SF International Film Festival Schedule Announced

Clockwise from top left: Angels Wear White (Vivian Qu, 2017); I Am Not a Witch (Rungano Nyoni, 2017); Godard, mon amour (Michel Hazanavicius, 2017); Shirkers (Sandi Tan, 2018)

More than a dozen internationally renowned filmmakers are set to visit Berkeley next month, when BAMPFA returns for its thirty-fourth year as the premier East Bay presenter for the San Francisco International Film Festival (SFFILM) April 5–15.

Beginning with the Bay Area premiere of Vivian Qu’s award-winning Angels Wear White on April 5, BAMPFA screens twenty-six film programs throughout the festival, including narrative, documentary, and experimental works by such celebrated filmmakers as Paul Schrader, Robert Greene,and Academy Award-winner Michel Hazanavicius—all of whom are scheduled to appear at BAMPFA to present their films in person. Other highlights include an in-person presentation of experimental short films by iconic Bay Area filmmaker Nathaniel Dorsky, the recipient of this year’s Persistence of Vision award from SFFILM; Wajib, a film by Annemarie Jacir that was the Palestinian submission for the 2018 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar; and A Man of Integrity, a film by the Iranian dissident Mohammad Rasoulof that won the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Un Certain Regard Prize.

Tickets can be purchased in-person at BAMPFA or online from SFFILM, and are $16 for general admission; $13 for BAMFPA 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. *Indicates filmmaker in person.  

Thursday, April 5

6:30 Angels Wear White
Vivian Qu (China/France, 2017)
The assault of two underage girls by a local official in a sunlight-bathed seaside town becomes the focal point for this seething study of the challenges women face in Chinese society. Weaving multiple storylines that touch on labor issues, political corruption, and social injustice, Vivian Qu’s masterful follow-up to Trap Street (2013) shows in a similarly spellbinding fashion how this single incident has a cascading impact on several women’s lives. Winner, Best Director, Golden Horse Film Festival. (107 mins)

8:40 The Distant Barking of Dogs
*Simon Lereng Wilmont (Denmark/Sweden/Finland, 2017)
In the midst of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, a loving, wise, and defiant grandmother raises her two young grandsons. Living under the omnipresent threat of war, the spirited boys, Oleg and Yarik, learn to adapt to their precarious situation and playfully wander through their neighborhood oblivious to the dangers around them. With a warm gaze toward his beguiling protagonists, director Simon Lereng Wilmont lends sensitivity and entrancing visuals—intimately framed close-ups and vibrant rural landscapes—to a nuanced portrait of war and its corrosive effect. (90 mins)

Friday, April 6

6:00 The Third Murder
Hirokazu Kore-eda (Japan, 2017)
In a change of tone and focus, master director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest film is a tour-de-force examination of guilt and justice. A young defense attorney is called in to help with what seems like the straightforward case of an admitted killer. Misumi (the incomparable Koji Yakusho) genially claims responsibility for the murder of a wealthy factory owner, but his story shifts with alarming frequency. His odd behavior raises doubts for the pragmatic lawyer, who begins to suspect that Misumi is hiding a more complicated truth. (125 mins)

8:30 Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat
Sara Driver (US, 2017)
New York City in the 1970s was fractured, dynamic, and the perfect time and place for prolific graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat to begin his famous SAMO tags around the city. Chronicling his life up to the time he sold his first painting, filmmaker Sara Driver interviews close friends, lovers, and collaborators to present a fresh and vibrant look at the young artist who was a reflection of his time and the city where he grew up. (78 mins)

Saturday, April 7

1:00 The Price of Everything
*Nathaniel Kahn (US, 2018)
A major Sotheby’s auction is the focal point for this broad exploration of the exploding market in contemporary art. Featuring incredibly candid interviews with collectors, curators, and artists, The Price of Everything is, to its credit, more intrigued by posing questions about the commodification of art than offering proscriptive answers about how the matter should be addressed. The film is particularly illuminating around the selling and reselling of particular artworks and how that impacts an artist’s control over his or her own creations. (98 mins)

3:30 The Judge
*Erika Cohn (Palestine/US, 2017)
Judge Kholoud Al-Faqih became the first female appointed to any of the Middle East’s Shari’a courts in 2009, challenging longstanding traditions and customs regarding women’s roles in society. Constantly battling controversy over her position, Al-Faqih offers guidance, mentorship, and support both in and outside the courts. In this intimate portrait, director Erika Cohn captures the determined and compassionate judge as she strives to achieve justice in a system that so often does not favor women. (82 mins)

5:45 No Date, No Signature
Vahid Jalilvand (Iran, 2017)
A car accident at night causes an escalating amount of damage in the second feature from Vahid Jalilvand, an impressive Iranian theater director. When Kaveh, a forensic doctor, collides with a family of four on a scooter, he urges them to a nearby clinic to make sure their young son isn’t concussed. As both parties make questionable decisions related to the boy’s health, Kaveh and the boy’s father confront issues of moral responsibility in this deeply religious, but also deeply secretive, society. (104 mins)

8:00 The Workshop
Laurent Cantet (France, 2017)
On France’s Mediterranean coast, a workshop led by Olivia (Marina Foïs), an author of popular thrillers, gathers six local students of varying backgrounds to communally craft a book suggested by their personal experiences. As outlier Antoine, who hands in increasingly violent texts for writing samples, comes into tense conflict with Olivia and other members of the group, the film uses his feelings of disenfranchisement to explore the fraught divisions in present-day French society. From the Palme d’Or–winning director of The Class (2008). (114 mins)

Sunday, April 8

12:30 Un traductor
Rodrigo Barriuso, Sebastián Barriuso (Canada/Cuba, 2018)
Bringing to light a little-known piece of Cuban history, this moving and understated medical drama set in 1989 tells the story of a Russian teacher in Havana drafted to serve as a translator for children brought from Chernobyl for medical treatment. Though the professor at first resists the officially mandated transfer, the film beautifully delineates how a change of workplace causes a tectonic shift in one man’s emotional resources. Westworld’s Rodrigo Santoro stars. (108 mins)

3:15 A Man of Integrity
Mohammad Rasoulof (Iran, 2017)
Power struggles and moral compromises feed an escalating conflict when an uncompromising fish farmer clashes with his neighbor and a powerful company that has its sights set on his land. In a country where, as one character puts it, “you’re either the oppressed or the oppressor,” farmer Reza tries to be neither, living by his own strict personal code, but ingrained corruption and escalating threats put mounting pressure on his values. Winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at the Cannes Film Festival. (118 mins)

6:00 The Shape of a Surface: Experimental Shorts
A program of works made in 16mm showcases the film medium itself, whether in images shot by the filmmakers or in found footage that is recontextualized. History is reframed in some, while in others windows, doors, and mirrors focus our attention on the beauty of the world and its reflection. Featuring films by arc, Stephanie Barber, Paul Clipson, Nazli Dincel, Jim Jennings, Pablo Mazzolo, Alee Peoples, and Jennifer Separzadeh. (c. 62 mins)

8:00 First Reformed
*Paul Schrader (US, 2017)
As a nearby megachurch steadily claims the dwindling congregation of Reverend Toller (an unforgettable Ethan Hawke), he finds newfound meaning (and a reawakened desire) when a lovely parishioner named Mary comes for counseling about her increasingly unstable husband. Returning to topics consistent throughout his remarkable, award-winning body of work, such as religion, obsession, and rage, writer/director Paul Schrader has made one of the defining films of his career. Amanda Seyfried and Cedric the Entertainer turn in memorable supporting performances. (112 mins)

Wednesday, April 11

6:30 Purge This Land
Lee Anne Schmitt (US, 2017)
Weaving the story and letters of radical American abolitionist John Brown and the attack on Harper’s Ferry with her own personal history, filmmaker Lee Ann Schmitt (The Last Buffalo Hunt, 2011) uses her signature essay style to create a profound portrait of America today. The narrated histories are told over striking images, shot on film, of the sites of racial violence, creating a haunting and poetic account of the past that is still very much a part of our present. (80 mins)

8:40 The Other Side of Everything
*Mila Turajlić (Serbia/France/Qatar, 2017)
In 1945, filmmaker Mila Turajlić’s family apartment in Belgrade was divided and redistributed by the state government. Her mother’s political activism meant that they were spied on from the very rooms they used to own. Now her fascinating mother, Srbijanka, can talk about that “other side.” A staunch public advocate and voice of resistance against Slobodan Milosevic for years, she discusses with her daughter their complicated personal and political histories, while reflecting on the divided past they share. Winner of Best Documentary Feature at IDFA. (104 mins)

Thursday, April 12

6:00 Suleiman Mountain
Elizaveta Stishova (Kyrgyzstan/Russia, 2017)
Without preamble, a young Kyrgyz boy is taken out an orphanage and into the lives of his supposed parents, who make ends meet by running various cons on unsuspecting villagers. Director Stishova weaves mythological and even comedic elements into a beautifully filmed tale that centers around the titular mountain, a mysterious and holy place where the prophet Solomon is said to be buried and where the film’s characters aim to find their destinies. (103 mins)

8:30 Hale County This Morning, This Evening
*RaMell Ross (US, 2018)
“I already had my troubles for today, so I can’t worry about tomorrow,” states Daniel, one of the protagonists in award-winning photographer RaMell Ross’s inspired and intimate portrait of a place and its people. Set in an African American community in rural Alabama where the director moved to coach basketball in 2009, the film captures small, but nevertheless precious, moments in black lives—church services, a toddler running circles, an eclipse—with rapturous attention. (77 mins)

Friday, April 13

6:00 Shirkers
*Sandi Tan (US, 2018)
“When I was eighteen, I had so many ideas,” reflects Sandi Tan in this buoyant personal documentary. Twenty-five years ago, Tan and two cinephile friends made a film in Singapore, but the reels disappeared, along with a mysterious man named Georges Cardona who had been acting as the project’s mentor. Recently, the footage was found, which prompts this constantly surprising and reflective film about movie love, female friendship, and the urge for creative expression. Winner of the Directing Award, World Cinema Documentary, at Sundance. (96 mins)

8:30 Tigre
*Silvina Schnicer, Ulises Porra Guardiola (Argentina, 2017)
In a boarded-up family estate situated in Argentina’s mysterious and ancient Tigre delta, three generations gather to decide whether to sell their property to developers. As the family navigates their relationship to their home, their interpersonal conflicts lead them to a unique and beautiful farewell. (91 mins)

Saturday, April 14

12:00 Bisbee ’17
*Robert Greene (US, 2018)
Prolific editor and filmmaker Robert Greene brings us to Bisbee, Arizona—a remote copper-mining town close to the Mexican border where, a century ago, there was a violent deportation of 1,200 striking miners who were ultimately left for dead. In this hybrid film, where the past is confronted by staged present-day reenactments of the events leading up to the deportation, Greene taps into the current political climate while questioning what is the “real” history. (119 mins)

3:00 Minding the Gap
*Bing Liu (US, 2018)
In Rockford, Illinois, Bing Liu has been filming his friends Zack and Kiere on and off their skateboards for ten years. Weaving archival footage, interviews, and incredible skate videos, Liu chronicles in simple and poetic fashion the lives of his inner circle of friends and family, revealing the damaging circumstances in which they all grew up. Less a film about skate culture than an unusual coming-of-age story, Liu’s feature documentary is fresh and powerful. (98 mins)

5:30 I Am Not a Witch
Rungano Nyoni (UK/France, 2017)
“The child is a witch,” exclaim the villagers in the opening of this strikingly beautiful first feature by Rungano Nyoni. When young Shula is accused of witchcraft in her village, she is exiled, constrained in her movements, and expected to perform miracles; however, she is not prepared to live this way forever. Employing breathtaking composition, Nyoni layers magical realism, satire, and social critique to blur reality with the surreal in this original and unforgettable story. (93 mins)

8:00 The Cleaners
*Moritz Riesewieck, Hans Block (Germany/Brazil, 2018)
Social media sites—particularly Facebook and YouTube—have been under intense pressure to monitor and delete offensive, pornographic, and incendiary posts. Compassionately portraying the Filipino workers who comb through thousands of online images in the dark of night, The Cleaners exposes the dark side of information technology. (88 mins)

Sunday, April 15

1:00 Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable
*Sasha Waters Freyer (US, 2018)
Garry Winogrand may be the foremost chronicler of post–World War II America. His photographs—from the streets of New York to the expanses of Texas and the heart of Hollywood—provide a rich and complex portrait of a nation in transition. Sasha Waters Feyer’s gorgeous and lively look at the man and his work uses still images, home movie footage, and revelatory, recently discovered audio recordings to illustrate why many consider Winogrand to be the central photographer of his generation, but the film doesn’t shy away from the thornier aspects of his life and career. (90 mins)

3:15 Wajib
*Annemarie Jacir (Palestine/France/Germany/Colombia/Norway/Qatar/UAE, 2017)
In Jacir’s charming and poignant new film, a father and son (played by real-life father and son Mohammad and Saleh Bakri) deliver wedding invitations over the course of an afternoon while personal and political tensions simmer in the background. While never shying away from the particular challenges of Palestinian Arabs living in Israel, Wajib is more concerned with the combination of love and exasperation that exists in familial relationships. (97 mins)

5:45 Nathaniel Dorsky: Four Films
*Nathaniel Dorsky
Four ephemeral worlds emerge in this selection of shorts by Nathaniel Dorsky, this year’s recipient of the Persistence of Vision Award. The last months of a San Francisco drought year (2015) brought about Autumn (2016), which the filmmaker calls “a stately, but intimate, seasonal tome” and “a celebration of the poignancy and mystery of our later years.” The Dreamer (2016), he writes,was born out of San Francisco spring’s “crisp, cool breezes, bright, warm sunlight, and a general sense of heartbreaking clarity.” In accompanying text to stills of Intimations (2015), he notes “how delicately light imbues our fleeting life.” The short Avraham (2014), he offers, was named not after the fact, as many films are, but before shooting—and the word acted as the film’s inspiration and determining factor. (83 mins)

8:15 Godard, mon amour
*Michel Hazanavicius (France, 2017)
At a defining moment in New Wave provocateur Jean-Luc Godard’s artistic life, when the didactic La Chinoise (1967) marked a shift in style as radical as his politics, the thirty-seven-year-old filmmaker also fell in love with his twenty-year-old leading lady Anne Wiazemsky. Louis Garrel inhabits the auteur’s pugnacious soul as he embraces the protests sweeping France and embarks on a tempestuous second marriage. Writer/director Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) pays homage to Godard’s genius even as he cheekily sends up the director’s excesses and pretensions. (107 mins)