The San Francisco International Film Festival, America’s longest running film festival, begins again this week. This year’s line up features a plethora of cross-cultural big-screen morsels for the sampling. Out of the 107 films from all around the world screening at this film extravaganza, here are six to check out.
1. “Between Two Worlds”
Directed by Vimukthi Jayasundara
This film blends realism with allegory to crack open the psychic, physical and spiritual effects of over 20 years of civil war in Sri Lanka. Sounds promising.
Directed by Carter Gunn and Ross McDonnell
This documentary chronicles the plight of American beekeepers given the sudden vanishing of honeybee populations—a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Considering the vital role that bees play in pollinating staple crops across the old-red-white-and, unless this problem is fixed, soon to be very blue, the phenomena could have some devastating effects on the urban and two-legged as well. Educate yourself.
3. “Frontier Blues”
Directed by Babak Jalali
This feature film is set in the “land of heartbreak and tractors,” aka the northern frontier of Iran. It uses humor and a heavy-handed dash of melancholy to tease out the dimensions of fantasy and memory through the routines of a few men. The film is in both Farsi and Turkmen with English subtitles. Play a game with yourself and try to figure out which characters speak which language. I guarantee you, both will make noises that you can’t even imagine.
4. “Gainsbourg (Je t’aime…
Moi Non Plus)”
Directed by Joann Sfar
Actor Eric Elmosnino embodies the legendary French singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg in this biopic of an artist as famous for his romances and scandals as he is for his music. Sfar gives the classic “tell the story of a famous musician” bit a comic-book-rooted twist by featuring an alter ego persona—“part imaginary friend and all id”- which follows Gainsbourg through life. It’s a tumultuous ride this artist had, from the years he spent as a Jewish child in Nazi-occupied France all the way through to knocking boots with Brigitte Bardot. Sex, Art, and French…you had me at “French.”
Directed by Samuel Maoz
Maoz’s first feature film tells the story of an Israeli tank crew during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. This film addresses the madness of the Lebanon War through the dynamics inside the tank and inside the heads of these young soldiers. This film already won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. The story is fictional but based on the director’s personal experience in the military. “It took 20 years for me, before I had the strength to write the screenplay for it,” Maoz told the press. “When I was in Lebanon, it changed my life.”
6. “The Music Room”
Directed by Satyajit Ray
Based on a novel by the Bengali writer Tarashankar Banerjee, “The Music Room” is considered one of the greatest and most influential films in Indian cinema. While the festival’s other showcases are contemporary films, this film was originally released in 1958 and has been recently restored by the Academy Film Archive. Director Satyajit Ray received a special Academy Award for lifetime achievement while on his deathbed in 1992. The film is in Bengali with English subtitles.