Wednesday, August 13, 2008

SFFS Screen at the Kabuki

I finally made it to a film at the Sundance Kabuki's SFFS Screen- the San Francisco Film Society's dedicated venue for year-round bookings of festival-style films with very limited commercial potential but high aesthetic merit. Though the films have distributors they might well have bypassed Frisco Bay theatrical runs were it not for these (generally) week-long bookings in the smallest house in Japantown's recently-remodeled octoplex. I still haven't figured out how to predict the Kabuki's new pricing system with its somewhat confusing amenities fees -- my reserved-seating ticket cost $9, which was a little less than I had expected for a Tuesday night. I think weekend shows cost more, and matinées a bit less.

The film I saw was the Forsaken Land, a prize-winner from the 2005 Cannes Film Festival that I'd missed at the 3rd i South Asian Film Festival a couple years back. I'd never seen a film from Sri Lanka before now, and though I'm not sure how much this one told me about the country that I hadn't somehow gleaned from geography books, news reports and travelers' tales already, it was certainly very beautiful, if bleak. Set around a country dwelling in a region of strong winds, tall grasses, thin foliage and an ever-present military, the Forsaken Land eminates sexuality, danger, and the wearing-down of human bodies in the face of daily hardship, all in an austere, nearly-wordless style that may seem to familiar to viewers of past SFIFF films like Los Muertos and Blissfully Yours. And though director Vimukthi Jayasundara often may seem more like a borrower from those films or others than a presenter of a strikingly original aesthetic, he nonetheless has captured some unforgettable moments in his camera.

One favorite shot shows a woman, who we have just watched being rubbed up against by a sexual predator on a packed bus ride, enter her home and collapse supine on her bed, as if in agony from the travails of her routine. The camera's position at the head of the bed hides her face and emphasizes her elbows and knees, all of which point to the ceiling in a defensive position like a porcupine's spines. Another set of shots captures a young girl going out into the road during the onset of afternoon rain, the light from the sky transforming the grass into a rainbow of yellows, browns and greens. If you're at all interested in films that pack a visual wallop and that sparsely portion out their narrative beats, you really ought to see Jayasundara's film in a cinematic setting.

The Forsaken Land plays through August 14th at the Kabuki. Future SFFS Screen offerings include the documentary Hats Off August 22-28, the Italian film Days and Clouds August 29 through September 4, Germany's Yella September 5-11, the magical-realist, Kazakhstan-set Wind Man September 12-18, and both Youssou N'Dour: Return to Gorée and Opera Jawa beginning September 19th. I'm not sure if the latter two opening the same day means there will be two SFFS Screens for a week, or if they'll share the same screen and alternate showtimes, but I do know that the Indonesian musical phantasmagoria Opera Jawa was one of my favorite films seen in 2007, and I'm very glad to get another chance to see it in a cinema. It's one I'll be recommending to friends both in and out of cinephile circles.


  1. Michael Pistorio8/13/08, 1:35 PM

    Couldn't find an email address to send this, but thought HOFB should know:

    ---FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE----August 13, 2008

    DIY filmmaker Mabel Valdiviezo uses web 2.0 tools to build an audience; Holds Screening in San Francisco 8-15-08

    “Soledad Is Gone Forever” is a psychological drama that explores the chilling consequences of political persecution through the eyes of Soledad Gonzalez, a young Chilean photographer living in San Francisco.

    San Francisco’s dry film production climate and the collapse of prominent distribution houses in Hollywood is not deterring Mabel Valdiviezo from finding innovative ways to distribute her film.

    After her short-to-feature, “Soledad Is Gone Forever,” played at Cannes Film Market in 2007 she courted the UK-based Shorts International for distribution of her film, but to no avail.

    Smaller distributors pursued the film but sought all available rights. Undeterred, Valdiviezo, a Peruvian born filmmaker decided to set out on her own to produce “Soledad” in its feature length entirety. The Do-it-yourself approach has brought myriad opportunities.

    "Soon after I first became interested in using a DIY approach for distributing my short,” says the filmmaker, “I realized that it’s a powerful and connective way to build an audience while also securing micro financing for the feature.”

    Part of the DIY approach includes showing the film to as many people as possible by holding screenings, selling DVD and downloadable versions online, and through partnerships with other DIY-friendly artists and companies.

    Valdiviezo will be screening her short on Friday Aug. 15 at the traveling From Here To Awesome Film Festival, a festival that supports independent DIY filmmakers like Valdiviezo. The festival will be held in conjunction to DIY DAYS, an all day event for independent filmmakers being held on Sunday Aug. 17 at 111 Minna.

    The indoor/outdoor film experience will be showcasing the newest possibilities in filmmaking, distribution and audience participation. The event will be held from 8 PM to 2 am on Mint Plaza and at the adjacent Mezzanine nightclub at Jessie and Mint Streets in San Francisco.

    Film fans can get complimentary passes to the Friday night August 15 screening event through RSVP via

    The DVD and downloadable version is now available for purchase through several online distribution outlets:

    IndieFlix -

    Caachi -

    In addition to these DIY-friendly distributors is Ourstage, an online music hub where users can find new music by watching music videos simultaneously in order to vote on favorites.

    “Ourstage, a partner with FHTA, is helping us raise money for our film by giving us $4 to the film project for every music lover and creative person who signs up with Ourstage. And this is just the beginning of what is possible using technology and social networking to find sustainability for our project,” said Valdiviezo.

    The filmmaker who raises the most funds through Ourstage will be flown to London and receive an award at the London Film Festival.

    To follow Valdiviezo’s journey in bringing “Soledad” from short-to-feature check out her blog at

    Contact the Filmmaker Mabel Validiviezo directly
    (Cell) 415-335-3143
    Contact Marketing Representative Michael Pistorio
    (Cell) 847-636-9727

    For more information on any of the events:

    From Here to Awesome Film Screening
    Friday Aug. 15 (8pm to 2am)
    444 Jessie St, San Francisco California 94103

    DIY Days
    (Sunday, Aug.17) 9am to 6:30pm
    111 Minna Street Gallery
    San Francisco, CA, 94105

  2. I have added my e-mail address to my profile. Sorry about that; my address can be found on my original blog but I haven't found an easy way for new blogger to include it the way I'd like.