Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Raoul Peck drama, 'A German Youth' and Tsui Hark thriller - San Francisco In'tl Film Festival final week

The Taking of Tiger Mountain, Tsui Hark's latest epic

By Moira Sullivan

The San Francisco International Film Festival continues through May 7 and there are many exceptional films that will be screened in the final week.

Tsui Hark’s “The Taking of Tiger Mountain” on April 30, a political thriller set at the end of World War II.  In this narrative, the mission of People’s Liberation Army Captain Shao Jianbo (Lin Gengxin) is to take Tiger Mountain, once occupied by the Japanese and now the territory of a bandit king named Hawk (played by Tony Leung Ka-fai). The big budget film features 3D and CGI special effects-  

A brilliant documentary “A German Youth” directed by Jean-Gabriel Periot, a French –German-Swiss co-production screens on May 2 and 5th at Sundance Kabuki. It chronicles the conditions in West Germany in the 60’s and 70’s and protests by German youth against the state. Such a time created the Red Army Faction and the Baader Meinhof Gang.  Ulrike Meinhof was an established journalist who later became a spokesman for the left and participated in political violence against the state. She has claimed to have killed herself in a German Women’s Prison. This has since been disputed and is the subject of Uli Edel's “The Baader Meinhof Complex “(2008).

The director uses archival footage extensively for this portrait of the resistance of German youth to an authoritarian state. He begins with showing the efforts of young film students who were accepted to the DFFB - German Film and Television Academy Berlin, which was founded in 1966 as the first film school in West Germany. Thirty students, selected from over 800 applicants were the first students.  This work was produced in the spirit of the work of the Russian revolutionary filmmaker Dziga Vertov. Holger Meins, one of the members of the Baader Meinhof group, was one of the first students. 

"A German Youth" shows the work of these filmmakers who used film as a political tool to chronicle their society, to protest again housing problems, the mass media, and in particular instance the visit of the Shah of Iran to Berlin when the Iranian officials and the German police beat student protestors. It was this particular action which deeply affected Ulrike Meinhof and she later joined with Andreas Baader and Gudrun Esslin. 'A German Youth ' is a fascinating documents and one of the best films at this festival.
"Murder in Pacot" by the renowned Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck will screen on May 2 at the Pacific Film Archives.  Peck’s film is based on the screenplay by Pier Paolo Pasolini for Theorem from 1968.  In the background of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, a well off couple rents out their home and resigns themselves to living in the back of the house in a shed. Their tenant is a European aid worker who comes to Haiti to assist in earthquake rescue operations.  He is soon visited by his vivacious girlfriend. His presence in the house can be likened to the role of Terence Stamp as The Visitor in Theorem, a mysterious houseguest that involves everyone who lives under the roof of his host. 

On Saturday April 25 the epic indie film of the late Barbara Loden was screened at the Castro Theater. The 16 mm film was restored into a 35mm print and is a cinema verité masterpiece– a film shot improvisationally and for Loden a semi biographical portrait of poverty and a woman’s survival. Then film is grainy yet vivid and chronicles the events of a housewife who has lost her husband and kids in a divorce case and becomes a drifter. Dependent on the generosity of anonymous men, she clings to each encounter for survival, including a robber who is going to pull a bank heist. Loden, who plays the main character Wanda, is brilliant and her ability to create such a realistic character is exceptional. The setting of the film is Scranton Pennsylvania and it is mostly a road movie. The San Francisco International Film Festival made a smart choice in screening this film that has been forgotten for years in the US and neglected in film history.

© 2015 - Moira Sullivan- Air Date: 04/28/15

Movie Magazine International

Saturday, April 25, 2015

San Francisco Int'l Film Festival - classic and new work abounds in 58th edition

Barbara Loden's 'Wanda' (1970)
By Moira Sullivan

The 2015 San Francisco International Film Festival will be held April 23 through May 7. This is the 58th edition of the event and 181 films will be screened—features, documentaries, shorts and special events. Here are some the highlights of this festival organized by the San Francisco Film Society and some of the exceptional films.

This year the "Golden Gate Persistence of Vision" Award honoring the achievements of a filmmaker working in non-narrative film goes to British veteran and documentarian Kim Longinotto. She has an ambitious line of work behind her that chronicles the lives of women. Her latest film "Dreamcatcher" focusses on Chicago’s sex workers and the work of Brenda Myers Powell who counsels and encourages the women to respect themselves. She is shown speaking with teenagers, women on the street and incest survivors. The film will be screened May 2, 2015 in the presence of the filmmaker at the Sundance Kabuki in San Francisco.

On May 3 and 4 the documentary "Deep Web" screens at the Kabuki and focuses on the San Francisco-based Ross Ulbricht, allegedly the creator of the online black market website the Silk Road who is alleged to be "Dread Pirate Roberts". Little known to most of us, roughly 95 % of internet users  surf the interne above another encrypted layer called "The Deep Web "where cyber criminals and anonymous surfers roam. Filmmaker Alex Winter will attend the festival on May 3 and 4 and is an advocate for the free web, and if you think you are free on the net, "Deep Web" will make you think twice.

I would like to also recommend Barbara Loden's 1970 classic "Wanda" which will be screened April 25 at the Castro. The 142-minute 35mm film has been newly restored and is a masterpiece, the story of a divorced woman who hooks up with small time crook and is talked into pulling a bank job with him. The film was shot on 16mm and is an example of the cinema verité style of the time.   Loden who plays Wanda was a notorious anti Hollywood filmmaker  married to the controversial director Elia Kazan.

"Wanda" won the Pasinetti Award for best foreign film at  the 31st  Venice Int'l Film Festival but despite critical acclaim, it opened only for a limited engagement in a NewYork theater the following year. Although forgotten in the US, the flame continued to burn in Europe. Loden was to have appeared at the Deauville American festival in 1980 but died before flying to the event. Film theoretician Gilles Deleuze wrote that a filmmaker is not so much of an artist but a thinker, and Barbara Loden is such an example.

On April 25 and 28 is the documentary "The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution" which takes at look at the Black Panther party of the 60’s and their program of radical change following years of police brutality, poverty and discrimination of the African American community. The film looks at some of the lesser-known members of the organization, many of which were women. Filmmaker Stanley Nelson and members of the Black Panthers will attend the April 25 screening at the Kabuki.

Next week more from the San Francisco International Film Festival!

© 2015- Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 04/22/15
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Isabella Rossellini is coming to the San Francisco Int'l Film Festival

Isabella Rossellini's new love affair 

By Moira Sullivan

Isabella Rossellini has had a long-term love affair with insects and animals.  She is the daughter of the Swedish screen actress Ingrid Bergman and Italian film director Roberto Rossellini. Isabella went back to school after a successful career as a model for Lancôme and a motion pictures actress. One of her major roles was in David Lynch’s "Blue Velvet" made in 1986. 

Isabella studied animal behavior ecology and conservation after these careers in order to be well acquainted with her subjects.  First she made 40 short films , which she called "Green Porno", then she did theater presentations written with Jean-Claude Carrière. After that she wrote a book about the sex life of animals and finally a film made by Judy Shapiro chronicles this work.
This documentary will be presented at the San Francisco Int'l Film Festival ("Green Porno" Live!) that runs from April 23–May 7. The film will be screened April 26 and April 27 in the presence of Isabella and the filmmaker.

Isabella is Italian but her voice clearly evokes her famous mother. She is an excellent actress and speaker and her projects are engaging, powerful and truly exciting. Shapiro’s film chronicles Rossellini’s  experiences with various creative teams who help her to produce her show, consultants who introduce her to animals, clips for her very successful short films and theatrical presentations of her work. She plays the animals, she plays Darwin, and she plays aspiring mates for elk. She plays a hermaphrodite, a transsexual  and a parthonogenic virgin reproducing female.   How can animals , be all heterosexual, she wonders as her adventures into animal behavior celebrate their diversity.

Above all Isabella Rossellini is an extraordinary teacher who is able to captivate her audiences, especially with her witty intelligent way of expression and brilliant stage performances.
Next week more from the San Francisco International Film Festival.

© 2015 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 04/15/15
Movie Magazine International