Thursday, April 18, 2019

SFFILM 62 Day 9: Midnight Traveler

The 62st San Francisco International Film Festival is over half done; it runs through April 23rd. Each day during the festival I'll be posting about a festival selection I've seen or am anticipating.


A scene from Hassan Fazili's Midnight Traveler, playing at the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival, April 10-23, 2019. Courtesy of SFFILM.
Midnight Traveler (USA: Hassan Fazili, 2019)
playing: 3:00PM today at the Theater at Children's Creativity Museum and 5:30PM tomorrow at BAMPFA.

This is, like yesterday's pick Aniara, another "Hold Review" title, for which I can only write 75 words until a commercial release occurs (it's distributed by Oscilloscope). Here's my stab:

What'll you see in this wrenching autobiographical documentary about filmmakers fleeing Afghanistan to the EU through Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria and Serbia? Daughters of a landlocked nation enjoying their first tides. A mother summoning the resources to fulfill her family’s needs under extremely harsh conditions. A father questioning his overcommittment to his profession. Ugly anti-immigrant sentiment up close. A broken international refugee system & its harrowing consequences for millions. What'll you do? That's up to you.

So that's the movie, which was funded in part through SFFILM's Documentary Film Fund grant. I believe last night's showing, the local premiere, was somehow the first time I'd attended the first SFFILM showing of a feature-length film funded through the organization's robust granting programs. There was a good deal of deserved pomp and circumstance for this moment, and in fact it was the first screening this year I've attended with now-outgoing SFFILM Executive Director Noah Cowan present. He doesn't appear to be phoning in his final few weeks as a lame duck ED; he seemed very much in his element interviewing Midnight Traveler's co-producer/editors Emelie Coleman Mahdavian & Kristina Motwani, and hosting a post-screening panel with them as well as with Sarah Leah Whitson of the Middle East and North Africa Division at Human Rights Watch. Today and tomorrow's screenings are expected to have Mahdavian & Motwani on hand as well, though not Whitson.

SFFILM62 Day 9
Other festival options: Today's the final showing of another documentary with a similar title: Midnight Family, about Mexico City ambulance drivers; it plays 6:00PM at the Children's Creativity Museum theatre shortly after Midnight Traveler ends. Just to keep things extra-confusing. (At least they're saving Midnight Cowboy for tomorrow). Tonight's also the final SFFILM show of another Documentary Film Fund recipient about refugees and asylum seekers, this time set much more close to home, as it follows four newcomers to San Francisco. Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America screens 8:00PM at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland.

Non-SFFILM option: At 7:30PM tonight at Artists' Television Access, moving image artist Roger Beebe will be on hand to present a program of work made in the past five years, some of it brand new, including a performance piece for four simultaneously running 16mm projectors called Lineage (for Norman McLaren). Who says SFFILM has the monopoly on world premieres this week? Beebe is in town thanks to Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin, where he is currently participating in a residency. The screening is a co-presentation between that organization and SF Cinematheque, as is a screening of work by fellow Headlands resident Peter Burr next Thursday at the same venue. The rest of the SF Cinematheques' Spring calendar includes two co=presentations with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (namely, a DCP of Alexander Dovzhenko's rural masterpiece Earth and a 35mm print the earliest so-called "feature length" film ever shown by SFSFF, Francesco Bertolini, Adolfo Padovan & Giuseppe de Liguoro's 1911 version of Dante's L'Inferno. Both films will be accompanied by music by the Matti Bye Ensemble, members of whom were themselves Headlands Center for the Arts residents several years ago. And if that's too much interconnection for you to handle, try this one: the final currently listed upcoming SF Cinematheque show is another co-presentation, this time with Oakland's The Black Aesthetic, of work by Akosua Adoma Owusu, including last year's SFFILM selection Mahogany Too. No indication if her 2019 SFFILM selection Pelourinho, They Don’t Really Care About Us will be included in the program as well.

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