Eagle. And I absolutely must write something about News From Afar, Look Both Ways, The Wayward Cloud, The Sun, Regular Lovers, Le Petit Lieutentant and Drawing Restraint 9, when time affords. But those are sauces best reduced before serving them up.
The surprises from the festival were Greg Zglinski's Tout Un Hiver Sans Feu / One Long Winter Without Fire and Samir Nasr's Folgeschäden / Seeds of Doubt, which I talked up as much as I could because both were truly worthwhile. The filmgoer enters One Long Winter Without Fire on the backs of two crows who fly into the frame and set the theme for marital loyalty in the face of tragic loss. Seeds of Doubt is the closest to a Hitchcock film that I've seen since Hitchcock. A German woman begins to suspect her Algerian husband of terrorism. Is he innocent? Is he not? The script is tight and the direction suspenseful as Nasr demonstrates how doubt and racial profiling take seed within the home. This is definitely a movie that had to be made outside of the United States.
It was Graham Leggat's promotion of The Descent that caused me to become intrigued with his playful public persona. At the press conference, his announcement of The Descent made me grin ear to ear. I was delighted that a horror piece was being included into the festival! He noticed how delighted I was—I was in the first row afterall—and later, at the members preview, he made me laugh when he said that The Descent made him pee his pants. Such a thing for an executive director of an international film festival to say! But, in his candor he revealed the puer, a quality I very much admire in grown men and a youthfulness I very much admire in an executive director of an international film festival. Even as I was first in line for my screening, he was there again to see the film for the third time. His praise was well-founded. Possibly one of the scariest films I have ever seen, featuring the unexpected and welcome appearance of Nora Jane-Noone from The Magdalene Sisters, The Descent had me apologizing to the young women beside me for screaming like a girl. I loved it and will definitely see it again upon distribution!
Besides those, I really feel a need to make at least passing mention of the following Latino fare: Brazilian director Beto Brant's Crime Delicado / Delicate Crime and fellow Brazilian director Roberto Gervitz's Jogo Subterrâneo / Underground Game both proved to be movies that, disappointingly, couldn't bear the weight of their own ideas.
Alternating between color and black and white film stock for no good rhyme or reason, Delicate Crime offendingly pandered to prurience, offering a one-legged woman who two men—a theater critic and a painter—use for their own purposes. It dissatisfied with vague meditations on "consent" though I could identify with the critic's anguished efforts to find the right words for his critiques.
Underground Game, adapted from a Julio Cortazar's short story "Manuscript Found in a Pocket", "is about a nightclub piano player who spends his days constructing specific routes on the Sao Paulo subway, hoping to meet a woman who follows the same route. However, the most interesting parts of his life happen when he deviates from his carefully planned journeys." "Interesting" is one of those dismissive adjectives that equates to something short of a slap in the face. Both the protagonist and his love interest are both unattractive and unsympathetic and Cortazar's brilliance—his mastery of observation, and narrative—failed by this vehicle.
Hungarian director József Pacskovsky's Eg Veled / See You in Space struck me as an overly-ambitious, messy and contrived assemblage project that couldn't hold together even if you had superglue. The only thing I really liked about the movie was the line: "In Sanskrit war means fighting for one more cow."
There's more to be said, of course, but for now I'll let this suffice and move on to my next focus: the San Francisco Independent Film Festival's 5th Documentary Film Festival!