After being one of the first festivals to be hit by COVID-19 in 2020, the San Francisco International Film Festival — the longest running in the Americas — is back and in person.
From April 21 to May 1, the 65th festival will feature some 130 films from 56 countries. Additionally, in a groundbreaking move, 56% of the films are by female or non-binary directors, and 52% are directed by BIPOC filmmakers.
To start, legendary performer Michelle Yeoh — star of “Supercop,” “Tomorrow Never Dies,” “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” among many others — will receive a special tribute, hosted by Sandra Oh and including a screening of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
The festival will also pay tribute to actor and comic Jenny Slate, with a screening of the new feature-length adaptation of her viral short film “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.”
In addition, Bay Area-based veteran indie filmmaker and cinema professor Trinh T. Minh-ha will receive the Persistence of Vision award. A screening of her latest film “What About China?” will accompany an on-stage interview.
Jamie Sisley’s “Stay Awake” — about two teen boys and their mother, who suffers from drug addiction — lands in the opening night film slot. In the “centerpiece” category, the festival presents Abi Damaris Corbin’s “892,” starring John Boyega as a former Marine who holds up a bank.
Closing night is Cooper Raiff “Cha Cha Real Smooth” about a young man who works as a party host and befriends a young mother and her young daughter, the latter of whom is on the autism spectrum. The film co-stars Dakota Johnson and Leslie Mann.
Another special screening, recipient of the Sloan Science on Screen award, is Colin West’s “Linoleum,” starring Jim Gaffigan as a children’s science show host who wants to become an astronaut.
The festival has divided its large number of offerings into bite-size groups, including International Documentaries, U.S. Documentaries, International Narratives, U.S. Narratives, Shorts and a selection of Online Programs, Bay Area Voices, Cine Latino, Family Friendly, etc. There are also a few “mid-lengths,” or films that run between 31 and 59 minutes.
Among the Bay Area-centered films, there is “American Justice on Trial,” a short documentary on the Black Panther Party; “Black Mothers Love & Resist,” a documentary about an effort to deal with police violence; and “Land of Gold,” a documentary about the making of John Adams and Peter Sellars’s new about the California Gold Rush, which will screen for free.
Other Bay Area films include: “Fire of Love,” a documentary about a romantic couple who are also volcanologists; “I Didn’t See You There,” in which Sundance-winning documentary filmmaker Reid Davenport contrasts cerebral palsy with a circus freak show; and “Mud Water,” about an Oakland dance crew preparing for battle; as well as various short films.
For those hoping to get an early peak at some of the year’s major releases, the festival features:
-“Benediction,” the story of English poet Siegfried Sassoon by acclaimed English filmmaker Terence Davies (“Distant Voices, Still Lives,” “The House of Mirth,” “The Deep Blue Sea,” “A Quiet Passion”);
– “Fire” (a.k.a. “Both Sides of the Blade”), starring Juliette Binoche as a woman caught between two lovers by great French filmmaker Claire Denis (“Beau Travail,” “Let the Sun Shine In”);
-“La Guerra Civil,” a documentary about the 1990s rivalry between boxers Oscar De La Hoya and Julio César Chávez directed “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria;
– “Emily the Criminal,” about a young woman mired in student debt who turns to white-collar crime, starring the consistently entertaining Aubrey Plaza.
As always, there are parties, workshops, music and panels. Events will take place at the Castro Theatre, the Vogue Theater, the Roxie Theater, the Victoria Theatre and BAMPFA in Berkeley.
IF YOU GO:
65th International San Francisco Film Festival
When: April 21 through May 1
Where: Castro Theatre, Vogue Theater, Roxie Theater, Victoria Theatre and BAMPFA in Berkeley
Tickets: $18 for general admission, $16 for students, seniors, and ADA, $15 for SFFILM members, and $10 for children ages 12 and under. Special events priced separately. Ticket packages are available.
Contact: (415) 561-5000, sffilm.org