SFIFF58 Preview and Spotlights #2: The Postman’s White Nights/The Kindergarten Teacher/Fidelio: Alice’s Odyssey/The Wonders

by Carrie Kahn on April 17, 2015


Spinning Platters continues its coverage of the upcoming 58th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) with a spotlight on four more films. The Festival opens next Thursday, April 23rd, and runs until May 7th.  Tickets and more information can be found here.

Today’s post looks at one film from the Masters section and three from the Global Visions section. Keep checking back for more coverage throughout the Fest!

The Postman’s White Nights
(Russia, 2014, 101 min, Masters. In Russian with English subtitles)

Lyokha the postman takes a young friend for a boat ride in Lake Kenozeno in rural northwestern Russia.

Russian writer/director Andrei Konchalovsky has been making films since the 1960s, so his inclusion in the “Masters” section of the SFIFF program is fitting. Despite his prolific output, however, American viewers probably only know him from his gripping, Oscar nominated 1985 thriller Runaway Train. His newest picture shares none of that film’s edge, but with its naturalistic, quietly thoughtful depiction of a small rural town in northwestern Russia, it’s captivating nonetheless. The film follows bachelor postman Lyokha as he makes his daily rounds, bonding with an assortment of quirky characters in the process. Konchalovsky offers us stunning cinematography and a raw, intimate look at a remote part of Russia that few Americans will ever see in real life.


  • April 26 – 6:00pm at the Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley
  • April 28 – 6:15pm at Landmark’s Clay Theatre
  • April 29 – 3:45pm at Sundance Kabuki Cinema

Tickets for The Postman’s White Nights available here.

The Kindergarten Teacher
(Israel/France, 2014, 120 min, Global Visions. In Hebrew with English subtitles)

Kindergarten teacher Nira mentors her young pupil Yoav… maybe too intensely.

A psychologically complex examination of a teacher’s growing obsession with a kindergarten student who appears to be a child prodigy, Israeli writer/director Nadav Lapid’s s new film tells a riveting tale that you’ll be thinking about long after you leave the theater. Little Yoav has a mysterious gift for composing poetry, and his kindergarten teacher, Nira, wants to foster that gift in a society that she views as valuing materialism over art and beauty. What begins as curious interest develops into dangerous compulsion, as Nira’s behavior becomes more erratic and unreasonable. Lapid’s picture works on many levels – as a taut psychological thriller, a social commentary, and a character-driven drama. The film has already garnered praise and awards on the film festival circuit, and it’s easy to see why; put this one on your Festival must-see list for sure.


  • May 1 – 3:00pm at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas
  • May 2 – 6:15pm at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas
  • May 5 – 8:45pm at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas

Tickets for The Kindergarten Teacher available here.

Fidelio: Alice’s Odyssey
(France, 2014, 95 min, Global Visions. In English, French, Norwegian, Romanian, and Tagalog with English subtitles)

Ship’s engineer Alice bonds with her male colleagues.

The Fidelio of this film’s title refers to the freighter ship on which Alice, a ship’s engineer, works for much of the course of the film. French writer/director Lucie Borleteau presents a fascinating portrait of a smart, capable, and confident woman immersed in a traditionally male-dominated domain, with all the differences, good and bad, that such a situation entails. Alice has both a history with the ship’s captain and a graphic artist fiancé back home (in a terrific role-reversal scene, Alice, from the ship, talks her boyfriend through fixing his water heater). Borleteau gives us an inside look at life on a freighter ship, as well as an honest and engaging exploration of one woman’s professional and personal struggles. Greek actress Ariane Labed, who plays Alice, and the film itself were nominated for Cesar Awards, the French equivalent of the Oscars, and, if it were up to me, both would have won. This terrific picture is not to be missed.


  • April 30 – 9:30pm at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas
  • May 2nd – 3:30pm at Landmark’s Clay Theatre

Tickets for Fidelio available here.

The Wonders
(Italy/Switzerland/Germany, 2014, 110 min, Global Visions. In Italian, German, and French with English subtitles)

Beekeeper’s daughter Gelsomina has no fear.

Nominated for the Palme d’Or and winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes last year, Italian director Alice Rohrwacher’s meandering picture about a family of beekeepers in the Umbria region of Italy obviously charmed the Cannes crowd, but I found it a little too slow and dreamy. Young Gelsomina enters her family in a TV reality show that features Italian farming families, against the wishes of her stern, patriarchal father. The story plays out moodily, combining elements of a father-daughter conflict with commentary on rural Italian life. As such, fans of Italian cinema may be the best audience for this beautifully shot, but frequently tedious, coming of age film.


  • April 25 – 8:45pm at Landmark’s Clay Theatre
  • April 26 – 1:00pm at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas
  • April 29 – 6:30pm at the Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley

Tickets for The Wonders available here.


Carrie Kahn

Moving from the arthouse to the multiplex with grace, ease, and only the occasional eye roll. Proud new member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.

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