The largest and, arguably, the most glamorous film festival in San Francisco is about to get underway for the 53rd year in a row, and the Rumpus has been watching selected films and listening to buzz for the past two weeks. (The full schedule and tickets are available online from this page.)
Read on for my initial recommendations on events to attend in this first dispatch from the festival! Tomorrow’s dispatch will recommend films.
What follows are the events I personally find intriguing, but there are several more that may be of interest to you: you should check out the full program when you get a chance — for example, among the events I’ve omitted below are the closing night film (about Joan Rivers), the very popular centerpiece night (rush status as of this writing), and the ever-popular midnight awards.
BIG NIGHTS AND AWARD NIGHTS
(Thu 4/22 7:00pm Castro)
The opening night film is the highly-anticipated Micmacs, by Jean-Pierre Jeunet — the director of Delicatessen, Amelie, and A Very Long Engagement. In a line, the film is about one man’s personal quest to utterly ruin the lives of two arms dealers who have ruined his life. And he ruins them with over-the-top whimsy, of course, against a darkly surreal background — this is Jeunet, after all. The show is followed by a party at the Regency Center. I’ve got a press ticket, so I plan to attend and dispatch on opening night — look for that on Friday afternoon.
An Evening with Don Hertzfeld
(Fri 4/23 7:30pm Kabuki)
The Film Society has this wonderful honor called the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award, which is pretty self-explanatory: each year, it recognizes the unwavering efforts of a Bay Area cinematic artist to remain true to his or her vision, in defiance of the enormous pressures to do something more commercial. This year, the award is being presented to the youngest honoree ever, Fremont-born Don Hertzfeld, who has stuck to making animated shorts — which have been, incidentally, enormously popular and influential — for the entirety of his career. The two-hour program will consist of an onstage interview along with a screening of his best-known work.
An Evening With Walter Salles
(Wed 4/28 6:45pm Kabuki)
The film society is presenting Walter Salles, best known for the Motorcycle Diaries, with the festival’s award for lifetime achievement in directing. For many years Salles has been working on a documentary about Kerouac, the Beats, and On the Road. This evening will feature a screening of this work in progress, along with a clip reel of career highlights and an onstage interview.
An Evening with Roger Ebert and Friends
(Sat 5/1 5:30pm Castro)
Look, for fifteen bucks, you can see Roger Ebert receive an award onstage, which will be presented by Philip Kaufman, Errol Morris, Jason Reitman, and Terry Zwigoff. This will be followed by a screening of Ebert’s selection for the festival, the “uncompromising 2008 genre-buster” Julia. Enough said!
LIVE & ONSTAGE EVENTS
The festival established this category in order to distinguish them from the awards night. All six of the events in this category are worth going to (there is some kind of programming genius going on here), so I’m just going to list them briefly here and link to the page for each one. (You can browse them all at this link.) They have:
- A night with T Bone Burnett (Sat 4/24 6pm Kabuki);
- A talk given by Walter Murch (Sun 4/25 4pm Kabuki);
- A “live documentary,” Utopia in Four Movements, created and presented by Sam Green and Dave Cerf (Sun 4/25 9:30pm Kabuki);
- A Drunken Evening with Derek Waters and Wholphin, presenting short films by Waters “in which an intoxicated recounting of a historical event is intercut with a verbatim reenactment” featuring Hollywood stars — Waters will be joined on stage by Brent Hoff of Wholphin (Mon 4/26 9:30pm Kabuki);
- An event presented by the Porchlight Storytelling Series (Monday 5/3 9:45 Kabuki);
- And my personal favorite every year, the silent film: this year’s is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and the score will be performed by Stephin Merritt of the Magnetic Fields, Rumpus favorite Daniel Handler (did you know he’s a brilliant accordionist too?), and one of the Castro Theatre’s amazing organists, David Hegarty. (Tues 5/4 8:30pm Castro)