My Film Festival

An Introduction and Day One.

SFIFF50 Staff

Last July I volunteered to become an intern in the Publicity Department of the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS), knowing that my service would reach fulfillment in the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF50). Having worked the 49th as a Festival Volunteer, I wanted to experience the 50th from the inside.

Starting out, there was Hilary, the Director of Publicity, and me. My main tasks were to research the circulation of those media covering the Festival, paste up press clippings, and post Film Society events at various sites on the Internet. Now, there is a Publicity Coordinator, a staff of three professional publicists, and five other interns, mainly college students or recent graduates in film studies.


Hilary, the boss, is right of me in the photo


Our major activity culminated with a Press Conference on April 3rd, when all of the Festival films were announced to the public. Concurrently, my job of pasting up clippings from the print media and gleaning stories from the internet grew from an inch high pile per month, to an inch pile per week, and now an inch pile per day, with the weekend and days leading to the opening last night, even fatter.

DAY ONE – Thursday

Now, we”re “in the field.” This morning, our office moved lock, stock, computers, catalogs and screeners to the Sundance Cinemas Kabuki, an old 8 screen theater in Japantown, recently bought and remodeled by Sundance Cinemas, a spin-off along with the Sundance Channel, of Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival. The two smallest houses on the ground floor were usurped for Publicity and Guest Services suites.

red_carpet.jpgThis evening, beginning at five o”clock, we assembled for Opening Night at the Castro, a 1,500 seat theater famed for its pipe organ, still in use. Our department greeted and checked in the press and generally controlled the VIP entrance door and “red carpet” (in this case, a green Cathay Pacific Airways carpet, sponsors of Opening Night).

My job was to stand between the press check-in door and the “red carpet” and direct the press and everyone else to the public doors on the opposite side. What a blast! I was pushed around by paparazzi — who were very nice when no VIPs were around — but up close to the luminaries of the Film Society and the Opening Night film, The Golden Door — Director Emanuele Crialese and actor Vincenzo Amoto.



Director Emanuele Crialese and actor Vincenzo Amoto

During the film, which most of us had seen at a press screening, we went to dinner at Nirvana, a nearby Thai restaurant

We re-assembled at City Hall at nine o”clock for the Opening Party. San Francisco City Hall is a spectacular party venue, clad in marble with a great sweeping marble stair as the centerpiece, the space is open, but with enough columns and abutments to sequester dozens of food and drink sponsors presenting the best of their wares, from SKYY vodka to SmartWater to some of the toniest boutique restaurants in town. Again, I was manning the door, so to speak, until 10:30, after which there was plenty of time to join Carol, Sarah and Paula and gorge myself with party delights. My station was the best spot in the house, just inside the door, as hundreds of revelers swarmed by from denizens of the San Francisco social scene to film junkies who will see up to fifty films in two weeks. I directed press to the press table and will-call to will-call and drunk in the scene.


Photo by Katy Raddatz/The Chronicle

I”m guessing Day Two will be less eventful, but look here for the happenings.

The Golden Door (Nuovomondo), Italy/France 2006
DIR: Emanuele Crialese
Charlotte Gainsbourg, Vincenzo Amoto
I saw it at an SFIFF50 Press Screening at the Variety Screening Room

We meet a Sicilian family in the mountains and follow them and their many of their countrymen as they emigrate to America. Charlotte Gainsbourg is an English woman who made arrangements to board the ship of Italians where she will be arranged to marry an Italian man to enter America. The film is big, sprawling and visual. In one memorable scene which was shot from above, a great crowd of people, on the Sicilian docks and on the ship very slowly begins to move apart until a sliver of water is seen between them, growing ever larger as those on the ship cross a momentous threshold, after which nothing will ever be the same. The hard life of the mountains transitions through the conditions of third class steerage to the formality of turn-of-the-last-century Ellis Island with touches of magical realism.

What a wonderful way to start the Festival!


3 thoughts on “My Film Festival

  1. For those of you who are unfamiliar with French popular culture, Charlotte Gainsbourg is not and Englishwoman (although she plays one in Nuovomondo). She’s an exceptionally famous Frenchwoman whose fame derives chiefly from being the spawn of her father Serge Gainsbourg, France’s most celebrated rock singer (Johnny Halladay fans may dispute this assertion). Mr. Gainsbourg was a living legend, for his musical talents, his unquestionable kool, and his capacity for constant smoking and drinking, until his death (undoubtedly related to the latter), when he became simply a legend. The young Ms. Gainsbourg is beloved in France for her dour demeanor and insistence on taking chances (most of them successful) in her own entertainment career; for example, her excellent performance as an Englishwoman in an Italian film. She has also recently had a hit record in France (singing in English — I wonder if it made any waves in the anglophone world) and she’s the type of serious artist from whom you wouldn’t be surprised to see tasteful and inspired paintings, sculpture, poetry, etc. (And yes, it would shock every French citizen if any of Johnny’s kids ever grew up to be anything other than the French Paris Hilton.)


  2. Cindy, the publicist in charge of the photographers, emailed the following:

    I have only one bone to pick though… you call the photographers
    “paparazzi”, when they are really photojournalists…most of the guys
    shooting on the red carpet are hard working professional photographers
    and not evil paparazzi!

    Her point is well taken. I chose the wrong word to illustrate the extreme crush and jockeying for position as celebs arrived.


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