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