Ellen Burstyn

Five More Spotlights as SFFILM Enters Final Week

The 60th San Francisco International Film Festival wraps up this week, but there’s still time to catch a few screenings before closing day on Thursday; you can browse the schedule and buy tickets here. Stay tuned to Spinning Platters for our final spotlight posts to help finish up the Fest: we’ve got five more here (and you can read Chad’s previous posts here, here, here, and here).

1.) Maudie and Ethan Hawke Tribute
(Canada/Ireland 2016, 115 min. Awards and Tributes)

Everett (Ethan Hawke) and Maud (Sally Hawkins) on their wedding day.

In a true coup for cinephiles, SFFilm presented a tribute to actor Ethan Hawke at the YBCA Theater on April 8th. Following a delightful clip reel of Hawke’s career highlights, Michael Almereyda, Hawke’s director in 2000’s Hamlet, interviewed the actor. Hawke came across as smart, charming, modest, and immensely likable. In a conversation that ranged from Hawke’s start in high school plays to his embodiment of Gen X angst in 1994’s Reality Bites (“It’s a strange feeling to touch the zeitgeist,” he told us), Hawke gamely opened up on topics both professional and personal. His distaste for violence in films drew a round of applause. “It’s very hard to have a career in professional movies and not kill people,” he said, mentioning that Roger Ebert once toasted him for not killing anyone on screen until Hamlet. Movies that deal with connecting with other people are what he’s most drawn to, he told us, which helps explain his continuing collaboration with Richard Linklater, who memorably cast Hawke in the critically acclaimed Before Sunrise trilogy and Boyhood.

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Spinning Platters wraps up its coverage of the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, which ended last Thursday, May 5th, after showcasing nearly 200 films from over 40 countries. The Fest may be over, but many of its offerings will be released throughout the year, so be sure to use our eight spotlight posts as a guide for potential future viewing.

We conclude our coverage by looking at three final films and two special events.

The Bandit
(USA, 2016, 82 min, Closing Night Film)

Burt Reynolds (l.) and Hal Needham during the filming of Smokey and the Bandit.

Local filmmaker Jesse Moss, who found success two years ago with his intense, stunning, but somber documentary The Overnighters, told us at the Q&A after the closing night screening of his new film that after that emotionally wrenching experience, he wanted to go in an opposite direction and make a “fun car comedy” like the films he loved while growing up – films like the ’70s Burt Reynolds-helmed, car chase classic Smokey and the Bandit. Still a documentarian, though, Moss has thus made what he terms the first “action-comedy” documentary. Indeed, as a look at ’70s heartthrob action and comedy star Burt Reynolds and his lifelong friendship with Hal Needham, the Hollywood stuntman turned writer/director who made the iconic Smokey, Moss’s new film succeeds brilliantly at echoing the good ol’ boy charm of the best of Needham and Reynolds’s pictures. Featuring historical interviews with Needham (who passed away in 2013), as well as interviews with former Smokey co-stars, country music stars, friends, colleagues, family, and Reynolds himself, The Bandit is chock full of juicy behind-the-scenes insider stories and enough old TV and movie clips to please the most ardent pop culture fans. As a portrait of both a bygone era of movie-making and, more importantly, of a singular friendship that could shift between respect and rivalry, Moss’s picture mirrors the good natured southern charm of the Reynolds-Needham collaborations, while also examining more serious issues of fame, competition, and deep, enduring friendship. The Bandit took home the Audience Award at SXSW this year, and deservedly so; a genuine crowd pleaser, the picture is a must-see for students of ’70s cinema, and anyone who values engrossing, well-made documentary stories.


  • Currently playing the film festival circuit.

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