10 Films From Week 2 Of SFIFF 59

Missed such San Francisco International Film Festival 59 (herafter, SFIFF 59) films as Chevalier or Assassination Classroom? Fear not, SFIFF 59 continues for another week. Here are some worthwhile films from Week 2 of SFIFF 59, including a couple of notable Sundance films as well as new work from such filmmakers as Kiyoshi Kurosawa.

Audrie And Daisy

Local directors Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen wear the hats of both documentarians and parents of teenagers for this chilling look at sexual assault in our nation’s high schools. The film traces two incidents of sexual assault that result from the unfortunate mixing of teens, booze, sex, and social media. What proves particularly disturbing is seeing how frequently perpetrators get away with committing such crimes.

Screens April 28 at 6:00 PM at the Victoria Theatre and May 1 at 2:30 PM at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission. The May 1 screening is sold out of advance tickets, but some tickets may become available at the door.

Contemporary Color

The most unusual presentation at SFIFF 59 is this passion project of legendary Talking Heads frontman David Byrne. It pairs ten cutting edge performers such as St. Vincent and Zola Jesus with ten color guard troupes to create ten unique performances of the “sport of the arts.” While rifles and flags are still used as props, the resulting collaborations avoid the rigidity of drill team movements. The cumulative result is the most artistic halftime show you’ve ever seen.


Screens April 29 at 8:00 P.M. at Proxy


Bay Area documentarian Amanda Micheli (La Corona) offers a new film about an annual contest held by Las Vegas doctor Geoffrey Sher. The sole prize in the contest is a free round of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) for the winner. There’s no guarantee that the winner will get pregnant and finally have a child. But to the film’s contestants (which includes a New York City lesbian Lady Gaga impersonator), the high cost of IVF treatments make this long shot their only chance to finally start a family.

Screens April 29 at 6:00 P.M. at the Victoria Theatre and May 1 at 8:00 P.M. and May 4 at 4:15 P.M. at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission.


Ben Wheatley’s adapatation of J.G. Ballard’s science fiction novel could be best described as “Snowpiercer in an apartment complex.” Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is the newest resident of a unique tower block designed by architect Anthony Royal (Jeremy Irons). Here, the floor you live on denotes your social standing. But this supposedly stable society is about to descend into social and psychological chaos, with orgies and fistfights in the offing. Catch Wheatley’s new film at SFIFF 59 and claim arthouse viewer bragging rights.

Screens April 30 at 9:30 P.M. at the Castro Theatre

Journey To The Shore

The road trip and ghost film genres get blended into an incredibly effective film from Japanese auteur Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Young piano teacher Mizuki has never emotionally recovered from her husband’s disappearance years ago. One particular night, said missing husband Yusuke (Tadanobou Asano) returns to Mizuki’s apartment dripping wet. Yusuke tells his wife he drowned in an accident. The next day, the duo start a trip across Japan re-tracing Yusuke’s steps. Along the way, they meet other people who have also suffered a personal loss and are also haunted by ghosts.

Screens May 2 at 5:30 P.M. at the Victoria Theatre, May 3 at 8:40 P.M. at the Pacific Film Archive, and May 5 at 7:45 P.M. at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission

National Bird

Is drone warfare really a cleaner, more surgical way of waging war on terror organizations? The US government has withheld information about the program’s effectiveness and actively silenced critics of the program. Documentarian Sonia Kennebeck made this examination of US drone warfare under the radar to avoid government scrutiny of her project as well as federal harassment of the three ex-drone operators featured in the film. Given that one of the accounts captured on film involved an Afghanistan drone warfare action that left 23 unarmed civilians dead, this is an understandable concern. Executive produced by Wim Wenders and Errol Morris. See Kennebeck’s film at SFIFF 59, as it’s questionable whether any TV network will broadcast it or theatrical distributor will pick it up.

Screens May 1 at 8:00 P.M. at the Victoria Theatre, May 2 at 12:30 P.M. at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, and May 3 at 4:00 P.M. at the Pacific Film Archive.

The Return

What happened in California after voters amended the state’s Three Strikes law by passing Proposition 36? SFIFF 59 answers this question with a new documentary from directors Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway. The directors of previous SFIFF award-winner Better This World look at how lifers imprisoned for non-violent offenses deal with being released or the possibility of lighter re-sentencing in the wake of the proposition’s passage. What becomes painfully clear is that people who commit crimes because of poverty or mental illness really don’t deserve 150-year prison sentences.

Screens May 2 at 6:45 P.M. at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission. This screening is at Rush, but tickets may be made available before the screening.

Right Now, Wrong Then

Legendary Korean art-house director Hong Sang-soo turns common plot ingredients from his prior films into a work that the 2016 Film Comment critics’ poll called the best unreleased film of last year. Middle-aged film director Ham is presenting his new film at a local film festival. While killing time until his presentation, he meets young beautiful painter Hee-jung, who’s never heard of the great director. The duo pass the afternoon in conversation about life and art. But when a beer drinkathon literally enters into Ham and Hee-jung’s conversation, very regrettable words and actions ruin any possibility of a love connection. Fortunately, a plot reset button may offer Ham and Hee-jung a second chance to get together.

Screens May 4 at 9:30 PM at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission Theatre and May 5 at 8:00 PM at the Victoria Theatre.

Sixty Six

Lewis Klahr’s avant garde film collects a dozen short pieces made over a 14-year period. The common elements in these short films are that they are all collage animation pieces which juxtaposes images of 1960s-era architecture with figures taken from comic books, such as DC Comics’ The Flash. The soundtracks seem to consist of snippets of old movie dialogue and period music. The “plots” of the shorts range from superhero slugfests to noirish alienation in the big city. This SFIFF 59 offering will definitely not be for everyone. But if you’re willing to let Klahr’s juxtaposed sounds and sights wash over you, you will find the meaning you want.

A scene from Lewis Klah's  SIXTY SIX, playing at the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, on April 21 - May 5, 2016.

A scene from Lewis Klah’s SIXTY SIX, playing at the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, on April 21 – May 5, 2016.

Screens April 28 at 6:00 P.M. at the Roxie Theatre and April 30 at 8:30 P.M. at the Pacific Film Archive

Under The Shadow

This Sundance sensation is set in the waning days of the Iran-Iraq War. Medical student Shideh has been banned from continuing her medical studies, which ramps up tension between her and her husband. Shortly thereafter, a missile crashes into Shideh’s building but doesn’t explode. When a wave of odd events occur, a neighbor’s belief that a djinn has arrived with the missile sparks an exodus of Shideh’s neighbors. The medical student refuses to believe in the djinn’s existence at first. But she takes things seriously when it becomes clear the djinn has targeted her daughter Dorsa.

Screens April 29 at 11:30 P.M. and May 1 at 10:00 P.M. Both screenings take place at the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission.

All images courtesy of San Francisco Film Society

About the Author

I’m a film reviewer for the Beyond Chron blog. Agnes Varda and Hirokazu Kore-eda are among my favorite filmmakers. I occasionally break down and watch a good action film…but don’t tell anyone.

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