SFIFF Spotlights #7: Boyhood/Pioneer/Freedom Summer/Little Accidents

by Carrie Kahn on May 6, 2014

Spinning Platters brings you more spotlights from the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF), which continues through this Thursday, May 8th. Program notes and tickets available here.  There is still plenty of time to catch some screenings, and you can also see many of the films as they open widely throughout the year.

(USA 2014, 162 min)

Life awaits young Mason (Ellar Coltrane) in Boyhood.

Life awaits young Mason (Ellar Coltrane) in Boyhood.

Stunning, remarkable, and amazing don’t begin to do justice to Richard Linklater’s new movie. Filmed over the course of 12 years using all the same actors, the picture follows young Mason (a captivating Ellar Coltrane) from the ages of six to 18; in one scene he’s maybe 8, and maybe 30 minutes later, he’s 12, in seamless transitions that will leave you astounded. The film could have just as easily been called Childhood or Parenthood (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette are equally terrific as Mason’s parents), as it’s about nothing less than the ephemeral nature of time and the meaning of life itself. Is life just a series of events – marriages, divorces, birthdays, graduations? What can we count on in life besides change? Breathtakingly original and achingly poignant, Boyhood is sure to be on many critics’ top ten list at year end; I know it will be on mine.


  • Opens July 18th at the Landmark Embarcadero Cinema


(Norway/Germany/Sweden/France/Finland 2013, 106 min; English and Norwegian with English subtitles)

Uncharted depths of the North Sea are explored in Pioneer.

Uncharted depths of the North Sea are explored in Pioneer.

A thriller based on true events, Pioneer is Norwegian director Erik Skjoldbjarerg newest film (he’s perhaps best know here for making the original Insomnia). The story centers on oil reserves found in the North Sea off the coast of Norway, at depths never before attempted by divers. Test dives are undertaken – sponsored by an American company – in the hopes of proving that sending a crew to install a pipeline would be possible, and, of course, accidents happen… or do they? Although the picture benefits from an effective uneasy, sinister tone, the plot proves as murky as the water, with Norwegian doctors and politicians and American divers and corporate executives all involved in various conspiracies and cover-ups. Fans of the riveting book Shadow Divers may be the best audience for this film, as the dive sequences and underwater scenes are at least fascinating to watch.


  • Magnolia Pictures has US distribution rights, and plans to open the film in US theaters later this year.


Freedom Summer
(USA 2013, 113 min)

Registering voters in Mississippi in 1964.

Registering voters in Mississippi in 1964.

To see the atrocities committed in the summer of 1964 in Mississippi against the volunteers there to register African-Americans to vote is to experience horror and outrage on a level almost incomprehensible today, with Barack Obama in office and with Mississippi currently the state with the country’s most African-American elected officials. That’s why Stanley Nelson’s new documentary is so important and relevant. Nelson outlines the goals of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which recruited college students from all over the country to come to Mississippi – where disenfranchising black voters was routine – to register voters, teach, and to send delegates to the Democratic National Convention from the integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Featuring interviews with former volunteers, archival footage and photos, and commentary from academics and politicians, this picture is a powerful and moving account of ordinary young people who put their lives at risk to become civil rights heroes.


  • Wednesday, May 7th, 6:30pm, Kabuki. Tickets available here.
  • Also premieres as part of the American Experience series on PBS on June 24th.


Little Accidents
(USA 2014, 105 min)

Elizabeth Banks and Boyd Holbrook discuss the consquences of little accidents.

Elizabeth Banks’s Diane and Boyd Holbrook’s Amos discuss the consequences of Little Accidents.

Jacob Lofland proves that his star turn in last year’s Mud was no fluke, as he shines again in Sara Colangelo’s debut feature, playing a 9th grade boy in West Virginia coal country wracked with guilt and grief after causing a horrible accident. His story parallels an equally horrific mining accident to which the town’s adults react with similar confusion, despair, and tortured grief. A heartwrenching portrait of retribution and forgiveness, Colangelo’s film explores the common threads of loss across the socioeconomic spectrum in a part of the country unfamiliar to most Americans. The picture also benefits from an outstanding dramatic turn by Elizabeth Banks as a mine executive’s wife, and a standout performance from Boyd Holbrook as Amos, the mine accident’s lone survivor.


  • Tuesday, May 6th, 6:00pm, Kabuki. Tickets available here.
  • Amplify recently secured US distribution rights, and plans to open the film in theaters later this year or early next year. No trailer available yet.



Carrie Kahn

Moving from the arthouse to the multiplex with grace, ease, and only the occasional eye roll.

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