SFFILM Festival Spotlights #4

by Chad Liffmann on April 12, 2017

(Films #31-#40 of Chad’s goal of seeing 60 films to commemorate SF Film Festival’s 60th anniversary! #60for60th)

The 60th SFFILM Festival is HALFWAY through! Be sure to get your tickets now — visit http://www.sffilm.org/festival for tickets and info. Also, be sure to check back here frequently, or follow along at our Facebook page and on Twitter (or follow film critics Carrie Kahn- @CKCinephile / Chad Liffmann- @chadcarsten). And now, time for 10 more spotlights:

The Paris Opera
(France/Switzerland 2017, 110 min; French/English with English subtitles)

A scene from THE PARIS OPERA, screening at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 5-19, 2017.

This documentary is fascinating! The Paris Opera takes audiences behind the scenes of the legendary Palais Garnier and the newer Opéra Bastille, both in Paris. We meet a few veterans and some new members of the venues’ onstage talent for their show season, as well as some of the organizational heads. Director Jean-Stéphane Bron keeps the film tight and fluid, ensuring the excess fat is cut and leaving only the most interesting aspects of the run-of-show. To be honest, even the presumably mundane operations are more engaging than I’d imagine. From auditions and prop-finding to administrative tasks and marketing, this charming inside look is entertaining for fans of ballet, opera, and fans of interesting subject matters in general! 

No more screenings at SFFILM Festival.

El Mar La Mar
(USA 2017, 94 min; English/Spanish with English subtitles)

A scene from EL MAR LA MAR, playing at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 5-19, 2017.

El Mar La Mar is a challenging (arguably experimental) documentary that pairs a sensory experience to stories of immigrants traveling through the Sonoran desert towards the US-Mexico border. The soundtrack is comprised of atmospheric noises, and the visuals are arrestingly messy, dark, and, at times, beautiful. The film is as much about the land as it is the players who have become entangled in it, and we the audience become listeners and observers to both sides of the equation.

Screenings:
(click here for tickets)

  • Wednesday, April 12th, 6:30 pm, YBCA Screening Room
  • Sunday, April 16th, 8:15 pm, BAMPFA

The Future Perfect
(Argentina 2016, 65 min; Spanish/Mandarin with English subtitles)

A scene from Nele Wohlatz’s THE FUTURE PERFECT, playing at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 5 – 19, 2017.

Just over an hour long, The Future Perfect is an odd comedy about Xiaobin, a “rebellious” Chinese immigrant in Buenos Aires who defies her traditional parents by learning Spanish and attempting to fit in (hence the earlier quotations). The film does a nice job of riding parallel to the Spanish class sessions (filled with actual language-school students the director hired), blending Xiaobin’s class learnings with her real-life fantasies and adding a whimsical flow to the story. The Future Perfect is a breath of fresh air compared to many of the deeper, more dramatic festival films, and though it still tackles similar subject matters to the others, it does so with realistic charm.

Screenings:
(click here for tickets)

  • Wednesday, April 12th, 6:30 pm, Roxie Theater
  • Friday, April 14th, 8:45 pm, BAMPFA
  • Wednesday, April 19th, 4:00 pm, Victoria Theatre

The Ornithologist
(Portugal/France/Brazil 2016, 118 min; Portuguese/English/Mandarin/Mirandese/Latin with English subtitles)

A scene from THE ORNITHOLOGIST, screening at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 5-19, 2017.

The Ornithologist is a wacky and bizarre adventure story. The film follows – wouldn’t you guess it – an ornithologist who crashes his kayak in the wilderness and winds up meeting a series of peculiar people who entreat him to engage in acts and emotions that run the gamut of absurdist erotic concoctions. The religious symbolism is quite apparent, but the specificity of director João Pedro Rodrigues’s critique is a bit more ambiguous. Nevertheless, The Ornithologist will challenge your presumptions about the minor aspects of storytelling, all while throwing graphic metaphorical curveballs at every turn.

Screenings:
(click here for tickets)

  • Saturday, April 15th, 8:30 pm, BAMPFA
  • Sunday, April 16th, 5:00 pm, SFMOMA

The Stopover
(France/Greece 2016, 102 min; French/Greek/English with English subtitles)

A scene from Delphine & Muriel Coulin’s film THE STOPOVER, playing at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 5 – 19, 2017.

The Stopover represents another SFFILM title directed by a woman — two women, in fact. Sisters Delphine and Muriel Coulin have crafted a poignant drama about PTSD and the rampant sexism that pervades throughout otherwise innocent moments of respite. In The Stopover, two female soldiers within a squad of French soldiers are on a break from action in Afghanistan, soaking up the R&R on the gorgeous paradise island of Cyprus. Unfortunately, they must deal with a trifecta of imminent pressures: the PTSD sparked by past fighting; the guilt and horrors of a botched (and tragic) mission; and the increasingly aggressive tormenting from the other misogynistic male soldiers. Incredible performances, especially from the two central leads (Ariane Labed and Soko), help highlight the film’s psychological component and bring to the surface the irrepressible impacts of war on human nature. 

Screenings:
(click here for tickets)

  • Saturday, April 15th, 5:00 pm, YBCA Screening Room

The Winter
(Argentina/France 2016, 93 min; Spanish with English subtitles)

A scene from Emiliano Torres’s THE WINTER, playing at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 5 – April 19, 2017.

The generational divide is on full display in Emiliano Torres’s The Winter. That’s putting it simply, however, since this evenly-paced, observant film has more to say about the delicate balance of peace and conflict. Shot and set in Patagonia, the stark winter landscape plays an important role in shaping the outlook of both an aging ranch foreman and the new employee taking his place. We see the cycle of seasons, the cycle of life and aging, and of love and loss, and The Winter sturdily weaves them all together in direct contrast to the haunting, unforgiving, seemingly timeless Patagonian environment. 

Screenings:
(click here for tickets)

  • Friday, April 14th, 8:30 pm, Alamo Drafthouse
  • Saturday, April 15th, 6:30 pm, BAMPFA

Park
(Greece/Poland 2016, 100 min; Greek/English with English subtitles)

A scene from Sofia Exarchou’s PARK, playing at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 5 – 19, 2017.

Park showcases unbridled youthful exuberance in its most raw form, spawned by the ruins of the 2004 Athens Olympics. Park doesn’t have a traditional lead character, or a traditional story structure. Rather, it observes a group of kids as they engage in playful (and at times dangerous) behavior with each other in the remains of the Olympic stadiums and facilities. The future is bleak for this pack of aimless children, as the film clearly suggests within its directionless narrative. As a viewer, I felt shame, guilt, and fear for what these kids are being cornered into becoming when society fails to give them the time and consideration needed to create a more viable existence. 

Screenings:
(click here for tickets)

  • Friday, April 14th, 8:30 pm, Roxie Theater
  • Wednesday, April 19th, 3:00 pm, Alamo Drafthouse

Ma’ Rosa
(Philippines 2016, 110 min; Tagalog with English subtitles)

A scene from MA’ ROSA, playing at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 5-19, 2017.

Ma’ Rosa is a semi-Michael Mann-styled crime drama with a stellar performance by Jaclyn Jose at its emotional and dramatic core. The story follows a family of crystal meth sellers after the parents are caught and arrested by a corrupt Philippines police force. With the mother and father being held, the children do whatever they can to appease the police and buy their parents’ freedom. With the current violent, inhumane crackdown on drug offenders in the Philippines under President Duterte, Ma’ Rosa is a stinging portrayal of the effects of such an administration’s actions. This is a socially relevant, powerfully crafted Festival title you shouldn’t miss. 

Screenings:
(click here for tickets)

  • Sunday, April 16th, 5:30 pm, Roxie Theater

Godless
(Bulgaria/Denmark/France 2016, 99 min; Bulgarian with English subtitles)

Irena Ivanova stars in the Bulgarian drama GODLESS, playing at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 5 – 19, 2017.

While Ma’ Rosa captures the essence of a family actively fighting for their unity, Godless hones in on the actions of a single individual who battles the suffocating nature of a transitioning country. Gana, a home care nurse, is that singular character who tries to maintain a peaceful existence through immoral means, yet makes decisions that throw she and her boyfriend further into uncertain fate. The film is interestingly delivered in 4:3 ratio, for reasons I have yet to decipher — perhaps to create a sense of being old-fashioned and out-of-touch, traits that could arguably be used to describe the current state of Bulgaria.

Screenings:
(click here for tickets)

  • Thursday, April 13th, 4:15 pm, YBCA Screening Room

The Challenge
(France/Italy 2016, 70 min; Arabic with English subtitles)

A scene from Yuri Ancarani’s THE CHALLENGE, playing at the 60th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 5 – April 19, 2017.

The Challenge is an intriguing look at the extravagance, gaudiness, and competitive nature of falconry competitions on the Arabian Peninsula. Seriously, hear me out — a participant drives his Lamborghini down the desert highway with his pet cheetah in the passenger seat. Can you get more extravagant than that!? The Challenge is visually stunning, with grandiose desert scenery and majestic close-up shots of the many falcons. If Tarsem Singh ever made a feature documentary, I think it would look something like this. Arab falconry was a mystery to me, and while The Challenge doesn’t quite answer many of the ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions, it does provide a truly mesmerizing look at the atmosphere of such major events. As the cherry on top, the film culminates with a breathtaking scene shot from a camera fitted to one of the competing falcons. Holy moly!

Screenings:
(click here for tickets)

  • Wednesday, April 12th, 2:00 pm, Roxie Theater
  • Saturday, April 15th, 12:30 pm, SFMOMA
  • Tuesday, April 18th, 6:30 pm, Roxie Theater

 

———-
The 60th San Francisco International Film Festival runs from April 5th through April 19th.

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