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61st annual San Francisco International Film Festival opens this Wednesday, April 4th

The 61st annual San Francisco International Film Festival begins this Wednesday, April 4th, and will run almost two weeks, until Thursday, April 17th. This year’s Festival features 186 films from over 40 countries, and will include eight world premieres, five North American premieres, and six U.S. premieres. Of special note is that over a third of this year’s selected films are directed by women. Tickets and more information about films and programs can be found here.

To help you plan your Fest schedule, we’ll start you off here with five Festival film spotlights (three narrative features and two documentaries). And be sure to bookmark Spinning Platters and check back frequently, as we’ll have more coverage throughout the Festival.

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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.

Screenings:

  • Currently playing the film festival circuit.

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Spinning Platters is slowly but surely completing its coverage of the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival. Alas, SFIFF59 ended two nights ago, but we’re here to keep providing you spotlights on little known films that may come to a theater near you in the foreseeable future — so here’s a quick glimpse at four more features!

The Lobster
(USA, 2015, 119 min, Added Programs)

Colin Farrell, et al. in THE LOBSTER.

Colin Farrell, et al. in THE LOBSTER.

Dark and satirical, romantic and visceral, The Lobster is a bizarre piece of thought-provoking cinema from Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos. Colin Farrell plays a recently single man who checks into a “center” of sorts that focuses on matching romantic couples together — and the ones that don’t succeed in finding love get turned into animals. This peculiar premise and all of its intricacies are treated with extreme informality. The most brilliant aspect of The Lobster is that at the heart of all the odd characters (including top notch performances from John C Reilly, Rachel Weisz, and Ben Whishaw) and morbidly humorous absurdities is a uniquely human story that connects to our innermost societal fears, anxieties, and emotions.

The Lobster will be in Bay Area theaters May 20th.

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Last night at Gray Area, the newly remodeled Grand theater, the Golden Gate Award winners of the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival were announced. With tacos and chardonnay in our stomachs, and smiles being exchanged between filmmakers, Film Society members, SFIFF59 staff members, and press members alike, we took time to honor all the films at this year’s festival.

Here are the winning films in the 12 categories announced at the GGA celebration (~$40,000 in prize money):

Golden Gate New Directors (Narrative Feature) Prize:
Winner: The Demons, Philippe Lesage (Canada)
Jury note: “The Demons is an extraordinarily perceptive and structurally daring exploration of childhood in all its terrors and anxieties, both real and imagined.”

Special Jury Prize: Mountain, Yaelle Kayam (Israel/Denmark)
Jury note: “The film provides a rigorous and multifaceted character study that becomes a bold statement about the role of women in physical and psychological confinement.”

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Spinning Platters continues its coverage of the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, which continues through this Thursday, May 5th. You still have plenty of time to get in a few screenings! More information and tickets are available here.

Here we spotlight another three features and the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision award!

Mountain
(Israel/Denmark, 2015, 83 min, GGA: New Directors)

A scene from Yaelle Kayam's MOUNTAIN will play at the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, on April 21 - May 5,2016.

A scene from Yaelle Kayam’s MOUNTAIN will play at the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, on April 21 – May 5,2016.

Mountain is a touching yet ultimately unsettling character study of an Orthodox Jewish woman living with her husband and four children on the Mount of Olives, an ancient Jewish cemetery and religious locale for Judeo-Christian faiths. Shani Klein gives a powerfully restrained performance as Zvia, a woman caught between family, tradition, and desire and the ramifications of choosing one over the others. The Mt. of Olives plays a crucial role as well, steeped in Jewish tradition and history, yet it serves as a constant reminder of loss and becomes a discrete location for nighttime prostitution. Director Yaelle Kayam patiently studies the effects of this symbolic location on its inhabitants, and utilizing a focus on Zvia manages to convey the deepest internal struggles of Orthodoxy in an ever-changing world.

There are no more screenings of Mountain.

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Spinning Platters continues its coverage of the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, which continues through this Thursday, May 5th. You still have plenty of time to get in a few screenings! More information and tickets are available here.

Here we spotlight three more Fest feature films, and one documentary.

Indignation
(USA, 2015, 110 min, Centerpiece Film)

College students Marcus (Logan Lerman) and Olivia (Sarah Gadon) get to know each other on their first date.

Writer/producer James Schamus (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Brokeback Mountain) here proves himself equally adept at directing, choosing for his first full-length feature foray an adaptation of Philip Roth’s 2008 novel Indignation. Set in 1951 at a fictional Ohio liberal arts college, Schamus’s screenplay remains true to the Rothian themes of coming of age, family conflict, sex, love, religion, and death. Schamus and a stellar cast, including Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) as the protagonist Marcus, a working-class Newark atheist Jew trying to fit in at the conservative, religious campus, and Tracy Letts as the no nonsense, intellectually formidable, but bemused Dean of Men, handle Roth’s heady material with remarkable skill and sensitivity. Sarah Gadon as Marcus’s troubled love interest, and the great Broadway actress Linda Emond as Marcus’s mom, who shares a breathtaking, Oscar-worthy scene with Lerman, round out the absolutely terrific cast. A tour de force scene between Lerman and Letts, in which the two argue about Bertrand Russell, among other issues, is also one of the most compelling, uninterrupted takes you’ll see on screen this year. A powerful meditation on repression and finding yourself through love and family, Schamus’s directorial debut is not to be missed.

Screenings:

  • No more SFIFF screenings, but will open nationwide on July 29th.

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SFIFF59 Spotlights #4: Assassination Classroom / Thirst / The Demons

April 26, 2016

Spinning Platters continues its coverage of the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, which is happening NOW through May 5th. Information and tickets are available here. Here’s a look at three more feature titles… Assassination Classroom (Japan, 2015, 110 min, Dark Wave) This is a bizarre one, ladies and gentlemen! Assassination Classroom is a new Japanese scifi-comedy-drama inspired […]

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SFIFF59 Spotlights #3: Phantom Boy / Chevalier / Shorts 1 / Shorts 2 / Animated Shorts

April 21, 2016

  Today, it begins! The San Francisco International Film Festival(SFIFF) runs from today, April 21st through Thursday, May 5th. We’ll continue to bring you spotlights of amazing films at the festival, and cover special events and awards. But allow us to give you one last preview of the program with spotlights on two more features […]

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SFIFF59 Spotlights #2: Five Nights in Maine/Frank & Lola/And when I die, I won’t stay dead/Notes on Blindness

April 20, 2016

Spinning Platters continues its preview coverage of the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, which opens tomorrow, Thursday, April 21st. Information and tickets are available here. To whet your Fest appetite, here we spotlight two of the Festival’s features and two documentaries. Five Nights in Maine (USA, 2015, 82 min, Marquee Presentations) When an adult dies unexpectedly, whose grief […]

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SFIFF59 Spotlights #1: Microbe & Gasoline / Dead Slow Ahead / Very Big Shot / Granny’s Dancing on the Table

April 10, 2016

It’s that wonderful time of the year, again! Yes, time for the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF). The 59th edition of SFIFF will be hosting its two week celebration and screenings of incredible cinema from around the globe — April 21 through May 5. Year after year, Spinning Platters is here to provide you […]

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