What a Festival It Was


Ready For Work

Imagine going to 13 movies in 21 days and not seeing a single car chase, or building explode, or a guy jump from the top of a building onto a moving bus. When the lights dimmed and the projector whirred into action, we saw a rolling list of sponsor logos with new age background music, and then the Chinese characters for Perpetual Motion appeared on the screen. No commercials, no Previews of Coming Attractions accompanied by ear splitting sound, no “visit our snack bar in the lobby” please.

We”re at the San Francisco International Film Festival and you “pays yer money ($9 for members, $11 for the public; or in my case, a Cinevoucher exchanged for a ticket) and takes yer choice.”

This was my first time working at the Festival. Teresa, a bright young woman, working in the Berkeley store and volunteering at the SF Film Society, introduced me to the Festival last year. Carol and I saw six films during that Festival, including 3-Iron, Layer Cake, Saraband, and Mad Hot Ballroom, films that were good enough to get distribution. They are certainly worth checking out on DVD.

Since I had some disposable time this year, I volunteered to work at the Festival. Mostly, I was at the Will Call table. I liked that because it was by the front door and on the way to the VIP Lounge, so I got to see lots of comings and goings. The other feature was that I could sit down.

All my tickets

The Festival ran 21 days, I worked 11 shifts (usually 4 hours), and for each shift I worked, I got a Cinevoucher to trade for a ticket. I saw 13 films (about right). Carol accompanied me for some films, but not all. That sounds like a lot, but an acquaintance saw over 40 films. He takes vacation during the festival, rents a room near the theater (he lives in Oakland), and just goes to the movies. My favorite seat is six rows back, on the left center aisle. Most of the “regulars” like aisle seats. We learned this for sure at a Sunday Morning screening for members only; ten minutes after the doors opened, every aisle seat was taken and none of the center seats were occupied. To get the seat(s) you want involves getting in line about 40 minutes to an hour before show time, so I read the New Yorker I think this is the first time I”ve ever caught up on my New Yorker reading.

The neat thing is that many of the directors and stars are present for Q&A after the films. Even if you”ve never heard of them, it’s really interesting to hear their perspective on the film you”ve just seen. In the French film, Illumination, for example, there’s one scene where the protagonist is in the center of a traffic rotary and the camera goes around and around him. The director said they never would have been able to afford to shoot such a scene, but there was a guy there with a huge camper bus. They put their camera on top and he drove around the rotary for a while. For this, they gave him a bottle of whiskey.

We also had tickets to two Giants games during that period, so our schedule was weird and erratic. As a result, our meals were catch-as-catch-can. Eatsforone suffered, as well.

Here’s a list in my order of preference, with my ratings. You can see all of my reviews below.


USA, — Written and Directed by John Turturro

EDEN * * * * *
Germany — Written and Directed by Michael Hofmann

Taiwan/France — Written and Directed by Tsai Ming-Liang

USA — Directed by Robert Altman, Written by Garrison Keillor

France — Written and Directed by Pascale Breton

BASHING * * * *
Japan — Written and Directed by Masahiro Kovayashi

Five narrative short films from various countries

USA — Five short, live performances with movie screen.

Hong Kong — Directed by Daniel Yu, Written by Daniel Yu, Lee Hong Loh


China — Directed by Ning Ying, Written by Ning Ying, Liu Sola, Hung Huang

USA — Written and directed by Doug Sadler

Brazil — Directed by Beto Brant, Written by Marcal Aquino, Marco Ricca, Beto Brant


2 thoughts on “What a Festival It Was

  1. Your volunteerism prompted me to contact the ATL Fim Festival folks and do the same for our festival (which starts in a week or so). Some of your films are listed in our guide as well. I’ll check in later on all that.


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