Tuesday, April 17, 2018

SFFILM 61 Day 14: Minding the Gap

The 61st San Francisco International Film Festival began two weeks ago and ends today. Each day during the festival I've posted about a festival selection I've seen or am anticipating.

Image from Minding the Gap supplied by SFFILM
Minding The Gap (USA: Bing Liu, 2017)
playing: 8:45 tonight at the Roxie

With this year's daily SFFILM blog posts I've made an effort to highlight festival selections I've already seen, even if that meant highlighting a television show or an unannounced cartoon that ended up screening in a black-and-white Castle Films print (which was fine, honestly; that show could've benefited from Xenon 16mm projectors to make the image brighter, but the event was really as much a showcase for the musicians than the films; which was much better than Wednesday night's event where the band and its ego completely overwhelmed the image. I had to walk out midway through).

Today, on the festival's final day, I admit defeat. I'd made the best-laid plans to attend Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. and Tigre and Jupiter's Moon last week but couldn't make it happen after all. They all sound good and I hope to see at least one of them in a cinema today. Tigre will have to be the sacrificial lamb; it's just been revealed as one of the eleven SFFILM 61 features available for members to stream online (also including: CarcasseClaire's CameraDjon AfricaLouise Lecavalier - In MotionThe Next GuardianThe Other Side of Everything, Purge This Land, Salyut-7, Those Who Are Fine and Golden Gate Award honorable mention City of the Sun). But the most promising-sounding title screening in a cinema today, that I already have a ticket for is Minding the Gap. It's a much-praised feature from the venerable Chicago documentary production organization Kartemquin Films, best known for incubating Steve James films such as Hoop Dreams. James executive-produced Minding the Gap, and it appears to share his signature film's focus on young men inspired by athletic activity, in this case skateboarding. I'll see tonight if the similarities run deeper. I'm excited because Minding the Gap has been screening in festival after festival and picking up prizes at many of them.

In fact, today is definitely not your last chance to see Minding the Gap on a Frisco Bay screen. In May, it will make a return visit to two different festivals, the California Film Insitute's 2nd annual Doclands in Marin County, where it screens May 4th, and CAAM Fest (formerly known as the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival), where it screens May 13th. I was very pleased to see that the latter festival, which like SFFILM had used the Alamo Drafthouse in 2016 and 2017, has declined to do so in 2018.Read my "Forgetting the Alamo" blog post from a couple weeks back to see why this venue change matters to me.

I'm intrigued by the fact that CAAM Fest is moving back to their home base through 2015, the Kabuki. The ownership chain at this Japantown cinema goes back to the 1980s, when it was transformed by AMC from a live theatre to San Francisco's first 8-screen multiplex. When AMC sold the theatre to Robert Redford's Sundance Cinemas in 2006, both SFFILM (then SFIFF) and CAAM (then SFIAAFF) used the venue as their main hub. They continued to do so when Sundance replaced the old seats with more comfortable, better raked chairs and small tables suitable for heavier-duty food and drink options. But the Sundance Cinemas chain was purchased by Carmike in 2015, and I've heard many people speculate that the new owners had no interest in hosting film festivals, at least not without higher rental payments. Now, with Carmike gobbled by AMC, the Kabuki's ownership has come full circle. CAAM's return to the venue may reflect more willingness on AMC's part to host a festival than a stand taken about the Drafthouse. But I'll take it. Look for me at some of the CAAM shows; at minimum I hope to be at the Kabuki (for the first time in over three years) for the May 15th screening of the Shaw Brothers martial arts classic Golden Swallow starring the legendary Cheng Pei-Pei.

SFFILM61 Day 14
Other festival options: The last two days of the festival were originally supposed to involve only two venues but on today, the very last day, a third was added; Lauren Greenfield's follow-up to The Queen of Versailles, Generation Wealth, is getting a make-up showing from a previous one that had technical difficulties, and it's happening at a venue I can't recall being used during the San Francisco International Film Festival before (though my festival memory only goes back 20 years), the underrated Laurel Heights single-screener the Vogue. If you'd prefer to stick to the Mission venues as planned, your options include the aforementioned Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. or Jupiter's Moon at the Roxie, or Tigre or (the non-aforementioned) Jordana Spiro's Night Comes On at the Victoria.

Non-SFFILM option: The New Parkway's weekly Tuesday Doc Night is tonight, this time featuring a screening of The United States of Detroit, with its director Tyler Norwood and Detroit native Karinda Dobbins in person. The United States of Detroit had its Frisco bay premiere at Doclands.

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