54th San Francisco International Film Festival at BAM/PFA

4/22/11 to 5/5/11

BAM/PFA is honored to once again be the exclusive East Bay venue for the San Francisco International Film Festival. Highlights of the festival at BAM/PFA this year include a continuation of our Patricio Guzmán series with a screening of his most recent film, Nostalgia for the Light; Aurora, the new film by the Romanian director Cristi Puiu; and a documentary by Lynn Hershman Leeson on women artists in the 1970s.

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Past Films

  • Aurora

    • Thursday, May 5 7:00 PM

    Cristi Puiu (Romania/France/Germany/Switzerland, 2010). Viorel negotiates bleak wintertime Bucharest with dispassion and an obscure anger. But when he begins planning a murder, his stale and predictable world gets recast in a new, mysterious light. Acclaimed Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) directs and stars in this haunting portrait of a man driven to extreme acts, a penetrating revision of the traditional crime drama that subtracts the romance and keeps the doom. (181 mins)

  • Detroit Wild City

    • Wednesday, May 4 8:40 PM

    Florent Tillon (France/U.S., 2010). Detroit: is it a postapocalyptic landscape of decay, an empty pasture, or the newest mecca for urban pioneers? Filled with arresting images, Florent Tillon's relaxed travelogue focuses on people as well as ruins, and suggests that Detroit's possible futures are more complex than most of us might imagine. (80 mins)

  • Ulysses

    • Wednesday, May 4 6:30 PM

    Oscar Godoy (Chile/Argentina, 2011). The emotional life of a Peruvian immigrant in Chile is the subject of this nuanced character study of a man uprooted from home by economic necessity suffering loneliness and dislocation. He strives to improve his lot, but higher wages can't fill the void created by separation from everything that is important to him. (85 mins)

  • Cinema Komunisto

    • Tuesday, May 3 6:30 PM

    Mila Turajlic (Serbia, 2010). This fascinating and bittersweet chronicle of the Yugoslavian film industry recounts how cinema was used-often with direct intervention from President Josip Broz Tito-to create and recreate the young nation's history, replete with heroes and myths that didn't always hew closely to reality. (100 mins)

  • The Salesman

    • Tuesday, May 3 8:50 PM

    Sébastien Pilote (Canada, 2010). With a riveting central performance by Gilbert Sicotte, this masterful debut feature by writer/director Sébastien Pilote examines the life of the top car salesman in a fading Quebec town as events challenge his sense of identity and the meaning of life at the most profound and moving level. (107 mins)

  • The Pipe

    • Monday, May 2 6:30 PM

    Risteard Ó Domhnaill (Ireland, 2010). A grassroots campaign to halt the construction by Shell of a high-pressure gas pipeline through a small town's backyards and pristine land is the basis of this intimate, rousing, and utterly timely portrait of an Irish community straining under a titanic battle-for what it considers its very survival-against a Goliath of money, power, and a largely compliant state. (83 mins)

  • Walking Too Fast

    • Monday, May 2 8:30 PM

    Radim Spacek (Czech Republic/Slovak Republic/Poland, 2009). In this taut political thriller, the psyche of a ruthless secret agent in Cold War Czechoslovakia begins to unravel when he obsesses over the girlfriend of the suspected subversive he is tracking. Nominated for thirteen Czech Golden Lion Awards, Walking Too Fast is a bleak and potent rendering of the emotional destruction of totalitarianism. (146 mins)

  • The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaușescu

    • Sunday, May 1 1:30 PM

    Andrei Ujica (Romania, 2010). “Lies, mystifications, provocations!” Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaus˛escu declares when confronted by his crimes at his 1989 trial. Bracketed by footage of Nicolae and Elena Ceaus˛escu's refusal to admit guilt in the hour before their execution, this masterfully assembled montage of clips from Ceaus˛escu's rigidly controlled official record reveals a dictator constructing, and ultimately believing in, his own cult of personality. (187 mins)

  • Year Without a Summer

    • Sunday, May 1 5:00 PM

    Tan Chui Mui (Malaysia, 2010). In the shimmering moonlight of a Malaysian fishing village, a man returns home after a long absence, and begins a search for his childhood friend. Tan Chui Mui's poetic second feature, after her award-winning debut Love Conquers All, creates a mood-drenched, dream-like realm between nonfiction and fantasy as it examines friendship, patience, and desire in forgotten towns. (87 mins)

  • Nainsukh

    • Sunday, May 1 7:00 PM

    Amit Dutta (India/Switzerland, 2010). The prominent eighteenth-century Indian miniature painter Nainsukh of Guler receives a poetic and visually stunning tribute from the young Indian filmmaker Amit Dutta, whose unique pictorial language is often compared to that of Sergei Paradjanov. Shot in the region where Nainsukh produced his most celebrated works, this is a meditative and meticulous recreation of the world of an artistic genius, marked with an exceptional vitality and truthfulness. (75 mins)

  • The Light Thief

    • Sunday, May 1 8:45 PM

    Aktan Arym Kubat (Kyrgyzstan/Germany/France/Netherlands, 2010). A simple electrician affectionately known as Mr. Light (director/cowriter Kubat) finds himself in a difficult position when an ambitious politician embraces his dream of generating wind energy for his tiny impoverished town. This affecting allegory of a man confronting injustice and tyranny in his own humble way elegantly dramatizes the complex challenges facing the developing economies of post-Soviet Central Asia. (80 mins)

  • The Tiniest Place

    • Saturday, April 30 6:00 PM

    Tatiana Huezo (Mexico, 2011). Years after the Salvadoran National Guard destroyed the jungle-shrouded village of Cinquera in that country's civil war, survivors have returned home to rebuild their community from the ashes. Soulful and beautifully rendered, this amazing feature debut is an evocative testament to memory and the power of life to rebound after unspeakable tragedy. (100 mins)

  • Hospitalité

    • Saturday, April 30 8:15 PM

    Koji Fukada (Japan, 2010). A hard-working, quite boring family in Tokyo is knocked off the rails by the arrival of a total stranger, who simply asks to move in-and does, but with some very strange results-and some very unexpected visitors. This winner of the Tokyo International Film Festival's award for Best Independent Debut is a biting black comedy on Japanese manners and the fear of strangers. (95 mins)

  • World on a Wire

    • Saturday, April 30 2:00 PM

    Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Germany, 1973). Fassbinder's legendary, little-seen, made-for-television science-fiction epic, a combination of Godard's Alphaville and Kubrick's 2001, finally reappears in a brand-new print. An evil cybernetics company creates another version of our world, complete with human simulations controlled from above; one investigator soon wonders, though, which world is real, and which is manipulated? This prescient, existential head-trip anticipates the future states of The Matrix, Blade Runner, and Inception. (204 mins)

  • At Ellen's Age

    • Friday, April 29 7:00 PM

    Pia Marais (Germany, 2010). Reluctantly alone after being deceived by her lover of many years, a flight attendant who finds herself both literally and spiritually lost must learn to embrace her newfound state of uncertainty, and dig deep to find the courage and optimism needed to rediscover her sense of self and purpose. (95 mins)

  • Living on Love Alone

    • Friday, April 29 9:00 PM

    Isabelle Czajka (France, 2010). Director Isabelle Czajka's intriguing mix of genres gives us a humorous but ultimately tragic story about a young woman who can't keep a job but perhaps finds love instead, although either way she may be doomed to enslavement. (89 mins)

  • Nostalgia for the Light

    • Thursday, April 28 6:15 PM

    Patricio Guzmán (France/Chile/Germany, 2010). Screening followed by Patricio Guzmán in Conversation with Jorge Ruffinelli. The renowned Chilean documentarian goes to one of the highest, driest places on earth, the Atacama Desert, to examine the work of astronomers who search the skies to understand our universe at the same time that relatives of those disappeared under the Pinochet dictatorship search the sands for the bodies of the victims. This event is part of our Afterimage series, The Films of Patricio Guzmán. (90 mins)

  • The Dish & the Spoon

    • Thursday, April 28 8:45 PM

    Alison Bagnall (U.S., 2011). Two wounded souls take shelter in a deserted beach house, attempting to escape their anguish through binge drinking and aimless wandering while acting out the happy, successful relationships that elude them in reality. Greta Gerwig (Greenberg) and newcomer Olly Alexander deliver courageously vulnerable performances in this stirring portrayal of young adults learning to cope with heartbreak. (92 mins)

  • Crime After Crime

    • Wednesday, April 27 6:30 PM

    Yoav Potash (U.S., 2011). This intimate look at the coming together of a female prisoner and the two pro bono lawyers fighting for her release is a must-see documentary for those interested in the power of film to change the course of events. Shot in verité style over a five-and-a-half year period, the saga of one woman's case resounds with broader social implications. (93 mins)

  • The Deep End

    • Wednesday, April 27 8:50 PM

    Dive into a program of new experimental cinema that observes the world subjectively, drifting between rural and urban landscapes or expansive deserts and watery depths, interspersed with contemplations of history from the sinking of the Titanic to the exploits of Houdini. When you come back up for air, you'll be invigorated. Includes new work by Louise Bourque, Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Vincent Grenier, Tomonari Nishikawa, and Ben Russell. (77 mins)

  • Better This World

    • Tuesday, April 26 6:30 PM

    Kelly Duane de la Vega, Katie Galloway (U.S., 2011). Set against the backdrop of the 2008 Republican National Convention amid bomb plots, arrests, and subsequent trials, this portrait of two young activists caught in the web of an opportunistic mentor and a desperate justice system poignantly describes not only the problems of power and authority, but also the ultimate power of forgiveness and love. (94 mins)

  • Position Among the Stars

    • Tuesday, April 26 8:50 PM

    Leonard Retel Helmrich (The Netherlands, 2010). Three generations of a Jakarta family face an uneasy present and an uncertain future in this riveting documentary on globalization, religion, and family aspirations in contemporary Southeast Asia, created in the observational style of Dutch nonfiction masters like Johan van der Keuken. In chaotic urban Indonesia, the family navigates the struggles between rich and poor, Muslim and Christian, young and old, and modern and ancient. (111 mins)

  • !Women Art Revolution

    • Monday, April 25 8:40 PM

    Lynn Hershman Leeson (U.S./Canada, 2010). Through intimate interviews, art, and rarely seen archival film and video footage, !Women Art Revolution reveals how the feminist art movement of the 1970s fused free speech and politics into creative acts that radically transformed the art and culture of our times. Legendary Bay Area filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson uses forty years worth of her interviews with visionary artists, historians, curators, and critics to illuminate the times-and strategies-of a movement that changed history. (83 mins)

  • A Useful Life

    • Monday, April 25 7:00 PM

    Federico Veiroj (Uruguay, 2010). A man who has spent his entire adult life working in a film archive faces a new beginning with the threatened closure of the institution-and a possible romance with a fellow film-lover-in this loving black-and-white ode to a life lived among the reels. A deadpan comedy of cinema and obsolescence, from the director of Acne. With short Protoparticles. (74 mins)

  • Something Ventured

    • Sunday, April 24 2:00 PM

    Dan Geller, Dayna Goldfine (USA, 2011). Silicon Valley, Apple, Intel, Cisco Systems-they might never have been if not for the enterprising inventors and financiers who joined forces to create a new approach to business called “venture capitalism.” This intriguing, often funny documentary uses interviews and vintage footage to examine the stories and conflicts behind these now familiar names. (84 mins)

  • Children of the Princess of Clèves

    • Sunday, April 24 4:15 PM

    Régis Sauder (France, 2009). Featuring candid discussion about hopes and dreams, love and heartbreak, family and friends, this engrossing documentary makes an inspired connection between classic literature and contemporary teen life in modern-day Marseille through the authentic voices of one high-school class studying the seventeenth-century novel La princesse de Clèves. With short Aglaée (89 mins).

  • Chantrapas

    • Sunday, April 24 6:15 PM

    Otar Iosseliani (France/Georgia, 2010). A filmmaker finds creative freedom far more elusive than he imagined in this affectionately ironic comedy-drama from Festival favorite Otar Iosseliani (Gardens in Autumn, SFIFF 2007). Tired of the state-appointed producers and censorship in his homeland, Soviet Georgia, Niko decides to move to France, only to find that he has merely traded one type of interference for another. (122 mins)

  • The Arbor

    • Sunday, April 24 8:45 PM

    Clio Barnard (U.K., 2010). Named for her seminal play, written at seventeen before she ever entered a theater, this entrancing, wonderfully inventive portrait of the short life and enduring art of working-class British playwright Andrea Dunbar has actors lip-synching extensive interviews with family and friends and reenacting scenes from her work to trace the social context and haunted legacy of a brilliant but troubled artist. (94 mins)

  • Foreign Parts

    • Saturday, April 23 2:15 PM

    J.P. Sniadecki, Véréna Paravel (U.S./France, 2010) Véréna Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki's closely observed documentary takes a local interest in the Willets Point neighborhood of Queens, New York, an industrial enclave where cars are scrapped, salvaged, and repaired. Strikingly shot in HD, Foreign Parts raises essential political questions about urban renewal while remaining attuned to the grain of human experience. (80 mins)

  • The Green Wave

    • Saturday, April 23 4:00 PM

    Ali Samadi Ahadi (Germany/Iran, 2010). This riveting documentary for the twenty-first century combines powerful animation, minute-by-minute Twitter feeds, blog accounts, and cell phone footage alongside conventional on-camera testimonies to recount the abortive 2009 antigovernment Iranian youth revolt called the Green Wave: a revolution in flux, yet evergreen with hope. (80 mins)

  • Autumn

    • Saturday, April 23 6:15 PM

    Aamir Bashir (India, 2010). Mourning the disappearance of his older brother, a young would-be militant tries to make a life for himself in his violence-ridden home of Kashmir. Filmed on location in the beautiful Kashmir valley, this striking directorial debut by Indian actor Aamir Bashir is a powerful depiction of the loss and psychological decay caused by twenty years of conflict. (99 mins)

  • The High Life

    • Saturday, April 23 8:40 PM

    Zhao Dayong (China, 2010). Combining street realism and surprising artifice, the first fiction feature by the Chinese independent filmmaker of acclaimed documentaries Street Life and Ghost Town depicts hustlers, migrants, prisoners, and others on the shabby outskirts of Guangzhou, where everyone is on the move but nobody seems to be getting anywhere. (96 mins)

  • Silent Souls

    • Friday, April 22 7:00 PM

    Aleksei Fedorchenko (Russia, 2010). The rites and rituals of the Merja people, an ethnic minority from the Volga region of Russia, form the backbone of this lyrical, sensual, and dreamlike movie about love and loss. After his beloved wife Tanja dies, the melancholy Miron calls on his best friend, the photographer (and the film's narrator) Aist, to help him with his final goodbye. (75 mins)

  • Jean Gentil

    • Friday, April 22 8:40 PM

    Laura Amelia Guzmán, Israel Cárdenas Ramírez (Dominican Republic/Mexico/Germany, 2010). The directing team behind the award-winning Cochochi returns to SFIFF with a profound, documentary-like look at a graceful, intelligent man pushed to the edges of society. Losing first his job and then his apartment, a Haitian professor living in the Dominican Republic tries to make his way home, but soon becomes adrift in both town and countryside. (84 mins)