The San Francisco International Film Festival closed the festivities of its 60th birthday after two weeks full of great films.
Both in and out of competition, Latino cinema won most prizes: Golden Gate for best narrative film (Everything Else, Natalia Almada) and documentary (Brimstone & Glory, Viktor Jakovleski), audience awards for best narrative film (Endless Poetry, Alejandro Jodorowsky) and documentary (Dolores, Peter Bratt).
Prizes aside, three Latino films stood out for their originality.
Brutal and intriguing, Mexican director Amat Escalante’s fourth film The Untamed, signifies an arresting turning point in the career of the auteur from Guanajuato, as he enters the realm of fantasy guided by telluric forces.
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s long-awaited new film, Endless Poetry, a grandiose ode to life, poetry and love, is a delight for the followers of the Chilean cult director who felt somewhat disappointed with his previous The Dance of Reality.
While the unpredictable O Ornitólogo by Portuguese director João Pedro Rodrigues, is an exceptional and crazy story of a bird fan whose country expedition turns into a metaphysical initiation of unforeseeable outcome.
Also because of its uncanny proposal, The Human Surge by Eduardo Williams, a young Argentine director lauded by film critics, stood out as a disconcerting, cryptic and unclassifiable debut that recalls the cinema of Nicolás Pereda and Alex Rivera.
Meanwhile, Mexican director Natalia Almada impressed audiences with Everything Else, her fourth film and first narrative, exhibiting an exquisite camera work and an elegant cadence of visual and sound leitmotivs.
While Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra has made a masterpiece of cinema, The Death of Louis XIV, exquisite in small details and with a quality of a whisper, the film recreates prerevolutionary France and the emerging medical science of the era.
A pleasant surprise was Brimstone & Glory, a documentary filmed by German director Viktor Jakovleski at the pyrotechnical fair of Tultepec in the State of Mexico with the free structure and brave spirit of a firecracker.
And from Argentina, a promising debut feature, The Winter by Emiliano Torres, a well-constructed story about lonesome characters who inhabit the remote and harsh lands of Patagonia.
Locally, San Francisco filmmaker Peter Bratt presented the inspiring and indispensable documentary Dolores, about civil rights leader Dolores Huerta and her life of struggle in California.
Beyond the Americas, two Asian films stood out above all others.
Hanyi Zhang’s wonderful Life After Life, in which the novel Chinese director exhibits a beautiful contemplative style of long shots and takes, as he sculpts in time and gradually awakens the interest of the audience.
And the splendid Ma ‘Rosa by veteran Filipino filmmaker Brillante Mendoza, who returns with force to the gritty style he exhibited in Kinatay (2009) portraying the crude life of a family in the popular neighborhoods of Manila.
In addition to Mendoza, the festival screened films by other internationally acclaimed directors.
Despite being nearly three hours long, the highly entertaining Sieranevada by Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu humorously dissects family dynamics over lunchtime.
The Belgian Dardenne brothers follow a young female doctor’s moral journey in the absorbing The Unknown Girl as she scrapes the surface of normality after the death of an African immigrant.
Korean director Sang-soo Hong fulfilled the expectations of his loyal followers with Yourself and Yours, his nineteenth comedy of manners, playful, funny and very entertaining.
While French director Bertrand Bonello keeps audiences on the edge of their seat in the daring and spooky thriller Nocturama, about a group of millennials who hide in a Paris shopping mall overnight after detonating a series explosives.
Last but not least, it is worth highlighting Shirley Abraham & Amit Madheshiya first documentary The Cinema Travellers, a beautiful portrait of touring movie theaters as part of street fairs in India. As well as the interesting Mister Universo by Tizza Covi & Rainer Frimmel, part documentary and part fiction about an animal tamer and his contortionist girlfriend in an Italian circus.
Among the short films, the magical Fajr filmed in Morocco by Galician director Lois Patiño excelled for its beauty.
Congratulations to the San Francisco Film Society for an excellent sixtieth edition. To many happy returns.