Smaller in scale but not in scope

Marking its 51st anniversary this year, the San Francisco International Film Festival has gone back to its “standard” fare of dozens of offerings of all kinds of films from around the world.

While last year’s 50th celebration warranted a program that was slightly bigger, this year’s presentation nonetheless remains wide in scope. Its sponsor, the San Francisco Film Society, has gone through the same exhaustive preparation as it does each year.

Programming director Linda Blackaby describes the process as “kind of like ‘Star Trek.’ You go through various warp speeds.”

Film Society staffers work on the event year-round. But as the months, weeks and days count down to today’s opening, more and more people participate, from the artists and media professionals on panels selecting the featured films and honorees, to interns helping write the publications, to hundreds of volunteers staffing the theaters.

Even in an odd year, the festival remains immense. Blackaby’s advice on navigating the waters: Pick movies that don’t necessarily seem like something to which you’d typically be attracted.

“Try to explore and widen the idea of who you are and what you like,” she says.

She also recommends screenings being attended by filmmakers: “One of the best things is connecting with the person who made the work. It’s priceless,” she says.

On a personal note, Blackaby is looking forward to seeing directors Alex Rivera (“Sleep Dealer”); Guy Maddin (“My Winnipeg“); and Renee Tajima-Pena, (“Calavera Highway”) as well as Henry Marsh, the subject of “The English Surgeon.” Also: the subjects of “Flow: For the Love of Water,” about water harvesting in India, including, Blackaby has heard,one fellow who’s supposedly the “smartest man in India.”

While admitting that San Francisco’s festival doesn’t quite have the marketing stature that Cannes does, it is, Blackaby says, “an extremely well-respected, recognized festival of international significance.” Filmmakers enjoy being a part of it because San Francisco is a creative place and also because audiences are smart.

IF YOU GO

San Francisco International Film Festival

When: Today though May 8

Where: Most screenings at Sundance Cinemas Kabuki, 1881 Post St.; Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St.; and Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St.

Tickets: $9 to $12.50 for regular programs; more for special events

Contact: (925) 866-9559 or www.sffs.org

Opening night: “The Last Mistress” tonight at 7 at the Castro

Closing night: “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson” May 8 at 7 p.m. at the Castro

Just Posted

Cabernet sauvignon grapes sat in a container after being crushed at Smith-Madrone Winery in St. Helena. (Courtesy Smith-Madrone Winery)
San Francisco’s ‘Champagne problems’ — Wine industry suffers supply chain woes

‘Everywhere you turn, things that were easy are no longer easy’

Glasses behind the bar at LUNA in the Mission District on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Glassware is just one of the many things restaurants have had trouble keeping in stock as supply chain problems ripple outward. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF restaurants face product shortages and skyrocketing costs

‘The supply chain crisis has impacted us in almost every way imaginable’

A Giants fans hangs his head in disbelief after the Dodgers won the NLDS in a controversial finish to a tight Game 5. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Giants dream season ends at the hands of the Dodgers, 2-1

A masterful game comes down to the bottom of the ninth, and San Francisco came up short

<strong>Workers with Urban Alchemy and the Downtown Streets Team clean at Seventh and Market streets on Oct. 12. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins> </strong>
<ins></ins>
Why is it so hard to keep San Francisco’s streets clean?

Some blame bureaucracy, others say it’s the residents’ fault

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi — seen in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday — touted Congressional Democrats’ infrastructure bill in San Francisco on Thursday. (Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times)
Pelosi touts infrastructure bill as it nears finish line

Climate change, social safety net among major priorities of Democrats’ 10-year funding measure

Most Read