55th San Francisco International Film Festival @ BAM/PFA

4/20/12 to 5/3/12

BAM/PFA is honored to once again be the exclusive East Bay venue for the San Francisco International Film Festival. Join us for forty-two films-features, shorts, documentaries, experimental films-from over thirty countries.

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Past Films

  • Meanwhile in Mamelodi

    • Thursday, May 3 6:30 pm

    Benjamin Kahlmeyer (Germany/South Africa, 2011). Benjamin Kahlmeyer and producer Boris Frank in person. Set against the raucous backdrop of the 2010 World Cup, this beautifully crafted portrait of a place and a family features stunning cinematography and a lively score, as the Mtswenis's day-to-day struggles and victories echo the promise of a new South Africa. (75 mins)

  • Last Call at the Oasis

    • Thursday, May 3 8:40 pm

    Jessica Yu (U.S., 2011). From the Oscar-winning documentarian of Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien (SFIFF 1996) comes this enthralling, entertaining and ultimately sobering look at the world's water crisis. It'll make you think twice before overwatering your lawn-or buying that next Costco-sized pallet of bottled H2O. (105 mins)

  • Last Winter

    • Wednesday, May 2 6:30 pm

    John Shank (Belgium/France/Switzerland, 2011). A young farmer in central France tries to sustain his spiritual connection to the land amid the crushing pressures of modern agriculture in this elegiac drama. Vincent Rottiers is the taciturn Johann, who goes it alone in the landscape he loves, a terrain captured in shimmering cinematography. (103 mins)

  • In My Mother's Arms

    • Wednesday, May 2 9 pm

    Atia Jabarah al-Daradji, Mohamed Jabarah al-Daradji (Iraq/Netherlands/U.K., 2011). Producer Kathryn Wilson in person. In violence-ridden Baghdad, one determined man tries to create a safe haven: an independent orphanage with no government support, where thirty-two Iraqi boys live, eat, play, sleep, and go to school together. It is a fragile ecosystem shielding them from a life of suffering and extreme danger. (86 mins)

  • Golden Slumbers

    • Tuesday, May 1 6:30 pm

    Davy Chou (Cambodia/France, 2011). Davy Chou in person. This exceptional documentary summons the spirits of Cambodian cinema's golden age, which ended during the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror between 1975 and 1979. Blending interviews with surviving filmmakers, classic songs, and poetic examinations of former movie palaces, Golden Slumbers is testament to the captivating power of art in the face of tragedy. (96 mins)

  • OK, Enough, Goodbye.

    • Tuesday, May 1 8:50 pm

    Rania Attieh, Daniel Garcia (Lebanon/United Arab Emirates, 2010). Rania Attieha and Daniel Garcia in person. A forty-something Lebanese pastry shop owner who looks like an escapee from a Judd Apatow film and still lives with his mother is the unlikely protagonist of this marvelously crafted deadpan comedy. After his mother skips town, he searches cluelessly for various maternal substitutes. (91 mins)

  • ¡Vivan las antipodas!

    • Monday, April 30 9 pm

    (Germany/Netherlands/Argentina/Chile, 2011). Victor Kossakovsky in person. This captivating documentary takes a common musing-What would you see if you dug a hole straight through the planet?-and pursues it to the ends of the earth, traveling to four pairs of global opposites: Argentina and China, Russia and Chile, Hawaii and Botswana, Spain and New Zealand. (104 mins)

  • Pierre Rissient: Man of Cinema

    • Monday, April 30 6:30 pm

    Todd McCarthy (U.S., 2007). Pierre Rissient in person. A career-launcher at Cannes and uncompromising advocate for favorite films and new directors, 2012 Novikoff Awardee Pierre Rissient is feted by Bertrand Tavernier, Olivier Assayas, Jane Campion, Abbas Kiarostami, Clint Eastwood, Hou Hsaio-Hsien, and others in this richly anecdotal documentary, which doubles as an inside look at the international film world. (110 mins)

  • Step Up to the Plate

    • Sunday, April 29 1 pm

    Paul Lacoste (France, 2011). Paul Lacoste in person. Hawkeyed master chef Michel Bras is ready to hand the keys to his Michelin-recognized restaurant in rural southwestern France to his talented son. A sublime, contemplative study of artistry, family, and tradition calibrated to the turning of the seasons, this lovely documentary is about much more than food. (90 mins)

  • A Secret World

    • Sunday, April 29 3:20 pm

    Gabriel Mariño (Mexico, 2012). Gabriel Mariño and producer Tatiana Graullera in person. A Mexican teen sets off on a mysterious journey by bus across her country in this evocative portrait of a young loner and her dreams. Moving through the stark yet beautiful landscape and a series of distinct encounters, A Secret World offers glimpses into the emotional landscape of disconnected Mexican youth. (93 mins)

  • Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present

    • Sunday, April 29 5:40 pm

    Matthew Akers (U.S., 2011). Matthew Akers and producer Jeff Dupre in person. The so-called “grandmother of performance art” is something far more complex, youthful, and glamorous in this handsome, persuasive doc that frames her celebrated 2010 Museum of Modern Art retrospective. Whether through video documentation of her physically dangerous 1970s works or more recent behind-the-scenes footage, Abramovic seduces, confounds, and impresses with her deeply embodied presence. (105 mins)

  • Unfair World

    • Sunday, April 29 8:15 pm

    Filippos Tsitos (Greece/Germany, 2011). An honest cop with a strict moral code attempts to uncover the truth behind a brutal crime-and accidentally kills a man in the process. Part procedural potboiler, part character study, part minimalist comedy, this prize-winning examination of moral exertion and human frailty proves no good deed goes unpunished. (108 mins)

  • It's the Earth Not the Moon

    • Saturday, April 28 12:00 pm

    Gonçalo Tocha (Portugal, 2011). Gonçalo Tocha in person. Filming on the remote Azores island of Corvo, director Gonçalo Tocha aims “to be everywhere at the same time and not miss a thing.” The result is a wonderfully poetic take on the anthropological documentary, the travel essay, and the armchair adventure, made with almost naïve sincerity. (183 mins)

  • Ethel

    • Saturday, April 28 4 pm

    Rory Kennedy (U.S., 2011). Robert and Ethel Kennedy's youngest child, acclaimed documentarian Rory Kennedy, directs this affectionate portrait of her mother, a formidable matriarch who supported her husband's political ambitions-and weathered numerous tragedies-while never losing her quirky, independent spirit. Filled with intimate interviews and rare home movies from the Kennedy family archives. (97 mins)

  • Smugglers' Songs

    • Saturday, April 28 6:30 pm

    Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche (France, 2011). Subversion takes many forms in this unblushingly partisan film, set in eighteenth-century France three decades before the Revolution and just after the torture and execution of renowned smuggler Louis Mandrin. The film depicts, realistically and humorously, the hardening resistance in the face of oppression. (97 mins)

  • Back to Stay

    • Saturday, April 28 8:50 pm

    Milagros Mumenthaler (Argentina/Switzerland/Netherlands, 2011). After their grandmother's death, three sisters adjust to her absence and awkwardly test out new sibling dynamics in this fresh addition to the Argentine New Wave. Marked by nuanced performances and an exquisitely understated storytelling approach, Back to Stay draws the viewer deep into a world within four walls. (99 mins)

  • Old Dog

    • Friday, April 27 8:50 pm

    Pema Tseden (China/Tibet, 2011). Pema Tseden in person. From the leading filmmaker of the New Tibetan Cinema comes this absolutely mesmerizing, emotionally gripping family story combining those horizon lines that delimit human destinies in ways that might have wowed John Ford, even as its portrait of rural anomie takes a completely modern approach to narrative, patiently accumulating detail by telling detail. (88 mins)

  • Patience (After Sebald)

    • Friday, April 27 6:30 pm

    Grant Gee (U.K., 2011). This moving tour through the landscape of W.G. Sebald's genre-bending novel, The Rings of Saturn, presents a multilayered, many-voiced homage to his discursive, elegiac, and perfectly illusion-free style by poets, mapmakers, novelists, and acquaintances-admirers haunted and inspired by the voice of the German writer, who died in 2001.

  • Crulic-The Path to Beyond

    • Thursday, April 26 6:30 pm

    Anca Damian (Romania/Poland/France, 2011). Anyone who claims dead men tell no tales hasn't seen this inventive and beautifully animated feature, which relates one man's hunger strike against false imprisonment in Poland. Watercolor backdrops, collage cutouts, and other visual flourishes intensify the stark subject matter and bring history to life. With Emily Hubley's short And/or. (76 mins)

  • Found Memories

    • Thursday, April 26 8:40 pm

    Júlia Murat (Brazil/Argentina/France, 2011). A young photographer drifts into the tiny Brazilian village of Jotuomba, charming the elders with her camera and learning the fine art of baking bread in this disarming meditation on memory, aging, and letting go of the past. (98 mins)

  • The Law in These Parts

    • Wednesday, April 25 6:30 pm

    Ra'anan Alexandrowicz (Israel/U.S./Germany, 2011). This winner of the Sundance World Documentary prize offers an insider's view of the logic, structure, and moral cost of Israel's parallel military legal system governing Palestinians under occupation. Interviews with those who create and uphold these laws, artfully juxtaposed with archival footage, call into question concepts of justice. (101 mins)

  • The Day He Arrives

    • Wednesday, April 25 9 pm

    Hong Sang-soo (South Korea, 2011). High Modernist master of contemporary South Korean cinema Hong Sang-soo returns, and then returns again, to his cherished tableaux of endlessly looped and ever-loopier time travels in Seoul in this black-and-white twice-told tale about a drunken filmmaker and the women he torments and who torment him. (79 mins)

  • Bonsái

    • Tuesday, April 24 6:30 pm

    Cristián Jiménez (Chile/France/Argentina/Portugal, 2011). This comically keen adaptation of Alejandro Zambra's now classic novella about a detached but sympathetic antihero fumbling through early adulthood in Santiago is an existential romance rich with insights into the nature of love, the power of literature, and the science of preening miniature plants. (95 mins)

  • Bitter Seeds

    • Tuesday, April 24 8:50 pm

    Micha X. Peled (India/U.S., 2011). Micha X. Peled in person. Manjusha, a farmer's daughter, is the heroine of the final film in documentary filmmaker Micha X. Peled's globalization trilogy. As a journalist in training, without mentor or encouragement, she fights to give powerless Indian cotton farmers a voice against multinational seed and pesticide giant, the Monsanto Corporation. (88 mins)

  • Informant

    • Monday, April 23 6:30 pm

    Jamie Meltzer (U.S., 2012). Jamie Meltzer in person. Vilified by some, venerated by others, Brandon Darby is the FBI informant instrumental to the imprisonment of two young activists following demonstrations at the 2008 Republican National Convention. A counterpoint to last year's Golden Gate Award winner, Better This World, this fascinating documentary includes wide-ranging interviews and reenactments starring the man himself. (80 mins)

  • Women with Cows

    • Monday, April 23 8:45 pm

    Peter Gerdehag (Sweden, 2011). In this funny, sad, luminously filmed documentary about two elderly sisters, twelve cows, and four seasons (the usual ones, only more so in Sweden), Inger hates milking cows while Britt positively loves it. How they feel about each other is more complicated. (93 mins)

  • Valley of Saints

    • Sunday, April 22 6:15 pm

    Musa Syeed (India/U.S., 2012). Using Kashmir's picturesque Dal Lake as its backdrop and underpinned by the political unrest in the region, this heartfelt drama explores the relationship between two friends and the female researcher, studying environmental degradation, who threatens to distract them from their dreams of escape. (82 mins)

  • An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

    • Sunday, April 22 8:30 pm

    Terence Nance (U.S., 2011). A broken date serves as catalyst for an introspective, poetical ride through the heart and mind of a filmmaker in this documentary/narrative hybrid employing myriad styles of animation and live action to express the personal yet universal pain of unrequited love, or, in the filmmaker's words, the “friend zone.” (94 mins)

  • Tokyo Waka

    • Sunday, April 22 1:30 pm

    John Haptas, Kristine Samuelson (Japan/U.S., 2011). John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson in person. Taking flight through Tokyo, this look at the “metabolism” of the metropolis focuses on its unlikely spirit animal: the jungle crow turned big-city survivor. Tokyo Waka spotlights the whip-smart, resourceful, and aggressive creatures that pick through trash, build nests of stolen hangers, attack passersby, and use cars to crack open nuts. With Andreas Horvath's short Postcard from Somova, Romania. (83 mins)

  • The Source

    • Sunday, April 22 3:45 pm

    Maria Demopoulos, Jodi Wille (U.S., 2012). Jodi Wille in person. An exploration of the controversial Source Family, a 1970s Southern California cult whose eccentric leader, Father Yod, championed Eastern mysticism, healthy living, and sexual liberation. Using archival footage and interviews with former members, the documentary chronicles the Family from inception through implosion, examining its lasting impressions on pop culture. (99 mins)

  • The Double Steps

    • Saturday, April 21 2 pm

    Isaki Lacuesta (Spain/Switzerland, 2011). The twentieth-century French painter and writer François Augiéras supposedly left behind a series of hidden frescoes in Mali. This poetic film, inspired by his life, uses two different characters to investigate the clues and mysteries that could lead to this secret artistic trove. (87 mins)

  • The Waiting Room

    • Saturday, April 21 3:50 pm

    Peter Nicks (U.S., 2011). Peter Nicks and hospital staff from the film in person. Dire situations are often illuminated by extraordinary acts of compassion in this intimate and intense day-in-the-life documentary portrait of the patients, doctors, nurses, and social workers at Oakland's Highland Hospital-Alameda County's busiest medical center for trauma cases, the uninsured, and indigent. (79 mins)

  • Blink of an Eye

    • Saturday, April 21 6:15 pm

    Jerome Hiler and Gregory Scharpen in person. A storybook, medieval illuminations, and details of the external world are lovingly observed in five recent experimental films that explore the nature of things, the way we think, and the possibilities of image making. New films by Vincent Grenier, Jerome Hiler, Charlotte Pryce, Samantha Rebello, and Sylvia Schedelbauer. (68 mins)

  • People Mountain People Sea

    • Saturday, April 21 8:30 pm

    Cai Shangjun (Hong Kong/China, 2011). A disturbing glimpse into the dark heart of southwest China's industrial revolution, Cai Shangjun's second film is the story of a man's journey through a corrupt, squalid metropolis to avenge his brother's murder. Stunning photography, a detached, observational style, and elliptical storytelling bring across a brutal tale of vengeance. (91 mins)

  • Sleeping Sickness

    • Friday, April 20 6:30 pm

    Ulrich Köhler (Germany/France/Netherlands, 2011). A German doctor working to fight an epidemic in Cameroon must make difficult choices in director Ulrich Köhler's subtle examination of African postcolonial ties with the West. Echoes of Conrad's Heart of Darkness and a sense of dread pervade this lush meditation on the experience of being European in Africa. (91 mins)

  • Oslo, August 31

    • Friday, April 20 8:50 pm

    Joachim Trier (Norway, 2011). A recovering drug addict takes a long day's journey into the Norwegian capital's night in this nuanced character study by the director of Reprise (SFIFF 2007), loosely based on the novel Le feu follet, previously adapted by Louis Malle in 1963 as The Fire Within. (96 mins)