Friday, April 13, 2018

SFFILM 61 Day 10: Wajib

The 61st San Francisco International Film Festival began last week and runs through April 17th. Each day during the festival I'll be posting about a festival selection I've seen or am anticipating.

Image from Wajib provided by SFFILM
playing: 6:00 tonight at SFMOMA and 3:15 Sunday at BAMPFA.

Wajib is the third feature film directed by Annemarie Jacir, whose Salt of the Sea has been called the first feature film directed by a Palestinian woman. It featured a performance by Saleh Bakri, who had just made his feature film acting debut in The Band's Visit and would soon play Elia Suleiman's father in his marvelous, autobiographical The Time That Remains from 2009. It's a shame that it's been close to a decade since Suleiman's last feature film; he exhibited a rare brilliance that is missed from cinema screens. But it's great to be reminded of him through Bakri's role in this very fine feature. He and his real father, Mohammad Bakri (an acting legend in his own right, who has worked in films by Costa-Gavras, Amos Gitai, Eran Riklis, Rashid Masharawi, and Paolo and Vittorio Taviani among others) play an estranged father and son, one living abroad and the other having remained in Nazereth. As father and brother of the bride they have the "duty" (the translation of the title) of delivering invitation to her upcoming wedding, and the social and political disagreements that flare up along the way constantly threaten to unravel their partnership. It's firmly in the long tradition of neorealist-inspired film festival fare, but it also reminded me of a variation on Broken Flowers or Two Days, One Night in which each door-to-door encounter is a catalyst for exploration of a father-son relationship, rather than of an individual.

SFFILM61 Day 10
Other festival options: With so much talk in the past few days about the feud between The Cannes Film Festival and a little mom and pop operation called Netflix, my position is that I've never been a Netflix subscriber but that I'm probably going to join at some point just to watch Orson Welles' The Other Side of the Wind when they decide to release it. Then I'll probably cancel until I find myself making a lifestyle change that precludes frequent cinema visits (heaven forbid.) I'm thankful no such feud exists between Netflix and SFFILM, and that I was able to see one of my favorite films of 2017, Nocturama, at the Castro Theatre because of it. Tonight SFFILM is showing two Netflix-owned titles that I doubt will screen in a larger local venue than they will tonight: Sandi Tan's Shirkers, playing 6:00 at BAMPFA, and John Woo's Manhunt, playing 9:00 at the Castro; in the latter case it's the sole SFFILM screening. Tonight's also the only SFFILM presentation of something called Deep Astronomy and the Romantic Sciences, which I'm not sure qualifies as a movie or as a cinema-aided variety show from Cory McAbee, director of the wonderful American Astronaut and Stingray Sam. I don't think this one will be available on Netflix down the road.

Non-SFFILM option: Tonight, after a week of build-up Alfred Hitchcock films finally screen in the Stanford Theatre's April-June calendar entitled "Hitchcock and Other Masters of Suspense". This weekend's double bill is the often-shown Rebecca, paired with the infrequently-screened (yet all-too-available via shoddy public domain home video transfers) Sabotage. It was one of these transfers that made me sit up around twenty years ago and realize Hitchcock's British period was just as well-worth exploring as the Hollywood hits I'd grown up on such as Rear Window and North By Northwest (which both show up later in the series). I've yet to see Sabotage in 35mm and I bet most of my readers haven't seen it that way either.

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