Its complete program announced at a news conference this morning, one of the country’s biggest and certainly oldest festivals, the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival will present hundreds of screenings from 46 countries between April 21 and May 5. Based on previous years, attendance is expected at about 60,000, although the Mission District location of the new main venue (see below) may have an impact on that.
Of the festival’s 173 films, 58 are narrative features, 37 documentaries, and 74 shorts. There will be three world premieres, two North American premieres, and four U.S. premieres. There are 50 women directors presenting films, and over 200 filmmakers and industry guests are expected.
The world premieres are Michael Almereyda’s “Escapes” (US), Moby Longinotto’s “The Joneses” (US/UK), Susanna White’s “Our Kind of Traitor” (UK). US premieres comes from Haiti, Sweden, Hong Kong, and Lebanon.
The festival’s home theater this year – instead of the long-serving Sundance Kabuki Cinema – is the brand-new entertainment complex of the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, at 2550 Mission St. Additional venues are the Castro Theater, Gray Area (2665 Mission St.), Roxie Theater (3117 16th St.), and Victoria Theater (2961 16th St.)
Festival Director Noah Cowan says the Alamo Drafthouse will also be a regular location for year-round activities, combined with Gray Area, the Roxie and Victoria “creating a hub within the Mission’s blend of cultures, shops and world-class restaurants.”
Cowan points out SFIFF-59 is featuring nine films produced by Film Society grantees and residents; “in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and the Jenerosity Foundation, we channel over $1 million annually to fund stories from around the world and support the film artists of tomorrow.”
The festival-opener, at 7 p.m. April 21, in the Castro Theater, is Whit Stillman’s “Love and Friendship,” a period comedy based on a Jane Austen novella, about social climber Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale).
The Centerpiece presentation, at 8 p.m. April 30, in Victoria Theater, is a directorial debut by Kanbar Award winner James Schamus, “Indignation,” an adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel, a fictionalized story of the author’s college experiences in the ‘50s.
Closing Night, at 7 p.m. May 5, in Castro Theater, is Jesse Moss’s “The Bandit,” a dual biography of Burt Reynolds and director Hal Needham, who created “Smokey and the Bandit.”
An unusual new film is Christopher Doyle’s 2015 “Hong Kong Trilogy: Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous,” 6 p.m. April 22 and 6:45 p.m. April 25, Alamo. The Australian cinematographer is responsible for filming dozens of masterpieces (including Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” and Wong Kar-wai’s “Days of Being Wild”), but now he is writer-director of a film, described as “a celebration of his adopted hometown in a delightfully unclassifiable mix of documentary and whimsical fiction.”
Mira Nair, 58, will receive this year’s Irving M. Levin Directing Award. She will take part in an onstage discussion of her career, followed by a first look at footage from her upcoming project “Queen of Katwe” and a full screening of “Monsoon Wedding.”
The Film Society is launching a year-round Online Screening Room on the website, enabling members to stream select festival films, Filmmaker360-supported projects, and other films. This is an additional SFFS membership benefit.
SFIFF-59 will shine a spotlight on animation, with eight programs of features and shorts exploring the imaginative use of animation in various contexts. The festival’s Persistence of Vision Award will go to Aardman Animations during an afternoon of conversation with Aardman co-founder Peter Lord, and screening of the studio’s work – 5 p.m. May 1, Castro Theater.