Friday, April 22, 2016

The Apostate (2015)

A scene from Federico Veiroj's THE APOSTATE, playing at the 59th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 21 - May 5, 2016. Courtesy of San Francisco Film Society.
WHO: Uruguayan autuer Federico Veiroj directed this as his feature-length follow-up to A Useful Life from 2010. He also co-wrote and co-produced it.

WHAT: I haven't seen, or even heard much about The Apostate yet, but here's a passage on it from Amber Wilkinson's Filmmaker Magazine report from the San Sebastian Film Festival where it screened last Fall:
There’s comedy and plenty to think about, too, in Federico Veiroj’s third feature The Apostate, a wry character study of a man faced with a wall of bureaucracy as he tries to extract himself from the Catholic Church at the same time as facing his own existential demons. The winner of a Special Mention from the main jury and the international critics’ FIPRESCI prize, it is much funnier than the title might suggest. It features a great debut performance from Álvaro Ogalla, loosely riffing on his own life; there’s also a slyly impressive nod to Luis Buñuel, and Veiroj retains a lightness of touch and a warmth that draws you to his hapless hero.
WHERE/WHEN: Screens 8:45 PM tonight at the new BAMPFA (Pacific Film Archive), 8:30 PM Tuesday April 26th at the Victoria, and 3:30 PM Wednesday April 27 at the Alamo Drafthouse at the New Mission, all part of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

WHY: The Apostate is exactly the kind of film I depend on the San Francisco International Film Festival to see. It's a follow-up to a film that failed to get a theatrical release in the Bay Area, but which I loved and which inspired me to delve into a national cinema I knew nothing about. This one has a distribution deal, but one that seems unlikely to give the film a post-festival reprise on Frisco Bay cinema screens. If I'm wrong about that, I doubt I'd be wrong to predict it won't show on a screen larger than some of the smaller ones at the Opera Plaza or 4-Star. Seeing this on a bigger screen at this year's SFIFF is one of my priorities this week.

My choice of screens are three that I've yet to see a SFIFF film at, as I believe they're all brand-new venues for the festival. Of course the Pacific Film Archive has long been a key SFIFF partner, but having moved operations down the hill, a block from the Downtown Berkeley BART station this year, and rebranding more officially as BAMPFA in order to highlight its reunion with the Berkeley Art Museum physical space, it's hardly the same venue where I've seen so many wonderful SFIFF screenings in the past decade or so. Though I expect the same high quality (and popcorn-free) presentation standards that I've experienced at the prior venue and at most of my visits to the new space since it opened a few months ago.

The Victoria is one of San Francisco's oldest surviving theatres, but I've never heard of it used as a SFIFF venue. (Granted my direct history with the festival doesn't even span two full decades of the nearly six the organization has existed, but if the Victoria was used between the festival's 1957 founding and my late-1990s participation, it hasn't been mentioned in the histories I've read, which highlight other historical festival venues like the Metro and the Palace of Legion of Honor). Earlier this month I attended another festival (Crossroads) at the Victoria, and can vouch for the size and quality of the digital projection and sound there (I plan to discuss that venue's 16mm projection in a future post, although it's a moot point during SFIFF as all screenings there are expected to be digital) although not the popcorn, which is some of the worst in the city.

Finally, the Alamo Drafthouse at the New Mission. This is the opposite of BAMPFA's new building for a venerable organization: the New Mission is a very old building that hadn't been used as a cinema for about twenty years before being refurbished and since December 2015 operated by a new (to Frisco Bay) organization: the Texas-based cinema/restaurant chain Alamo Drafthouse. There's no question that Alamo's new presence at Mission and 22nd Street has shifted some of the gravity in San Francisco's screening scene, and there's probably no clearer evidence of this than SFIFF's abandonment of the Kabuki Theatre and the Western Addition/Fillmore/Japantown by making the New Mission its 2016 flagship venue. My first visit to the Drafthouse upon its opening was decidedly mixed- I found the wait-staff very distracting despite their attempts to be inobtrusive while delivering all kinds of food and drink (including very expensive, though admittedly tasty, popcorn) to other patrons. More recent visits have been more pleasant if not perfect; some ninja training must have been put into place, although there are certain seats I will still try to avoid so as not to be frequently bumped or otherwise bothered. SFIFF screenings at the New Mission will NOT be employing the usual Alamo Drafthouse advance-seat-selection method. We'll see how that plays out.

More coverage of the San Francisco International Film Festival is being collected at Keyframe Daily. I'd particularly like to highlight my friend Michael Guillén's interview with SFIFF lead programmer Rachel Rosen.

HOW: All screenings of The Apostate will be digital.

OTHER SFIFF SCREENINGS: Tonight at 6:00 is the sole SFIFF screening of Barbara Kopple's new music documentary Miss Sharon Jones! at the Castro Theatre. Today also marks the first festival screenings of new films by Zhang Yang (Paths of the Soul), Chantal Akerman (No Home Movie) and Hong Sangsoo (Right Now, Wrong Then).

NON-SFIFF OPTION: Not far from most of the other SFIFF venues in the Mission, at 8PM Artists' Television Access is screening several Paul Clipson 16mm and Super-8mm films in their native formats. What's most notable about the showing is that they'll be screened in silence for the first (and possibly last) time ever- Clipson normally works with musicians who provide soundtracks to his films, and it should be a very different experience to see them unspool in a manner more like a Stan Brakhage or Nathaniel Dorsky film. I somehow think Henri Langlois and Jonas Mekas might approve...


  1. As ever, thanks for the shout-out, Brian. Am especially pleased to have you spotlight THE APOSTATE. SFIFF only had 4 Latin American entries this year. Not that I'm a bean counter or anything, but, man, what a disappointment. And watching LEAFBLOWER last night makes me very curious who programmed this piece of fag-baiting drivel.

  2. I hadn't counted but I'm not too surprised to hear that given th festiva's increasing focus on Anglophone star power (mirroring overall trends in San Francisco's screening scene). There's also a complete dearth of selections from the region I pay particular attention to at festivals: the ASEAN region that includes Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Phillippines, Vietnam, etc... Glad my instincts told me to skip Mendizábal's film after your blistering three-word review.