7 Films to Watch at Frameline 38

Frameline is always my most anticipated film festival in the city. From a pretty strong lineup, here I picked some films that I would like to see (after skimming the synopses) and let’s see how they turn out.

Honorable Mention

Documentaries: Frameline 38 opens with The Case Against 8, a close look at the monumental victory in LGBT right history when Supreme court overturned california Proposition 8 last summer. There are several interesting period films: Out in East Berlin — Lesbians & Gays in the GDR records thirteen East Berlin queer voices to recreate the picture of people living behind Iron Curtain and their search of identity and love; The Circle is an incredible docudrama about Zurich’s ground breaking gay magazine Der Kreis in the 1950s; Mondo Homo: A Study of French Gay Porn in the 70’s is another fascinating documentary that looks back into history and brings its viewers to the raw, rough, sweaty era of porn. In the light of Google’s Pride theme #ProudToPlay, I’m also interested in Back on Board: Greg Louganis, a film about HIV-positive four-time Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, and Out in the Line-Up: Uncovering the Taboo of Homosexuality in Surfing, which simply looks pretty hot. Also, Star Trek legend George Takei is featured in documentary centerpiece To Be Takei, expect it to be a big hit.

Narratives: Driven by a powerhouse performance from its beautiful actress, Finnish film Open Up to Me examines the social complexity in transgender people’s relationships and their endeavor in the pursuit of happiness. The lusty tanned male bodies in Futuro Beach remind me of the Latino hit last year The Last Game, and make an arousing scene with sheer masculinity. Eat with Me pairs a son from a traditional Asian family with a young handsome blonde guy, and bears quite some resemblance to this year’s centerpiece Lilting in setting the film in the perspective of a gay son’s mom. Sundance’s craziest, most outrageous movie Wetlands, exploring the delicate female body with vegetables, riotous fun and unabashed obscenity, might be the kinkiest of Frameline, but it also goes beyond human bodies to study emotions and relationships. Finally, Bad Hair and Salvation Army are two movies from countries much less prolific in cinema, Venezuela and Morocco, that I missed in this year’s SFIFF, hopefully I can make up this time.

Frameline: Films Bring Us Together.

 

Here are the seven films that I pick.

7. Anita’s Last Cha-Cha (Thursday June 26, 6:45pm, Castro)
Films are not meant to be just about adults, they should be about everyone, anyone. So let’s start the list with something we don’t usually see in LGBT cinema: a 12-year-old tomboy falling in love with a grown-up woman. Too many times kids are told by adults that their feelings aren’t real and they will soon get over them, but what if those feelings are real and they are just so hard to get over? Fortunately, this film isn’t one of those adults, it treats Anita’s love as seriously and tenderly as any other films treat adults’.

6. Five Dances (Friday June 20, 7:00pm, Victoria)
Last year’s dance-themed Frameline hit Test is pretty good, especially the beautiful choreography and incredibly inviting scores. Five Dances doesn’t seem to garner the same positive responses from early critiques, and it has a completely different backdrop set in modern day NYC; but let’s give it a chance. I recently find dancing (films) quite compelling because it incorporates both visual arts and performing arts, and would like to see more.

5. Violette (Monday June 23, 9:15pm, Castro)
This biopic of tormented French writer Violette Leduc is a compelling depiction of her life of writing without recognition and her desperate yet unreturned love to her friend and mentor, the famous feminist Simone de Beauvoir. Playing the title role, Cesar award winner Emmanuelle Devos is one of the biggest stars in this year’s lineup and I like her very much.

4. Floating Skyscrapers (Saturday June 21, 9:30pm, Victoria; Thursday June 26th, 9:30pm, Roxie.)
There is a very thin line between graphic sexual scenes and soft porn. Last year the French wowed LGBT cinema by dancing deftly on that line with two completely different yet both audacious and beautiful works Blue is the Warmest Color and Stranger by the Lake. Now it’s the Poles’ turn and given their great effort in In the name of, I am curious how they deal with a more sexually charged gay relationship. Even if it only comes close to any of the above three films, I’ll be satisfied.

3. 52 Tuesdays (Tuesday June 24, 7:00pm, Victoria)
Shoot in 52 consecutive Tuesdays and in chronological order of the story, 52 Tuesdays put our eyes on a sixteen-year-old girl coping with independence and her complicated teen life when her mother decides to take on a gender transition. This remarkable movie possesses the diversity that LGBT cinema much needs, and its groundbreaking work in filmmaking made it win big at both Berlin and Sundance.

2. The Way He Looks (Monday June 23, 6:30pm, Castro)
Coming of age and coming out are two of my favorite film themes, and when they come together, they often deliver a even stronger emotional punch. What is adulthood? What is best buddy? What are love and being loved? Exploring the desire and dismay of growing up, this year’s Berlinale Teddy Award winner is “warm, funny, and remarkably well acted — and one of the best film about boys in love since Beautiful Thing“.

1. Lilting (Wednesday June 25, 6:30pm, Castro)
This year’s narrative centerpiece features a very fascinating pair of costars Ben Whishaw and Cheng Pei-pei. Between the gentle, charming rising star from Cloud Atlas, and one of Hong Kong’s most prominent swordswomen on big screen (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), there will be some rare and flaring sparks awaiting us. I don’t see Lilting as just a gay movie, I see it as a touching, multi-culture, cross-generational story whose characters happen to be gay, and that’s why I think I’m gonna really like it.

The Dance of Reality – When Gabriel García Márquez Meets Wes Anderson

By any standard, Alejandro Jodorowsky is a weirdo. His first feature film Fando y Lis caused a full scale riot at the film festival premier and was later banned in Mexico; his two masterpieces El Topo and Holy Mountain, were hailed as cult classics and admired by film lovers from different generations; his last film was 23 years ago (even Terrence Malick didn’t make us wait for so long!), and his best film, Dune, is never made. Among all Jodorowsky’s work, I have only seen El Topo, on rare 35mm print at Roxie, a bold, mystical, avant-garde film even in the current aesthetic yet also carries many philosophical messages that seem eternal. Jodorowsky’s films are dark, violent and surreal, but when you look at him in Jodorowsky’s Dune, a recent documentary about his unsuccessful attempt to adapt and film Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel Dune, this 85 years old man is hale, passionate, genuine, full of life, as if he were a twenty-something just about to embrace the bright future. That enormous difference shocked me, and deeply touched me. He must be living in a different world, where paranoid and persistence are the same thing and fantasy is just another form of conviction, where film is an indisputable religion.

Jodorowsky’s newest film, The Dance of Reality, is nothing short of what he has achieved. Set in nineteen-thirties in his hometown Tocopilla, Chile, this film is Jodorowsky’s recollection as well as imagination of his childhood. He times travels back to steer the young himself through his difficult life – a tyrannic father, a hysterical mother and a pathological world under the dictatorship of army general, Carlos Ibáñez del Campo. Straight from the beginning, the film possess a tone deftly running between realism and sureallism. For one second, young Jodorowsky is frustrated by his father’s scolding and runs to the beach, throwing a rock into the ocean just like every young little boy; for the next second, a gigantic wave roars ashore and tiles the entire beach with shimmering silver-scale fishes. This little Latin American town, with its barren lands, unknown plague, repressed society, and a flock of men with different parts of body amputated, looks just like drawn from One Hundred Years of Solitude. Sometimes you don’t even know if you should feel sympathetic or amused; under that bizarrely magical presentation, there is anguish and dismay, but also a sense of humor and sarcasm. Even when Jodorowsky’s father sets out his perilous journey to stop Ibáñez’s savage reign, there is little really about Ibáñez, it’s all about the Jorodowskys, the strenuous yet inevitable path they take to embrace reality.

Then, there are also things and colors I have only seen in Wes Anderson’s films. A beautiful woman whose ample breasts wriggle solemnly as she sings her words in overwhelming opera, red army uniforms with huge golden star that are equally handsome and childlike, and the widing little-town streets along which variety stores are painted in nostalgic hues. I probably shouldn’t say so since when Jodorowsky made fame Anderson was just a toddler, but there is no denial that Wes Anderson’s films are the closest to adult fairy tales and fairy tale is something I felt about this film underneath its cruelty and apparent ideology. To the end, this is a triumphant story, celebrating love and faith in life. All the miseries and struggles eventually turn into treasured experience, and all the joys and warmth are untoticedly amplified. In the young Jodorowsky’s world, even the lost of a friend is remembered by him wearing a pair of shiny red shoes hopping up and down the stairs.

In The Dance of Reality, Jodorowsky infuses magics into the otherwise mundane life and violent incidents. It is a poignant political satire, a vividly colorful fable, and at its heart, a heartwarming recreation of memory cherished by a little boy and told in an old man’s sage word.  ★★★★☆

Check Me Out at DocFest and Frameline

I am going to do some crazy volunteering work for DocFest and Frameline, two of my favorite film festivals in the city, presented by amazing non-profit organizations that support independent documentary filmmaking and LGBT cinema. If you believe in what I believe, check out their wonderful films! If you believe in what I believe, check out their wonderful films! Or check out me, in this gorgeous pink Frameline volunteer t-shirt. Unfortunately I can’t get you a free ticket but I will definitely give you a HUGE hug.

Can’t resist volunteering even just for this T-shirt.

 
Here are my shifts. Besides, I’ll for sure go to some other DocFest screenings and I’ll be at Frameline everyday (except Pride Parade Sunday), so if you are interested in any films, let me know, maybe we can go together!

DocFest
June 08, Sunday, 6:30pm-11:00pm @ Roxie Theater
Bronx Obama / One Good Year / Back Issues / Love Me
June 10, Tuesday, 6:30pm-11:00pm @ Roxie Theater
No More Road Trips? / Magical Universe / Back Issues / We Always Lie to Strangers
June 14, Saturday, 6:30pm-11:00pm @ Roxie Theater
When My Sorrow Died / Doc of the Dead / Glena / Led Zeppelin Played Here
June 15, Sunday, 12:00pm-11:00pm @ Fox Theater, Oakland
Of Kites and Borders / Urban Fruit / Ivory Tower / Internets Own Boy / Back Issues

Frameline
June 23, Monday, 8:30pm-11:30pm @ Castro Theater
Violette
June 24, Tuesday, 6:00pm-9:00pm @ Victoria Theater
52 Tuesdays
June 28, Saturday, 12:30pm-6:00pm @ Victoria Theater
20 Lies, 4 Parents and A Little Egg / My Straight Son
June 28, Saturday, 8:00pm – 11:00pm @ Roxie Theater
Wetlands

My Favorite Films of 2013

This is a very long list and I’ve spent weeks on it. It’s hard for me to write anything serious, but I really want to try, so let’s consider this as a start and I’ll get better next year. I appreciate your reading it, telling me your thoughts, or checking out some of the movies I recommend. Thanks!

Ok, let the party begin! Here I have 100 movies (14 documentaries and 86 dramas) that I would like to recommend, which is a lot, but also less than a quarter of what I have seen this year. I find their posters online to help you get a sense of the movies, because poster is one of the very few things I know about a movie before going to the cinema to see it.

Shortcuts: Documentaries, Dramas, Top 10

Documentaries




14. The Armstrong Lie A well-made documentary about one of the most fascinating sport stars. In fact, I don’t really care that he doped, he is made and thus ruined by a hypocritical system.
13. Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story A children’s book illustrator, and an erotic comic creator, how does Tomi Ungerer reconcile his two prominent roles in world of art?
12. Let the Fire Burn Mostly consists of footages and archival interviews, this film is an astonishingly powerful accusation of government coverup. It made me speechless and furious.
11. We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks From Oscar winning director Alex Gibney (who also directs The Armstrong Lie), this story is tremendously informative and lively.





10. 56 Up The whole Up series is marvelous, it’s the ultimate observance, appreciation and celebration of the most ordinary lives. Anyone who likes documentaries have to see the whole series.
9. After Tiller It takes a great deal of courage to bring up such a controversial topic, and the film is made with such overwhelming compassion and power. It’s time to stop hatred.
8. Blackfish The horrifying true story of killer whales in sea parks. If you have seen this film, I doubt if you will ever take your kids to SeaWorld and see Shamu. I definitely won’t.
7. The Act of Killing A documentary about a playful movie reenactment of a genocide, this is the bravest movie of the year, whose crew even could’t reveal their real names in the credits.
6. The Square Giving the similarity of my taste and Oscar’s in documentary, I am keeping a slot for the the only Oscar nominated documentary that I haven’t seen yet. Will come back next week.

5. Stories We Tell
This is a whole new concept of documentary, it’s personal, subjective, gripping and at times more dramatic than a thriller. You shouldn’t be too surprise about it though, because the film title already tells you that: this is a film about people telling stories. It starts with director Sarah Polley collecting interesting yet sometimes contradicting stories of her late mother from interviews of family members and her mother’s friends and colleagues, then it takes an unexpected turn as Sarah traces deeper in her family history and gets closer to a secret that has never been told. Stories We Tell is a joyful, moving memoir, an odyssey to the mysterious past, a compelling yet complex look at families and relationships, and an ambitious exploration of the elusive nature of storytelling. I really like it because it’s light and deep at the same time, more entertaining than an ordinary documentary and more authentic than an artificially contrived melodrama.

4. Cutie and the Boxer
In some sense, Cutie and the Boxer is the best documentary I have ever seen. All year long I have been watching documentaries about fascinating people like angry feminist punk singer or anarchist turned government informant, about important social, economical, environmental issues like income inequality or San Francisco cult culture, films that seem very interesting but often fall short of their promises. But who are cutie and the boxer? They are two old Japanese artists in New York, 81-year-old Ushio Shinohara and his 60-year-old wife Noriko, a couple still working on art to make ends meet. They sound like nobodies that few people would care about. But that’s why this film is so remarkable. It makes you sigh, it makes you cry and it makes you god damn care. Cutie and the Boxer is a great film about dream, persistence, and the beauty of life. The couple lives with nothing more than love and faith, yet with love and faith they find the quintessential peace in each other and in the unbearable trivialities and ordeals. In the ups and downs, decades of struggles in oblivion, a plain oath of “I still love you” means a whole world.

3. Dirty Wars
I am a super peaceful and a moderately cynical person, so it makes perfect sense that I fall so hard for Dirty Wars. I just couldn’t stop crying. Dirty Wars is a provocative, powerful, courageous film but also helplessly depressing. Following the investigation of a deadly US night raid in Afghanistan, the film digs deep into the mighty, complex political and military power behind modern wars and becomes more and more skeptical in the righteousness of these wars. When soldiers sacrafice everything they have for the justice and peace they believe in, when lives of foreign civilians are in the hand of people whom they may never ask for help from, we more than ever need journalists like Jeremy Scahill, who dare to pursue the truth and relentlessly ask questions that no one is ready to answer: Are we fighting a right war in the right way? He might be narcissistic as some critics point out, but with his effort, we have a chance to make the wars shade of cleaner, so I’ll say that’s the narcissism he well deserves.
2. Blood Brother
Words are powerless in the face of death, and words are impotent to describe the experience of watching this film. Rocky, a young man from Pittsburgh, PA, after spending a few days in a trip with a group of AIDS children in India, decided to left his family, friends, and city life behind to live with those kids and take care of them. In their days together, he witnesses poverty, fear, death but also joy and miracles; love is all he can give, and also all he receives. Blood Brother is a heartbreaking and heartwarming film at the fullest, and a gem of independent film making (directed by Rocky’s college roommate). I am extremely lucky to catch a screening in Houston during New Year vacation and I feel very sad that this film has yet no national theatrical release despite winning Sundance. Watching a documentary as realistic and heavy as this is painstaking, yet the pains to watch it is infinitesimal to the pains endured by the children in the film, and the courage of facing such a story, is far incomparable to the courage of living one.
1. 20 Feet from Stardom
To put 20 Feet from Stardom ahead of Stories We Tell and The Act of Killing in this #1 spot, I have a very simple reason: I believe it’s harder to make a documentary so impressive and captivating in the traditional way than in novel, probably conceptually fancier ways. Telling the untold stories of some greatest backup singers of the 21st century, 20 Feet is a very down-to-earth documentary, just interviews, archival materials and great editing; no twists, suspense or climax moments. But it manages to really understand its subjects and present them in a way both respectful and heartbreaking. The film is more than a sincere, long overdue tribute to the unsung heroines standing 20 feet outside limelight, it sheds a beam of tender, compassionate lamp light on their faces so that we can see their wrinkles, listen to their stories, feel their pains and appreciate their passion. In 20 Feet from Stardom, there is excitements and disappointments, persistence and compromises, but there is no win or loss, it is the journey seeking the peace between them.
Drama




86. Labor Day I haven’t see this one yet, but it’s one of my favorite themes and I have to keep a slot for my dear Kate.
85. On the Road Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty is too luminous to be left out of this list, but he’s the only highlight of this otherwise disappointing portray of the Beat generation.
84. Elysium The hard-hitting action sequences are definitely entertaining, but the many political implications of this earth – elysium relationship feel rather distracting every now and then.
83. Thor: The Dark World Is it weird that we are so desperate to see more Tom Hiddleston and Natalie Portman, or even Idris Elba in a movie called Thor?





82. Much Ado About Nothing There is quite a lot of unexpected fun when TV stars are put in a black and white Shakespeare comedy and say “I love thee” as if they really spoke that way.
81. Kon Tiki [Norway] Visually, Norway’s most expensive production doesn’t even come close to The Life of Pi, but its true story (which drove me to the Kon Tiki Museum in Oslo) is no less powerful.
80. The Artist and the Model An upgraded version of last year’s Renoir. It really understands both generations, the energy and uncertainty of the youth, and the wisdom and calm of the aged.
79. Yossi [Israel] 10 years after Yossi and Jagger, Yossi’s life is updated on big screen. I’m pretty excited to see the sequel and quite satisfied but still like the previous one better.





78. Mother of George Besides its intriguing story, the film is even more impressive in its strikingly beautiful cinematography and its gorgeous costumes with rich exoticism.
77. Enough Said James Gandolfini is pitch perfect in his last movie, so are his three female costars. Everyone in this middle-age chick-flick is more or less flawed, that’s also why they are so lovely.
76. Frozen I thought this one is too childish, but it turns out to be the only animation this year that is actually good. All others are just cliches and visual effects to entertain the kids.
75. The Butler It’s obviously an Oscar bait, except that it’s not a good enough bait to bite on. I like the beautiful montage intertwining the restaurant sit-in and white house banquet.





74. The Patience Stone [Afghan] A one woman show about marriage, desire, loneliness and the longing of being listened to. Fascinating and thought-provoking story, great performance.
73. Starbuck [France] This French comedy is so good that an American remake is in theaters within a year, but obviously the remake doesn’t get anything good from the original.
72. Side Effects Soderbergh may be on the decline but he can still assemble a great cast and make something worth watching, and this film is indeed a little comeback, smart and suspenseful.
71. Something in the Air [France] The original French title After May (the May 1968 events) is a better summary of this film, a long, depressing summer where idealism and realism diverge.





70. Fill the Void [Israel] Some people believe weddings and funerals are the windows of traditions in a culture, then this film is a big, bright window of the Orthodox society.
69. The Hunger Games There are a couple of very interesting new characters in this sequal, but I hate its “See ya next year!” ending, especially even next year is not the finale!
68. No [Chile] Hardly there is a political movie so cheerful and colorful. It’s a feel-good tale of democracy, but also reveals how prone public opinions are to propaganda influences.
67. Wrong (@SFIndieFest) It’s tons of fun and fantasy, often wildly illogical but oddly believable. A cult comedy where everything going wrong seems the perfectly right thing to happen.





66. Trance Danny Boyle’s thriller is not only compelling but also sexy. I am ridiculed for thinking Rosario Dawson is very sexy, but at least Michael Fassbender would totally agree with me on that.
65. Gravity My friend “blacklists” all guilds that name Gravity the best picture of the year and I totally support her. Sure it’s visually dazzling but story-wise I find it quite unsatisfying.
64. Sightseers A sightseeing trip takes an unexpected dark turn, then rushes non-stop into darkness and halts at the end in such a brilliant way. Really enjoyable indie cult movie.
63. Warm Bodies A gem of young adult vampire/zombie movie that fulfills our fantasy while keeps itself away from melodrama. The first person perspective is very hilarious.





62. The Place Beyond the Pines One of my most anticipated film this year but falls short of its own ambition. I enjoy each act separately but don’t like the way they are put together.
61. Kill Your Darlings Playing the innocent yet seductive Lucien Carr, Dane DeHaan gives such a radiant performance that even Daniel Radcliffs’s gay sex scene looks rather banal and gimmicky.
60. Blue Caprice A bleak, intense reenactment of the shocking true events of two series snipers randomly killing people, a heavy and disturbing film without any bloody violence.
59. The Kings of Summer As youthful and energetic as its name, this coming-of-age comedy-drama is a delicious treat for a boring summer afternoon. Summer and youth are both meant to be wasted.





58. Ginger & Rosa There ain’t many good movies in March, so this slow, cruel, tense coming-of-age story easily caught my eyes. Elle Fanning is really good.
57. Upstream Color An elusive sci-fi thriller with Malick style cinematography and beautiful editing. Mysterious, delicate but sometimes too obscure.
56. Star Trek: Into Darkness My favorite blockbuster of the year, although I can’t even remember its plot. You know, it’s sort of about Captain Kirk and his crew defeating a bad guy called Khan.
55. Zero Charisma It is one of the best, if not the best, movies about geeks. I really like its truthfulness and unashamedness towards geeks’ uninteresting, sometimes pathetic, lives.




54. Basterds (@French Cinema Now) [France] I like Claire Denis’ realism and pungency, and although this contemporary, deeply perturbing film noir isn’t her best, I still enjoy its cinematic power.
53. Blue Jasmine Cate Blanchett’s performance is extraodinary and effortless, but it irritates me that Woody Allen doesn’t even bother to understand San Francisco (just like what he did to Rome).
52. Lone Survivor The tense and realistic combat scenes are simply stunning and breathtaking, but the film is heavily impaired by its propagandist third act even though it’s based on a true story.
51. What Maisie Knew It poses an interesting question: what children know of this complicated, often hypocritical adult world? A sweet, feel-good, sometimes cloying tale of parenthood.





50. My Brother the Devil A compassionate and poignant look at the strayed young men in London’s lower class, an ambitious film about sexuality and brotherhood.
49. Prisoners Tense, suspenseful and thought-provoking, it’s a textbook thriller and easily best of the year in its genre. It’s a pity that it doesn’t garner much attention this award season.
48. The Story of Luke (@SFIndieFest) An uplifting story featuring an introverted, often misunderstood anti-hero that is also so easy to root. Definitely my favorite at last year’s IndieFest.
47. Beyond the Hills [Romania] For religions, salvation and suppression are not that different at all, only depend on the side you are standing on. Cristian Mungiu doesn’t cease to impress after 432.





46. The Angels’ Share Its British humor crude but not vulgar, its story moving but not overwhelming, this film is delightful and really feel-good. And it’s so Scottish that it has an English subtitle.
45. In the House [France] A brilliant film between reality and imagination. It feels like striping someone down without him even notices it, and when he does, it’s already too late – he’s all naked.
44. Pieta (@Denver) [Korea] Kim Ki-duk’s Golden Lion winner is a cruel, pessimistic, disturbing story about vengeance and redemption. It’s hard to watch it through but even harder to stop watching.
43. All is Lost I really like the whole concept of the film and Robert Redford’s outstanding performance, but at the same time it is really a dreadful idea to watch it again anytime soon.





42. Her I resent myself for not liking this film more. I feel human-OS romance is utterly ridiculous and Shanghai’s sky unbearable. Everything else is superb, especially Spike Jonze and Joaquin Phoenix.
41. The Way, Way Back A funny and gently touching coming-of-age movie that feels like a breeze in the hot summer days. Carell, Janney, Rockwell…You can’t ask for a better ensemble of comedians.
40. Free Fall (@Frameline) From a gay man’s wife, “I can’t even be properly jealous” is one of the most heartbreaking movie quotes, an accusation so powerful and powerless at the same time.
39. Prince Avalanche Seriously, I don’t understand why David Gordon Green and Paul Rudd are so fond of making shitty comedies while they can be so sincere and so damn good.





38. To the Wonder Although this is a critical flop, I like it and think it is more enjoyable than The Tree of life. Not Terrence Malick’s best but still breathtakingly beautiful and poetic.
37. American Hustle I am crazy for last year’s Silver Linings Playbook, but David O. Russell’s star-stubbed new film is too full for me. Nevertheless Amy Adams’s boobs are jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
36. Stranger by the Lake (@French Cinema Now) [France] A shockingly raw and explicit portray of the lust and danger in the gay community. Unsettlingly gripping and gratifyingly audacious.
35. Me and You (@SFIFF) [Italy] This is probably not the Bernardo Bertolucci film you’ve been waiting for 10 years, but it’s so gentle and comforting that I find it very hard to resist.





34. Stoker Park Chan-wook’s English-language debut is slow, sleek, and dark as usual. I like all three leading actors who collectively create a world full of jealousy, suspicion and seduction.
33. Beyond the Walls (@Frameline) [Belgium] Love at its most powerless is to see passion worn out through time but unable to stop. I felt really touched and depressed watching this one.
32. Rush A terrific movie about rivalry and friendship, as sexy as the F1 race. Easily Chris Hemsworth’s best movie so far, but Daniel Brühl is the more impressive one. Great music from Hans Zimmer.
31. Only God Forgives Nicholas Winding Refn goes too far in both style and story, too many implications and metaphors. But the more I think about it the more I like it. Very unique film.





30. Motel Life This is the type of film that doesn’t have a big market but I truly enjoy. A deeply moving story about two nobodies who struggle for the better through the seemingly never-ending hard times.
29. The Past [Iran] Asghar Farhadi’s new film is still about conflicts, disputes, truth, and marriage, as twisty as but less powerful than his Oscar winner A Separation .
28. A Hijacking [Denmark] The business negotiation view of cargo hijacking. Some people prefer this one to Captain Phillips, I like the latter a little bit more.
27. Fruitvale Station I don’t like it that the fate of its character is revealed at the beginning, except for this it is a genuine and powerful film from a pair of very promising young director and actor.





26. In the Name of (@Frameline) [Poland] Not-so-new gay priest story can still be very captivating. Emotionally constrained and provocative at the same time; beautiful images and great scores.
25. Wadjda [Saudi Arabia] Who can imagine the first feature film ever shot entirely in Saudi Arabia is such a refreshing and humorous story about religion and feminism starring a 10-year-old girl?
24. August: Osage County Funny and touching, amazing scripts. Meryl Streeps incredible as always, Julia Roberts hasn’t been so good for a decade, Julianne Nicholson is heartbreakingly attractive.
23. Caesar Must Die (@Portland) [Germany] Its story and its form are definitely one of a kind. As plain as a documentary but extremely emotional and powerful.





22. Barbara [Germany] A story of freedom, love and conscience. It feels exactly like my stereotypical image of Germans, seemingly grave and suppressed but intrinsically kindhearted and hopeful.
21. The Spectacular Now Best film this year about adolescence romance, relatable and touching. Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller are both amazing young actors, I can’t wait to see more of them!
20. Captain Phillips Paul Greengrass kept me uneasy for the entire movie! I really like how the film portraits the pirates, although patriotism eventually dominates the story.
19. Sun Don’t Shine (@SFIndieFest) Amy Seimetz’s talent as a director seems even bigger than hers as an actress. Her directorial debut is emotionally intense and irresistibly arresting.





18. Before Midnight Full of compelling and realistic conversations, a very good new installation to the legend. I am completely immersed in the dialogues and two hours passed like just one.
17. Blue is the Warmest Color [France] Genuine and intense performances from two incredible young actresses. Three hours seem still too short to taste the sweet and pain of a unforgettable first love.
16. 12 Years A Slave Technically flawless, but emotionally fail to touch me. While Steve McQueen finally rises to Hollywood’s spotlight, I still prefer his first two features Hunger and Shame.
15. Aftermacth (@SFJFF) [Poland] A controversial true story of the dark secrets in WWII Poland. Great tension and suspense, and hits me hard with a disturbingly powerful ending.





14. C.O.G. (@Frameline) First adaptation of David Sedaris’ short stories. Sleek, funny, unexpectedly dark and strangely enjoyable. And I really adore Jonathan Groff.
13. Mud Matthew McConaughey might go home with empty hands on Oscar night, but he is consistently one of the best. Mud is the only “really good” movie of the whole spring.
12. Lore An engrossing look of the trauma of war not in blood, death and debris but through a coming-of-age girl’s eyes, the lies and fear in a bleak world beautifully captured by the camera.
11. In the Fog (@SFIFF) [Russia] A story about dignity, humanity, how to live and how to die in the terror of war. Deep, solemn, thought-provoking. Beautiful cinematography, spectacular long takes.

Top 10
10. Crystal Fairy
Many comedies try so hard in their jokes and pranks and inprobables that you can’t help laughing but also feel ashamed about your bad taste or even can’t remember what’s so amusing the next day; Crystal Fairy is exactly the opposite, it doesn’t try at all. It is inspired by a true person, it is largely improvised, and it is deadly funny. Usually I can perfectly hold my laughter in a movie theater, but I completely failed this time. Crystal Fairy is a very eccentric girl, she doesn’t shave her bushy armpit, and every morning she exercises her odd yoga ritual. She doesn’t care what others think of her too. When she goes on a road trip with three young crazy hippie boys, including the ultra naturally funny Michael Cera, she seems quite fine being mocked the whole trip. At the end, when Crystal’s shield to contempt cracks and reveals for a brief moment her unexpected fragility, I begin to wonder: why we laugh at others? Is it because we are superior and know it all, or just because it’s so much easier to despise than to appreciate? I like how the movie ends in a hint of bitterness, it adds a delicate layer to wrap up the wildly hilarious journey and asks us viewers to do more than just laughing and then forgetting.
9. Nebraska
I knew very little about Nebraska before I saw it (despite I’ve been to Nebraska twice!), I knew it’s directed by Alexandra Payne (whose The Descendents isn’t my cup of tea though), but I didn’t know it is in black and white, and I definitely didn’t ever thought it is a comedy. That’s why I felt cheated and so uncomfortable first time watching it. Everybody laughed their asses out but I was like, “Come on, guys, isn’t this supposed to be sad?” Then I watched it a second time and finally everything seems right. The movie shows a compassionate picture of the ordinary Midwestern life, and makes lots of fun out of its boredom and vulgarity. Highlighted by the stubborn, demential father played by Bruce Dern and the outspoken mom played by June Squibb, the script is lovely, moving and funny as hell. I totally wish I have a family like this, although it might make life much harder. My only complaint about the movie is, the son or mom could have told people the truth the very moment they heard the “news”, and it feels unnatural not to do so. But of course, had they done so, the movie would be much less funny, if at all.

8. The Broken Circle Breakdown [Belgium]
Not too long into the film, I knew The Broken Circle Breakdown is exactly what I had been waiting for: a realistic, exquisite and probably heartbreaking look of relationships. Like pieces of broken windows collected and reordered from debris, the film unfolds with parallel stories of the past and present of Alice and Didier, a happily married couple going through the pain of their daughter’s terrible disease, joy intertwining with sorrow, laughter blended with tears. The bluegrass music runs through the movie is absolutely beautiful, bringing me to a romance so tender and sweet. While watching The Broken Circle Breakdown, I kept thinking about Blue Valentine, my favorite film about romance/marriage, as both films consist of life at both its sweetest and cruelest. What separates them apart is the way fervent passion breathtakingly turns into irreconcilable conflicts, and obviously Blue Valentine scores higher with its ephemeral and subtle transition. Nevertheless, I completely enjoy The Broken Circle Breakdown and have absolutely no reluctance to put in on my top 10 list.

7. The Hunt [Denmark]
The Hunt is the most thought provoking and psychologically disturbing film in this list. I won’t spoil you too much in case you haven’t seen it, but let me put it this way, the movie starts with a little girl telling a terrible lie to revenge the unreturned obsession she had for her male teacher. That’s just a butterfly flapping its wings, the tsunami is yet to come. It’s ugly, dark, horrifying, and very relatble. I was all emotional and outrageous sitting in the theater and had a strong urge to drag the perpetrators out of the screen and punch them in their faces. Even at the end, when the disturbance seems subsiding, the undercurrent is still enormous and intimidating, leaving the audience in a world with permanent fear. Director Thomas Vinterberg did a remarkable job in making this little town drama as intense and gripping as it could be, and Mads Mikkelsen’s riveting performance well deserves the best actor win at Cannes. Nordic films often inherit from its weather a depressing atmosphere that I find artistically very appealing. Definitely look forward to more Nordic films in the future.

6. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
From the stunning cinematography to the seemingly leisurely storytelling, it’s very hard not to think of Terrence Malick’s Badlands and Days of the Heaven while watching Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a deeply moving and tragically beautiful modern western romance story. In this film, time seems going slower in the somber color of eternal longing, only the claps that run through the film remind us the rapid elapse of time and signals the forthcoming grand finale of a desperate journey. I especially like the ending of the film, extremely peaceful yet tremendously emotional. The slow pace of the film requires patience, but watching it is such a rewarding experience. The film also makes a star of DP Bradford Young, who won Cinematography award at Sundance for his stunning, magnificent camera work. Mother of George, another film he shot, is visually equally stylish but surprisingly bleak and forbidding, proving he is even more than what he has shown. I’m gonna keep an eye on him.

5. Inside Llewyn Davis
First of all, I never imagine that Oscar Issac is so damn good at singing, but I later realize he is indeed a musician and had a band in Miami so everything now makes perfect sense. The very first scene of Llewyn singing Hang me, Oh Hang Me is absolutely arresting (Kudos to T-Bone Burnett who produces the music of this film!) and sets the melancholic tone of the film that really lingers in my head for a long time. Despite all the rejections and hardships Llewyn Davis is going through, this film is Coen brothers’ warmest work so far. It’s true to life, and creates an inspiring anti-hero through his helplessness yet persistence in depression. When everything goes wrong for Llewyn, there is just enough warmth keeping him alive, even his own bad luck at giving up music. I’ve been anticipating Inside Llewyn Davis for a long time, although Carey Mulligan’s exaggerating anguish and Garrett Hedlund’s insignificance are not exactly what I expected, this is still the only movie this year that lives up to my high expectation.
4. Short Term 12
Short Term 12 is genuine, warm, sometimes heartbreaking, and one of the sincerest films of the year. The authenticity and subtlety of the film are incredible, and we have to give credits to director Destin Cretton who writes the story based on his personal experience (working) at a similar center; and the outstanding cast whose natural acting really transforms scripts into a convincing, touching story. The leading actress Brie Larson is pitch perfect in her role, a young girl who tries to face her own relationships while work wholeheartedly to help the teens at the center make sense of their lives. Larson’s performance brings both authority and vulnerability into her character, managing to find the balance between both her bright and dark sides; it is definitely one of the most overlooked performances of the year. Captured in the beautiful film poster is the most memorable scene of the film: counselors chasing runaway kids on the lawn. That concludes everything in the film, the rebellion, the fun, and most importantly, the feeling of a family.

3. The Great Beauty [Italy]
Its grandeur beyond words and its nostalgia so profound, The Great Beauty is a film you need to see many times and I assure you every time you watch it, you’ll have some new discoveries. (You may also fall asleep if you can’t endure the loosely connected plot and meandering pace.) I have seen it twice and am eager to do it again. Following the steps of Jep, the king of Rome’s high life, the film stretches into the corners of this magnificent city, and spans the full spectrum of the old man’s uniquely fascinating life. The film effortlessly shuttles between void and richness, in a way that resembles how Jep enjoys and resents his glamorous yet unfulfilled life. He is honest at what he hasn’t done, albeit reluctant to admit what he could have done. At his age, looking back is a painful thing; no time ahead to start over and no where behind to bury the memories. I can’t stop thinking, when I am old enough to look back upon my lifetime, what will I remember and regret? Will I be happy, content, disappointed, or do I still even care at all? Maybe, I sometimes believe, maybe the journey of looking for the great beauty of life, is exactly where it lies.

2. Dallas Buyers Club
If I had a top list last year, the early years of AIDS documentary How to Survive A Plague would be easily high up in the documentary list. So it’s not surprising that Dallas Buyers Club, a drama film about the same period and similar events lands #2 in my this year’s list. I just love the story, how strangers come together and fight fiercely and tactically against not only the epidemic but also bureaucracy and ignorance. The illegal AIDS drug dealer, played by the exceptional Matthew McConaughey, is desperately cynical and ferociously determined, even when he is nothing but skin and bones. Jared Leto gives the performance of the year in playing Rayon, a transgender AIDS patient who firmly stands out for his friend to prolong other people’s lives, but cries heartbreakingly in the face of her own death. (It’s simply unacceptable to me if Leto loses at Oscar, but the same thing has already happened to Brokeback Mountain, so I can’t expect too much.) I couldn’t hold my tears even the second time watching the film, when in the grocery store Ron forces his old friend to shake hands with Rayon, when Dr. Eve hangs the painting Ron gave her onto the wall in anger and tears, when the crowd applauds for Ron at his return from San Francisco even though he lost the case. To see this heartfelt friendship born among people to whom “normal” people can only render fear, hatred and repugnance is an overwhelmingly uplifting and heartwarming experience. And Ron’s seven years’ survival, wow, what a loud slap.

1. Frances Ha
Frances Ha is a film that haunts me. It’s a film about Frances Ha, but also about me, about every young person out there trying to make sense of life. Frances is an apprentice at a dance company and dreams of getting big but she is only a good choreographer, not a good dancer; she is almost broke and drifts around New York crashing at friends’ apartment but goes on a two-day Paris trip in a rush of blood to her head; she is reliant on her only good friend Sophie who eventually moves out from their shared apartment and is getting married; she is looking for a relationship so ideal that she can’t even handle the normal ones. Frances is stuck between herself and reality, a loser in a city famous for its mercilessness on losers. Yet it’s impossible not to fall for her, because she is also funny, real and joyfully lighthearted. She walks like a man, she plays games too childish even for children; she cares about her career and relationships but shows not a hint of anxiety; and her occasional selfishness, is just her lack of self-awareness. There are people finding Frances ignorant or the movie irritating, and that sort of condescension is maybe exactly what Frances feels at the embarrassing dinner with the intellectuals, living in a world so splendid and abundant as if it’s your own fault if you are short of glamour. The truth is, Frances is humble, decently knowledgeable and very interesting, it’s not her who is short of glamour, but people who dislike her too arrogant to see.

As the title character Frances, Greta Gerwig is absolutely ravishing. Her performance is so ephemeral yet convincing that I can’t even tell if she is acting at all. I almost believed that Greta Gerwig is Frances Ha until I later watched an interview of her and realized how different they actually are. Greta Gerwig is elegant, confident, and definitely self-aware. She also co-writes the film and has been dating Noah Baumbach for years, which is a big advantage of her as an actress: she not only plays a character, she creates one. The current lineup of top actresses is kind of boring, as quite often some of them make award ceremony appearances just because they can act hysterically or dare to wear ugly makeups. Greta Gerwig isn’t that type, she is natural, refreshing, and with out doubt she is one of the best actresses in her generation, or maybe in all generations.

Most of the time I feel it rather pretentious to say a film is “A {director’s name} film” as always stated at the beginning of a movie, but Frances Ha is an exception. This film is apparently a truly Noah Baumbach film, except that line of declaration is never seen in the credits. Baumbach is a genius, I like all his films I have watched and Frances Ha is yet the best, inevitably reminding me of the enchanting French New Wave. The characters are subtle, unique and irresistibly lovable; the dialogues, often hilarious, are full of wit and intimacy; and the segments of Frances’ life are glued together with beautiful soundtracks and fluid editing. Everyone who has seen this film cannot forget the montage of Frances running and twirling across Chinatown on the news of her joining the Christmas show. The delightful news turns bad not long after, but the exuberance and lightness stay in the film even though Frances has a very hard life. In his directorial debut Kicking and Screaming, Baumbach’s twentysomething college grads are perplexed by the future and stay in their shells to avoid confronting the reality; the same uncertainty of future is also what 27-year-old Frances Ha is facing, but despite she isn’t fully prepared for it nor able to deal with it, she chooses to live in it; she hangs on, struggles and learns to accept whatever is best for her. To eventually redeem Frances from her mess, Baumbach takes a brilliantly positive view on failure in assuring us not “things will get better” but “nothing better is gonna come”. While Frances’ dancer dream is dead, she is still a woman so capable of dreaming; she wins a battle in a war she is doomed to lose.

In some sense, I am Frances. I have a job that I am actually quite good at but am still looking for that passion of my life; I once insisted paying for an expensive dinner with friends and regretted it for days; I often overstay my welcome just because I want to be with people and I am tired of being alone; I crash on my friend’s couch in San Francisco every now and then but never pay her rent nor make up my mind to move into the city; I went to Oslo just because I love a film about Oslo; I always travel alone since literally I have no friend to travel with; I went to college football games as if I was still a part of the school although I was never a part of it even when I was a student there; I have a couple of friends who understand my peculiar soul so well but probably I love them more than they love me; and of course I am undateble, or I should say, undated, because I am just as an idealist as Frances is. Frances Ha is a mirror in which I saw my own confusion, aimlessness, and disappointment, but I still snapped and danced exuberantly through the entire ending song after rewatching it alone, because I like Frances, I like who I am.

I want to see Frances Ha many times, savoring every bit of it. There is a particular scene that I love fanatically, and I was like “Oh my god, this is so fucking good!” the very moment I saw it. I’m saving the best for last, just like what the movie did. Well, I hope now you’ve got it.

San Francisco Bay Area Movie Theaters

This is an on-going, long-term project as I will continuous-though-aperiodical-ly add new photos and information to this post.

FYI: My favorite movie theaters in San Francisco are Opera Plaza Cinema and Roxie Theater. (I really want to love Castro Theater but haven’t been there often enough.) In case you haven’t been to these two gems of the city, or even haven’t heard of them, do check them out! Great independent films, awesome staffs (CG, PRC, GW, CR, SF, PJ…I’m talking about you!).

I’ll skip most AMC, Cinemark (Century) and Regal multiplexes since they are basically almost the same and their locations/showtimes/etc. can be easily found online. A few things I would like to mention though:

– AMC Metreon 16 in San Francisco and Regal Hacienda Crossing 20 in Dublin have the only two true IMAX screens in the whole bay area. Yes, you hear me right: all other cinemas that claim they have an IMAX or XD screen have in fact a lieMAX screen. See this discussion for details, or simply check out one of the above two real IMAX screens and revise your old definition for “IMAX”.

– Century Theaters have a Classic Series that shows one classic movie a week on Sunday 2pm, 7pm and Wednesday 7pm. Most bay area Century theaters participate in this program. It is a great opportunity to see the old good movies on big screen again and many of them are digitally restored.

CineArts Cinemas
Empire, 3 screens, West Portal (San Francisco)
Marin, 3 screens, Sausalito (Marin County)
Palo Alto Square, 2 screens, Palo Alto (Peninsula)
Santana Row, 6 screens, San Jose (South bay)

Landmark Theaters
Embarcadero Center Cinema, 7 screens, Embarcadero (San Francisco)
Opera Plaza Cinema, 4 screens, Civic Center (San Francisco)
Clay Theatre, 1 screen, Pacific Heights (San Francisco)
Lumiere Theatre, 3 screens [closed]
Bridge Theatre, 1 screen [Closed]
Albany Twin Theater, 2 screens, Berkeley (East Bay)
Shattuck Cinemas, 10 screens, Berkeley (East Bay)
California Theatre, 3 screens, Berkeley (East Bay)
Piedmont, 3 screens, Oakland (East Bay)
Guild Theatre, 1 screen, Menlo Park (Peninsula)
Aquarius Theatre, 2 screens, Palo Alto (Peninsula)

Camera Cinemas
Camera 12 Downtown, 12 screens, San Jose (South bay)
Camera 3 Entertainment, 3 screens, San Jose (South bay)
Camera 7 Pruneyard, 7 screens, Campbell (South bay)

Lee Neighborhood Theaters
4-Star Theatre, 2 screens, Richmond (San Francisco)
Presidio Theatre, 4 screens, Marina (San Francisco)
Marina Theatre, 2 screens, Marina (San Francisco)

Cinema SF Theaters
Balboa Theatre, 2 screens, Richmond (San Francisco)
Vogue Theatre, 2 screens, Pacific Heights (San Francisco)

Sundance Kabuki Cinema, 8 screens, Lower Pacific Heights (San Francisco)

New People, 1 screen, Lower Pacific Heights (San Francisco)

Castro Theatre, 1 screen, Castro (San Francisco)

Roxie Theatre, 2 screens, Mission (San Francisco)

Victoria Theater, 1 screen, Mission (San Francisco)

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 1 screen, SOMA (San Francisco)

Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley (East Bay)

Stanford Theatre, 2 screens, Palo Alto (Peninsula)

Bluelight Cinema, 5 screens, Cupertino (South Bay)

Capitol Drive-in Movie Theater, 6 screens, San Jose (South Bay)

San Francisco Bay Area Film Festivals

last updated: 2014-05-18

San Francisco bay area holds more than 30 film festivals a year, ranging from big events like San Francisco International Film Festival (the longest-running North American film festival), Frameline (World’s largest LGBT film festival) to one-day festival like “Intergalactic Feline Film and Video Festival for Humans”. Here you won’t find Sundance, Tribeca or SXSW, but you’ve got San Francisco, what could you complain?

Check out film festivals by month:
Jan   Feb   Mar   Apr   May   Jun   Jul   Aug   Sep   Oct   Nov   Dec  

Check out film festivals by type:

Januray

Berlin & Beyond Film Festival
Last: (18th) Jan 15 – 21, 2014 at Castro Theatre and Goethe-Institut, San Francisco
Since its inception in 1996, Berlin & Beyond Film Festival has become the leading festival of films from German-speaking countries in the Americas.

Noir City Film Festival
Last: (12th) Jan 24 – Feb 2, 2014 at Castro Theatre, San Francisco.
Noir City, the Annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival, began in January, 2003. It immediately grew into the largest film noir-specific annual event in the United States, the centerpiece of the Film Noir Foundation’s public awareness campaign. Noir City also runs in Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland, Washington D.C. and starting in 2014, Austin.

February

San Francisco Independent Film Festival
Last: (16th) Feb 6 – 20, 2014 at Roxie Theatre and Balboa Theatre, San Francisco; New Parkway Theatre, Oakland; Aquarius Theatre, Palo Alto and Rio Theatre, Santa Cruz.
SF Indiefest is a year-round, non-profit organization that has been operating since 1998. In addition to the film programs, IndieFest is known for throwing some great parties, including the annual Roller Disco Costume Party, the annual Big Lebowski Party and many live music events.
[+] Most of films will not be theatrically released — see it here or see it nowhere.
[+] Definitely not something you can see in a multiplex. (2013’s gems include Audience award winner “The story of Luke”, and beautiful thriller “Sun don’t shine”.)
[+] Mission district is super lively, enjoy the parties of the festival, or of your own.
[-] Pass holders have to exit the auditorium and joins the line after every screening.
[-] The bar next to little Roxie is really loud, be aware!

Mostly British Festival
Last: (6th) Feb 13 – 20, 2014 at Vogue Theatre, San Francisco
Mostly British film festival showcases new and Classic Films from the UK, Ireland, Australia and South Africa.

March

Cinequest Film Festival
Last: (24th) Mar 3 – 16, 2014 at several theatres in San Jose.
Cinequest remains one of the last big festival bastions for the discovery of new and emerging film artists. Exhibiting unique social and artistic visions from around the globe, Cinequest’s dynamic festival engages audiences in thought-provoking dialogue, giving film artists and film lovers alike an opportunity to connect. Furthermore, Cinequest provides cutting edge technology and movie-making forums to empower professionals and students.

San Francisco Ocean Film Festival
Last: (11th) Mar 6 – 9, 2014 at Pier 39 Bay Theater, San Francisco.
The mission of the San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival is to inspire people to appreciate and care for the ocean by revealing its wonders through independent films. It was the first event of its kind in North America, inspired by the well-established ocean festival in Toulon, France.

San Francisco Women Film Festival (Shorts)
Last: (9th) Mar 7 & 29, 2014 at San Francisco.
The San Francisco International Women’s Film Festival (SFIWFF) has a long tradition of providing the community with some of the best films directed and co-directed by women from all over the world. SFIWFF film screenings serve as a catalyst for creating and facilitating dialogue through the power of independent filmmaking, and represent a range of perspectives, both locally and globally.

San Francisco Asian American Film Festival (CAAMFest)
Last: (32nd) March 13 – 23, 2014 at Sundance Kabuni Cinemas, New People Cinema and Castro Theater, San Francisco.
CAAMFest is the nation’s largest showcase for new Asian American and Asian films, annually presenting approximately 130 works in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. Since 1982, the festival has been an important launching point for Asian American independent filmmakers as well as a vital source for new Asian cinema.

April

Sonoma Valley International Film Festival
Last: (17th) Apr 2 – 6, 2013 at Sonoma, CA.
The Sonoma International Film Festival takes place in the heart of Northern California’s Wine Country. All films are shown at intimate venues within walking distance on Sonoma’s historic plaza. This unique 5-day event offers world-class cuisine from local artisans and exceptional wine from Sonoma vintners.

San Francisco Human Rights Film Festival
Last: (12th) Apr 3 – 5, 2014 USF Presentation Theater, San Francisco.
The goals of Human Rights Film Festival are to promote awareness and discussion of global human rights issues and explore challenges to human rights in specific locations. The Festival seeks to strengthen the University’s links with Bay Area human rights organizations, and is free and open to public.

Tiburon International Film Festival
Last: (13th) Apr 11 – 17, 2014 at Tiburon, CA.
The Tiburon International Film Festival seeks to provide a greater understanding of the world and its many cultures through the artistic medium of film, and through the top quality films from around the world. The festival wishes to enhance tolerance between people of all backgrounds and create a platform for the independent filmmakers to express their talent and vision from any nation.

San Francisco International Film Festival
Last: (58th) Apr 24 – May 8, 2013 at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas and New People Cinema, San Francisco.
Founded in 1957, the San Francisco International Film Festival is the longest-running film festival in the Americas. Held each spring for two weeks, the International is an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in the country’s most beautiful city, attracting an annual audience of more than 70,000. SFIFF is one of the most important events in the Bay Area’s cultural calendar and an important stop on the international festival circuit.
[+] Great film selection, sort of between mainstream and art-house, good for general audience.
[+] High filmmaker participation rate. I didn’t see any big star in 2013, but Ryan Gosling had an red carpet appearance at 2014 SFIFF!
[+] Sundance Kabuki Cinemas is cozy and luxury, Fillmore St is fun and lively.
[-] Price on the high side, and no affordable festival pass.
[-] High sell-out rate, reservation is strongly recommended.
[-] The line is long and outside the cinemas. (So you can savor the chilly night of San Francisco?)
[-] Many (esp. domestic) films will be released later. Why bother seeing them here?

May

San Francisco Greek Film Festival
Last: (11th) May 3 – 10, 2014 at Delancey Street Screening Room, San Francisco.
The San Francisco Greek Film Festival is sponsored by the Modern Greek Studies Foundation and all proceeds benefit the educational initiatives of the Center for Modern Greek Studies and the Nikos Kazantzakis Chair at San Francisco State University.

San Francisco Sex Worker Film Festival
Last: (8th) May 18 – 26, 2013 at San Francisco (Roxie).
The biennial San Francisco Sex Worker Film Festival provides a forum for sex worker film and video makers to screen works about sex workers and sex work, businesses, industries and trades around the world. The Festival has expanded to become a vibrant venue for performances, workshops, visual arts, political organizing, skills sharing and ever expanding events.

San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Next: (19th) May 29 – Jun 1, 2014 at Castro Theater, San Francisco.
Over the years, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival has become an internationally renowned destination for filmmakers, scholars, and movie lovers. In the last 18 years, the festival has presented more than 150 rare and classic silent films, all with live music performed by the most accomplished composers and musicians in the field.

SF Green Film Festival
Next: (4th) May 29 – Jun 4, 2014 at Roxie Theater, San Francisco.
The San Francisco Green Film Festival is the West Coast’s leading destination for groundbreaking and compelling films on the urgent environmental issues of our time, and aims to educate and connect communities through forward-thinking programs of environmental films and discussions.

June

San Francisco Documentary Film Festival
Next: (13th) Jun 5 – 19, 2014 at Roxie Theater, San Francisco, Oakland, Palo Alto and Santa Cruz.
SFDocFest is another film festival presented by the SF Indiefest organization, same programmers, same locations, same atmosphere. Over 100 documentaries are screened here every year, range from Sundance/SXSW winners to local productions.
[+] Wide selection of films, well balanced between global issues and local interests.
[-] Everything not so enjoyable at IndieFest also happens here.

San Francisco Black Film Festival
Next: (16th) Jun 12 – 15, 2014 at San Francisco.
The mission of the San Francisco Black Film Festival is to celebrate African American cinema and the African cultural Diaspora and to showcase a diverse collection of films – from emerging and established filmmakers.

Queer Women of Color
Last: (9th) Jun 14 – 16, 2013 at San Francisco.
Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project (QWOCMAP) promotes the creation, exhibition and distribution of new films/videos that address the vital social justice issues that concern queer women of color and our communities, authentically reflect our life stories, and build community through art and activism.

Frameline(San Francisco LGBT Film Festival)
Next: (38th) Jun 19 – 29, 2014 at Castro Theater, San Francisco.
Frameline Film Festival is the world’s first and largest film festival devoted to LGBT community. With annual attendance as high as 80000, it is also the most well attended LGBT arts events in San Francisco Bay Area.
[+] The most intimate film festival experience, a celebration beyond film festival. Whether you are gay or straight, you should know how to howl like a wolf!
[+] Dozens of films world premier here — a feat even the SFIFF rarely achieves.
[+] Filmmakers appear in person in almost all US film screenings and many international film screenings at Castro.
[-] Most films have only one screening while two or three such films are shown at the same time in different locations — choose wisely (Castro is usually a safe choice).
[-] The qualities of the films are…diverse — choose wisely (or buy a Castro pass so you don’t need to choose).

July

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Next: (34th) Jul 24 – Aug 10, 2014 at San Francisco, Berkeley, Palo Alto and San Rafael.
The three-week summer festival screens in four Bay Area venues, featuring the highest quality Jewish films from around the world. As the first of more than 100 Jewish film festivals worldwide—and still the largest, with some 30,000 attendees—SFJFF is an influential showcase bringing together filmmakers and audiences to celebrate Jewish cinema and explore its new frontiers
[+] Multiple locations around the bay.
[+] Film festival pass for under 35 is only $30 ! Best film festival deal ever!

August

September

San Francisco Latino Film Festival
Last: (5th) Sep 12 – 27, 2013 at San Francisco.
The Cine+Mas SF Latino Film Festival showcases the work of emerging and established filmmakers from the US, Latin America, Spain and Portugal.

San Francisco Irish Film Festival
Next: (11th) Sep 18 – 20, 2014 at San Francisco.
The festival presents the very best in contemporary Irish cinema, celebrating everything from features to documentaries to Irish language films (with English subtitles for those who didn’t spend a summer at a Gaeltacht).

Italian Film Festival
Next: (38th) Sep – Nov, 2014 at San Rafael.
Originally started as an informal, one-time only presentation of Italian movies in a college lecture hall, the Italian Film Festival of Marin County has grown over its 36 years into a perennial favorite in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Wine County Film Festival
Last: (27th) Sep 25-29, 2013 at Sonoma County.

Oakland Underground Film Festival
Next: (6th) Sep 25 – 28, 2014 at Oakland.
The Oakland Underground Film Festival is a showcase for independent and Do-It-Yourself film, video, and projection-art based in Oakland, California. It places special emphasis on local filmmakers, social justice, urban life, the environment and works of fiction and non-fiction that thrive outside of classic narrative filmmaking.

October

Mill Valley International Film Festival
Next: (37th) Oct. 2 – Oct. 12, 2014 at Mill Valley and San Rafael.
Known as a filmmakers’ festival, the annual festival offers a non-competitive environment for exhibiting independent and world cinema.
[+] A lot of Oscar contenders premier here (San Francisco Bay Area premier, or even US premier), best chance to see the Oscar winners ahead of your friends — MVFF has premiered Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech, The Artist, Argo…
[+] Lots of big stars appearance. Past years’ guests include Bradley Cooper, Dustin Hoffman, Sean Penn, Ang Lee and many more.
[-] Like SFIFF, there is no affordable festival pass.

San Francisco Film Society Fall Season
Last: Oct – Nov, 2013. San Francisco.
Hong Kong Cinema (3rd) Oct 4 – 6, 2013 at Vogue Theatre, San Francisco.
Sister Cities Cinema: Zurich/SF Oct 18 – 20, 2013 at New People Cinema, San Francisco.
Taiwan Film Days (5th) Nov 1 – 3, 2013 at Vogue Theatre, San Francisco.
French Cinema Now (6th) Nov 7 – 10, 2013 at Clay Theatre, San Francisco.
New Italian Cinema (17th) Nov 13 – 17, 2013 at Clay Theatre, San Francisco.
Cinema by the Bay (5th) Nov 22 – 24, 2013 at Roxie Theatre, San Francisco.

The San Francisco Film Society’s Fall Season—comprised of a growing slate of short, focused festivals—brings the best films from around the world home to adventurous and inquisitive Bay Area audiences through in-depth explorations of exceptional regional cinemas.
[+] Diverse and contemporary selections of films from some of the most important film production regions/countries.
[-] Like any other SFFS event, the ticket holder line outside the theater is a little bit annoying.

Arab Film Festival
Last: (17th) Oct 11 – 13, 2013 at San Francisco; Oct 24-27, 2013 at Berkeley.
The Arab Film Festival is the largest independent annual showcase of Arab films and filmmakers in the country. The festival has an international standing and is considered one of the most important Arab film festivals outside the Arab world.

San Francisco Short Film Festival
Next: (9th) Oct 16 – 18, 2014 at Roxie Theatre, San Francisco.
SF Shorts screens a very wide range of films, mixing genres, subjects, styles, and cultures. It’s about grabbing someone by the eyeballs and making them think, feel, and react. It’s about what people see every day but now stare at in wonder.

San Jose Short Film Festival
Next: (6th) Oct 9 – 12, 2014 at CineArts Santana Row, San Jose.
This community festival brings together filmmakers, industry executives, Silicon Valley notables and celebrities, to mix and mingle with audiences ready to discover creative works otherwise unavailable to Bay Area audiences.

Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival
Last: (22nd) Oct 19 – Nov 17, 2013 at San Jose, Campbell, Palo Alto.
The SVJFF is regarded as a central, unifying event across Silicon Valley that drives the connectivity with and within the Jewish, multi-generational and increasingly diverse community. The festival screens films at several venues in Silicon Valley in one month period.

United Nation Association Documentary Film Festival
Last: (16th) Oct 17 – 27, 2013 at Palo Alto, Stanford, East Palo Alto and San Francisco.
UNAFF is originally conceived to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As one of the oldest solely documentary film festivals in the US, UNAFF has grown and earned the respect of audiences and filmmakers alike for its fearless independence and integrity.

November

American Indian Film Festival
Last: (38th) Nov 1 – 10, 2013 at San Francisco.
The Festival, founded and produced by American Indians, chronicles our integrity as peoples, artists, and activists. The Festival showcases short films, documentaries, and features that come from the heart of Indian Country, produced by emerging and established Indian/Non-Indian filmmakers.

San Francisco Dance Film Festival
Next: (5th) Nov 6 – 9, 2014 at San Francisco (Delancey*).
San Francisco Dance Film Festival gives the Bay Area a much-needed platform for the presentation and further development of dance-based films. The Festival seeks to bring dance to wider audiences and supports interdisciplinary collaboration among artists by providing opportunities for education and creative exchange.

San Francisco South Asian Film Festival
Last: (11th) Nov 6 – 10, 2013 at San Francisco.
The premiere annual South Asian film festival in the U.S, the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival (SFISAFF) has brought the cinematic heritage and culture of South Asia to Bay Area audiences for more than a decade. Presented by 3rd i Films, the oldest South Asian media arts organization in the U.S., the festival promotes diverse images of South Asians and catalyzes change through independent film.

San Francisco Transgender Film Festival
Last: (12th) Nov.8 – 10, 2013 at Roxie Theatre, San Francisco.
The San Francisco Transgender Film Festival (SFTFF) screens films that promote the visibility of transgender and gender variant people and challenge the mainstream media’s negative stereotypes of our communities. The festival provides opportunities for transgender and gender variant media artists, build community through our film and performance events, and engage our audiences in cross-community dialogue.

San Francisco Chinese American Film Festival
Last: (7th) Nov.13 – 20, 2013 at 4 Star Theatre, San Francisco.

Another Hole in the Head Film Festival
Last: (10th) Nov 29 – Dec 19, 2013 at Balboa Theatre and New People Cinema, San Francisco.
The annual festival of horror, sci-fi, dark fantasy and exploitation cinema defies convention to bring you the most outrageous genre films from both emerging and established filmmakers. Three weeks of celluloid mayhem not usually found in your local cineplex!

December