As Michael Hawley noted in his preview a couple of weeks ago, the San Francisco International Film Festival, whose 60th edition opens today and runs through April 19, is tweaking its brand. Its parent organization, the San Francisco Film Society, is now known as SFFILM, and so, henceforth, the "preferred name" of the festival is, naturally, SFFILM Festival.

Tonight's opener is Landline, Gillian Robespierre's followup to Obvious Child; we gathered reviews when it premiered at Sundance. The Centerpiece is Geremy Jasper's Patti Cake$, which opened this year's New Directors/New Films.

Closing Night sees something else altogether, The Green Fog. From the festival: "Kronos Quartet performs a new score by composer Jacob Garchik to accompany a visual collage by cultural iconoclast Guy Maddin and co-directors Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson. Maddin, working with his Forbidden Room collaborators, set himself the challenge to remake Vertigo without using footage from the Hitchcock classic, creating a 'parallel-universe version,' in his words."

Maddin will also be presenting a selection of films celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of Canyon Cinema. Experimental Cinema has more on that program.


Along with screenings of over 180s films, there'll be tributes to Ethan Hawke, Shah Rukh Khan, James Ivory and John Ridley—and awards:

Pixar co-founder Edwin Catmull will deliver this year's State of Cinema address.

Michael Hawley: "One of the most ingenious happenings at this year's festival has to be film historian David Thomson interviewing William R. Hearst III about Citizen Kane, whose protagonist Charles Foster Kane is based on Hearst's grandfather. Their conversation at the YBCA Theater on April 6 will be followed by a screening of Orson Welles's 1941 masterpiece, long considered the greatest film ever made until its position was usurped by Hitchcock's Vertigo in 2012. Speaking of both David Thomson and Vertigo, he conducts a master class at SFMOMA on April 16 entitled Two or Three Things That Frighten Me in Vertigo." And for the SF Weekly, Joe Kukura talks with SFFILM executive director Noah Cowan about the event with Hearst.

Thomas Riedelsheimer's Leaning Into the Wind – Andy Goldsworthy sees its world premiere at the festival, which is also presenting a free screening of his earlier portrait of the artist, Rivers and Tides (2001). More free screenings: Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis's Whose Streets? (see DOC10) and Jim Chai's documentary, Defender.


Writing for KQED, Max Goldberg suggests Bad mama, who cares, "Brigid McCaffrey’s quietly astonishing portrait of the geologist Ren Lallatin at home in the desert. An inventive film for an inventive subject, Bad mama, who cares dissolves body, work, environment, and a carousel of color into a gestalt of lived experience and everyday science fiction. The result is simultaneously dense, with more visual ideas crammed into its eleven minutes than a clutch of features, and serenely speculative." It screens "as part of SFFILM’s dedicated experimental program (Who Cares. Who Sees: Experimental Shorts), but several other worthwhile shorts are scattered throughout the festival. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Bitchin Bajas perform a free musical interpretation of local artist Jerome Hiler’s luminous and rarely screened 16mm films."

In the Mercury News, Randy Myers has ten recommendations, one of them being the world premiere of Peter Livolsi's The House of Tomorrow, "a compassionate and funny coming-of-age tale about a teen [Asa Butterfield] living cloistered away with his grandma [Ellen Burstyn] in a landmark eco-home and the unanticipated bond he develops with a volatile heart transplant recipient [Alex Wolff] who loves punk rock music. Quite simply, it’s one of the best YA novel-adapted films I’ve seen."

"Terence Nance presents the live interactive program 18 Black Girls/Boys Ages 1-18 Who Have Arrived at the Singularity and Are Thus Spiritual Machines," notes Peter Wong at Beyond Chron. "Using Internet search functions, Nance questions how culture and media perceive black youths of both sexes…. Fireworks fans should make time for Brimstone & Glory. This documentary captures the craziness of Mexico’s National Pyrotechnic Festival, where papier-maiche bulls shoot fireworks at the crowds and rickety firework castles deliver the thrills of explosions and imminent collapse. The music score comes from Beasts of the Southern Wild director Benh Zeitlin."

Among the screenings Janos Gereben spotlights at the San Francisco Classical Voice is Matt Schrader's Score: A Film Music Documentary. "The music of the silver screen, a huge and fascinating subject, is what Score examines, demonstrates, illustrates, and explains. The documentary brings some of Hollywood’s premier composers—including Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, John Williams—together to give viewers a look inside the musical challenges and creative secrecy of the world’s most widely known music genre: the film score."


At this point, we return to Michael Hawley because he's got recommendations to make as well in his latest entry, including Cristi Puiu's Sieranevada, Brillante Mendoza's Ma' Rosa ("Frankly, I'll be surprised if I experience a more bravura piece of filmmaking this year") and Eduardo Williams's The Human Surge.

Updates, 4/8: Brian Darr notes that "there are bigger changes for this 60th annual festival than just the name-change." The schedule, for one: the dates no longer overlap with Tribeca's. There are more venues. And he writes about how the awards presentations have evolved over the years.

Then he points us to more coverage. For the East Bay Express, Kelly Vance calls up Cowan: "'Let me tell you the demographic truth about [the SFFILM Festival],' Cowan began. 'The two main groups who go to it are young professionals under thirty, and females over fifty.' Adding live music is presumably one way to attract nightlife consumers who might not know, or care, much about Dziga Vertov." And, noting that "20 percent of the festival’s audience comes from the East Bay, with 10 percent from the Peninsula," Vance previews the lineup.

Lincoln Spector has been posting daily dispatches.

IndieWire's Eric Kohn notes that William Randolph Hearst III is "a huge fan" of Citizen Kane: "'It was a forbidden subject,' he said. 'In families where there are dark secrets, I don’t think I ever remembered overhearing my parents, someone in the family, talking about the movie, or expressing an opinion on it.'" But Hearst now has a lot to say about why the film will endure.

Update, 4/9: "Awkward straight arrow meets broody rebel in The House of Tomorrow, a confident and perfectly cast debut feature," writes Sheri Linden for the Hollywood Reporter. "Working from Peter Bognanni’s novel, writer-director Peter Livolsi has smoothed some of the source material’s edges, and the pieces tend to fit together a touch too neatly in a story that emphasizes the sweet redemptive power of punk rock, not its purported menace. But there isn’t a false note in the performances, and the pairing of Asa Butterfield and Alex Wolff, as mismatched Minnesota teens who start a band, is an absolute delight." More from Dennis Harvey in Variety.

Updates, 4/16: "One highlight of the weekend was the Sunday afternoon presentation of the Mel Novikoff Award, named for the former owner and/or operator of many historic Frisco cinemas (including the Castro), to former Pacific Film Archive director, Telluride Film Festival co-founder and co-director, and storied producer of films of all sorts, Tom Luddy," writes Brian Darr. "One of the great highlights of my blogging 'career' was when Luddy responded by e-mail to my obituary of his friend and collaborator Chris Marker, and then allowed me to publish some of his recollections of working with Marker…. I also have greatly benefited from viewing films he had a hand in getting produced (like Jean-Luc Godard's Every Man For Himself and Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi), or revived (like Mikhail Kalatozov's I Am Cuba and countless others)." And Darr relates several highlights of the on-stage conversation between Luddy and the Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy.

IndieWire's Eric Kohn talks with Guy Maddin about The Green Fog, noting that, in preparation, Maddin and the two Johnsons "watched around 200 movies shot in San Francisco… as they looked for common themes. 'We found earthquakes, free love, beatniks, dangling men, falling men, car chases, churches, AIDS,' Maddin said. 'It was the epicenter of so many things.' At first, Maddin considered the project as inspired by other cinematic city symphonies, such as Dziga Vertov’s silent era Man With a Movie Camera and Walter Ruttman’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City. 'I thought maybe we would just show it to the Kronos Quartet and let them make it pretty,' Maddin said. 'But while we were watching the footage, we noticed that little bits of Vertigo floated up to us.'"


Update, 4/17: The winners of this year's Golden Gate Awards have been announced. Click here for jurors' statements.

Update, 5/2: Michael Hawley wraps it up: "Personal highlights included getting to share the same air as Ethan Hawke, Bill Nye the Science Guy and Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, as well as seeing new works from favorite directors like Alejandro Jodorowsky and João Pedro Rodrigues. Here are some thoughts on 20 of the programs I caught at this year's memorable anniversary edition."