Hollywood may have some movies. But the longest running international film festival in the Americas is in San Francisco.
Last Thursday, the SF Film Society kicked off its 55th annual San Francisco International Film Festival at the Castro Theatre with a screening of "Farewell, My Queen," Benoît Jacquot’s portrayal of court life at Versailles during the final days of the French Revolution, followed by an equally lavish party at Terra Gallery. Since then, nearly 200 films have flickered across SF screens.
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And the films have not disappointed. Within the monstrous lineup are documentaries, soon-to-be art house classics and heavily-publicized heavyweights like "Hysteria" –- Tanya Wexler's ode to the vibrator, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal -- and "The Last Gladiators", about infamous hockey fighter, Chris "Knuckles" Nilan and his well-documented drug addiction and inner turmoil.
In true SFIFF form, the festival has so far been as much about the events as the films.
On Saturday, San Francisco's favorite drag queen Peaches Christ hosted "Acid Queens: Peaches & Tommy" – an exploration into cinematic religiosity and cult rites, complete with a screening of The Who's "Tommy." On Monday Merrill Garbus of Oakland sensation tUnE-yArDs performed live as the score for a collection of Buster Keaton short films.
And on the festival's closing night on May 3, the Castro Theatre will present "Don't Stop Believin': Everyman's Journey" –- a documentary of the meteoric rise of homeless YouTube sensation turned Journey frontman, Arnel Pineda –- followed by a late-night party at Sloane Squared.
As always, contributions come from dozens of countries. But this year's fest has a particularly close eye on the Bay Area: not only are our local directors front-and-center, but San Francisco herself plays muse in more than one film.
Check out a few of the local favorites in our slideshow below:
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