2017 San Francisco International Film Festival Preview

One of the nation’s oldest film festivals is celebrating its diamond anniversary in 2017. The 60th annual San Francisco International Film Festival runs from April 5th to April 19th, featuring 191 dramatic narratives, documentaries, short films and special events. We’re highlighting 15 of the films we’re looking forward to checking out…

Bill Nye: Science Guy

2017, United States of America
Directors: David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg

The effortlessly charming, bow-tie sporting scientist Bill Nye is beloved by all generations who grew up watching his show, Bill Nye the Science Guy, but vilified by climate change deniers and religious fundamentalists. Skilled documentarians (and fans!) David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg travel along with Nye as he works tirelessly to make the world a better place through science advocacy and education and reflects on his life and career as one of America’s most famous science minds.


Brimstone and Glory

2017, United States of America
Directors: Viktor Jakovleski

Burning Man has nothing on Tultepec’s charging toritos and exploding castillos. Mexico’s weeklong National Pyrotechnic Festival is sheer unbridled madness. Scars that tourists take away from fireworks-exploding bulls and towering infernos are earned with pleasure, apparently, as this dynamic documentary keeps explanation to a minimum while maximizing the experiential through GoPro camera POVs and gorgeous abstractions. Filmmaker Jakovleski has created a visually rapturous, immersive, sensory experience of this extraordinary event, capturing the danger and mayhem in all its glory.


2016, United States of America
Director: Sarah Adina Smith

In this unsettling narrative, Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) plays an unkempt man named Buster who hides out in unoccupied vacation homes and calls into radio shows ranting about Y2K. In other sequences, he is a mild-mannered hotel concierge named Jonah with a wife and daughter. With a dizzying narrative that blends reality and fantasy, the director reconciles these two characters in moving and unforgettable fashion.


The Cinema Travellers

2016, India
Directors: Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya

A moving homage to the bygone era of celluloid, The Cinema Travellers captures the splendor of the moving image through India’s traveling movie caravans. Shot over five years, this intimate documentary takes the viewer on a cinematic journey joining the undaunted technicians, the projectionists who create movie magic, and the boisterous, overflowing crowd that await at each stop.


2016, Iran
Director: Navid Danesh

After a Tehran musician instigates an encounter with his college girlfriend in an attempt to address the poor end their relationship suffered, their lives and the equilibrium of their spouses are thrown into crisis. Navid Danesh’s resonant and moving depiction of the impact the past has on the present lives of its protagonists is both culturally specific and universal in its reach.


2017, Switzerland/France
Directors: Mark Olexa and Francesca Scalisi

The soothing sound of the sea and the soft winds blowing in the pastures create a false sense of optimism, but everything in this environment is poisoned, including the delicious mushrooms that carpet the surrounding forest. With minimal commentary and a graceful and sympathetic eye, Half-Life in Fukushima underlines the danger inherent in nuclear power in its depiction of Fukushima’s sinister remnants and Matsumura’s lonely last stand.


2017, United States of America
Director: Brett Haley

Sam Elliott brings the full force of his silvery, sexy charm to this bittersweet portrait of an aging cowboy star. With his career mostly in the past, worrisome health issues, and fraught relationships, Lee Hayden is only too aware of the the gulf between his valiant screen persona and his own frail humanity. But then he meets a younger woman and receives some unexpected notoriety, and a man who has been living on the fumes of past glories suddenly begins to contemplate a future.

Recently featured on FilmJerk’s Movie Watch.


2016, United Kingdom
Director: William Oldroyd

Skillfully adapted from a Russian novella rather than Shakespeare, Lady Macbeth ferociously depicts a young woman, sold into marriage on the manor, as she finds her way to blood-soaked power and sexual fulfillment. Twenty-year-old Florence Pugh gives the film’s antiheroine a feral sense of feminist fury in this stark pastoral tale of sex, lies, murder, and vengeance.


2016, Germany/France/Poland
Director: Marie Noëlle

An engaging portrait of the turbulent life of one of history’s most celebrated scientists, Marie Noëlle’s stellar drama depicts the challenges and condescending societal attitudes faced by a woman in a male-dominated field. Noëlle gained access to the Nobel winner’s original diaries (which still bear traces of radiation) in preparation for the film. The result is an impressionistic biopic that draws the viewer into Curie’s subjective experiences through painterly cinematography, sumptuous period design, and an exquisite original score.


2016, Hong Kong/Malaysia/China
Director: Ho Yuhang

Kara Wai, known in her younger days as a Shaw Brothers Studio kung-fu master, returns to kick some bad-guy butt as the titular hero of Ho Yuhang’s action-packed extravaganza with Spaghetti Western leanings. She plays a mild-mannered housewife with a dark and perhaps criminal past that she has tried to keep hidden from her family.



2017, France/Switzerland
Director: Jean-Stéphane Bron

In the wake of the November 2015 terrorist attacks, the legendary Paris Opera has several shows to mount and numerous difficulties to face. Featuring multiple storylines, including labor disputes, live bulls, and charming Russians, this expertly crafted and brilliantly entertaining documentary demonstrates how the show manages to still go on.


Patty Cake$

2016, United States of America
Director: Geremy Jasper

The unqualified breakout hit of this year’s Sundance Festival, Geremy Jasper’s debut feature erupts with head-nodding beats from the opening scene and features the dynamic and stirring performance of Danielle Macdonald as the title character, a young woman who uses her lyrics to escape, daring to dream of something better outside of her New Jersey working class life. She gathers an emotionally damaged multi-racial motley crew around her to create funny and invigorating musical sequences.


People You May Know

2017, United States of America
Director: Sherwin Shilati

Jed is a work-from-home photo editor who has never been on social media until he meets a young woman who approaches him with an experiment: allow her to brand him and make him into someone that everyone wants to know. In Sherwin Shilati’s timely debut drama, Twitter wars, Instagram hashtags, and viral photos become ways to connect, but Jed’s past and his life online eventually have to catch up to one another.


2016, United States of America
Director: Matt Schrader

It’s such a given that it is almost elemental: motion pictures and musical accompaniment complete each other. This comprehensive and relentlessly fascinating documentary traces the history of film scores, from the flame-thrower guitars of Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) to the toy store pianos of Mark Mothesrbaugh’s television work and everything in between. It’s a social history of the most crucial post-production component, a testimony to its power, and an invaluable snapshot of the working methods of today’s top film composers.



2017, United States of America
Director: ?

All we know is that this very special advanced screening is of a powerful documentary that takes a deep look into the social and historical roots of a seminal event in recent California history involving justice, racial bias, and protest—told through the moving stories of the lives it changed forever and directed by an acclaimed writer, filmmaker, and producer.

Ticket holders agree not to write, talk, or tweet about this highly anticipated film before its official premiere.

I love a good mystery.