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Francis Ford Coppola to be awarded at home at San Francisco

Francis Ford Coppola will receive the Founder's Directing Award at the 52nd San Francisco International Film Festival (April 23 - May 7). The Founder's Award will be presented to Coppola at Film Society Awards Night, the organization's glamorous black-tie fundraiser, Thursday, April 30 at the Westin St. Francis Hotel.
The Film Society's acclaimed Youth Education Program will be the beneficiary of the benefit gala honoring Coppola; Robert Redford, recipient of the Peter J. Owens Award for acting; and the soon-to-be announced recipient of the Kanbar Award for excellence in screenwriting. Penelope Wong and Tim Kochis are chairs of the 2009 Film Society Awards Night committee. Honorary chairs are Celeste and Anthony Meier.

An Evening with Francis Ford Coppola & Friends, 7:30 pm, Friday, May 1 at the Castro Theatre will be a special occasion honoring the brilliant career of one of the seminal figures in American film including a conversation among Coppola and a number of his esteemed friends and collaborators who, in a moderated discussion, will cover all manner of subjects, cinematic and otherwise. Film clips, including the trailer from Coppola's new film Tetro, and an extended audience Q&A will round out this remarkable evening.

"Genius, visionary, iconoclast, Francis Ford Coppola is one of the towering figures in American and world cinema," said Graham Leggat, executive director of the San Francisco Film Society. "As we and our audiences eagerly await the release of Francis's newest film in June, we could not be more thrilled and honored to be able to present him with our Founder's Directing Award."

Before he turned 39 Coppola had already won five Oscars, two Palme d'Ors and established his place in the film canon with The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now. The past two decades have seen the establishment of his non-filmic enterprises, with Coppola forging modest empires out of wine, cooking and hospitality (he runs hotels in Belize, Guatemala and Buenos Aires) and giving himself, finally, a financial security away from the last film's gross or the next studio's fee. In recent years he has opened an exciting new chapter in an already encyclopedic career, signaled by a return to more personal independent films.

Beginning with Youth Without Youth (2007) and the highly anticipated Tetro, which opens in mid-June, Coppola is recapturing a youthful flair and curiosity in both subject and style. Tetro, Coppola's first original screenplay since The Conversation, is the bittersweet story of two brothers, of family lost and found and the conflicts and secrets within a highly creative Argentine-Italian family. Surrounded by longtime colleagues like Walter Murch and newer ones like the brilliant Romanian cinematographer Mihai Malaimare Jr. (who also shot Youth Without Youth), Coppola draws from his own family memories to create his most personal work yet. Vincent Gallo (Buffalo 66, The Brown Bunny) stars as the title character.

The international cast includes Maribel Verdú (Y Tu Mama También), Oscar-nominee Klaus Maria Brandauer (Mephisto), Carmen Maura (Volver), and introduces Alden Ehrenreich as a young man searching for his older brother in a story set in Buenos Aires. Tetro opens in limited release June 11 and is distributed by American Zoetrope Releasing.

Such personal filmmaking is a return to Coppola's roots. As a student at UCLA film school, Coppola worked as personal assistant, dialogue director and script doctor for the legendary cult impresario Roger Corman. Impressed by Coppola's skill and tireless energy, Corman gave the tyro a chance to direct with the 1963 horror quickie Dementia 13, but it was his next films, the satirical coming-of-age tale You're a Big Boy Now (1966) and the brilliantly improvised road-trip movie The Rain People (1969) that truly announced Coppola as a talent to watch.

He was hired to direct The Godfather at the last minute and spent the entire shoot battling with studio heads to make the film with the cast and crew he wanted. The biggest moneymaker in film history at the time and winner of the Best Picture Oscar launched Coppola towards a career he could barely have imagined.

Coppola reinvested his career success in meaningful films and the professional development of his friends and colleagues. His collaborative studio, American Zoetrope, founded with George Lucas and John Korty 40 years ago, in 1969, became the epicenter of a new cinematic culture, and Coppola, with his awe-inspiring ability to amass esprit de corps, started not only making films but also nurturing and funding filmmakers such as Lucas (who started as an intern on The Rain People) and Carroll Ballard. International legends like Werner Herzog, Wim Wenders and Akira Kurosawa also benefited from Coppola's generosity as a financier and producer. Bay Area icons like Tom Luddy, editor and sound designer Walter Murch and George Lucas became Coppola's most trusted colleagues, and, by extension, among the industry's most leading talents.

Breathing new life into American film, Coppola set about reinvigorating the San Francisco cultural landscape. He bought buildings, a radio station, a magazine, a theater and, in Napa Valley, an old winery that later became an exemplary career in itself. His fervent, visionary embrace of new technology prefigured the digital film movement by decades. His films became as wide-ranging, idiosyncratic and bold as his interests, with now-classic works like The Conversation (1974) and Apocalypse Now (1979) and this year's Tetro (tetro.com).

The Founder's Directing Award is presented each year to one of the masters of world cinema and is given in memory of Irving M. Levin, who founded the Festival in 1957. It was first bestowed in 1986 upon iconic filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, and for many years was given in his name.

The award has over the years brought many of the world's most visionary directors to San Francisco. Previous recipients are Mike Leigh, England; Spike Lee, USA; Werner Herzog, Germany; Taylor Hackford, USA; Milos Forman, Czechoslovakia/USA; Robert Altman, USA; Warren Beatty, USA; Clint Eastwood, USA; Abbas Kiarostami, Iran; Arturo Ripstein, Mexico; Im Kwon-Taek, Korea; Francesco Rosi, Italy; Arthur Penn, USA; Stanley Donen, USA; Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal; Ousmane Sembène, Senegal; Satyajit Ray, India; Marcel Carné, France; Jirí Menzel, Czechoslovakia; Joseph L. Mankiewicz, USA; Robert Bresson, France; Michael Powell, England; and Akira Kurosawa, Japan. The award is made possible by Fred Levin and Nancy Livingston.

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Chatelin Bruno
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