Mostly British Film Festival co-founder Ruthe Stein has a few guidelines in programming the series, which runs Feb. 13-20 at the Vogue Theatre in San Francisco.
“I like films that give a sense of place. If we’re going to have a festival with movies from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa, we should show people what these countries look like.”
To that end, she has suggestions for film fans who want to delve into some of the series’ hidden gems, movies without big-time stars, or that might not get a theatrical release.
She describes “Flatland” (at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 18) as “Thelma and Louise, South African style.” In it, authorities are on the chase for two women — a petrified bride whose wedding included a murder and her very pregnant friend — fleeing on horseback through remote, rural country.
“The Keeper” tells the true story of German POW Bert Trautmann, who becomes the goalie for Manchester City, later to make history as a footballing icon. It screens at 2 p.m. Feb. 16, with an introduction by Mostly British Board Member Stuart Keirle, who remembers watching Trautmann play.
Screening at 3:30 p.m. Feb. 15 is “Top End Wedding,” the second largest grossing film in Australia in 2019. It’s a romantic comedy in which the bride-to-be, an ambitious lawyer (Miranda Tapsell of “The Sapphires”) won’t get married until her runaway Indigenous mother can be found; she and her bumbling fiancé (Gwilym Lee of “Bohemian Rhapsody”) go on a wild search of Australia’s remote Northern Territory and nearby Tiwi Islands, home to an Aboriginal community.
On the documentary front, there’s “Merata: How Mum Decolonized The Screen” (at noon Feb. 15) about pioneering activist filmmaker Merata Mita. In the 1970s, she became the first woman from an Indigenous Nation to direct a film anywhere in the world; her youngest son lovingly describes her achievements in the movie.
At 5 p.m. Feb. 17 is another selection about a notable female filmmaker: “Jill Bilcock: Dancing the Invisible” showcases the in-demand, influential film editor who worked on hits including “Moulin Rouge!,” “Muriel’s Wedding,” “Strictly Ballroom” and “The Young Victoria.”
There are musicals, too, including New Zealand’s “Daffodils,” a love story told with reimagined versions of iconic New Zealand pop songs screening at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 15. Based on Rochelle Bright’s play inspired by her parents’ story, it’s about an indie singer, who, as her father approaches death, recounts her mom and dad’s bittersweet romance.
Stein, who programs the festival with Maxine Einhorn, who’s British, and Kathleen O’Hara, who’s Irish, also recommends the Valetine’s Day lineup of three romances: “Say My Name,” a screwball comedy set on an island off the coast of southern Wales, with stars-filmmakers Lisa Brenner and Jay Stern attending at 5 p.m.; “Hampstead,” starring Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson and set in a posh London suburb, at 7:30 p.m.; and at 9:30 p.m. “Only You,” a 2019 Glasgow-set drama about what happens after two passionate actors (played by Laia Costa and Josh O’Connor) meet cute sharing a cab on New Year’s Eve. The film is the debut feature by a female British TV screenwriter named Harry Wootliff.
Opening Feb. 13 with “Military Wives,” a movie by “The Full Monty” director Peter Cattaneo about spouses of service men who take up choral singing, the 12th annual Mostly British festival is presented by the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving historic movie houses.
IF YOU GO
Mostly British Film Festival
Where: Vogue Theatre, 3290 Sacramento St., S.F.
When: Feb. 13-20
Tickets: $15-$20 (per screening) $200-$250 (pass)