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San Francisco Film Festival Offers Something for Everyone

48th Annual San Francisco Film Festival Offers Something for Everyone

Judging from the level of activity it is apparent that the San Francisco Film Festival was celebrating its 48th Anniversary with the array of panels, seminars, films, and parties that were offered this year. The attendance hit record levels coming in at a monstrous 77,000 a 5% increase over last year. In just over two week’s time, thousands of festival attendees packed into theaters that screened 185 films from 48 countries. This year the festival expanded its Schools at the Festival program and received over 3,400 students. The students shuttled in from 59 public and private schools entertaining the likes of elementary, Jr. and Sr. high school students.
The film November starring Courtney Cox screened on April 26th to a packed house. On the red carpet before the screening, I had an opportunity to ask Cox Arquette why she would choose to do an independent film. She replied, “The film shot in 15 days, it had a great cast, a good script, and a great director, so why not?”
During the Q and A after the film audience members were able to ask Director Greg Harrison, Screenwriter Benjamin Brand, and Courtney Cox-Arquette questions regarding their project. The audience proved to be a detail oriented crowd noticing even the metaphorical wardrobe changes from scene to scene. The most popular question seemed to be the similarity between November and a film called Run Lola Run.
The 35 year old Screenwriter, Benjamin Brand, and I had a chance to chat during the after party at Ruby Skye. Brand said he based the screenplay “loosely” on an actual robbery in New York that he read about in the paper. Brand denied any connection with, Run Lola Run.
Another film that made top billing was Todd Solondz’s film Palindromes. It was a disturbing tale of a 12 year old girl, Aviva, searching for love through sex and pregnancy. After her mother, played by actress Ellen Barkin, makes Aviva have an abortion she runs away from home only to be molested by a man three times her age. The twists and turns do not stop and by the end of the film you are not sure if Solondz is writing for the pro choice or pro life side.
During the Q and A session after the film, it helped iron out some of the metaphorical details that confused some of the audience. One of the most obvious metaphors that needed to be explained was the fact that the main character, Aviva, kept changing. Solondz said, “There are 8 Aviva’s playing this character because any one of us could play this part.” The eccentric Director continued saying,” as Oprah says,’ keep it real’. Try to set a reality that they believe in.” Soldonz also held a screenwriting seminar following his film.
Hollywood’s elite as well as some San Francisco elite turned out for the Film Society Awards Night. On the red carpet, I had the pleasure of interviewing actors such as Jeff Bridges, Joan Allen, Helen Mirren, Director Taylor Hackford, Screenwriter Paul Haggis, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome and media mogul and San Francisco native, William R. Hearst III. Joan Allen received the Peter J. Owens Award for her acting achievements. Allen has been in films such as The Contender and Tucker: The Man and His Dream. Director Taylor Hackford was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Directing. Some of Hackford’s recent films include Ray, and Proof of Life. Paul Haggis was awarded the Kanbar Award for his excellence in screenwriting. Some of Haggis’ recent work includes the Academy Award winning film Million Dollar Baby and such television series as EZ Streets and Family Law.

The festival had a rather interesting panel called New Distribution Platforms: Opportunities for the Independent Filmmaker. This panel included companies such as Akimbo, Ifilm, Movielink, Tivo, and Underground Film. William R. Hearst III and Roxanne Messina Captor opened up the panel for discussion about the nontraditional distribution methods for marketplace films. For example, the worldwide web is an up and coming market for films. Right now Google is offering free uploads of any size video. This will enable films to be searched on key words and viewed subsequently by anyone with a computer. Other companies such as Akimbo and Ifilm, and Movielink offer similar programs, but are not equipped with the enormous capacity of Google. The internet is booming with ways for independent filmmakers to get their films viewed world wide. If the films create enough buzz, said the panelists, then Hollywood studios might take note of them and buy them out. The San Francisco Film Festival teamed up with Akimbo to create a video-on-demand “channel”, to showcase choice films of the current and previous San Francisco festivals. These are but a few momentous changes sweeping through the film industry.
Roxanne Messina Captor put together one of the most successful festivals in the United States with what appeared to be grace and ease. When I interviewed her at the Film Society Award Night, she humbly gave the credit to all the fantastic people that helped her from beginning to end especially her friend William R. Hearst III. According to many attendees, Messina Captor proved to be one of the best festival directors in the country putting together this hugely successful international affair flawlessly. Written by Tracie Donahue


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