The 59th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival, or SFIFF for those in a hurry, kicks off this Thursday and runs through May 5th. The festival's made a big change this year, moving its headquarters from the Sundance Kabuki to the newly opened Alamo Drafthouse at the New Mission. Films will also be shown at the Victoria, the Roxie on 16th Street, and at the Castro Theatre.
Tickets can be purchased online (click the Buy Tickets button on a film's info page), and at the Alamo's pre-festival box office located in the lobby, daily from 3-7 p.m. until the 21st.
Since the theaters are a little spread out this year, the festival has teamed up with Chariot for shuttle service between venues. Learn more about how they'll get you around here.
Here are a few of the films and events we're looking forward to:
The opening night film is from director Whit Stillman and reunites The Last Days of Disco stars Chole Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale in a period piece based on the Jane Austen novella "Lady Susan." Beckinsale and the director are scheduled to make an appearance at the Castro Theatre screening. April 21, 7 p.m.
If you thought a documentary about the JT Leroy scandal already came out, you'd be right. The Cult of JT LeRoy, by local filmmaker Marjorie Sturm, played the Indie Fest last year, (and you can watch it online as well). But this latest doc, by director Jeff Feuerzeig, seems to have the support of "JT Leroy," aka Laura Albert herself. She's scheduled to join the director at a post-screening Q&A moderated by screenwriter James Toback. Castro Theatre, April 22, 9 p.m.
Some may only know Ellen Burstyn from her recent turn as Claire Underwood's mother on House of Cards, and that is a shame. The great Ms. Burstyn won an Oscar for 1974's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, and was nominated five other times, including for her devastating role in Requiem For a Dream (2000). She'll be discussing her career on stage at the Victoria before introducing a screening of the latter film. Victoria Theatre, April 23, 2 p.m.
Part of the festival's Dark Wave program centered on late night screenings of the weird and the horrible, this Japanese live-action film is based on a popular manga series turned anime series. At the center of the story is an octopus-like alien turned-teacher to a group of Japanese students who are intent on killing him — with his help. Alamo Drafthouse, April 23, 11 p.m.
Part of the festival's Vanguard series, this Polish-language film from director Michał Marczak is an experimental, free-form, year-in-the-life portrait of Warsaw art school students, their drunken revelries and all-night raves, deep talks, and sexual encounters, depicting modern-day Poland as well as the awkward but joyous transition between adolescence and adulthood. Alamo Drafthouse, April 24, 9 p.m.
If you're a film nerd, you definitely have a handful of Criterion Collection releases in your library. This year the festival pays tribute to the company's work with a screening of the Coen Brothers' debut Blood Simple and an onstage interview with the Coens, in person at the Castro. Castro Theatre, April 30, 3 p.m.
Director Cheryl Dunye's 1996 debut — the first feature-length narrative film written and directed by out black lesbian about black lesbians — incorporates mockumentary-style filmmaking along with classic clips from movies that don't exist, to tell the story of a video store clerk working on a documentary about an obscure black actress she sees in a 1930's movie. Dunye, who is now a professor at SFSU, will be in attendance at the showing. Castro Theatre, May 1, 2 p.m.
Of course, these are just a small selection from the almost 200 films that will be presented at the festival. And remember, most screenings that are sold out will have rush tickets available. Just be prepared to wait in line; but hopefully, indoors, and with a cocktail from the Alamo's Bear Vs Bull bar in your hand.