Wednesday, October 8, 2008

October Fests

This month is absolutely crammed with film festivals here on Frisco Bay. At least eleven, too many for one cinephile to attend. Or to write about with much care and detail. So I'm just going to make a list with pertinent facts and a few highlighted titles. To minimize hyperlink fatigue, I'm only directly linking venues not already found linked to on my sidebar.

2nd Dead Channels Film Festival of the Fantastic
When? Currently showing films through October 9th with a wrap-up party on the 10th.
Where? Mostly at the Roxie here in Frisco, but Thursday night there's a screening at Oakland's Parkway Theatre too.
Have I been before? I just got back from my first Dead Channels screening. A 35mm print of the 1972 Western Cutthroats Nine, shot in the Spanish Pyrenees by director Joaquín Luis Romero Marchent, it features a gruesomely dwindling cast, highly entertaining dub jobs, and a poor grasp of metallurgy. In other words, a fun time for all. Like most films in the festival, this was a one-show-only screening.
I have seen and can recommend: None, other than the above-mentioned film that won't be screening again.
I'm curious to see: Well, there's unfortunately not much of the festival left to anticipate, but I'm certainly curious about Nicolas Roeg's new Fay Weldon adaptation Puffball which plays Thursday night in Oakland. Also tomorrow night but here in Frisco, Surveillance, Jennifer Lynch's long-awaited (or is that long-dreaded) follow-up to Boxing Helena, plays the Roxie.
More coverage by: Michael Guillén of the Evening Class, Dennis Harvey at sf360, Jason Watches Movies, and Carl Martin at the new(-ish) Film on Film Foundation blog.

31st Mill Valley Film Festival
When? Running right now, through October 12th.
Where? All venues in Marin County: the Rafael Film Center, the Sequoia and others.
Have I been before? I try to cross the bridge and at least a program or two every year. It's a homey, relaxed festival considering all the big names it annually attracts.
I have seen and can recommend: The Betrayal, a tour-de-force documentary about a Laotian immigrant family's Poetic, personal, and beautifully shot, it was co-directed by Ellen Kuras (cinematographer for Spike Lee, Michel Gondry and many others) and one of the film's subjects, Thavisouk Phrasavath. I wrote more on it here. Happy-Go-Lucky is probably director Mike Leigh's cheeriest film and a good companion (or antidote?) to his 1994 film Naked. I Just Wanted To Be Somebody is a Jay Rosenblatt short that plays in front of a new feature documentary (that I have not seen) on the making of and social impact of the musical Hair. The Rosenblatt video focuses on Anita Bryant, and seeing it now might be a good warm-up to the highly-anticipated upcoming release of Gus Van Sant's Milk.
I'm curious to see: Well, I've never seen Ingmar Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly before, and seeing it screened with its star Harriet Andersson in attendance for a tribute has got to be considered one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. I'm also excited about Kelly Reichardt's latest Wendy and Lucy but its final screening is at RUSH status- no more tickets to buy unless you want to wait in line. Luckily the film has been picked up for distribution, and probably will screen here early next year. The previously-mentioned Surveillance plays this festival as well.
More coverage by: Michael Hawley and Michael Guillén at the Evening Class, Keaton Kail from indieWIRE, Dennis Harvey in the SF Bay Guardian and at sf360, Tony An, and Lincoln Spector of Bayflicks.

French Cinema Now
When? Technically October 8-12, but there will also be San Francisco Film Society-presented screenings of 1960s French classics Belle Du Jour and the Umbrellas of Cherbourg at the same venue from October 13-16.
Where? The Clay Theatre in Frisco.
Have I been before? No, this is the first year I'm aware of the SFFS presenting a French series. Hopefully it will be a rousing success and lay the groundwork for future editions!
I have seen and can recommend: Only Belle Du Jour, which I can't recommend highly enough if you've never seen it.
I'm curious to see: Where to start? Pretty much the entire program looks appealing. I'm most drawn to the opportunity to catch up with hot auteur Arnaud Desplechin's lesser-known films Life of the Dead and My Sex Life...Or How I Got Into an Argument. His latest, a Christmas Tale opens the festival tonight well in advance of an upcoming commercial release, and he is expected to appear in person. Two screenings of the French New Wave omnibus Six in Paris look to be another highlight.
More coverage by: Max Goldberg at sf360, Jonathan Kiefer at KQED's Arts blog, and though I've linked it already it's worth a second look, Michael Hawley at the Evening Class.

7th Oakland International Film Festival
When? October 9-16
Where? The venerable Grand Lake Theatre.
Have I been before? No.
I have seen and can recommend: None.
I'm curious to see: It looks like a good, diverse line-up, and maybe this is finally when I'll get to Passion and the Power: the Technology of Orgasm.
More coverage by: Angela Woodall of the Oakland Tribune/Contra Costa Times.

3rd CounterCorp Anti-Corporate Film Festival
When? October 15-17
Where? Brava Theatre in Frisco
Have I been before? No.
I have seen and can recommend: None.
I'm curious to see: The shorts program entitled The True Cost of Oil intrigues.
More coverage by: Not seeing much yet. Uh, wikipedia?

2008 Taiwan Film Festival
When? October 16-18
Where? At USF in Frisco and Cubberly Auditorium down in Palo Alto.
Have I been before? Yes, last year at the PFA was a fun time. Perhaps the best thing about this touring festival is the price: free!
I have seen and can recommend: None this year.
I'm curious to see: Secret, since I missed it at the SFIFF this year.
More coverage by:

4th Annual Classic Horror Film Festival: Shock It to Me!
When? October 17-18
Where? Castro Theatre
Have I been before? Embarrassingly, no. I've always found myself too busied by my own Halloween preparations to make it, but I hope to find a way to squeeze it in this time.
I have seen and can recommend: Of course, Night of the Living Dead. Also the great Hammer horror Curse of Frankenstein, which I've never seen before on the big screen.
I'm curious to see: Spider Baby with Sid Haig in attendance, and the Horror of Dracula- major gaps to be filled in my classic horror resume!
More coverage by: Nate Yapp at

11th United Nations Association Film Festival
When? October 19-26
Where? The Aquarius, the Eastside Theatre and Stanford University's Annenberg Auditorium down the peninsula, and the Roxie here in Frisco.
Have I been before? No, but with Roxie screenings co-presented with DocFest (see below) I hope to rectify that.
I have seen and can recommend: Les Blank's documentary All In This Tea is a terrific selection, as is the cine-centric short film Salim Baba. I wrote a bit on each here and here.
I'm curious to see: San Francisco: Still Wild at Heart appeals to my nature-loving, city-dwelling duality. Megalopolis sounds fascinating as well. Freeheld comes with an impressive award-winning pedigree (considering it beat the lovely Salim Baba to the Best Documentary Short Oscar.)
More coverage by: Agnes Varnum, who will be appearing on a panel at the festival. added 10/8: Leah Edwards of Ecolocalizer.

12th Annual Arab Film Festival
When? October 16-28
Where? the Castro, Clay, Delancey Screening Room, Alliance Française and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in Frisco, Camera 12 in San Jose, Shattuck and Parkway in the East Bay, and even screenings in Santa Cruz and Los Angeles
Have I been before? Yes- I found it a well-run, well-attended festival when I sampled it in 2006.
I have seen and can recommend: With reservations, Recycle, an artistic but perhaps overly-ambiguous documentary about a recycler in Zarqa, Jordan. I wrote a bit more on it here.
I'm curious to see: Opening night film Waiting For Pasolini, Sundance favorite Captain Abu Raed, which also plays this weekend at the Mill Valley Film Festival.
More coverage by: Lincoln Spector of Bayflicks. Added 10/13: Michael Fox at sf360.

7th San Francisco International Documentary Festival
When? October 17 through November 6th
Where? Roxie Cinema in Frisco, Shattuck in Berkeley
Have I been before? No, though I've been to other IndieFest-produced events like Another Hole in the Head and the annual generalist festival in February.
I have seen and can recommend: Officially, none. Although IndieFest is also presenting a set of Japanese midnight movies at the Roxie this month entitled Midnight Circus. I can cautiously recommend Takashi Miike's punishing Ichi the Killer and the exuberantly gory 2008 digital feature the Machine Girl if you're into that sort of thing. More here.
I'm curious to see: Along with the aforementioned UNAFF co-presentations, there's the Melody Gilbert retrospective and the Slamdance hit I Think We're Alone Now.
More coverage by: Susan Gerhard at sf360. added 10/9: Michael Hawley at the Evening Class.

17th Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival
When? October 26 through November 19
Where? Camera 12 in San Jose and Cubberly Community Theatre in Palo Alto
Have I been before? Honestly, this is the first year I've been aware of it.
I have seen and can recommend: None.
I'm curious to see: Refusenik sounds fascinating.
More coverage by: Jason Watches Movies.


  1. I lucked out and received a screener of Epitaph last April. Let me know if you have the chance to see it.

  2. Brian, I appreciate the link, however, I attended UNAFF in 2006. I have no plans to attend this year. --Agnes

  3. Oops! Was bound to make a gaffe like that with so much late-night link-hunting. Thanks for stopping by to correct. (I've now fixed the text).

    Peter, thanks for the heads-up. I may actually be able to make this screening (I honestly haven't decided what to see tomorrow night- too many options!)

  4. Unfortunately, further review reveals that the sole screening of Epitaph was last night- I got thrown off by a stray "Thursday" in the online program page.

  5. Thanks for all the links to my write-ups, Brian. It really is absurd how many festivals there are this month.

    I only made it to Mill Valley once this see the Turkish film MY MARLON AND BRANDO (Best new director prize at Tribeca). Happy to report it was well worth the Golden Gate Transit ride to San Rafael and back.

    It looks like the Film Society's French Cinema Now was a great success. Of the five films I saw this weekend, two went to rush and the other three were 3/4's full. The surprise of the weekend was that my three favorite episodes of SIX IN PARIS were by the directors I'd never heard of...Jean Douchet, Jean Daniel Pollet and Jean Rouch.

    When I wasn't at FCN, I was making my way through a stack of Arab Film Festival screeners. The best of the bunch is Jackie Salloum's SLING SHOT HIP HOP, a doc about Palestinian rap music.

  6. I'm kicking myself for missing Six in Paris - I'd somehow forgotten that Rouch was one of the contributers until just before the final screening was starting and I was across town. I thought about racing over in time to make it Four in Paris or whatever it would have been, but opted against it. I must admit I' surprised to learn that you were previously unfamiliar with Jean Rouch. Try to track down his landmark Chronicle of a Summer some day if you can. I am wholly unfamiliar with the other two you mention myself.

    I'm glad to get a preview of your hot tip from the upcoming Arab Film Festival, and look forward to reading more if it's on the way...

  7. I'll definitely keep an eye out for Rouch's CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER (the only Rouch available on Netflix is SIX IN PARIS). The Rouch piece was my 2nd favorite of the bunch: A young woman mercilessly berates and harangues her hapless husband at breakfast. She runs out the front door and meets the man of her dreams, in a classic case of being careful what you wish for.

  8. That hapless husband being Barbet Schroeder.

  9. Another filmmaker who has worked in both documentary and fictive modes...

  10. Yet another fictuary documentist.

    What???? >8^)

  11. Schroeder was also the film's producer.

    PATTI SMITH: DREAM OF LIFE opens on Friday. I was planning to wait for the DVD. HOWEVER, the director AND Patti Smith will be at the Lumiere Theater on Sunday for the 4:30 and 7:00 shows. They'll do a Q&A and Smith will do a fan meet & greet in the lobby, autographing copies of the book that's been published in conjunction with the film.