SF’s homegrown film festival returns with 103 films from 41 countries, highlighted by the Oakland High-focused Homeroom, a Sesame Street documentary, and the first batch of COVID-19 and quarantine films.
Like many things in 2020, the San Francisco International Film Festival now known as SFFILM basically did not happen last year. But the transformation of Fort Mason into a drive-in theater, and our not-by-choice new dependence on streaming films online, made it kind of a foregone conclusion that this year’s film festival would be a combination of those two formats. And we learned Wednesday morning that indeed it will be, as the festival announced its 2021 lineup in (of course) a Zoom call, but the array of drive-in movies and films streaming online features a number of real standouts.
The festival runs April 9-18, and most of the films are available to stream at any point during those 11 days. And since they’re streaming, you don’t have to worry about the show selling out or going to "rush tickets."
It’s 103 films from 41 countries, and 13 are world premieres. A full 57% are directed by women, and 57% were also directed by Black, Indigenous and filmmakers of color. “We are really delighted to share a program that more accurately reflects the world around us,” new director of programming Jessica Fairbanks said Wednesday morning.
Your big Opening Night movie screening at the drive-in is John Boyega’s new feature Naked Singularity (April 9), which “focuses on an impassioned public defender (Boyega) who stumbles into a drug heist while his reality collapses all around him.” Closing Night (April 17) is Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, a documentary on that beloved kids’ program. And the Centerpiece film will feature a drag show at the drive-in for the North American premiere of Socks on Fire (April 10) “the personal story of the filmmaker exploring old family wounds between his homophobic aunt and drag queen uncle.” These films are all streaming too, but with more limited windows than the full 11-day schedule.
Bay Area film fans will circle the date for the Oakland High School-focused Homeroom (April 16), which was also an online entry at this year’s satellite Sundance Film Festival. “We anticipate a great hometown audience, the cast and crew have not yet seen this film on a big screen and they will be with us in attendance at the drive-in,” Fairbanks said.
Other drive-in flicks include Eric Bana’s new thriller vehicle The Dry (April 10), the story of 22-year-old Youtube domino sensation Lily Topples the World (April 11), the horror film/critique of horror films Censor (April 15), futuristic sendup Strawberry Mansion (April 16), and the “teens-gone-wild comedy” Supercool (April 17).
SFFILM usually features some manner of silent movie accompanied by a big-name live band or DJ, and they teased Wednesday morning there will be something similar, but the date and the program were not announced Wednesday.
And if you’ve wondered if the film industry will make COVID or quarantine movies, they already have, and two are streaming for the festival. Nanfu Wang’s In the Same Breath is a documentary that examines the origins and outbreak of COVID-19, and I’M FINE (Thanks for Asking) is a whimsical drama about a homeless woman trying to put together a security deposit for an apartment under shelter-in-place.
The SFFILM festival is April 9-18, both online and at the Fort Mason Drive-In. Tickets and program here.