Ten Suggestions From The 60th SFIFF

This year is the 60th SFIFF. From humble screenings at the Metro Theatre, the S.F. International Film Festival (SFIFF) has spread this year to such venues as the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Alamo Drafthouse. The choices over the two weeks of the 60th SFIFF may feel overwhelming. Here are some suggestions on where to start watching.

Anniversary Screenings–Canyon Cinema and Disposable Film Festival

Director Guy Maddin helps celebrate Canyon Cinema’s 50th birthday by curating a selection of films drawn from the avant-garde film distributor’s catalog. A highlight here is the Robert Nelson and William T. Wiley classic The Great Blondino.

The 10th anniversary of both the Disposable Film Festival and the first generation of the iPhone gets celebrated with a special program celebrating this festival dedicated to short films shot on handheld recording devices. Festival founder Carlton Evans gets interviewed and shows a dozen shorts from the festival.

For further information about the Canyon Cinema program, go here. For further information about the Disposable Film Festival program, go here.

Awards And Tributes

The Mel Novikoff Award goes to people who’ve enhanced the public’s appreciation of film. For the 60th SFIFF, the recipient is Telluride Film Festival co-founder Tom Luddy. Luddy’s appearance is complemented by a rare screening of A Long Happy Life, a darkly Russian opposite take on Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante.

The Persistence Of Vision Award goes to filmmakers whose main body of work falls outside the narrative feature film-making spectrum. The 60th SFIFF recipient is the Bay Area’s Lynn Hershman Leeson, whose work examines such subjects as the intersection of identity and technology. Leeson brings her new documentary Tania Libre, a portrait of radical Cuban artist-activist Tania Bruguera.

Bollywood mega-star Shah Rukh Khan will light up the Castro Theatre stage for his 60th SFIFF tribute program. He talks about his 80-film (and counting) career with director-producer Brett Ratner. Khan’s romantic comedy My Name Is Khan fills out the program. It’s the story of a Muslim with Asperger’s syndrome who’s off on a cross-country quest in post-9/11 America to meet the President of the US.

Writer/director John Ridley has been responsible for such well-known works as the film 12 Years A Slave and the TV series American Crime. The subject of a 60th SFIFF tribute program, Ridley appears in person to introduce the initial episode of his TV mini-series Guerilla. This 1970s-set political drama stars Frieda Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) as part of an activist couple forced to go underground after springing an important black political prisoner from an English prison.

For further information about the Mel Novikoff Award program, go here.
For further information about the Persistence of Vision Award program, go here. For further information about the Shah Rukh Khan tribute program, go here. For further information about the John Ridley tribute,
go here.

By The Time It Gets Dark

This Thai film takes a look at government repression. Both present day repression and a notorious 1976 massacre of university students provide the springboard for Anocha Suwichakornpong’s film. But instead of directly criticizing the country’s repressive history, the truth of that history comes from such fragments as a filmmaker’s dramatization of the massacre and a digression into a Georges Melies short.

For further information about the film, go here.

The Challenge

Arab falconry has been a sport practiced by Arab royalty for centuries. In Yuri Ancarani’s film, the viewer sees how the sport has leaped into the 21st century. From GPS trackers to Jumbotrons set in the desert, the merging of ancient sport with modern technology is mind-boggling.

For further information on the film, go here.

The Death Of Louis XIV

Albert Serra’s acclaimed historical drama captures the last days of the titular bedridden French monarch (Jean-Pierre Leaud). While doctors and servants hope for the King’s recovery, the fading monarch tries to meet his end with style and grace. The fun in this film comes from the balance between the quotidian details of death and the bits of humor that shine through even at the end.

For further information about the film, go here.

The Green Fog – A San Francisco Fantasia

Directors Guy Maddin and Evan and Galen Johnson (The Forbidden Room) do an “alternate universe remake of Vertigo.” However, viewers need not have Gus Van Sant Psycho remake flashbacks. Instead of using any footage or shot from Hitchcock’s original, the directors draw on Bay Area footage on everything from 1970s prime time TV to experimental film. Add in a Jason Garchik score performed by The Kronos Quartet, and you’ve got Closing Night heaven.

For further information about the film, go here.

Live And Onstage

Multicultural inventive music band Asian Dub Foundation present a live performance of their new soundtrack for the George Lucas dystopian tale THX 1138, a tale of futuristic repression filmed in part in the BART tunnels.

In More Things In Film, guests deliver live stories about the background things in film that utterly fascinate them. The digressions and theories these guests (including Oakland based art collective Bonanza) generate will take the audience to unexpected places.

In the Parallel Spaces program, musicians Will Oldham (aka Bonnie Prince Billy), Bitchin Bajas, and Cornelius Boots perform an improvised musical accompaniment to the experimental shorts of Bay Area artist Jerome Hiler.

For more information about the Asian Dub Foundation program, go here. For more information about the More Things In Films program, go here. For further information about the Parallel Spaces program, go here.


Alexandre O. Philippe’s documentary takes a deep dive into one of the most famous cinematic murder sequences, the shower scene from Psycho. It offers both interviews with such cinematic folks as Guillermo del Toro and Danny Elfman as well as behind-the-scenes details about the making of this classic sequence. By the end, the viewer will see how 78 set-ups and 52 cuts created images that still disturb audiences over five decades later.

For further information about the film, go here.


A wake for a recently deceased patriarch turns into a dark farce in director Cristi Puiu’s comedy/drama. Mishaps beginning with the priest’s failure to arrive starts unearthing tensions in the deceased’s family. Self-imposed starvation brought on by these mishaps do little to improve the mood of all concerned.

For further information about the film, go here.

Whose Streets?

Hear the story of the Ferguson Uprising from the viewpoint of its black residents. Using activists’ on-the-ground footage, the viewer sees how the protesters of Michael Brown’s fatal police shooting were greeted with tear gas, tanks, and the National Guard.

For further information about the film, go here.

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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