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55th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 19-May 3, 2012

By Janine Gericke.

This year’s San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) has an astounding lineup, including a wide array of narrative features, documentaries, short films, and special presentations.

Special Events

Your Sister’s Sister

Two of the SFIFF’s former directors have passed away in the last year and, to honor them, two of this year’s tentpole events have been dedicated in their names. The festival opens with a screening of Benoit Jacquot’s Farewell, My Queen, starring Dianne Kruger as Marie Antoinette. The opening night film, and subsequent party are dedicated to Executive Director Graham Leggat (1960-2011). While a screening of the 1949 film The Third Man, starring Orson Welles, will be presented in honor of former festival Executive Director Bingham Ray (1954-2012).

This year’s Centerpiece film is Lynn Shelton’s Your Sister’s Sister, starring Emily Blunt and Mark Duplass. A party will be following the screening of the film. The closing night film is Ramona Diaz’s Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey, which will include special guests and live entertainment. The World Cinema Spotlight focuses this year on Filming Between the Lines: Innovative Literary Adaptations, with screenings that include Christian Jimenez’s Bonsai, Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 3, and Grant Gee’s Patience (After Sebald). Writer Jonathan Lethem will be on hand for this year’s State of Cinema Address.

Awards

Chicken with Plums

The 2012 Persistence of Vision Award honors filmmaker Barbara Kopple, with an interview with the filmmaker and a screening of her 1976 documentary Harlan County, USA. Actor Kenneth Branagh will also be at the festival to receive the Founder’s Directing Award, as will actress Judy Davis, who is being honored with the Peter J. Owens Award for her illustrious career.

Feature Films

There is an incredible lineup of features this year, and all of these are open to the public. The major highlights of this year’s features include Marjane Satrapi’s new film Chicken with Plums, the latest film from the director of 2009’s Dogtooth Yorgos Lanthimos, Alps, Craig Zobel’s Compliance, the anthology film The Fourth Dimension, Adam Leon’s Gimme the Loot, Johnie To’s Life Without Principle, Tanya Wexler’s Hysteria, Kleber Mendonca Filho’s Neighboring Sounds, Jake Schreier’s Robot and Frank, Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna, Ry Russo-Young’s Nobody Walks, Bob Byington’s Somebody Up There Likes Me, Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt, and so many more.

Documentaries & Shorts

Merril Garbus of the Oakland band tUnE-yArDs, along with guitarist Ava Mendoza will be playing a live accompaniment to the Buster Keaton shorts One WeekThe Haunted HouseThe Cook, and Good Night, Nurse.

Some of the noteworthy documentaries include Kirby Dick’s Invisible War, Jessica Yu’s Last Call at the Oasis, Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher’s Off Label, Lauren Greenfield’s The Queen of Versailles, Maria Demopoulos and Jodi Wille’s The Source, and Paul Lacoste’s Step Up to the Plate, just to name a few.

The Queen of Versailles

The festival also highlights films by local Bay Area filmmakers with shorts by Enrico Casarosa, Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper, and documentaries and narrative features by Jamie Meltzer, John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson, Peter Nicks, Stephen Elliott, and Aurora Guerrero.

If you are going to be near the Bay Area April 19-May 3, I strongly encourage you to check out this amazing festival! Be on the lookout for my full festival report next month.

For more information, please visit the official website for the 55th San Francisco International Film Festival: http://festival.sffs.org/index.php

Janine Gericke is a Film International ‘In the Field’ writer.

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