BAMPFA Announces SFFILM Screenings

The San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM) returns to Berkeley in April, with more than two dozen films by acclaimed directors screening at BAMPFA. Now in its thirty-fifth year as the premier East Bay presenter for SFFILM, BAMPFA showcases a global roster of films from this year’s festival program, which was unveiled on Wednesday, March 20. Festival screenings take place at BAMPFA April 11 through 21.


BAMPFA’s festival program opens this year with a screening of Aboozar Amini’s Kabul, City in the Wind, an award-winning documentary that chronicles the multigenerational impact of the Afghanistan conflict on the lives of three Kabul residents. Other highlights of this year’s program include the latest work by festival favorite Stanley Kwan, First Night Nerves, a melodrama set in the world of Chinese theater; The Grand Bizarre, a playfully strange experimental feature shot on 16mm by the animator Jodie Mack; Rojo, a neo-noir by Benjamin Naishtat (History of Fear) set in 1970s Argentina; The Edge of Democracy, a nonfiction look at Brazil’s recent political turmoil by the celebrated director Petra Costa; and Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, a documentary portrait of the renowned author and Nobel Peace Prize winner.


For the first time in SFFILM history, BAMPFA hosts the presentation of the Festival’s Mel Novikoff Award, a prestigious honor bestowed annually on an individual or organization that has made an indelible mark on the Bay Area film community. This year’s award program features an onstage interview with recipient Anthony Wall, executive producer of the BBC series Arena—followed by a screening of the Arena film Wisconsin Death Trip (1999), directed by Oscar-winner James Marsh. BAMPFA’s role in hosting this year’s Novikoff Award program, coupled with the recent addition of Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre to the Festival’s venue roster, signals SFFILM’s deepening commitment to engaging East Bay audiences.


SFFILM tickets can be purchased in person at BAMPFA or online from SFFILM starting on Friday, March 22 at 10 a.m., with advance availability for BAMPFA members beginning on March 20. Tickets are $16 for general admission; $13 for BAMPFA members, SFFILM members, and UC Berkeley students; and $15 for non-UC Berkeley students, seniors, and disabled persons. Tickets to BAMPFA screenings include same-day admission to the museum’s galleries during regular hours.


A full list of BAMPFA's SFFILM screenings follows and can be viewed here:


Thursday / 4.11.19


Kabul, City in the Wind

Aboozar Amini (Netherlands, 2018)


The deep-seated effects of decades of conflict in Afghanistan are memorably revealed through the lives of three Kabul residents in Aboozar Amini’s mesmerizing observational documentary. In this deeply personal and resonant film, the resilience of Abas, a sensitive bus driver whose meager livelihood is jeopardized when his vehicle breaks down, is juxtaposed with the situation of two young brothers, Afshin and Benjamin, who are thrust into the roles of providers when their father flees to Iran. Winner of the Special Jury Award at IDFA. (88 mins)


Thursday / 4.11.19


First Night Nerves

Stanley Kwan (Hong Kong/China, 2018)

 Stanley Kwan in Person

Festival favorite Stanley Kwan is one of cinema’s great directors of women, and his deliriously entertaining new film offers an almost entirely female cast. When transgender playwright An hires two feuding actresses to star in her latest work, she has little idea of the battles for center stage that will ensue. Starring Cantopop queen Sammi Cheng as Xiuling and Gigi Leung as the younger and hipper Yuwen, First Night Nerves flips effortlessly between play rehearsals and the behind-the-curtain heartbreaks and secret affairs of the squabbling stars, offering glorious melodrama throughout. (100 mins)


Friday / 4.12.19


Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool

Stanley Nelson (US, 2019)

Erin Davis and Vince Wilburn in Person

Only iconic filmmaker and festival favorite Stanley Nelson could create a documentary that matches the artistry and dynamism of Miles Davis, who defined and embodied “cool” through his music, casual demeanor, and chiseled good looks. Featuring a voiceover from actor Carl Lumbly, who eerily captures Davis’s quintessential rasp, Birth of the Cool skillfully weaves together Davis’s classic jazz performances, rare recordings, archival photos, and interviews with Quincy Jones, Carlos Santana, and Juliette Gréco to present a dimensional and complex portrait of an artist’s life. (115 min)


Friday / 4.12.19


Core of the World

Nataliia Meshchaninova (Russia, 2018)


A mild-mannered vet named Egor is caught between a group of animal rights protesters and the proprietors of the dog-training farm where he works in this complex naturalistic drama. Plunging deeply into her characters’ lives, Natalia Meshchaninova’s second feature portrays Egor attempting to find his moral center in an environment where the distinction between what’s right and wrong isn’t always easy to grasp. Viewers with a sensitivity to animal mistreatment may find some scenes challenging, but the director’s compassion toward her characters, whether two- or four-legged, is evident throughout. (124 mins)


Saturday / 4.13.19


Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins

Janice Engel (US, 2019)

 Janice Engel in Person

As journalism comes under attack with constant cries of “fake news,” this hugely entertaining documentary about the fierce and fearless writer and social commentator Molly Ivins reminds us how wit and well-channeled vitriol can speak truth to power. Born into a wealthy Texas family and possessed of a razor-sharp pen, Ivins refused to conform to restrictive Southern belle stereotypes and challenged the stuffy white boys’ club that defined journalism in the sixties and seventies. Filmmaker Janice Engel’s feature debut skillfully captures the intelligence, humor, and indefatigable spirit of a true pioneer. (93 mins)


Saturday / 4.13.19


The Grand Bizarre

Jodie Mack (US, 2018)


A tantalizing textile overload, experimental animator Jodie Mack’s feature debut vibrates with color, sound, and place. Shot on 16mm and guided by a playful and pulsating soundtrack, The Grand Bizarre is a visual delight of texture and fabric. While playfully placing objects near and far in the frame and animating them among contrasting landscapes in different parts of the world, Mack examines the global connection between these patterns and the spaces they occupy, making for a kaleidoscopic viewing experience that calls for big-screen appreciation. (61 mins) With short Accidence (Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson, Canada, 2018, 10 mins).


Saturday / 4.13.19



César Alejandro Jaimes, Juan Pablo Polanco (Colombia, 2019)


Doris is a young Wayuú woman who dreams of a reunion with her deceased cousin. After seeking advice from her grandmother, she learns that this vision obligates her to exhume her cousin’s remains from her grave and lead a “second burial,” which will allow her to rest in peace. Mirroring the Wayuú’s traditional belief that the dead coexist with the living, filmmakers César Alejandro Jaimes and Juan Pablo Polanco present an eerie, dreamlike, and beautifully framed examination of tradition, ritual, and superstition. (75 mins)


Saturday / 4.13.19


In My Room

Ulrich Köhler (Germany, 2018)


What if the apocalypse happens not with a bang but with a whimper? And what if you were the only survivor but didn’t have an affinity for life in the first place? These are some of the questions explored with droll humor in the latest film by Ulrich Köhler (Sleeping Sickness). After falling asleep in his car, Armin awakens to find that everyone around him has vanished. What it means for him to be truly alone, and whether he actually is, are but two of the many revelations the film has in store. (119 mins)


Sunday / 4.14.19


One Child Nation

Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang (China, 2019)


China ended its one-child policy in 2015, but the ramifications of the decades-long law are still reverberating throughout the country in traumatic and haunting ways. Inspired by the birth of her own son, codirector Nanfu Wang returns to her village, where questions posed to family members about the policy lead to grim revelations about forced sterilization, property destruction, child abandonment, and human trafficking that were openly practiced. Chilling and complex, One Child Nation reveals the horrific measures taken by China’s citizens, fed by propaganda, that have long been covered up. Winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, US Documentary. (85 mins)


Sunday / 4.14.19


What We Left Unfinished

Mariam Ghani (US, 2019)


From 1996 to 2002, the negatives of the Afghan Film Archive were bricked up behind a poster of Mullah Omar. In 2013, director Mariam Ghani gained access to this archive and found several unfinished films made between 1978 and 1991. From the literal buried treasures of the films themselves—excerpts from which whet the appetite for more—to interviews with the filmmakers, who tell stories of using real bullets and dangerous explosives, this astute, entertaining, and illuminating documentary tracks a portion of Afghan film history through the lens of the country’s complicated political history. (71 mins)


Sunday / 4.14.19


Winter’s Night

Jang Woo-jin (South Korea, 2018)


Stranded overnight in a remote temple town, middle-aged couple Eun-ju and Heung-ju are cast adrift with strangers in a mysterious environment. The objective of the couple’s visit was to try to recapture the spark of their younger years, but it instead unfolds as an inquiry into the current state of their relationship, in the conversational vein of master directors Hong Sang-soo and Abbas Kiarostami. The evocative wintry setting and enigmatic origins of the subsidiary characters add just the right element of Shakespearean magical realism to Jang Woo-jin’s intimate, moving story. (92 mins)


Sunday / 4.14.19



Benjamín Naishtat (Argentina, 2018)


Set in 1975 Argentina, this noirish drama from Benjamín Naishtat (History of Fear) tells the story of a morally compromised lawyer. Claudio is being investigated over a shady real estate deal in the months leading up to the right-wing coup that ousts Isabel Perón. With a style reflective of the 1970s, from the grainy visual palette to the use of zooms, slow motion, and deep focus, Rojo adroitly captures a deeply unsettled time in Argentina when a corrupt political system encouraged a general lawlessness and moral vacuity among its populace. (110 mins)


Wednesday / 4.17.19


Central Airport THF

Karim Aïnouz (Germany, 2018)


Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport ceased operations in 2008, but reopened in 2015 as an emergency refugee camp. Tackling the European crisis in a brand-new way, director Karim Aïnouz (Madame Sata) covers a year of life at Tempelhof, capturing the day-to-day experiences and struggles of the residents and aid workers with rare intimacy and empathy. Though the documentary is deeply humanistic, Aïnouz is also alert to the remarkable topography and unique architecture of the airport and the irony of its status as a holding place for people who have nowhere to go. Winner of the Amnesty International Film Prize at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival. (97 mins)


Thursday / 4.18.19


Tehran: City of Love

Ali Jaberansari (UK/Iran, 2018)

Ali Jaberansari in Person

Three Tehran residents, unlucky in love, make attempts to change their solo status in this wistful and poignant film. A bodybuilder, a funeral singer, and a woman who works in a beauty clinic—each character finds that the pursuit of their respective dreams puts them in sight of a real emotional connection, yet something intervenes. By examining the circumstances that derail his protagonists within the larger context that Tehran’s title implies, writer/director Jaberansari provides a pointed take on contemporary Iranian society. (102 mins)


Thursday / 4.18.19


The Little Comrade

Moonika Siimets (Estonia, 2018)


In 1950 Estonia, the Soviets are working to suppress a fledgling resistance movement that has arisen in the countryside. Six-year-old Leelo can’t quite understand exactly why her mom has been arrested or why her father is disappointed to hear her championing the “young pioneers” she sees marching at school. With a deft balance of humor, tension, and empathy, Siimets’s debut shows how the evils of authoritarianism can come cloaked in appealing guise for those too young or gullible to know better. (96 mins)


Friday / 4.19.19


Walking on Water

Andrey Paounov (Italy, 2018)


Renowned environmental artist Christo is trying to execute The Floating Piers, a project that he and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude, started together in the 1970s. Lake Iseo, Italy, is to be the site of a three-kilometer floating walkway, covered in orange fabric, that guests can walk across—if all of the artist’s demands can be met. Following a feisty creative talent and his equally bombastic operations director, Vladimir Yavachev, Walking on Water delightfully shows just how a large-scale installation comes together, with all of its complications. (100 mins)


Friday / 4.19.19


Midnight Traveler

Hassan Fazili (US, 2019)


When the Taliban forces filmmakers (and married couple) Hassan Fazili and Fatima Hussaini to flee Afghanistan with their two daughters, they begin filming their time on the road, which includes running across borders, sleeping on roadsides, interacting with smugglers, and staying at multiple refugee camps along the way. Poetically shot entirely on three cell phones, Midnight Traveler immerses viewers in the ongoing and heartbreaking refugee crisis, capturing the family at their most desperate and yet most loving, as they try to stay hopeful without a place to call home. (87 mins)


Friday / 4.19.19



Vuslat Saraçoğlu (Turkey, 2018)


The travails of a duty-bound husband and father who works in an economically struggling print shop are conveyed with humor and pathos in this beautifully performed Turkish film. Tufan is a basically kindhearted fellow who takes in a neighbor with emphysema and helps his daughter nurse a wounded crow. But as tensions at work rise and the increasingly sickly houseguest begins to strain his marriage, Tufan begins to wonder if trying to live a life that is just and good is worth the trouble. Winner, Best Film, Istanbul Film Festival. (95 mins)


Saturday / 4.20.19



Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska (Macedonia, 2019)


Hatidze lives with her ailing mother in the mountains of Macedonia, making a living cultivating honey using ancient beekeeping traditions. When an unruly family moves in next door, what at first seems like a balm for her solitude becomes a source of tension as they, too, want to practice beekeeping, while disregarding her advice. A buzzworthy hit at Sundance, where it won three awards, including the World Cinema Documentary Grand Prize, Honeyland is a visually stunning human portrait that has something sweet for everyone. (85 mins)


Saturday / 4.20.19


Wisconsin Death Trip

James Marsh (UK, 1999)

Anthony Wall in Person


This year’s Mel Novikoff Award program features an onstage interview with Anthony Wall, series editor and executive producer of the BBC series Arena—“one of the greatest television shows ever put together and sustained for forty years” (David Thomson)—followed by a screening of the Arena film Wisconsin Death Trip. With its “snow-bright black-and-white moving imagery, ‘melodramatized’ as it were, of the suicides, the murders, the madness, the bereft gazes; and languid, yet eerie, color footage of that part of Wisconsin today . . . Marsh’s film is a litany of nearly exultant disasters that may embrace all of America” (Thomson). (76 mins plus 45 mins discussion


Saturday / 4.20.19


Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (US, 2019)


“Words have power,” says Toni Morrison, and she would know. With a warm gleam in her eye, Morrison recalls her life growing up and how she became an author, editor, and champion of new African American literary voices. Weaving archival footage and interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Angela Davis, Robert Gottlieb, Hilton Als, and many more, The Pieces I Am places the affable and articulate Pulitzer- and Nobel Peace Prize–winning author front and center, to tell her own story in her own words. (119 mins)


Sunday / 4.21.19


The Edge of Democracy

Petra Costa (Brazil, 2019)


“Our democracy was founded on forgetting,” states filmmaker Petra Costa, an ever-present narrator guiding us through Brazil’s political history, one that has been rife with an incredible amount of controversy. Examining her native country’s democracy from when it began in 1985, focusing on Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff’s careers, Costa interweaves the personal and political to show just how fragile a people’s government can be when information is kept from the public and those in power refuse to operate in the best interests of the masses. (108 mins)


Sunday / 4.21.19


The Chambermaid

Lila Avilés (Mexico, 2019)


Twenty-four-year-old Evelia cleans rooms at an upscale Mexico City hotel while taking advantage of its adult education program in her off hours. Though introverted and task-focused, she is drawn into the lives of several guests and coworkers, trading duties with Minitoy, an outgoing and ribald woman, and shyly flirting through the glass with a handsome window washer. Set entirely within the hotel, its rooms (both before and after Evelia’s handiwork) and back corridors, The Chambermaid perfectly and poignantly details its protagonist’s life and work with deft cinematography and a script that makes every word count. (102 mins)


Sunday / 4.21.19


The Load

Ognjen Glavonić (Serbia, 2018)


Though rarely spoken of, the unseen contents of a plain white cargo van are at the center of Ognjen Glavonić’s tense and moving political drama about moral responsibility during times of war and conflict. Leon Lučev plays Vlada, a driver for hire for the Serbian government, transporting a vehicle from Kosovo to Belgrade. His journey takes him into unexpected territory, both physical and ethical. Glavonić’s absorbing film occasionally departs from Vlada’s trip, following secondary characters and moments, details that subtly underline the omnipresent circles of moral culpability and their impact. (98 mins)


Sunday / 4.21.19


Florianópolis Dream

Ana Katz (Argentina, 2018)


A beach holiday turns into a wry romantic roundelay as an Argentinian couple and their kids are taken under the wing of a randy and vivacious Brazilian man who offers them his family’s home to rent. As the two different broods come to know one another, partaking of local karaoke, bodysurfing, and seaside walks, a variety of dalliances and separations arise. Deftly juggling characters of different ages, generations, and amorous expectations, Florianópolis Dream perfectly captures those vacations where the days are breathtakingly full of possibility. At Karlovy Vary, the film won the FIPRESCI Prize, a Special Jury Prize, and the Best Actress Award for the radiant Mercedes Morán. (106 mins)




2019 San Francisco International Film Festival

The longest-running film festival in the Americas, the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM Festival) is an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in one of the country’s most beautiful cities. The 62nd edition runs April 10–23 at venues across the Bay Area and features nearly 200 films and live events, 14 juried awards with close to $40,000 in cash prizes, and upwards of 100 participating filmmaker guests.



SFFILM is a nonprofit organization with a mission to champion the world's finest films and filmmakers through programs anchored in and inspired by the spirit and values of the San Francisco Bay Area. Presenter of the San Francisco International Film Festival, SFFILM is a year-round organization delivering screenings and events to more than 75,000 film lovers and media education programs to more than 12,000 students and teachers annually. In addition to its public programs, SFFILM supports the careers of independent filmmakers from the Bay Area and beyond with grants, residencies, and other creative development services.


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