Wednesday, March 03, 2010


My thanks to Executive Director Graham Leggat and Creative Director Miguel Pendás of the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) for reminding me just how valuable a resource the SFFS History Project can be. Keyed into the centennial celebration of Akira Kurosawa's birthday, SFFS forwarded an article by Miguel Pendás recounting Kurosawa's October 1980 appearance at the San Francisco International Film Festival for the screening of his Palme d'Or winning film Kagemusha. "Eight taiko drummers pounded out a welcome," Pendás recalled, "and Akira Kurosawa stepped up on the stage, tall, slim, elegant and, as always, hidden behind dark glasses. Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, who had helped him finance his latest film, Kagemusha, joined him on stage. A full house at the Palace of Fine Arts theater rose to its feet and gave the threesome a lengthy standing ovation."

That same edition of the festival boasted an on-stage conversation between Albert Johnson and Kurosawa, assisted by Audie Bock. Bock's Japanese Film Directors was long held as the definitive book on the subject and she leant her translation skills towards Kurosawa's partial autobiography Something Like An Autobiography. That on-stage conversation is available as a 25-minute audio podcast at the History Project's Close-ups sidebar.

In 1986, SFFS inaugurated the Akira Kurosawa Award for excellence in directing. The SFFS History Project offers not only Kurosawa's on-stage appearance receiving the award by way of
a 27-minute audio podcast, but also a three-minute video clip of Kurosawa's 1986 press conference where the deputy mayor presented him with a key to San Francisco; specifically, a key to the original Mission Dolores.

Be sure to check out the many riches to be mined at the SFFS History Project, whose database stores information on most of the films shown at the festival: credits, print sources, film stills, notes from the Festival program guide, awards, tributes, out-of-town guests and even some posters and trailers. The festival's
oral history is likewise laid out in multiple interviews with key festival personnel.

Cross-published on

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