Beginning April 19, the San Francisco International Film Festival will once again bring an eclectic mix of both world cinema’s rising stars and veteran filmmakers to the Bay Area. With 200 films in 41 languages, panels, master classes and more, the 55th edition has something for true cinephiles and casual filmgoers alike. So straight from the programmers themselves, here is your guide to the films and events not to be missed.
Opening night showcases director Benoît Jacquot’s “Farewell, My Queen,” starring Diane Kruger as Marie Antoinette. This fresh take on the events leading up to the French Revolution tells the familiar story through the eyes of the reader to the queen.
The following weekend, Lynn Shelton’s excellent improvisational dramedy “Your Sister’s Sister” takes the stage for the Centerpiece screening. Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass and Rosemarie DeWitt star in this touching story about testing the bonds between friends and family.
The World Cinema Spotlight, which runs throughout the festival, highlights a diverse range of literary adaptations, ranging from classics such as “Wuthering Heights” (dir. Andrea Arnold, starring Kaya Scodelario) and the “Tess of the d’Urbervilles”–inspired “Trishna” (dir. Michael Winterbottom, starring Freida Pinto) to more abstract fare such as “Patience (After Sebald),” Grant Gee’s take on W.G. Sebald’s genre-bending novel “The Rings of Saturn.” Literary enthusiasts should also look out for “Chicken with Plums” from Iranian graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi, the Chilean comedy “Bonsái” (dir. Cristián Jiménez) and Joachim Trier’s “Oslo, August 31,” loosely based on “Le Feu Follet.”
As always, SFIFF packs a strong documentary lineup, with several this year focusing on notable and inspiring women. “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,” directed by the late fashion editor’s granddaughter-in-law, pays homage to the chic and witty legend, while Rory Kennedy’s “Ethel” chronicles the life and times of the matriarch of one of America’s most formidable political dynasties. “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present” (dir. Matthew Akers) follows the 2010 MOMA retrospective celebrating the so-called “grandmother of performance art.”
Closing night features “Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey,” directed by Stanford alum Ramona Diaz. The documentary chronicles the unlikely story of Arnel Pineda, who was plucked from obscurity in his hometown of Manila by the band Journey to be the lead singer on their upcoming world tour.
Novelist, essayist and short story writer Jonathan Lethem will deliver the State of Cinema Address for the Live and Onstage segment, which seeks to engage festival-goers with filmmakers and the cinematic experience in new ways. Porchlight: True Stories from the Frontiers of International Filmmaking brings industry insiders to speak candidly about their craft. The musically inclined may enjoy Merrill Garbus of Oakland’s tUnE-yArDs for an evening of reinterpretation of film scoring to accompany Buster Keaton shorts, or the live documentary presentation at SFMOMA featuring Yo La Tengo.
The festival continues until May 3. Visit festival.sffs.org for complete program and location details.