SFIFF 2015 Mid-Festival Check-In

Sadly, the San Francisco International Film Festival is about half over. Happily, there’s still half left! I wrote my list of Must-See Documentaries and Narratives at the start of the festival, but now that the event is underway, I have a few additions for you. It’s not too late to get in on some of these films! (Photos courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society.)

Still from the movie The Second Mother

7 Chinese Brothers – If you’re a Jason Schwartzman fan, 7 Chinese Brothers is classic Schwartzman. He is every bit as melancholy, strange, irritating, and lovable as he is in his Wes Anderson films. Plus, you’ll get a chance to see Arrow (Schwartman’s dog in real life) in his first major role. As of the time of this writing, all three screenings are still to come, none are at rush, and you can even catch Schwartzman at the May 2 show.

All of Me – A touching documentary about a group of women in La Patrona, Mexico, who “serve” food to migrant workers traveling through from Central America on their way to al otro lado. The film is not only a celebration of their service but also a study of the women themselves. There is still one screening left, on May 1. Sadly the director won’t be attending that one.

Far From Men – A spare film based on a short story “The Guest,” by Albert Camus. With its heavy tone and action-packed sequences, Far From Men stays true to the French philosopher’s existential spirit. Ployglot actor Viggo Mortenson gives an outstanding performance (he speaks no less than three languages in this movie: Arabic, French, and Spanish). Though all screenings are past now, make a note to catch this film later if you get the chance.

Magical Girl – If you skimmed the synopsis on the SFIFF website (as I did), you might have a misbegotten notion that this film is some pure-hearted story about a father fulfilling his daughter’s dying wish to own an expensive anime costume. In reality, Magical Girl is much darker, much tenser, and much more original than I could have imagined. All three screenings are still ahead: May 3, May 5, May 6.

Mr. Holmes – Ian McKellen fan? Or just love Sherlock Holmes? Then you can’t miss Mr. Holmes, which has one remaining screening left on May 5 (already at rush). McKellen carries the film–I’ve never known a man to master his facial features to such an extent that he could individually control each eye bag.

The Overnight – Just saw this one last night. I almost missed it because it had such a late starting time (all right, only 9:45 pm, but I’m not the spry chicken I once was). Boy am I glad my husband convinced me to stay out! Hee-larious–but still sweet and compassionate. Yesterday’s was the only showing, but I have no doubt this film will get wide release.

Red Amnesia – While it didn’t quite live up to my admittedly high expectations, Red Amnesia is still a worthwhile film. The embittered protagonist is a study: what is the nature of regret? is there ever sufficient atonement for past sins? or is simply living with guilt that atonement? Handles China’s difficult political past in a sly, oblique way. One remaining showing tomorrow, April 30.

Results – Veteran indie filmmaker Andrew Bujalski’s rom-com is no formulaic affair. It features oddball characters that are nonetheless sincere and likable. This film was a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, both screenings are past, but perhaps the movie’s star power (Guy Pearce, Giovanni Ribisi) will carry it into the mainstream (or at least one of mainstream’s accessible eddies).

The Second Mother – The Second Mother, which also played at Sundance, is one of my favorite films of the festival so far. What a sincere, complicated, humorous, affectionate, compassionate look at contemporary Brazilian life and class structures! Great performances all around, but especially by its star, Regina Casé. The remaining screening on May 1 is already at rush, but it’s worth waiting in line for.


What Happened, Miss Simone? – I overheard two separate festival attendees praise this documentary, though I did not screen it myself. Apparently director Liz Garbus and interviewer Tavis Smiley attended the sole showing. Hopefully this film will pop up on HBOGo or some other streaming source so the rest of us can catch it, too.

Dearest/The Iron Ministry – Word in the press office is that this year’s Chinese films are making quite an impression. One gentleman was overheard saying that these two films have been his favorite at the festival so far. As I mentioned before, Dearest is one of my festival favorites as well. Word must have gotten out because the second (and last) screening tomorrow is at rush. The remaining showing of The Iron Ministry (May 4) is still available, though.

54: The Director’s Cut – On the escalator at Kabuki, someone was gushing to his friend about the screening of 54: The Director’s Cut. He must not have been the only attendee to feel that way because, apparently as a result of the overwhelmingly positive response to its U.S. premiere at SFIFF last Friday, The Director’s Cut will be made available on Digital HD on June 2nd from Miramax and Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

Still from the movie 54: The Director's Cut