SF International Film Festival Geres Up With Cinematic Awards

05/14/2015 05:29 pm ET | Updated May 13, 2016

Each year, the San Francisco International Film Festival turns the city into Hollywood North, screening 150 indie and big-budget films, heralding 150 big-name and up-and coming actors, directors, and producers, and rolling out the red carpet for interviews and events. The most anticipated and appreciated event is the Film Society Awards Gala, a veritable local Oscar night where peers present accolades for directing, acting, screenwriting in front of a sophisticated starstruck audience. This year's Gala gathered the good, the great, and the Governor in the Armory, a venue well-known for film-making of a particular genre. On this evening, five hundred fortunates gathered in one end of the cavernous space for canapés and crafted cocktails under a screening wall of the 1968 SF classic, "Bullitt."

Guests gathered for family-style Italian dinner by Nosh Catering, where tablemates made friends as they passed the pasta and didn't forget the cannoli, a nod to hometown favorite Francis Ford Coppola. The first presenter, Governor Jerry Brown, celebrated polymath Maurice Kanbar as a philanthropist, film producer, and keeper of some 35 patents, as well as the purveyor of the evening's Blue Angel Vodka. Kanbar accepted the George Gund III Craft of Cinema Award with characteristic brevity, paving the way for Director Chris Columbus' nostalgic and moving tribute reel to Robin Williams. Columbus spoke about his Mrs. Doubtfire star with deep affection, noting Williams' manic magic as the secret ingredient of Good Will Hunting, Good Morning Vietnam, The World According to Garp, Dead Poet's Society, The Birdcage, and Hook, among many other films, and acknowledged Zak and Zelda Williams looking on. Producer/director Alan Poul introduced Paul Shrader, winner of the Kanbar Storytelling Award (yes, Kanbar has mastered that, too) and showed a clip reel that included Schrader's screenplays and direction for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and American Gigolo. Then actor/director Edgar Wright came onstage to introduce Guillermo Del Toro, winner of the Levin Directing Award for his dark fantasies including The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labryinth, Hellboy and Hellboy II, and Pacific Rim. Del Toro spoke about making friends with the nightmare monsters of his childhood, and vowing to speak for them in his poetic films. Finally, Francis Ford Coppola rose to deliver the Peter J. Owens Acting Award to Richard Gere, star of his 1984 epic, The Cotton Club. Coppola praised Gere's advocacy for human rights and Tibet, as well as his storied acting career that included American Gigolo, Pretty Baby, Days of Heaven, An Officer and a Gentleman, and Unfaithful. Gere spoke briefly about his career, and enthusiastically about his passions, praising his seatmate, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, for her work on behalf of Tibet. And then the lights came on, and the movies stopped spooling, much to the sadness of the cineastes assembled. San Francisco loves its movie magic, and loves to honor its magicians. To soften the blow of reality, ice cream carts rolled out and dessert and coffee were served as film buffs and filmmakers mingled and made merry for a few moments more.

Biting the Bullitt: SFFS Director Noah Cowan, Board Chair Todd Traina and Katie Traina, Event Chairs Christine Aylward, Heidi Castelein, and Victoria Raiser, Actress Marisa Tomei and Isabella Rossellini, stylish Cameron Silver, Quince's Lindsay Tusk, Barney and Barbro Osher, Valentino brand ambassador Carlos Souza, Willie Brown and Sonia Molodetskaya, Lupe Puerta, Dorka Keehn, Max Boyer Glynn, Zem and James Joaquin, Fred Levin and Nancy Livingston. Helen Hilton Raiser and Phillip Raiser, Michael Purdy, Sarah Rutson, Cissy and Susan Swig, Ellanor and Russell Notides, Kathryn and Bo Lasater, Farah and Victor Makras, Seth Matarasso, Leigh Matthes, Donna Huggins, Vanessa Getty, Marsha Garces Williams, Jeannette Etheredge, Dagmar Dolby, Courtney Dallaire, Lora and Don DuBain, Susie Buell and Summer Tompkins Walker, Hilary Armstrong, Jenna Hunt, Brenda Zarate, Doug and Jennifer Biederbeck, Nick and Leslie Podell, Lauren Goodman, Jennifer and Will Wick, and many more who stay for the credits.