Our Guide to San Francisco International Film Festival 2012

Photo by Tommy Lau

Why do I always get excited come International Film Festival time?  Well, first and foremost there’s the obvious fact that I’m a cinenut who, if given the opportunity and means, would inject dubious amounts of celluloid directly into my eye sockets.  But aside from that, I get pumped each year because I know that the hard working programmers who put together this 15 day event were wise enough to include something for everyone, whatever their tastes may be.

Whether you are going to see a live musical accompaniment of Sam Green’s The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller with a live score performed by Yo La Tengo, a Carol Reed masterpiece at one of the tribute nights, some latest works from already established filmmakers, including a 3D Francis Ford Coppola movie (he’s the guy who directed that obscure movie The Godfather), or to potentially discover the next great auteur, chances are you won’t be disappointed.

In the area of the more well known directors this year offers new movies from talents such as Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth), Harmony Korine (Gummo), Francis Ford Coppola (um, Godfather), Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused), Kenneth Branagh (Henry V), Jay & Mark Duplass (Cyrus), Alex Gibney (Taxi To The Dark Side), Eran Kolirin (The Band’s Visit), Johnnie To (Vengeance), and Michael Winterbottom (The Trip).

For those who wish to take in a classic film your best bet would be to attend one of the tribute screenings.  This year’s lineup is quite impressive.  The Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award will be given to veteran documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple prior to a screening of her influential documentary Harlen County, USA (1976).  Pierre Rissient (whose desk placard might read something like Frenchman/Exhibitor/Distributor/Programmer/Historian/Critic/Consultant/Raconteur/Confidante/Curator/Editor/ Publicist/Director/Discoverer/Champion) will be honored with both a screening of Fritz Lang‘s House By The River (1950) and the documentary on Rissient entitled Pierre Rissient: Man of Cinema (2007).  The Kanbar Award is given out to honor one’s excellent screenwriting ability.  This year’s honoree is David Webb Peoples, which means we cinephiles are treated to one of his crowning achievements; Clint Eastwood‘s Unforgiven (1992).  Then there’s the Founding Directors Award.  This year it’s the five time Academy Award nominated Kenneth Branagh.  His film Dead Again (1991) will be screened in his honor.  And last, but certainly not least, the Film Society will honoring the untimely passing of Executive Directors Graham Leggat and Bingham Ray with a screening of Ray’s all-time favorite film, The Third Man (1949).

All these great screenings and so much more will be on display this year and I know I speak for all Bay Area cinephiles as well as my fellow Filmbalayans when I say I’m more than looking forward to the next 2 weeks.  For more Film Festival information visit the SFIFF official website here.

For a rundown of what we’ve seen so far just click on any of the film titles below.  Hopefully, when planning your festival schedule you will consider our takes on which movies you should see and which ones you might want to avoid, taking into account of course that our expert opinions are of any value.  Keep in mind that reviews will be added throughout the festival as well.


Alps “Anyone that loves film should see Alps, so long as they can stomach some uncomfortable violence and sexuality”

Bernie “Told in part faux documentary and part re-enactment, the entire affair felt like a more extravagant episode of Rescue 911.  For the record, I love Rescue 911”

The Day He Arrives “Director Sang-soo Hong‘s film will not appeal to the masses but fans of thoughtful, dialogue heavy films will get enjoyment from it”

The Do-Deca-Pentathlon “The Duplass brothers‘ latest comedy shows a side of sibling rivalry not often seen – the competitive I’m-going-to-destroy-you-in-every-event-of-our-private-25-event-olympics side”

The Dreileben Trilogy: Beats Being Dead “My favorite of the trilogy… has all the characteristics of a masterfully crafted coming-of-age tale”

The Dreileben Trilogy: Don’t Follow Me Around “The 30-somethings in crisis portion of the trilogy… a fine intelligent drama; one I recommend”

The Dreileben Trilogy: One Minute of Darkness “Fans of thrillers, tragedies, and character studies will probably not want to miss this one, while fans of just good all around filmmaking should see this as well”

The Exchange “Everything about this film is soft-spoken and strange… Highly recommended”

Farewell My Queen “It was extremely refreshing to see a period film without the main focus being a love story”

The Fourth Dimension “Three directors, one manifesto.  Nothing spectacular, but enjoyable nevertheless”

Headhunters “Nothing like a good cat and mouse genre film with mystery, some crushed in skulls, a few high adrenaline chase scenes, a good heist or two, some guns, a shitload of humor and some big-budgeted suspense”

Hysteria “Funny and smart, albeit fairly predictable, and I have no problem recommending it to everyone who enjoys light comedies”

The Invisible War “a film in that every American (civilian or military, democrat or republican, male or female) needs to see”

Land of Oblivion “The film is bleak but well done and definitely worth watching”

Last Winter “A calm and meditative film experience of a stubborn cattle farmer who has fallen on hard times”

The Law In These Parts “An absolute must-see… Every technical aspect of the documentary is willingly self-referential and points out that this is a film, created by a person with an opinion, and one whose opinions are not solid fact, but rather one who is investigating something and presenting an argument for us to decide”

Ok, Enough, Goodbye “The film is well shot and uses long takes in establishing its character development, but sadly, that’s the only positive I took out of this unusual coming of age film”

Old Dog “This movie enraged me with its patient testing lingering of scenes and pointlessly dragged out narrative”

Palaces of Pity “If you want to see a short film with a lot of teen models, some penis stroking, and a whole heap of nonsense then by all means, have fun with this one”

Policeman “This interesting and confused political message is certainly worth considering – that is, the class differences in Israel being neglected by the pure focus on the Palestinian vs. Israeli conflict”

The Queen of Versailles “A refreshing riches to rags story directed in a very sympathetic manner with and excessive amount of laughs”

Somebody Up There Likes Me “Morbid, lazy humor brought together by a strange concept never quite explained is how I would describe Bob Byington‘s Somebody Up There Likes Me

Target “A visually stunning and thought provoking film that shows us what sci-fi is supposed to be”

Tokyo Waka “An existential documentary that not only identifies the pulse of a city, but was able to offer a unique insight as to how this city breathes”

Tommy “The most excessive hallucinatory jubilant rock opera ever!”

Twixt “If Francis Ford Coppola’s digitally photographed and fresh take on the gothic horror genre is a blueprint of things to come then I have a newly restored faith in the future of digital filmmaking”

Unfair World “Huge fans of ironic humor delivered in unwavering deadpan fashion must seek out this movie”

Valley of Saints “Documentary-looking fictional drama deals with the relationship between two friends living in a turbulent and beautiful Kashmir”

¡Vivan las Antipodas!Kossakovsky, takes a beautiful idea and creates a picturesque film with grace and technique”

The Waiting Room “Both subtle and impassive in its critique, The Waiting Room is a success if for no other reason than how it remains entertaining throughout its short running time”

Where Do We Go Now? “DirectorNadine Labaki, born in Lebanon, creates the perfect recipe for film; mixing an emotional war between Christians and Muslims living in the same town”

Winter Nomads “After watching Manuel von Sturler‘s documentation of two shepherds, some dogs, and a few donkeys embark on their annual 4 month trans-human journey, I felt a part of me long to be with the flock, baring all of the uncomfortable cold and wet elements”

Women With Cows “This movie is as interesting as its subjects allow it to be, which, despite their strong stubborn personalities and some clever juxtapositional framed shots, surprisingly isn’t all that interesting”

Wu ia “as an action movie it kicks some serious butt!”


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Categories: San Francisco International Film Festival

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