In addition to tonight's opening night premiere of Beginners at the Castro Theater, the next two and a half weeks of the San Francisco International Film Festival are packed with screenings and events around town at venues like the Kabuki Cinema and New People in Japantown, to SFMoMA and the Palace of Fine Arts. To help you make sense of it all and figure out where to spot Ewan McGregor, here's our official, but far from comprehensive guide to the films and events we're looking forward to:
Check each film's festival page for screening times and tickets.
- The rise and fall of Nicolae Ceausescu is a fascinating one, due in part to the fact that the former Romanian leader and his wife trial and brutal execution are just a few clicks away on YouTube. The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu is a frightening piece of propaganda that, among other things, shows adoring crowds, lofty building projects, meetings with international figures like Charles de Gaulle and Jimmy Carter, and Ceausescu’s fascination with the political theater of Mao’s China and Kim ll Sung’s North Korea. Not seen? Romania’s mass poverty, starvation, or the sick and abandoned children who were the byproduct of Ceausescu’s laws against contraception. Kim Jong-il would be proud. -BK [Festival Page]
- Back in the 1970s, a leading man could be a) be a bank robber, b) have a transgender lover, and c) somehow manage to inspire a recession-stricken nation. Take, for example, Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon, the classic humorous/suspenseful tale of would-be robbers Sonny and Sal who hold up a bank and make "Attica! Attica!" part of the national lexicon. Legendary screenwriter Frank Pierson will be interviewed onstage preceding the screening. -BK [Festival Page]
- Horror fans longing for the irony-free days before the Blair Witch Project became a running joke, will want to look for The Troll Hunter. Billed as a mix of that classic of docu-horror and Jurassic Park, the film is set in Norway where Christian-eating trolls are a bigger problem than zombies or vampires (and their real-world analogs) are back in the states. The raw documentary style has come a long way since the days of the camcorder-in-the-woods school of campy films, making it even more difficult to figure out just how tongue-in-cheek the filmmakers are being. Luckily, Director André Ovredal will be in attendance at both Saturday and Monday's screenings. -AD [Festival Page]
- In New Skin for the Old Ceremony the titular Leonard Cohen album provides source material for 11 short films by 11 directors, artists, musicians and animators. Screenings of the short films are followed by the 1967 documentary Ladies and Gentleman... Mr. Leonard Cohen. Local musicians Kelley Stoltz and Pale Hoarse perform live covers of several of Cohen's works. -AD [Festival Page]
- Director Oscar Godoy examines the life of a Peruvian immigrant in Santiago, Chile in Ulysses. More than a retelling or re-setting of Homer's Odyssey, the film meditates on the overwhelming feeling of loneliness that comes along with life as an immigrant, when simply moving forward it not enough to go on. -AD [Festival Page]
- Set in 1950's Buenos Aires and meticulously art-directed, the narrative of Alejandro Chomski's Asleep in the Sun follows the narrow, twisting streets of the city to weave an elaborate "Kafkaesque nightmare and political allegory." A housewife, stricken with lassitude, hides from herself in a local pet shop only to be committed to a mental hospital. Emerging from treatment, she discovers she has a sudden desire for oral sex, and the film takes a turn towards the genre of stolen-identity thrillers. -AD [Festival Page]
Brock Keeling and Andrew Dalton contributing.