The San Francisco International Film Festival celebrates its fifty-ninth edition this year with new headquarters in the Mission and with a less international, less Latino programming — consequence of demographic changes in the City.
After 30 years of being headquartered in Japantown’s Kabuki theaters, the longest running festival of the Americas has moved to the vibrant epicenter of gentrification, the hip neighborhood — the Mission, the Latino neighborhood with fewer and fewer Latinos because of an exodus following the economic boom of recent years.
Festival programmers have echoed these demographic changes in the City to satisfy new audiences, and consequently, the festival reaches the Latino neighborhood with a scant Latino selection, and a programming in which English-language films from the United States and the United Kingdom, and from Western countries predominate.
Historically the San Francisco International Film Festival has been tailored to audiences. Its aim has been to exhibit films and fill theaters, rather than sell distribution rights or other industry considerations.
While former cosmopolitan, progressive, eclectic and curious audiences sought films with a message, of all colors and for all tastes, today money has homogenized San Francisco audiences to make them less curious, more conservative. This homogenization is reflected in the programming of this year’s festival.
Among the few Latino films the stunning Boi Neon [Neon Bull] stands out among all. Made by talented Brazilian filmmaker Gabriel Mascaro, it revolves around a cowboy in northeastern Brazil who likes sewing. Magical, charming and with echoes of ‘Bye Bye Brazil,’ the film contains a not-to-miss torrid, lengthy sex scene. Awarded in Berlin, Mascaro was recently invited to New York for a retrospective of his work.
From Venezuela, and awarded with the Golden Lion at Venice, the festival will screen a solid debut, Desde Allá [From Afar], an exploration of the relationship between a middle-aged man and a young street boy — a blend of friendship, love, and father and son relationship. Lorenzo Vigas’ frugal and distant filmmaking style is nominated for the Golden Gate Award for new directors. He will attend the festival.
FromUruguay, El apóstata [The Apostate] by Federico Veiroj (A Useful Life) is a co-production with Spain and France that revolves around a 30-something from Madrid who wants his name removed from the baptismal record. And from Mexico, Sopladora de hojas [Leaf Blower] by novel director Alejandro Iglesias Mendizabal is an entertaining portrait of the friendship between teenager boys.
In the experimental section the festival will present Ayiti Mon Amour by Guetty Felin, which presents Haiti poetically and beautifully after the earthquake of 2010. The director of this co-production between Haiti and the US in which the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS), organizers of the festival, participated, will attend the presentation.
Also made with the help of the SFFS, Salero by New-York based filmmaker Mike Plunkett showcases stunning photography while portraying the endangered lifestyle in the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat in Bolivia. It is a great candidate for the Golden Gate Award.
And also a candidate for the Golden Gate and backed by the Swiss festival of Locarno, Dead Slow Ahead is a co-production between Spain and France. Director Mauro Herce brilliantly captures with his observing camera the hypnotic journey of Filipino sailors on an Ukrainian ship across the Atlantic Ocean.
Among the short films that are part of the festival it is worth highlighting Tem alguém feliz em algum lugar [Someone is Happy Somewhere] (19 minutes) by Brazilian director Mario Furloni, that revolves around the eviction of a woman from an apartment in Rio de Janeiro; the experimental Noite Sem Distância [Night without distance] (23 minutes) by Galician Lois Patiño [Coast of Death], about a group of smugglers on the border between Portugal and Galicia; and Domar (7 minutes) by the Uruguayan Benjamin Ades, a co-production with the US about a horse tamer.
From April 21 to May 5, the festival will screen 173 films (58 fiction, 37 documentaries and 74 shorts) which will be shown in the three oldest theaters in the City — the Castro, Roxie and Victoria theaters — as well as at the most modern, the new headquarters of the festival, the New Mission Alamo Drafthouse, where the audiences will be able to enjoy an extensive menu of food and drinks while watching movies. Like every year, films will also be shown at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, which recently opened a brand new building.
DEAD SLOW AHEAD (Mauro Herce, Spain/France, 2015, 74 mins) · Friday April 23, 9:00 pm, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission · Friday April 29, 7:00 pm, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission · Monday 2 May, 1:00 pm, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission
SALERO (Mike Plunkett, USA/Bolivia, 2015, 76 mins) · Saturday April 30, 3:15 pm, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission · Sunday May 1, 1:00 pm, Pacific Film Archive · Tuesday May 3, 3 : 30 pm, Roxie Theater
AYITI MON AMOUR (Guetty Felin, Haiti/USA, 2016, 88 mins) · Saturday April 23, 4:00 pm, and Thursday, April 28, 9:15 pm, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission
BOI NEON [NEON BULL] (Gabriel Mascaro, Brazil/Uruguay/Netherlands, 2015, 101 mins) · Saturday, April 23, 8:30 pm, Pacific Film Archive; Monday, April 25, 9:15 pm, Roxie Theatre
EL APÓSTATA [THE APOSTATE] (Federico Veiroj, Spain/France/Uruguay, 2015, 80 mins) · Friday April 22, 8:45 pm, Pacific Film Archive · Tuesday April 26, 8:30 pm, Victoria Theatre · Wednesday April 27, 3:30 pm, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission
SOPLADORA DE HOJAS [LEAF BLOWER] (Alejandro Iglesias Mendizábal, Mexico, 2015, 96 mins) · Sunday April 24, 9:45 pm · Monday April 25, 12:30 pm and 6:15 pm, Alamo Drafthouse New Mission
DESDE ALLÁ [FROM AFAR] (Lorenzo Vigas, Venezuela/Mexico, 2015, 93 mins) · Wednesday, April 27, 8:50 pm, Pacific Film Archive · Friday April 29, 9:15 pm, Roxie Theater
For more information and tickets please visit: http://www.sffs.org/sfiff59