Thursday, May 9, 2013

Present Tense (2012)

WHO: Belmin Söylemez directed and co-wrote this.

WHAT: This film, about a Turkish fortune-teller named Mina, with dreams of emigration, just won the San Francisco International Film Festival New Directors Prize, an award previously given to promising auteurs like Jia Zhang-Ke (for Xiao Wu in 1999), Miranda July (for Me and You and Everyone We Know in 2005), and Pedro González-Rubio (for Alamar in 2010). 

I have not seen Present Tense yet so let me excerpt from an absolutely fascinating article that uses this digital feature as an example of the kind of film being crowded off even Turkey's screens thanks to homogenization pressures created by wholesale DCP conversion of cinemas, written by Emine Yildirim:
Mina could be the epitome of many women living in this country -- aching for a better and more independent life in the midst of uncertainty and economic destitution. The fortune telling sequences in which Mina's predictions are juxtaposed with the faces of many different women promises to become a classic in Turkish cinema; for those of us who live in this culture always want to hear the same future: a way out of our brooding existence into a refreshing place with certain happiness and good fortune.
WHERE/WHEN: Final San Francisco International Film Festival screening this afternoon at 2:00 at the Kabuki.

WHY: It's the final day of SFIFF, and there are still plenty of movies left to watch; it would be absurd to imagine someone having been able to see them all. I can certainly recommend The Search For Emak Bakia (which also screens post-festival at the Basque Cultural Center in South San Francisco a week from tomorrow) and Leviathan if you haven't seen them yet. Or, if you want to end the festival on an enormously satisfying cliffhanger, the official closing night offering Before Midnight.  I don't think that's a spoiler; anyone who has seen the previous entries in this continuing Richard Linklater/Julie Delpy/Ethan Hawke serial, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, should know what to expect in the way of narrative structure even if they're sure to be surprised by the details.

But with most of the festival's awards now announced (audience awards are usually revealed during the closing night film presentation), there are a few more recommendations of films on today's festival slate, made by the festival's various juries of filmmakers, curators and critics. In addition to Present Tense, one of the two New Directors Prize runners-up, the Peruvian The Cleaner also has a final showtime today. The other runner-up La Sirga and the FIPRESCI Jury pick Nights With Theodore have no further festival screenings.

Then there are the Golden Gate Awards, the longest-standing of the SFIFF awards given as they go back to the 1957 inaugural festival's prizes for Pather Panchali, Uncle Vanya and The Captain from Köpenick. It was fifty-one years ago that The People Vs. Paul Crump, a documentary about a death row inmate, won a Golden Gate Award for its young director William Friedkin, just starting out on his filmmaking career. Friedkin returned to SFIFF this year to give a master class and screen his terrific 1985 film To Live & Die In L.A. If you missed it at the festival, I've recently learned it will circle back to Frisco Bay this September when it's included in a six-film Pacific Film Archive retrospective for the director, also to include The French Connection, Cruising and (in my opinion) his greatest film Sorcerer, the latter along with an in-person conversation between Freidkin and my friend Michael Guillén.

But back to this year's GGAs and their winners (any of whom might be a future Freidkin?): The Documentary Feature GGA went to Kalyanee Mam's introduction to social and environmental issues in Cambodia entitled A River Changes Course. It has no more SFIFF showings but will screen at the just-announced SF Green Film Festival on June 1st. The Bay Area Documentary Feature GGA went to Dan Krauss's The Kill Team, which you may have heard about via On the Media; it screens one last time at SFIFF tonight at 6:00.

Twelve different shorts were also winners or honorable mentions for GGAs in various subcategories: narrative, documentary, animation, youth works, family films, etc. If you missed out on seeing these on this year's shorts programs, there's still one chance to see three GGA winners (and four other shorts) on the Shorts 4: New Visions program this evening. The New Visions category winner was Alfredo Covelli's single-take documentary of the aftermath of a violent event, Salmon, and both the first-prize and second-prize winners in the Bay Area short category also came from the New Visions section: 3020 Laguna St. In Exitum, Ashley Rodholm & Joe Picard's enigmatic documentation of an unusual Cow Hollow art exhibition won first prize, while Jonn Herschend's hilariously uncomfortable spoof of the in-house industrial video, More Real, took second. All three of these screen at 8:30 at New People.

HOW: Present Tense was shot on video, and will be screened on video, as will all the other screening titles I mention in this post. Except for, I'm hoping, the Freidkin films coming to the PFA in September.

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