Can’t Miss Film Festival Comes To Town

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Around one hundred journalists gather at the prestigious Alexandra room on the 32nd floor of the Westin Hotel. Men and women dressed in business attire talk excitedly as they pour coffee before settling into a chair for the press conference. The energy in the air might make one think this crowded event is the Oscar awards unraveling. It is not. All the commotion is for a much-anticipated event, the 54th International Film Festival that ran from April 21 through May 5.

This distinguished festival took place at theatres throughout San Francisco including The Castro Theatre and Kabuki Sundance Cinemas. Nearly 200 films produced from more than forty countries were shown at theatres across San Francisco. The films were grouped into categories that included a documentary section showcasing first-and-second time directors; world cinema that focused on international directors; documentaries that delivered nonfiction pieces on people, places, issues and ideas; the late show that featured thrilling films; and the shorts program that presented multiple genres.

Opening night, Thursday April 21st, showcased a phenomenal film, Beginners shown at the Castro Theatre. Beginners stars Ewan McGregor, a graphic artist that finds himself in a new relationship. His 75-year-old father, who has recently come out of the closet and is battling cancer, imparts life lessons down to his unlucky in love son that will not be forgotten.

Another awesome event the Film Festival offered this year is the salons, where viewers can meet with directors and scholars to discuss the films in an intimate environment where more in-depth conversations can be held. Sunday May 1 offered a salon to discuss “Expressions of French Cinema” hosted by author and former Yale professor Susan Weiner. This salon discussed Children of the Princess Cleves, a documentary on a high school class in Marseille studying classic literature, I’m Glad My Mother Is Alive, the story of Nathan, who has led a troubled life and as an adult seeks out his birth mother, and The Place In Between, a story of a young biracial French woman traveling to Burkina Faso to find her birth mother.

In addition to salons, master classes were offered where guests engaged with festival insiders and conversed on detailed cinema discourse that went steps further than they typical question and answer session. A great salon for film aficionados and emerging writers took place on Friday, April 29. This salon, “Frank Pierson: A Writer’s Life” was hosted at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, and discussed the craft of screenwriting. Pierson, a legendary screenwriter, was presented this year’s Kanabar Award for excellence in screenwriting.

To get in on the action, check out sf360.org. This online site funded by the San Francisco Film Society contains numerous feature stories, a filmmaking manual, and deadlines. It not only serves as an online magazine for filmmakers and fans, but it is also a great resource to find festival showings and events.