Rep Clock: June 25 – July 1, 2014


Schedules are for Wed/25-Tue/1 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double and triple features marked with a •. All times pm unless otherwise specified.

ANSWER COALITION 2969 Mission, SF; $5-10 donation. Two Spirits (Nibley, 2009), Wed, 7.

ARTISTS’ TELEVISION ACCESS 992 Valencia, SF; $7-10. “Rotterdam VHS Festival,” short videos, Thu, 8. “Mission Eye and Ear #5,” new music/sound and film/video collaborations by Dominique Leone and Brenda Contreras, Kyle Bruckmann and John Slattery, and Gino Robair and Bryan Boyce, Fri, 8.

BERKELEY FELLOWSHIP OF UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS 1924 Bonita, Berk; $10 suggested donation. Born This Way (Tullmann and Kadlec, 2012), Sat, 7:30.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, $8.50-11. Frameline 38: SF International LGBT Film Festival, June 19-29. For tickets and schedule, visit

COURTHOUSE SQUARE 2200 Broadway, Redwood City; Free. Frozen (Buck and Lee, 2013), Thu, 8:45. Presented sing-along style.

JACK LONDON FERRY LAWN Clay and Water, Oakl; Free. “Waterfront Flicks:” The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Thu, sundown.

PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE 2575 Bancroft, Berk; (510) 642-5249, $5.50-9.50. “Martin Scorsese Presents Masterpieces of Polish Cinema:” Mother Joan of the Angels (Kawalerowicz, 1961), Wed, 7; Innocent Sorcerers (Wajda, 1960), Fri, 7. “Kenji Mizoguchi: A Cinema of Totality:” The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums (1939), Thu, 7; The 47 Ronin, Parts I and II (1941/42), Sat, 6. “Rude Awakening: American Comedy, 1990-2010:” Waiting for Guffman (Guest, 1996), Fri, 8:50; Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993), Sun, 6. “Picture This: Classic Children’s Books on Film:” “Take Aways,” short films, Sun, 3:30.

ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, $6.50-11. Frameline 38: SF International LGBT Film Festival, Wed-Sun. For tickets and schedule, visit Ping Pong Summer (Tully, 2014), Wed-Thu, 6:30, 8:20. Breathing Earth: Susumu Shingu’s Dream (Riedelsheimer, 2013), Fri-Sat, 6, 8; June 29-July 3, 7, 9. “Roxie Kids:” Panda! Go, Panda! (Takahata, 1972), Sun, 2.

SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, $6.50-$10.75. Breathing Earth: Susumu Shingu’s Dream (Riedelsheimer, 2013), June 27-July 3, call for times.

YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS 701 Mission, SF; $8-10. Thy Womb (Mendoza, 2012), Thu and Sat, 7:30; Sun, 2. *


Doo-wop (that thing): talking with the cast of ‘Jersey Boys’


The backstage musical that turned the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons — known for 1960s doo-wop ditties like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” and a zillion more; you will recognize all of them — into Broadway gold ascends to the big screen Fri/20 thanks to director Clint Eastwood, a seemingly odd choice until you consider Eastwood’s own well-documented love of music. 

Jersey Boys weaves a predictable tale of show biz dreams realized and then nearly dashed, with a gangster element that allows for some Goodfellas-lite action (a pre-fame Joe Pesci is a character here; he was actually from the same ‘hood, and was instrumental in the group’s formation). With songs recorded live on-set, à la 2012’s Les Misérables, there’s some spark to the musical numbers, but Eastwood’s direction is more solid than spontaneous, with zero surprises (even the big finale, clearly an attempt at a fizzy, feel-good farewell, seems familiar). 

Still, the cast — including 2006 Tony winner John Lloyd Young as Valli, and Christopher Walken as a sympathetic mobster — is likable, with Young in particular turning in a textured performance that speaks to his years of experience with the role. I spoke with Young, Michael Lomenda (who plays original Four Season Nick Massi), and Erich Bergen (as Bob Gaudio, the member who wrote most of the group’s hits) when the trio made a recent visit to San Francisco to promote the movie.

SF Bay Guardian This must be a crazy time for you guys.

John Lloyd Young It’s a very exciting time for all three of us, and including our fourth colleague Vincent Piazza [who plays Four Season co-founder Tommy DeVito]. This is our first major studio feature film, and we got to be directed by Clint Eastwood. 

SFBG Did he ever break into song on the set?

Michael Lomenda [Laughs.] It was very interesting, actually, to see him between takes trying to capture that Frankie Valli falsetto. I think it was an ongoing challenge for him the whole 38 days that we shot, to try and figure out how to manipulate his voice in that way.

JLY It was a tongue-in-cheek challenge, because it was all playful. He knew he wasn’t gonna sing like Frankie!

SFBG Few can! Though, you’ve been able to do it for several years. How do you keep your voice in shape to hit those notes?

JLY Well, you either have a falsetto or you don’t. If you have it, you just keep it in shape the same way any singer does. Obviously, singers, there’s certain things we can’t do. We can’t go out and yell all night in a bar. We shouldn’t smoke, we shouldn’t drink. The voice is very delicate. Those are very delicate muscles. Anything you do that’s not good for your body in general won’t be good for your voice. But, basically, just living a clean life. And Frankie Valli himself will tell you the same thing.

SFBG It’s interesting that you bring up clean living. I hadn’t seen the stage show, and I didn’t know much about the group before I saw the movie. But in every show-biz biopic, there’s always some kind of vice (usually drugs or booze, as in Walk the Line) that threatens to ruin the performer’s success. Here, it’s the mobster subplot — mobsters are not the typical vice.

Erich Bergen I think that’s one of the things that’s very interesting is that Frankie didn’t get into [drugs or alcohol]. That’s sort of the reason why he’s still around and he’s still on the road, because he’s been able to preserve not only his gift, but his life. Of course, he went through some harsh things in life. He went through a couple of marriages and divorces, and obviously he lost a daughter. Actually, and we don’t go into this in the movie, but he’s lost two daughters. He’s lived a very hard life. He didn’t need drugs or alcohol; that hard life came to him naturally. 

I think that’s what makes this story so interesting: we’re watching someone whose life is hitting him in the face. And we sort of identify with that. I don’t know about you, but for me personally, when I watch a lot of biopics and they start to get into the drugs and all that type of stuff — that’s where I sort of lose them a little bit, because that’s just sort of the generic story at this point. What makes Jersey Boys work is that we really connect with these guys because we identify with them. It’s written in a way that even when they’re not at their highest point, when they’re doing things that aren’t so great — especially the character of Tommy DeVito — we still root for them, and we still want them to succeed. 

SFBG The movie really shows how hard they had to work to be successful. It’s a stark contrast to the music business of today, where someone can become famous overnight thanks to a YouTube video.

EB That’s exactly what we talk about when we’re asked the question, “What makes this story so interesting?” If you look at the groups of today, whether it’s a One Direction or a Justin Bieber, before we actually know their songs, we know what they had for breakfast. But [the Four Seasons] really came at a time when you were trying to hide your real story and project out a shiny, clean image, because that’s what everyone wanted. That’s why Jersey Boys can exist today, because the story was never known. 

JLY I have a thought about that, too, which is that nowadays — without naming anyone by name — a lot of successful music acts are created as an idea in a marketing boardroom first, and then they find someone to fit that image. You know what I’m saying? It seems like the marketers are the stars nowadays. The more you can get an audience to feel there’s something really exciting there, and then get them there, then you’ve won. But when they get there and they don’t have a great experience, well, you already got their money, so who cares?

But I think at the time of Jersey Boys, to succeed you had to work really hard. There were only three networks, and there were very few print outlets. If you actually got on the cover of a magazine, or you got on a network, you made it. But you had to have something to show for it. You had to have talent, and especially that generation of Baby Boomers — the biggest generation we’ve ever had in American history. That’s a lot of people competing for which of the talented ones among them would become known. And the Four Seasons had the talent, but they also had that special, very distinctly East Coast, riveting-to-an-audience kind of thing, with that Mob connection that makes their story unique among that era of bands.

SFBG The movie makes it clear that they had to succeed, because they didn’t have anything to go back to.

ML It’s true. These guys are from the wrong side of the tracks. You have some choices. You can go in the army, you can get mobbed up, or you can become famous, as they say in the film. We also sort of say that they did two out of the three. But I think their music spoke for itself. They broke when their music had to speak for them, and that’s what made them successful.

EB The proof of that is that everyone knows these songs, but not the band. There are so many songs we don’t even get to in this movie, because we’d run out of time! That tells you how much talent they really had as performers, writers, producers — all of those things. Their catalog is endless, and yet nobody knew they were all by the same group.

JL I just saw Clint Eastwood on the Today show, and when they introduced him, they said the Four Seasons had 71 chart-topping hits. 71! I think that’s incredible for that band, coming out of that decade.

SFBG They were also commercially savvy. The songs were so catchy. No wonder people liked them.

ML I think that’s they key to why their music has stood the test of time. Maybe it’s commercially viable, and it is good pop music. But if you did a little deeper into some of the lyrics — for example, “Dawn” is one of my favorite songs, and they’re singing, “Dawn, go away, I’m no good for you, think about what the future would be with a poor guy like me…” It’s that kind of lyric that brings depth so what initially could be perceived as just pop, bubblegum music. It spoke to an audience that I think was sort of the fabric of America.

JLY Their early attempts at marketing are sort of outlined in the movie. You got [producer] Bob Crewe giving them advice on how to get their songs out there. You have Bob Gaudio figuring out how to get his songs out there. I know, and am friends with, the real Bob Gaudio, and it’s funny, he’s a hugely successful songwriter, but he almost seems more proud of his business successes than he does of his songwriting. He gets pumped by being smart in business as he gets pumped by writing a good song.

SFBG As actors, does it present a particular challenge to play a real person, a famous person, particularly if that person is still living? Or were you able to put your own stamp on the characters?

EB I think John had the most pressure out of all of us, because he’s playing someone that’s so well-known, and John can tell you about that experience. But for the rest of us, we really did invent these characters. Even though they were real people, and while we wanted to pay respect to these people, and their families, we did have the luxury of not having to play John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They’re not well-known to the public. So we did get to use our skills as actors and create characters from the ground up.

JLY One of the benefits as an actor approaching the role of Frankie, even in the beginning in the original cast, is that he is known. People know what he looks like and they know what he sounds like. He did some talk show stuff, so they kind of know how he moves. So I knew that I needed to get his physical attributes down. I needed to evoke his sound, look like him, talk like him. But outside of those physical things, the internal life of Frankie Valli, we don’t really know. We didn’t know. 

When I was researching the original Broadway show, all I could find were maybe 12 minutes of footage of him at the Museum of Television and Radio. That was, like, the year before YouTube broke, so now there’s footage of him everywhere, but I didn’t have the benefit of that. But now I have seen a lot of YouTube and everything. So I thought, as long as I get those physical characteristics down, the story of the Four Seasons, the story of Frankie Valli, is still largely unknown to audiences. So I had free reign to kind of build the psychological reality of the character using my own imagination, and the cues that I had from the script. And knowing Bob Gaudio, Frankie Valli’s real-life best friend, and the things he told me about Frankie, and knowing, of course, the man himself. 

But I didn’t feel pressure so much. The pressure I felt was to honor the people who put this movie together, which was Frankie and Bob, and to portray the character in a way that was compelling and riveting to an audience so that we’d have as successful a show as we could have. And now, I think that I feel very proud of what we’ve accomplished with this movie, and I think it’s an enhancement, actually, of what has been out there all these years, with the successful stage musical across the world. 

SFBG How true is the movie to the stage production?

ML It’s actually very similar. We were lucky to work with [screenwriters and musical authors] Marshall [Brickman] and Rick [Elice] on the film, which I think we were all very grateful for, because it meant that we didn’t have to learn too many new lines. [Laughs.] But it was great. I think when I first found out that the movie was being done, I was really concerned that the final product would be true to the stage, because the script is so fantastic. But beauty of film is that you get to flesh out certain relationships, and certain storylines. I think fans of Jersey Boys are going to love a lot of the scenes that they loved from the stage version, but they’re also going to go crazy over the other stuff, the extra stuff that is put into the film.

The stage production is directed in a very slick fashion, but logistics dictate that you have to move from scene to scene very quickly to keep up the energy going in the two-and-a-half hour show. But what Mr. Eastwood does so beautifully with this movie, and with all of his movies, is create a real environment that’s rich and tangible, that you can really sense in the theater. I think Jersey Boys fans are going to love that as well.

JYL If people love the stage show of Jersey Boys, the movie is going to give then a much deeper, more thorough, and much more detailed experience.

SFBG I did not realize, until I was reading up on the movie, that there were Jersey Boys superfans who have seen the show hundreds of times.

EB Michael and I opened the national tour of Jersey Boys in San Francisco, and six years later Michael closed that tour in the same theater. This was my first discovery with anything remotely like that. I remember seeing these fans come in over and over again. At first I thought, “What are they doing?” and “Where are they getting the money that they’re buying such great seats three times a week?” I remember I got a letter one time, we all got these letters, from a fan who said, “I know you probably think it’s crazy that I’m here all the time, but this is the first time I’ve felt happy in 10 years.”

When we get things like that, we don’t really know what to make of that. But we are so thrilled that it’s had an impact. I don’t know if it can be explained. People often ask us, “What is it about Jersey Boys that keeps people coming back?” I don’t know if I know. I don’t know if anyone knows. I know that when people come to see the show, they’re affected by it for whatever reason. It moves them, it changes them. They are really passionate about it, and we’re just sort of lucky that we got to be a part of that somehow. I don’t really know what else to say about it!

JYL I have something else to say about it, and that is: if a person has seen the stage play of Jersey Boys 100 times, let them know, please, on our behalf, that for the price of one Broadway ticket, they can see this movie 10 times! [All three laugh.] So we hope that they decide to make their investment in 10 tickets for the movie. 

SFBG What’s up next for you guys? More musicals?

ML I think we’ve all been bitten by the movie bug. To start on a Clint Eastwood set, we’ve been a bit blessed and totally spoiled. So, I think certainly, we would all like to dive further into this genre and explore it.

EB I agree. My album comes out next week, some new music that I just recorded down in Nashville, and I’m in a new series on CBS this fall called Madame Secretary. I will also be hosting lots of Jersey Boys viewing parties once the DVD comes out. [Laughs.]

JLY I have a new album that I just released, My Turn — it’s R&B hits from the 60s in my voice, not Frankie’s, and it’s on iTunes and Amazon. I’m also a recent appointee by Barack Obama to the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. So I’ll be working with kids in the lowest-performing schools, re-inserting arts into their curriculum to increase their school performance and their school culture. The actor Kal Penn and I will be sharing a school district in Des Moines, Iowa. I’m really looking forward to it.

JERSEY BOYS opens Fri/20 in Bay Area theaters.

Go with a smile


FILM Clad in his signature cape and cowl, Batman has been taking to the streets in the darkness of night and fighting crime in the imaginations of comic-book fans for 75 years.

Thanks to the Christopher Nolan film trilogy, the public has gotten used to the idea of the character being dark and brooding and living in a gritty, more realistic world. But it was Tim Burton’s eye-popping Batman, starring Michael Keaton, that first ushered in a modern vision of the Dark Knight, 25 years ago this week on June 23, 1989. That summer, Batman unleashed in a wave of pop-culture Batmania. No matter where you turned, you’d see the Bat-Signal on a T-shirt, hear “Batdance” on the radio, or catch yourself muttering one of Jack Nicholson’s iconic Joker quips.

Sam Hamm, who wrote the story for Batman and co-wrote the script with the late Warren Skaaren, is a San Francisco resident.

“I grew up reading comic books — I was completely saturated with the stuff. A few years ago, I was cleaning out some old boxes, and I came across a picture of myself when I was probably five years old, wearing a cowboy hat and reading a copy of Batman. So in that photograph somebody had encapsulated my entire future. Obviously, it was my destiny,” laughs Hamm.

By the mid-1980s, an early script for a Batman film had been kicking around at Warner Bros. for several years. Hamm had started working for the company on some different projects around that time; one day, while waiting for a meeting, he saw the script on a shelf and started reading it.

“It was very much the same structural model as Superman,” he recalls. “I was reading it, and thinking, ‘No, this is not the way.’ It [was] explaining all this stuff you don’t have to explain. It’s basically just a guy who puts on a suit and goes out and kicks ass — but why would a rich guy go out and do that every night? That, it seemed to me, was the interesting part of the story. It wasn’t how this guy came to be, it was why this guy came to be — that’s the central mystery of the movie.”

After lobbying for about six months, he was asked by Tim Burton, who was attached to direct at the point, to share his ideas for a new story.

“I said, ‘Okay, here’s the deal — you don’t start with Batman. It’s the origin of the Joker that you start out with, and Batman is the mystery. I have this feeling that Batman is really depressed, and he has to keep on going out and doing this stuff because he’s reenacting this mess with his parents.'”

Hamm’s vision was a drastic departure from the campy 1960s television show that mainstream culture most closely identified the character with at the time, but the filmmakers quickly decided that it was the direction they wanted to take.

“We started with the idea that Batman is bat-shit crazy. He goes out and does this, but then meets a girl, and starts thinking, ‘What would it be like if I had a normal life? I’ve never thought of having a normal life.’ So the progress of the story is that he starts to go sane, and what does that do to the weird sort of lifestyle decision that he’s made?”

That approach clearly resonated with fans around the world. Looking back decades later, Hamm has fond memories of being part of the phenomenon.

“It was wild. There was a huge buzz around it,” he says. “I would be driving around San Francisco, and there was a house in Noe Valley where the guy had painted the logo on his garage. They put a Bat-signal on Zeitgeist! It was quite bizarre to feel you were a part of that.” *


Rep Clock June 11-17, 2014


Schedules are for Wed/11-Tue/17 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double and triple features marked with a •. All times pm unless otherwise specified.

ARTISTS’ TELEVISION ACCESS 992 Valencia, SF; $10-12. “Cine Mas:” Delusions of Grandeur (Almaraz and Ramos), Thu, 7:30.

BERKELEY FELLOWSHIP OF UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS 1924 Cedar, Berk; $5-10. State of Siege (Costa-Gavras, 1972), Thu, 7.

BRAVA THEATER 2789 24th St, SF; Free ($5-10 suggested donation). Queer Women of Color Film Festival, four programs of short films (all screening with captions) under the theme “Re-Generation,” Fri-Sun.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, $8.50-11. The Wind Rises (Miyazaki, 2013), Wed, 7 (subtitled), 9:30 (dubbed). •Joe (Green, 2013), Thu, 7, and Red Rock West (Dahl, 1993), Thu, 9:15. “Midnites for Maniacs: Bloody Fangs Double Bill:” •Interview with the Vampire (Jordan, 1994), Fri, 7:20, and Vampire’s Kiss (Bierman, 1988), Fri, 9:45. This double bill, $12. Frozen (Buck and Lee, 2013), Sat-Sun, 1. Presented sing-along style; advance tickets ($10-16) at •Lost in America (Brooks, 1985), Sat, 7:15, and Something Wild (Demme, 1986), Sat, 5, 9. Othello (Welles, 1952), Sun, 5, 7, 9. •Under the Skin (Glazer, 2013), Tue, 7, and Trouble Every Day (Denis, 2001), Tue, 9:05.

CHRISTOPHER B. SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, $6.50-$10.75. We Are the Best! (Moodysson, 2013), Wed-Thu, call for times.

CLAY 2261 Fillmore, SF; $10. “Midnight Movies:” The Room (Wiseau, 2003), Sat, midnight.

COURTHOUSE SQUARE 2200 Broadway, Redwood City; Free. Lee Daniels’ The Butler (Daniels, 2013), Thu, 8:45.

JACK LONDON FERRY LAWN Clay and Water, Oakl; Free. “Waterfront Flicks:” Gravity (Cuaron, 2013), Thu, sundown.

PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE 2575 Bancroft, Berk; (510) 642-5249, $5.50-9.50. “A Theater Near You:” L’avventura (Antonioni, 1960), Fri, 7:30. “Martin Scorsese Presents Masterpieces of Polish Cinema:” Saragossa Manuscript (Has, 1964), Sat, 7; Ashes and Diamonds (Wajda, 1958), Sun, 6:30.

ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, $6.50-11. San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, through June 19. Complete program details, including additional venues, and tickets (most shows $12) at

“SAN FRANCISCO BLACK FILM FESTIVAL” Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore, SF; and Buriel Clay Theater, 762 Fulton, SF; Check website for individual ticket prices; festival pass, $50. A celebration of African American cinema and the African cultural Diaspora, with a focus on both local and global filmmakers, Thu-Sat.

YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS 701 Mission, SF; $8-10. “New Filipino Cinema 2014:” How to Disappear Completely (Martin, 2013), Wed, 7:30 (reception, 6:30); Jungle Love (Sanchez, 2012), Thu, 4; Debosyon (Yapan, 2013), Thu, 6; Sana Dati (Tarog, 2013), Thu, 8; Iskalawags (Deligero, 2013), Fri, 2: Woman of the Ruins (Sicat, 2013), Fri, 2; The Bit Player (Jaturian, 2013), Fri, 7; Metro Manila (Ellis, 2013), Fri, 9:15; Oro, Plata, Mata: The Restored Version (Gallaga, 1982/2012), Sat, noon; “Basket Case: Short Films Over the Edge,” Sat, 4; Transit (Espia, 2013), Sat, 7; Anita’s Last Cha-Cha (Bernardo, 2013), Sat, 9:15; No End in Sight (Tabay, 2012), Sun, noon; Pascalina (Miras, 2012), Sun, 2; Rigodon (Matti, 2012), Sun, 4:30; Thy Womb (Mendoza, 2012), Sun, 7 (reception, 6). *


Rep Clock: May 28-June 3, 2014


Schedules are for Wed/28-Tue/3 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double and triple features marked with a •. All times pm unless otherwise specified.

ARTISTS’ TELEVISION ACCESS 992 Valencia, SF; $7-12. “Sistah Sinema:” Margarita (Cardona and Colbert, 2012) with “Brazos Largos” (Solis), Fri, 8. “Other Cinema: New Experimental Works,” Sat, 8:30.

BALBOA THEATRE 3630 Balboa, SF; $7.50-10. “Popcorn Palace:” Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Columbus, 2002), Sat, 10am. Matinee for kids.

BAY MODEL 2100 Bridgeway, Sausalito; Free. Harlem Street Singer (Laurence and Hunter, 2011), Tue, 6.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, $8.50-11. •Fellini Satyricon (Fellini, 1969), Wed, 7, and Barbarella (Vadim, 1968), Wed, 9:25. San Francisco Silent Film Festival,” Thu-Sun. Complete program details and tickets (most shows $15-20) at

CHRISTOPHER B. SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, $6.50-$10.75. Ida (Pawlikowski, 2013), Wed-Thu, call for times. Touching Home (Miller and Miller, 2010), Sun, 7:30. Safety Last! (Lloyd, 1923), with live accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Mon, 7:30. This event, $15.

CLAY 2261 Fillmore, SF; $10. “Midnight Movies:” The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Sharman, 1975), Sat, midnight. With the Bawdy Caste performing live.

DAVIES SYMPHONY HALL 201 Van Ness, SF; $41-156. “A Symphonic Night at the Movies,” music from Disney’s Fantasia (1940) and Fantasia/2000 (1999), Sat. 8; Sun, 4.

ELMWOOD 2966 College, Berk; $8.50-11. B.B. King: The Life of Riley (Brewer, 2014), Wed, 7. Also screens Thu, 7:15, Marina Theatre, 2149 Chestnut, SF.

GRAND LAKE THEATER 3200 Grand, Oakl; $10. “Oakland Originals,” short docs, Thu, 6.

MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE 57 Post, SF; $10. “CinemaLit Film Series: Comedy Tonight:” Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Oz, 1988), Fri, 6.

ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, $6.50-11. Breastmilk (Ben-Ari, 2014), Wed-Thu, 7, 9:15 (also Wed, 5). Documented: A Film By An Undocumented American (Vargas, 2013), Wed-Thu, 9 (also Thu, 7). San Francisco Green Film Festival, environmental films, events, panels, and special guests, May 29-June 4. Complete program details and tickets (most shows $15) at

YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS 701 Mission, SF; $8-10. “Astonishing Animation: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli:” Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2002), Thu, 7:30 and Sat, 5; Porco Rosso (Miyazaki, 1992), Sat, 7:30 and Sun, 3; From Up on Poppy Hill (Miyazaki, 2011), Sun, 1. *


Our Weekly Picks: May 28-June 3, 2014




In 1970, a singer-songwriter called Rodriguez, who had been discovered by a couple of music producers in a downtown Detroit bar, cut an album called Cold Fact. It bombed. After an equally-disappointing follow-up record, Rodriguez abandoned his musical career and faded into obscurity. Meanwhile, in South Africa, a bootleg copy of Cold Fact had become the soundtrack to the Anti-Apartheid movement. Rodriguez was completely unknown in the United States, and more famous than Elvis in South Africa. Decades later, two Rodriguez fans travelled from Cape Town to find out what happened to Rodriguez and research the rumors of his onstage suicide. Instead they found him working in construction and ready to continue his musical dreams. Rodriguez’ story is chronicled in the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugarman. His incredible story, however, is not what makes him worth seeing: As a performer he is tender, compelling, and well worth the 40-year wait. (Haley Zaremba)

With LP

$40, 8pm

The Warfield

982 Market, SF



Exclusive screening: The Pink Room

Never mind Elizabeth Raine, the med student who auctioned her virginity for a six-figure price tag. In many cases, prostitution is not a luxury, it’s slavery. In a country ravaged by genocide, many Cambodian children became orphans and forced into a life of child slavery and prostitution. The Pink Room documentary exposes the human trafficking and child sex slavery that runs rampant in Cambodia, threading together first-person accounts of those held captive and those helping to change the country where over 1 million children are sexually abused. One of the accounts comes from a Cambodian woman who was forced into the industry at a very young age, illustrating how Mien’s virginity was sold at a high price, but her value becomes lower with each purchase. After years of torture, she’s become a voice of hope and compassion in a country plagued by darkness. This screening will be followed by a Q&A with the film’s directors and producers. (Laura B. Childs)

7pm, $25

Letterman Digital Arts Center

Chestnut & Lyon, SF

(415) 897-2123





SF’s Power Women of Eventbrite, ModCloth & One Kings Lane

Talk about co-founders with cache — three local startup champions will share their success stories, including tales from the trenches of the e-commerce realm and insights on how they’ve won followers’ hearts. Julia Hartz’s Eventbrite has become the ticketing standard-bearer for events; Susan Gregg Koger’s ModCloth merges online couture shopping with a growing social network of fashionistas; and Alison Pincus’s One Kings Lane provides high-end furnishings and home decor directly to trendy tastemakers. They’ll converse with a fourth entrepreneur, BlogHer cofounder and media strategist Jory Des Jardins. (Kevin Lee)

6:30pm, $15-$45

The Fairmont Hotel, Gold Room

950 Mason, SF

(415) 597-6700



Bloody Beetroots

With a real name like Sir Bob Cornelius Rifo, it’s hard to see why you would opt for a pseudonym, but the Italian producer has been successfully producing infectious and inspired dance and electronic music under the Bloody Beatroots moniker since 2006. Rifo was classically trained on guitar, learning to read by the solfege method and studying Chopin, Beethoven, and Debussy. His fascination with punk, new wave, and ’70s-era comic strips, however, pulled him out of this straight-laced territory and into a new musical world of his own creation. Rifo and his right-hand-man and sampler Tommy Tea are known for their rowdy, energized live shows, and the black Venom masks they wear throughout, never showing their faces. Dirty, fun, and hard to predict, the Bloody Beetroots guarantee a great, sweaty night. (Zaremba)

With J Boogie

$25, 8pm

The Regency

1290 Sutter, SF



SF Green Film Festival

San Franciscans are no strangers to tackling the subject of global warming. Whether we’re discussing the drought or trying to solve climate change by working less, the well-being of the planet is foremost on our minds. But starting tonight, we’ll let the pros take over: The Green Film Festival is a weeklong affair that will consist of environmentally-conscious documentaries, panel discussions with filmmakers and activists, and workshops with non-profits. The 4th annual festival kicks off with the San Francisco premiere of DamNation, an award-winning documentary that explores sea change and reveals how removing dams would bring rivers back to their natural state, helping to stabilize the ecosystem. Explore marine life, meet the filmmakers, and discuss the environment over sustainable food and drinks at the opening night reception, held at the Aquarium of the Bay. (Childs)

6pm, $50

Aquarium of the Bay & Bay Theater

Embarcadero at Beach, SF

(415) 742-1394





Animal Collective (DJ set)

Animal Collective guitarist Panda Bear is jamming on a nationwide tour solo, so some of the other members have elected to show off their digital record collections in select venues. What to expect from a set? Actual recorded footage of the band’s mixmastery is rare, but Soundcloud and YouTube have a two-hour tablets-and-mixer session that serves as an especially encouraging primer — a catchy blend of funk, psychedelic, uplifting vocal house, and brooding techno. The Collective members stitched together their tasteful selections through different techniques, alternating between tried-and-true beat-matching and masterfully weaving melodies. Much of the two-hour mix came off as both carefully curated and effortlessly engaging; hopefully there is more to come. (Lee)

With Slow Magic, Sophie

10 pm, $25

1015 Folsom, SF

(415) 431-1200



Risa Jaroslow’s What’s the Upshot?

Having moved here barely a year ago, Risa Jaroslow is not yet a household name even within the local dance community. Yet she has brought with her a long, well-respected career of creating choreography in which movement — whether from highly trained dancers or common folks — has stories to tell about what it means to be alive today. “I always start with a question that has resonance for me,” she recently explained. The new What’s the Upshot? may well have been provoked by her move across the country. Here she is working with Sophie Stanley, about to join AXIS; Jordan Stout, who comes from contact improv; and Patrick Barnes, who brings a strong athletic background to dance. On Friday and Sunday, Peiling Kao’s Ludic Numerologies will join Jaroslow’s premiere. (Rita Felciano)

May 30 and 31, 8pm, June 1, 4pm, $15-$18

Shawl Anderson Dance Center

2704 Alcatraz, Berk.

(510) 654-5921





SPIRIT: Queer Asian, Arab, and Pacific Islander Artivism

The National Queer Arts Festival and San Francisco’s own community leaders Queer Rebels present the untold stories of queers, from Angel Island to the Arab Spring, in a two-day celebration of performance art and film. Saturday’s performances include drag performance duo BELLOWS, who opened Queer Rebels’ Liberating Legacies show earlier this month; Elena Rose, co-curator of Girl Talk: A Cis and Trans Woman Dialogue, which has run at the National Queer Arts Festival for five years; Modern Arabic Stage Style dancer Heaven Mousalem, and many more. Come back Sunday for an afternoon of films by a variety of artivists, including Queer Rebels co-founder and host Celeste Chan herself. SPIRIT is an opportunity to honor histories, talents, and intersections of identity that don’t make it to our televisions sets. Tickets for Saturday’s performances are available on Brown Paper Tickets, and tickets for Sunday’s films can be purchased at the door. (Kirstie Haruta)

Sat., 8pm, $12-20

African American Art & Culture Complex

762 Fulton, SF

(415) 922-2049


Sun., 3pm, $7-10

Artists’ Television Access

992 Valencia, SF

(415) 824-3890



SF Silent Film Festival

Fans of classic cinema are in for a treat this week with the return of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the annual celebration of the early years of film. Opening up the fete this year is a screening of 1921’s The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse — the film that propelled Rudolph Valentino to Hollywood stardom — which will be presented with live musical accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Other highlights include Douglas Fairbanks’ The Good Bad Man and comedy legend Buster Keaton’s The Navigator. Don’t miss your chance to see these films in one of the last surviving movie palaces from that time period. (Sean McCourt)

May 29 – June 1, times and prices vary

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

(415) 621-6120






Growing out of what was originally just going to be a “Silly Symphonies” short in the late ’30s, Walt Disney’s 1940 masterpiece Fantasia broke new ground in animation on a variety of levels, employing some of the finest artists and musicians of the day to bring his vision to life. Combining the magic of cartoons and classical music, the film featured famous conductor Leopold Stokowsi leading the Philadelphia Orchestra. This weekend the San Francisco Symphony will be performing live to screenings of selections from both the original classic and Fantasia 2000, including the beloved and iconic piece “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” (Sean McCourt)

8pm Sat.; 4pm Sun., $41-$156

Davies Symphony Hall

201 Van Ness, SF

(415) 864-6000






Perhaps today’s young’uns will come to know her for her relatively tame show on the Cooking Channel (Saucy & Sweet), but for the rest of us, Kelis will always be one of the bossiest, baddest ladies in radio R&B — not to mention that whole milkshake thing. The un-self-consciously sexy singer/rapper/larger-than-life-persona kicks off her first national tour in four years with this show in San Francisco, performing songs off her April release and sixth studio album, the straightforwardly-titled Food, which features rootsy, funky, electro-tinged tracks like “Breakfast,” “Cobbler,” “Jerk Ribs,” and “Friday Fish Fry.” Maybe eat before you go. (Emma Silvers)

With Son Little

8pm, $22.50

The Fillmore

1805 Geary, SF




Invisible Hands: Voices from the Global Economy

“Ziola said that the students would leave for the fields after breakfast, around 7 a.m., and would come back around 5:30 p.m. There were no days off. They were working on Sundays and holidays as well.” This is how a seamstress from Uzbekistan describes her daughter being forced by school officials to pick cotton for meager wages in a new book from McSweeney’s, Invisible Hands: Voices from the Global Economy. Her account is among 16 first-hand oral histories documenting the poor working conditions and hidden human rights abuses that laborers encounter in the U.S. and abroad. Invisible Hands‘ editor and San Diego-based immigration lawyer Corinne Goria will talk with Mother Jones editor Maddie Oatman about how the collection of stories came together. (Lee)

7pm, free

826 Valencia

826 Valencia, SF

(415) 642-5905


The Guardian listings deadline is two weeks prior to our Wednesday publication date. To submit an item for consideration, please include the title of the event, a brief description of the event, date and time, venue name, street address (listing cross streets only isn’t sufficient), city, telephone number readers can call for more information, telephone number for media, and admission costs. Send information to Listings, the Guardian, 225 Bush, 17th Flr., SF, CA 94105; or e-mail (paste press release into e-mail body — no attachments, please) to Digital photos may be submitted in jpeg format; the image must be at least 240 dpi and four inches by six inches in size. We regret we cannot accept listings over the phone.

Rep Clock: May 21 – 27, 2014


Schedules are for Wed/21-Tue/27 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double and triple features marked with a •. All times pm unless otherwise specified.

ANSWER COALITION 2969 Mission, SF; $5-10. The Trials of Muhammad Ali (Siegel, 2013), Wed, 7.

ARTISTS’ TELEVISION ACCESS 992 Valencia, SF; $4-7. “Periwinkle Cinema:” Fixed: The Science/Fiction of Human Enhancement (Brashear, 2013) with “Prefixed: Cold Hard Facts” (Lamm, 2014), Wed, 8. “CCSF’s Directing Student Showcase,” Thu, 7. “Other Cinema:” “Live A/V Action” with Michael Gendreau, Sat, 8:30.

BALBOA THEATRE 3630 Balboa, SF; $7.50-10. “Popcorn Palace:” Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Columbus, 2001), Sat, 10am. Matinee for kids.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, $8.50-11. Milk (Van Sant, 2008), Wed, 5:30, 8. Grease (Kleiser, 1978), presented sing-along style, Fri-Mon, 7 (also Sat-Mon, 2:30). This event, $10-16; advance tickets at

CHRISTOPHER B. SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, $6.50-$10.75. Palo Alto (Coppola, 2013), Wed-Thu, call for times. Ida (Pawlikowski, 2013), May 23-29, call for times.

CLAY 2261 Fillmore, SF; $10. “Midnight Movies:” Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Spielberg, 1984), Fri-Sun, midnight.

ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, $6.50-11. Documented: A Film By An Undocumented American (Vargas, 2013), Wed-Thu, 7, 9. “I Wake Up Dreaming 2014: Dark Treasures from the Warner Archive:” •Experiment Alcatraz (Powell, 1953), Wed, 6:40, 9:45, and Split Second (Cahn, 1950), Wed, 8; •Death in Small Doses (Newman, 1957), Thu, 6:15, 9:45, and Highway 301 (Stone, 1950), Thu, 8; •Al Capone (Wilson, 1959), Fri, 6, 10:15, and The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (Boetticher, 1960), Fri, 8:15; •Miracles for Sale (Browning, 1939), Sat, 1:30; Grand Central Murder (Simon, 1942), Sat, 2:50; Bunco Squad (Leeds, 1950), Sat, 4:20; •Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (Lang, 1956), Sat, 6, 9:50, and While the City Sleeps (Lang, 1956), Sat, 7:45; •The Hypnotic Eye (Blair, 1960), Sun, 1:30, and Two on a Guillotine (Conrad, 1965), Sun, 3; •The Couch (Crump, 1962), Sun, 5:30, 10, and Brainstorm (Conrad, 1965), Sun, 7:45. Breastmilk (Ben-Ari, 2014), May 23-29, call for times. Frequencies (Fischer, 2013), Mon, 7, 9. Looking for Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders (Garcia, 2014), Tue, 7:15, 9:30.

YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS 701 Mission, SF; $8-10. “Astonishing Animation: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli:” Grave of the Fireflies (Takahata, 1988), Thu, 7:30 and Sat, 5:30; Only Yesterday (Takahata, 1991), Sat, 7:30 and Sun, 3:30; Howl’s Moving Castle (Miyazaki, 2005), Sun, 1. *


Rep Clock: May 14 – 20, 2014


Schedules are for Wed/14-Tue/20 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double and triple features marked with a •. All times pm unless otherwise specified.

ARTISTS’ TELEVISION ACCESS 992 Valencia, SF; $6-10. Films by SF State University’s experimental documentary class, Thu, 7:30. “Other Cinema,” contemporary sound and video art works by Derek G, Tommy Becker, and others, Sat, 8:30.

BALBOA THEATRE 3630 Balboa, SF; $7.50-10. “Popcorn Palace:” Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Box and Park, 2005), Sat, 10am. Matinee for kids.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, $8.50-11. “KQED presents: An Evening with Ken Burns:” The Roosevelts: An Intimate History (Burns, 2014), Wed, 7:30. Sneak preview of new miniseries to air in September on PBS; this event, $20-25 at •Drugstore Cowboy (Van Sant, 1989), Thu, 7, and Trainspotting (Boyle, 1996), Thu, 8:55. “Epidemic Film Festival,” works by Academy of Art University students, with a speech by cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto, Fri, 4-8. •Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg, 1981), Sat, 2:30, 7, and Romancing the Stone (Zemeckis, 1984), Sat, 4:45, 9:15. •A Streetcar Named Desire (Kazan, 1951), Sun, 2:15, 7, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Nichols, 1966), Sun, 4:35, 9:15.

CHRISTOPHER B. SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, $6.50-$10.75. Palo Alto (Coppola, 2013), May 16-22, call for times. “Mark Cantor Presents Jazz at the Movies,” Sun, 6. This event, $15-25.

CITY COLLEGE OF SAN FRANCISCO Diego Rivera Theatre, 50 Phelan, SF; Free. “CCSF City Shorts Student Film Festival,” Thu, 7.

CLAY 2261 Fillmore, SF; $10. “Midnight Movies:” Dirty Harry (Siegel, 1971), Sat, midnight.

“HIMALAYAN FILM FESTIVAL” Ninth Street Independent Film Center, 145 Ninth St, Suite 250, SF; and Himalayan Fair Grounds, Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck, Berk; $10-20 (festival pass, $40). Documentary and narrative films from Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. Fri-Sat.

MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE 57 Post, SF; $10. “CinemaLit Film Series: Comedy Tonight:” Stir Crazy (Poitier, 1980), Fri, 6.

ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, $6.50-11. Documented: A Film By An Undocumented American (Vargas, 2013), May 15-21, 7, 9. Director Jose Vargas in person at Thu-Fri shows. NOW: In the Wings on the World Stage (Whelehan, 2014), Wed-Thu, 7, 9. “I Wake Up Dreaming 2014: Dark Treasures from the Warner Archive:” •Stranger on the Third Floor (Ingster, 1940), Fri, 6:30, 9:30, and The Unsuspected (Curtiz, 1947), Fri, 8; •Love is a Racket (Wellman, 1932), Sat, 2, and Ladies They Talk About (Bretherton and Keighley, 1933), Sat, 3:30; •Nora Prentiss (Sherman, 1947), Sat, 7:30, and The Unfaithful (Sherman, 1947), Sat, 5:15, 9:45; •Angels in Disguise (Yarbrough, 1948), Sun, 2, and Fall Guy (Le Borg, 1947), Sun, 3:15, and When Strangers Marry (Castle, 1944), Sun, 4:30; •The Window (Tetzlaff, 1949), Sun, 6:30, 9:45, and The Locket (Brahm, 1946), Sun, 8; •Two Seconds (Le Roy, 1932), Mon, 6:30, 9:40, and 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (Curtiz, 1932), Mon, 8; •A Woman’s Secret (Ray, 1949), Tue, 6:15, 9:45, and Tomorrow is Another Day (Feist, 1951), Tue, 8.

YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS 701 Mission, SF; $8-10. “Astonishing Animation: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli:” Pom Poko (Takahata, 1994), Thu, 7:30 and Sat, 5; Castle in the Sky (Miyazaki, 1986), Sat, 7:30 and Sun, 3; My Neighbor Totoro (Miyazaki, 1988), Sun, 1. *


Rep Clock: May 7 – 13, 2014


Schedules are for Wed/7-Tue/13 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double and triple features marked with a •. All times pm unless otherwise specified.

ARTISTS’ TELEVISION ACCESS 992 Valencia, SF; $6-10. “Other Cinema:” The Uprising (Snowdon, 2013), Sat, 8:30.

BALBOA THEATRE 3630 Balboa, SF; $7.50-10. “Popcorn Palace:” Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (Burton, 1985), Sat, 10am. Matinee for kids.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, $8.50-11. Frozen (Buck and Lee, 2013), Sun, 1. Presented sing-along style; advance tickets ($10-16) at

CENTER SF 548 Fillmore, SF; $10-15. Radical Faerie Film Festival, short films “that embody radical queer sensibilities,” Sat, 7:30.

CHRISTOPHER B. SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, $6.50-$10.75. times. Super Duper Alice Cooper (Dunn, Harkema, and McFadyen, 2014), Thu, 7. For No Good Reason (Paul, 2013), call for dates and times. Locke (Knight, 2014), call for dates and times. Private Lives (Kent), Sun, 1 and May 15, 7. Theatrical performance filmed live in London’s West End. Love and Demons (Allen, 2014), Sun, 7. With director JP Allen and cast members in person.

CLAY 2261 Fillmore, SF; $10. “Midnight Movies:” The Room (Wiseau, 2003), Sat, midnight.

GREAT WALL OF OAKLAND West Grand between Telegraph and Broadway, Oakl; $5-10. “OakCatVidFest,” cat-themed performances, bands, and more, plus kitty adoption opportunities and a film festival, Sat, 3-10.

MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE 57 Post, SF; $10. “CinemaLit Film Series: Comedy Tonight:” Road to Morocco (Butler, 1942), Fri, 6.

PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE 2575 Bancroft, Berk; (510) 642-5249, $5.50-9.50. “Film 50: History of Cinema:” The Five Obstructions (Von Trier and Leth, 2003), Wed, 3:10. San Francisco International Film Festival, Wed-Thu. See complete schedule and ticket info at “Film and Video Makers at Cal: Works from the Eisner Prize Competition,” Fri, 7.

PARAMOUNT THEATRE 2025 Broadway, Oakl; $5. Saturday Night Fever (Badham, 1977), Fri, 8.

ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, $6.50-11. Quake (Malley, 2014), plus other dance films, Wed, 7, 9. The M Word (Jaglom, 2013), Wed-Thu, 6:45, 9:15. Under the Skin (Glazer, 2014), Thu, 9:15. “Bay Area Docs:” Impossible Light (Ambers, 2014), Thu, 7. With director Jeremy Ambers in person. NOW: In the Wings on the World Stage (Whelehan, 2014), May 9-16, check website for times. First Annual San Francisco Intergalactic Feline Film and Video Festival for Humans, celebrating “the cinematic feline in all forms,” Sat, noon, 4, 8. Beyond Right and Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness (Singh, 2012), Mon, 7. Breeders: A Subclass of Women? (Lahl and Eppinette, 2014), Tue, 7.

SUNDANCE KABUKI 1881 Post, SF; $8.75-14. Godzilla (Honda, 1954), May 9-15. New restoration of Japanese original.

UNITY IN MARIN 600 Palm, Novato; $10. Waste Land (Walker, Harley, and Jardim, 2010), Fri, 7.

YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS 701 Mission, SF; $8-10. “Astonishing Animation: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli:” Princess Mononoke (Miyazaki, 1997), Thu, 7:30 and Sat, 4:30; The Cat Returns (Morita, 2002), Sat, 7:30 and Sun, 3:30; Ponyo (Miyazaki, 2008), Sun, 1. *


SFIFF 57: Strange love, Varda, Swedish grrrls, and more!


The 57th San Francisco International Film Festival runs through May 8; all the details are here. Guardian correspondent and confirmed film fest addict Jesse Hawthorne Ficks checks in with his mid-SFIFF picks and reactions.

Charlie McDowell’s The One I Love (screens tomorrow; ticket info here) showcases exceptional performances by Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss and should be a multiple Independent Spirit Award nominee come next statuette season. This unique genre fluster-cluck digs much deeper into marital problems than you would ever expect (audiences seemed quite flipped upside down after the film’s world premiere at Sundance). Similar to films like Darren Araonfsky’s Pi (1998), Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000), and Shane Caruth’s Primer (2004), this will be a film that’ll spark conversations and inspire repeat viewings.

Mexican auteur Fernando Eimbcke, who directed Duck Season (2004) and Lake Tahoe (2008) is back with another coming-of-age stunner: Club Sandwich. The director’s slow-burning method of sticking two people in a room and allowing life’s natural moments to unfold is as precise as the tiny moustache on the protagonist’s upper lip. Rewarding to those who are patient, Club Sandwich is the perfect reminder of that pre-adolescent summer that changed just about everything.  

Agnes Varda’s latest opus, From Here to There, is a 225 minute, five-part miniseries originally made for French television. It casually chronicles her guest appearances at film festivals and cinematheques around the world with numerous asides and melancholic moments that have made Varda one of the most likable icons of cinema. In fact, the episodes work similarly to her earliest films Cleo From 5-7 (1962) and La Pointe Courte (1955), gracefully moving the viewer through moments that seem minor at first, but are in fact profound. (Listening to an 85-year-old Varda get distracted and start talking about the history of chairs brought me to tears.) Like her 2008 film The Beaches of Agnes (2008), this is a must see.

Swedish auteur Lukas Moodysson is back and he may have just created one of the most riotous punk rock extravaganzas ever. We Are the Best! (Sweden/Denmark), which takes place in the early 1980s and is based on wife Coco Moodysson’s graphic novel, allows the all-grrrl band to blossom into real-life punk rockers. Evoking passionate punk portrayals like 1980’s Times Square and 1981’s Ladies & Gentleman, The Fabulous Stains (fun fact: Moodysson was unaware of the latter film until I interviewed him!), this drama seems to capture Stockholm circa 1982 in perfect detail. The soundtrack was a major part of discussion during the Q&A, becoming the perfect entry point for those of us desiring an history lesson on the Swedish punk scene. But what I found most exciting about We Are the Best! is its approach to gender roles, as its young female characters attempt to cast aside pressures to look pretty. Either way, Moodysson has created a film just as enjoyable as his debut feature, 1998’s Show Me Love. It has the potential to become a worldwide hit in the same vein as Trainspotting (1996) and Run Lola Run (1999). (Info on screenings today and May 7 here!)

In the 1990s, Tsai Ming-liang’s films were often mentioned alongside works by Hirokazu Kore-eda and Hou Hsiao-hsien. But two decades later, only Tsai has stayed the determined course of creating endurance-driven, contemplative cinema. Presenting his tenth feature (and showcasing yet again his alter ego, actor Lee Kang-sheng), Stray Dogs (Taiwan) is a breathtaking meditation on a homeless Taiwanese family, who are quietly doing what they can to get by. With this film, Tsai has almost abandoned story completely, instead favoring long, drawn-out, surreal, one-shot sequences — next-level abstractness that will either send you running for the hills or leave you unblinkingly glued to the screen.

The film is made to be watched more than once and upon multiple viewings you gain not only patience for Tsai’s masterful aesthetic but an appreciation for how futuristically meditative it is. Someone should program Stray Dogs with his 2012 short Sleepwalk, which follows a monk as he walks, and his follow-up film Journey to the West (2014) which stars Lee and Denis Lavant(!) Whether that would equal absolute transcendence or absolute boredom depends on the viewer, of course. I can’t think of a more emotionally implosive filmmaker working today.

Rewatching Hong Sang-soo’s Our Sunhi (South Korea) is in fact as monumentally enjoyable as viewing his previous film, In Another Country (2012). This new film represents another solid entry for the director. The succinct ways in which his male characters are emotionally self-destructive with one another can and should be compared to best of Eric Rohmer and Woody Allen’s films. And this time out, he has created a female protagonist (played by hilariously by Jung Yoo-mi) that adds a complexity to his alcoholic-ridden world. If you were a fan of Hong’s films and stopped watching them, it’s time to come back and enjoy one of the funniest films of the festival circuit.

The surprise documentary hit at this year’s SFIFF most definitely has to be Julie Bertuccelli’s School of Babel (France). Simple catalogue description: “The film details a year in the life of a Parisian class of immigrant youth from countries around the globe — boys and girls ages 11 to 15 — who have come to France to seek asylum, escape hardship or simply better their lives.” What is so overwhelming about this personal journey is how the film not only showcases the student-teacher relationships, but the parent-student dynamics. It culminates in a devastating filmmaker-audience relationship.

Exploring pedagogy as a whole caught me off guard so intensely that I, like many in the theater, felt we were back in school trying to figure out all of life’s problems in between breaks for recess. The film ties in perfectly to the San Francisco Film Society’s Education program, which serves more than 11,000 students and teachers every year, from kindergarten through college, to develop media literacy, cultural awareness, global understanding, as well as a lifelong appreciation of cinema. Do whatever it takes to see this film yourself, and if you’re a teacher, share it with your own students.

Rep Clock: April 30 – May 6, 2014


Schedules are for Wed/30-Tue/6 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double and triple features marked with a •. All times pm unless otherwise specified.

ARTISTS’ TELEVISION ACCESS 992 Valencia, SF; $6-10. “Other Cinema:” “In and Out of Afghanistan,” Sat, 8:30.

BALBOA THEATRE 3630 Balboa, SF; $7.50-10. Super Duper Alice Cooper (Dunn, Harkema, and McFadyen, 2014), Thu, 7, 9:30. “Popcorn Palace:” School of Rock (Linklater, 2003), Sat, 10am. Matinee for kids.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, $8.50-11. •The Bride Wore Black (Truffaut, 1968), Wed, 7, and Obsession (De Palma, 1975), Wed, 9. •Daisies (Chytilová, 1966), Thu, 7:30, and Times Square (Moyle, 1980), Thu, 9. San Francisco International Film Festival, Fri. See complete schedule and ticket info at •Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (Burton, 1985), Sat, 3:45, 8:30, and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Kramer, 1963), Sat, 5:30. Frozen (Buck and Lee, 2013), Sun, 1. Presented sing-along style; advance tickets ($10-16) at

CHRISTOPHER B. SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, $6.50-$10.75. times. Super Duper Alice Cooper (Dunn, Harkema, and McFadyen, 2014), Thu and May 8, 7. For No Good Reason (Paul, 2013), May 2-6, call for times. Locke (Knight, 2014), May 2-6, call for times. Decoding Annie Parker (Bernstein, 2013), Sun, 7. This event, $12.

CLAY 2261 Fillmore, SF; $10. “Midnight Movies:” The Neverending Story (Petersen, 1984), Fri-Sat, midnight.

GOETHE INSTITUT SAN FRANCISCO 530 Bush, Second Flr, SF; $5. •Jonas in the Jungle (Sempel, 2013), Wed, 6:30, and Animals of Art (Sempel, 2011), Wed, 8:40. With director Peter Sempel in person.

JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER OF SF 3200 California, SF; $25. “Mark Cantor’s Giants of Jazz on Film: Broadway to Hollywood and All That Jazz,” films featuring jazz performances, Sat, 8.

MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE 57 Post, SF; $10. “CinemaLit Film Series: Comedy Tonight:” Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993), Fri, 6.

MISSION CULTURAL CENTER FOR LATINO ARTS 2868 Mission, SF; $15. Tamale Road: A Memoir from El Salvador (Villatoro, 2012), Fri, 7.

PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE 2575 Bancroft, Berk; (510) 642-5249, $5.50-9.50. “Film 50: History of Cinema:” After Life (Kore-eda, 1999), Wed, 3:10. San Francisco International Film Festival, through May 8. See complete schedule and ticket info at

PARAMOUNT THEATRE 2025 Broadway, Oakl; $18-29.75. “Project YouthView 2014: The Power of Youth in Film,” youth-created short films and more, Fri, 7.

ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, $6.50-11. “Iran Via Documentaries:” Bassidji (Tamadon, 2009), Wed, 7. Next Goal Wins (Jamison and Brett, 2014), Wed, 7, 9; Thu, 9:30. The Unknown Known (Morris, 2013), Wed, 9:30. “PlayGround Film Festival,” short films adapted from plays by Bay Area writers, Thu, 6:45, 8:15. This event, $10-20. “Synesthesia Film Festival: Screening #2,” short films, Thu, 7. The M Word (Jaglom, 2013), May 2-8, 6:45, 9:15.

YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS 701 Mission, SF; $8-10. “Astonishing Animation: The Films of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli:” Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (Miyazaki, 1984), Thu, 7:30; Sun, 5; Whisper of the Heart (Kondo, 1995), Sat, 7:30; Sun, 3:30; Kiki’s Delivery Service (Miyazaki, 1989), Sun, 1. *


The future of Piers 30-32



It was good news for San Francisco when the Golden State Warriors withdrew a proposal to build a new arena on Piers 30-32 and to instead build it on private land in Mission Bay, sparing city residents a costly and divisive fight sullied by millions of dollars in political advocacy and propaganda.

The new location near the intersection of 16th and Third streets is still close enough to the water to provide picturesque images for network television, but without sparking concerns about the city’s stewardship of coastal land held in trust for the people of California. The new site will have better public access once the Central Subway is completed, and it could help encourage the teardown of Interstate 280 and its conversion into a multi-modal boulevard like Octavia, a good idea the city is now studying.

Best of all, this provides a golden opportunity for the city and the Port of San Francisco to launch a truly public process for how to use Pier 30-32, the largest remaining open stretch of the central waterfront, as well as the adjacent Seawall Lot 330. Rather than simply reacting to big ideas hatched behind closed doors, the public could take part in a truly democratic process to proactively shape this high-profile public property.

Admittedly, there are challenges to overcome, starting with the high cost of demolishing these aging piers, so it’s likely that the valuable Seawall Lot 330 will be part of the equation, with its pure profit potential used to help pay for whatever happens to the piers. But how that balancing act is done would be for the public to decide.

Should we open up that stretch of waterfront by not replacing the piers, or replacing it with a much smaller pier? Could it become an artificial wetland that is both pretty and ecologically beneficial in an era of rising seas? Would we accept a luxury condo tower on the seawall lot to help pay for this new open space? Or maybe the city would want to float a bond and seek grants to help remove this bay fill and keep the seawall lot to a more limited and public-interest use?

These are the kinds of honest and direct questions San Francisco should be asking its citizens. The waterfront is an invaluable resource, and it shouldn’t be treated as merely a liability because the Port needs money. The same goes for Seawall Lot 351 that was part of the 8 Washington project that voters rejected, as well as Seawall Lot 337 that is part of the Giants proposal at Pier 48.

The views of the people of San Francisco shouldn’t be afterthought to be avoided, as opponents of Proposition B seem to believe, but a creative resource that could help shape the San Francisco of tomorrow.




SFIFF “I’m the wrong kind of person to be really big and famous,” Elliott Smith admits in Heaven Adores You, Nickolas Rossi’s moving portrait of the late indie musician, who went from regional star to superstar after his Oscar nomination for 1997’s Good Will Hunting. “It was fun … for a day,” Smith reflects — and anyone who saw Smith’s hushed Academy Awards performance, on a night that also included Celine Dion’s chest-thumping rendition of “My Heart Will Go On,” has likely never forgotten it.

But Heaven isn’t overly concerned with Smith’s sudden celebrity and mysterious end (in 2003, he was found with two apparently self-inflicted stab wounds to the chest, but his death was ruled “undetermined,” rather than a suicide). Instead, it’s an artfully crafted study of a unique talent, avoiding music doc clichés in favor of more creative choices, like illustrating college-radio interviews — far more revealing than anything Smith would share with journos seeking Oscar sound bites — with gorgeously composed shots of Smith’s beloved Portland, Ore. Heaven widens to contextualize Smith’s importance within the 1990s Portland scene, with former members of his pre-solo band, Heatmiser, and fellow musician and longtime girlfriend Joanna Bolme among the interviewees. (Unfortunately absent: Hunting director Gus Van Sant.) But Smith’s soulful, eerily timeless songs (described here as “little pictures made of words”) remain Heaven‘s focus — appropriate, since they were always Smith’s focus, too.

A less-tragic tale of reluctant fame unfolds in Jody Shapiro’s Burt’s Buzz, which opens as its subject, Burt’s Bees co-founder Burt Shavitz, arrives in Taiwan to what can only be described as a hero’s welcome. Given the fact that Burt’s Bees products crowd drugstore shelves as ubiquitously as Neutrogena and Cover Girl, you’d be forgiven for assuming THE Burt lives the lavish life of a lip-balm magnate. Which is not the case, since the aging Shavitz prefers an exceedingly spartan life in rural Maine, with a woodstove providing heat and a begrudging acceptance of running water. “A good day is when no one shows up, and you don’t have to go anywhere,” Shavitz opines.

Not that he has any choice. When Burt’s Bees went from homespun to corporate, all the dough went to Shavitz’s former business (and romantic) partner Roxanne Quimby, who’d bought him out when their relationship went sour; most of Shavitz’s income seems to stem from making personal appearances for a company he no longer has much else to do with. (Quimby’s upbeat son is interviewed in her stead, though we do glimpse her in excerpts from a TV program entitled How I Made My Millions.) Still, Shavitz — knowing that Burt’s Bees is stuck with him forever, since his name and bearded visage decorate the brand’s folksy packaging — remains remarkably blasé about his financial situation. He’s not into material possessions, though he’s comfortable enough to have a “majordomo” help him with his affairs, and is enough of a diva to demand rice milk rather than the soy milk proffered by his eager-to-please Taiwanese hosts.

Shapiro’s documentary is a bit overlong (do we really need to see ol’ Burt Skyping with his dog?), but it wisely highlights the most interesting element of Shavitz’s story, which is not “Did he get ripped off?” or “Look at this crazy hippie!” but “Is this guy more self-aware than he’s letting on?” Though his assistant insists “He’s like Colonel Sanders, and he simply does not understand that,” it’s never entirely clear — though Shavitz’s own assertion that “No one has ever accused me of being ambitious” certainly has the ring of truth, rather than bitterness, to it.

Elsewhere in SFIFF’s documentary programming, two films take contrasting approaches to the artistic process. Of local interest, Jeremy Ambers’ Impossible Light, a close-up look at the Bay Lights — the high-tech art installation that illuminates the western span of the Bay Bridge — smartly runs a lean 71 minutes. First, we meet project founder Ben Davis, who had a brain wave one sunny day while idly staring at the bridge, which he’d always appreciated despite its ugly-stepsister status next to the glamorous Golden Gate. After artist and LED wizard Leo Villareal joins up, the ball really gets rolling, and Light tags along as a dedicated group of big thinkers form alliances with Caltrans engineers and other hands-on types who believe in Davis’ “impossible idea.” Nobody who sees this film about what became a truly collaborative process — Bridge workers scale the towers, tinkering with laptops! Creative types scramble to raise eight million bucks from private donors! — will ever take the intricately twinkling end result for granted.

The opposite of straightforward: The Seventh Walk, inspired by the nature-themed art of Indian painter Paramjit Singh. Director Amit Dutta brings Singh’s work to life with his questing camera, floating through the Kangra Valley’s leafy forests and across streams as water rushes, birds squawk, and insects hiss on the soundtrack. We also see Singh himself, dabbing his textured, abstract work onto canvases as the movie around him becomes more surreal. Occasional poetry fragments appear on screen to make the waking-dream vibe even more immersive: “Deep in the forest, the musk deer frantically pursues its own fragrance: laughter!”

Despite its title, it takes awhile for laughter to enter Happiness, Thomas Balmès’ tale of Peyangki, a restless nine-year-old monk living in remote Bhutan — the last pocket of the country, which prizes its “gross national happiness,” to get electricity. Stunningly composed shots (those mountains!) showcase a simple, deeply traditional lifestyle that’s about to completely change, for better and probably worse — ominously, everyone’s conversations already revolve around television. When Peyangki gets the chance to travel to the capital city, he’s fascinated by everything: mannequins, crutches, packaged snacks, aquarium fish, and, at last, TV, where the first thing he glimpses is Wrestlemania (and he’s on to it immediately: “Is it real?”), and you can practically see the innocence melting away.

A more conventionally-structured doc comes from Stanley Nelson, no stranger to powerful material with previous films like 2011’s Freedom Riders, 2006’s Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple, and 2003’s The Murder of Emmett Till. Nelson returns to the civil rights movement for Freedom Summer, which mixes archival material and contemporary interviews to detail the youth-propelled African American voter drive amid menacing intolerance in 1964 Mississippi.

News reports about the disappearances of workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner — “Mickey” to wife Rita, as eloquent and composed today as she is in 1964 footage — weave throughout the film, with the discovery of their bodies recalled by folk legend Pete Seeger, who learned about it while performing on a Mississippi stage. While the events detailed in Freedom Summer have been covered by numerous other documentaries, Nelson’s impressive array of talking heads (not identified by name, though many are recognizable) brings a personal, eyewitness touch to this history lesson. *


The 57th San Francisco International Film Festival runs April 24-May 8. Screening venues include the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF; New People Cinema, 1746 Post, SF; Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft, Berk; and Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post, SF. For tickets (most shows $15) and complete schedule, visit

Lucifer is such a drag


LIT In this workaday world we live in, it’s good to inject a little weirdness. Mix in moments of the metaphysical and dabs of the divine into our banal, everyday existence. And you can start by grabbing a copy of The Weirdness (Melville House, 288 pp., $16.95) and letting novelist Jeremy P. Bushnell do it for you.

The Faustian premise is a familiar one, with Lucifer showing up in hapless aspiring writer Billy Ridgeway’s living room with that timeless offer of earthly greatness in exchange eternal servitude. Or something like that, because Billy is skeptical and won’t sit through the Devil’s PowerPoint presentation (yes, this is Faust in the Information Age) even though it comes with really great coffee.

From there, the journey begins, a slow buildup of character development to what becomes a wild ride navigating the battlefield between the Adversarial Manifestation and the human forces secretly arrayed against him, à la Harry Potter. But the real appeal of The Weirdness isn’t the plot, as fun and fantastical as it may be.

No, the moments when I found myself enjoying this novel the most, the times when I laughed or smiled to myself with appreciation at the strength of the writing by this debut novelist, was when we peeked inside Billy’s mind as the weirdness was unfolding around him.

Self-absorbed and filled with doubt, preoccupied with petty gripes and grievances, obsessing about that last tiff with his girlfriend, and wondering whether he’s doing it right, the world inside Billy’s mind is a comically hilarious counterpoint to the epic clash of good and evil that is unfolding around him. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to slap the kid and give him a big hug, but either way it was the stuff that really elevated this novel.

In many ways, this is an illuminating parable for these times, particularly among the young technology and finance workers here in San Francisco, who obsess about the latest deal or app or foodie delight, oblivious to the epic struggles around them except for when those strange societies of passionate warriors confront them, when Billy and those who want nothing more than their own personal success and happiness are made aware that there are larger struggles going on in the world.

And then, Billy is mostly just irritated by the inconvenience of it all. When members of the Right-Hand Path try to help Billy break free from the clutches of the devil, he just won’t be told what to do or trouble himself with taking a stand, even though the secret cabal is based on the set of his favorite sci-fi television show, Argentium Astrum.

After all, these nerdy do-gooders took his cell phone and won’t give it back, so Billy thinks that maybe he’s better off working with Lucifer, who is at least offering to get his novel published, even though his own father turns out to be a top tier warrior against Satan, which causes poor Billy to feel more betrayed than loved or saved.

Don’t worry, Billy is a piece of work, but he grows on you, even if you want to smack his whiny ass at times and maybe find yourself hoping the ever-charming Lucifer wins and subjects this kid to eternal hellfire. But by time Krishna shows up to save the day, you’ll just wish you had more of this delightful novel still left to read. *


From brushes to bytes


CAREERS AND ED Matt Burdette is a video game environment artist, crafting expansive alien vistas by tapping out ones and zeroes the way a painter flourishes a brush. But unlike paint on canvas, Burdette’s vistas are meant to be explored by video game avatars hunting computerized enemies.

He’s crafted trees and bushes, and paid loving attention to every stem and every leaf, but his proudest project was not nearly so serene. While employed at LucasArts he worked on a later-cancelled project: Star Wars 1313.

Burdette was tasked with blowing up a spaceship.

“They said to me, ‘This needs to look photoreal,'” he told me. “I was all, ‘Hell yeah, let’s do that.'” The video game trailer that played at the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo featured a laser toting hero jumping through a burning spaceship. It was hailed by the national press as the most impressive looking new video games on the horizon.

But Burdette was not always a digital craftsman. At one point, he was a pencil and paper artist.

For artists facing hard times in a dwindling San Francisco art scene, the Bay Area’s burgeoning video game industry is rife with possibility. About 100 video game studios call the Bay Area home, according to Game Job Hunter, from Electronic Arts to Zynga. And many of these studios need artists and composers. Burdette made the digital leap from traditional art by studying film visual effects at Savannah College, in Georgia.

Above is the E3 trailer for Star Wars: 1313. 


“To bring a more artistic sensibility to what is maybe a technical, rigid kind of space is valuable and a lot of fun,” Burdette, 28, said.

Disney later bought LucasArts and laid off many of its staff, and Burdette found a new job at Visceral games crafting environments for Battlefield 4. But despite the video game industry reputation for grueling work hours, he still manages to find time for personal art.

Lately he’s slowly built a virtual island, like a hobbyist building a model ship during off hours.

“It was nice to come home and think, ‘I’ll make a tuft of grass today,'” he said. He then plugged his island into a new virtual reality device known as Oculus Rift, VR goggles that show the player a 3D world that looks eerily real, sensing the player’s head movements and portraying a sense of depth.

“I put on the Oculus and thought I was going to cry. You are there,” he said. “I walked up to a bush and felt physically uncomfortable, like this is impugning on my personal space.”

Burdette may get to play inside virtual worlds some artists haven’t dreamed of, but his reality is the same: Business can be tough.

He noted that many video game designers and artists are laid off after projects are complete, a standard industry practice. Most industry workers, he said, “are very much more mercenaries now.”

Some opt out of the boom and bust system altogether. Liz Ryerson, 26, is an independent game designer, visual artist, and music composer. She’s had hard times, crashing on couches and bordering on homelessness, but found a new way to raise money for her work. She now solicits support on Patreon, a Kickstarter for artists.

Thanks to contributions from fans, she has a spiffy new place by downtown Berkeley where she crafts her indie games.

“Indie game” is a nebulous phrase, of course. But if the multi-million-dollar video game Halo is comparable to the blockbuster film Avatar, Ryerson’s version of indie is closer to the DIY digital videographers of the local Artists’ Television Access. She makes video games for expression’s sake, not necessarily for profit.

Not to say Ryerson isn’t successful. She composed music for the immensely popular Dys4ia, a flash game detailing the lead designer’s gender transition. Ryerson’s own game, Problem Attic, tackles her own personal demons.

Floating crosses pursue the avatar, a stick figure, across a 2D plane. The game world resembles an 8-bit rendering of a brain merged with a nightmare, and the player must traverse frightening but intentional digital glitches. In an industry filled with shoot-’em-up games, it’s esoteric and strange, and that’s how Ryerson likes it.

“The game is definitely David Lynch-inspired, without a doubt,” she said. “Things that are more indefinable, with more of a sensibility to them. That’s what I respond to.”

A trailer for Liz Ryerson’s game, Problem Attic.


She’s mostly self-taught, sometimes building games in flash, and scoring the games using computer software like Reason. Though her design ethos couldn’t be further from Burdette’s blockbuster Star Wars games, they share a common bond: They were artists before they were game makers.

“I used to record songs and play guitar,” Ryerson said. “That was one of the biggest things I wanted to do, was be a pop musician.”

Eventually she started remixing video game compositions and posting them to the web via video game music website OCRemix. She studied film in school and made a documentary. The music from a Gus Van Sant film, the visual presentation of comic books, and the movement inherent in a game controller — all of these concepts inspire her work.

“That’s what you can do with video games, you can create these abstract, very different worlds,” she said. “You can do this more easily with video games than you can represent reality.”

Consumers spent over $20 billion on video games in 2012, according to the Entertainment Software Association. But for artists looking for an easy transition to an industry flush with cash, Ryerson and Burdette made one thing abundantly clear: The video game industry is extremely competitive.

“It’s hard to make games,” Burdette said. “You’ve got to want it real bad.”


Get action


CAREERS AND ED Ah, the bright lights of Hollywood — so close, and yet thankfully far enough away to allow Bay Area filmmakers to develop their own identities. The SF scene thrives thanks to an abundance of prolific talent (exhibit A: have you noticed how many film festivals we have?), and continues to grow, with a raft of local programs dedicated to teaching aspiring Spielbergs — or better yet, aspiring Kuchars — the ins and outs of the biz.

San Francisco’s big art schools all have film programs. California College of the Arts offers both a BFA and an MFA in film, with an eye toward keeping students trained not just in cinema’s latest technological advancements, but its ever-changing approaches to distribution and exhibition. One look at the staff roster and it’s not hard to see why CCA’s program is so highly-acclaimed, with two-time Oscar winner Rob Epstein (1985’s The Times of Harvey Milk; 1995’s The Celluloid Closet; 2013’s Lovelace); indie-film pioneer Cheryl Dunye (1996’s The Watermelon Woman; 2001’s The Stranger Inside); and noted experimental artist Jeanne C. Finley, among others.

The Art Institute of California has a Media Arts department that offers a whole slew of programs, including BS degrees in digital filmmaking and video production, digital photography, and media arts and animation, as well as an MFA in Computer Animation. The school, which offers a number of online courses, is affiliated with the for-profit Argosy University system and aims for “career-focused education.”

The San Francisco Art Institute has this to say about its programs: “The distinguished filmmaker Sidney Peterson initiated filmmaking courses at SFAI in 1947, and the work made during that period helped develop “underground” film. From the 1950s to the early 1970s, filmmakers at the school such as Bruce Conner, Robert Nelson, Stan Brakhage, and Gunvor Nelson brought forth the American avant-garde movement. Our current faculty is internationally renowned in genres including experimental film, documentary, and narrative forms.” The school has embraced new technology and offers extensive digital resources, but it also supports artists who prefer working with celluloid. 16mm and Super 8 filmmaking lives!

The Academy of Art University may be largely known around SF for the number of buildings it owns downtown, but it does have a School of Motion Pictures and Television that offers AA, BFA, and MFA diplomas, augmented by an extensive online program. Its executive director is Diane Baker, eternal pop-culture icon for her role in 1991’s Silence of the Lambs (“Take this thing back to Baltimore!”) Other faculty members include acclaimed choreographer Anne Bluethenthal. Students can also take classes from Guardian contributor Jesse Hawthorne Ficks, who programs the popular “Midnites for Maniacs” series at the Castro Theatre and is the school’s film history coordinator.

“I teach 11 different theory classes, including the evolution of horror, Westerns, melodramas, musicals, and ‘otherly’ world cinema, as well as a close-up on Alfred Hitchcock,” Ficks says. “But bar none, the History of Female Filmmakers class seems to create the biggest debates. Some find it sexist to emphasize gender — as artists, why can’t we transcend that concept? Except why have the majority of textbooks forgotten, ignored, or even re-written these women out of history? If the argument is that female filmmakers just aren’t good enough to be ranked alongside their male counterparts, how about watching more than one film by Alice Guy, Lois Weber, Frances Marion, Dorothy Arzner, Maya Deren, Ida Lupino, or Agnes Varda? And that’s just the first six weeks of class.”

The eventual fate of the City College of San Francisco is still being decided, but for now, its cinema department offers students a mix of hands-on (classes in cinematography, editing, sound, etc.) and theory (film theory, film history, genre studies, etc.) classes. The spring 2014 course catalog included such diverse offerings as “Focus on Film Noir,” “The Documentary Tradition,” “Pre-Production Planning,” and “Digital Media Skills.” Since 2000, the department has showcased outstanding student work in the City Shorts Film Festival, which last year screened both on-campus and at the Roxie Theater.

Tucked into the city’s foggiest corner is San Francisco State University, whose cinema department remains strongly tied to the school’s “core values of equity and social justice,” according to its website, with a special focus on experimental and documentary films. The faculty includes acclaimed filmmakers Larry Clark and Greta Snider, and students can earn a BFA, an MFA, or an MA (fun fact: like I did!)

On the newer end of the spectrum is the eight-year-old Berkeley Digital Film Institute, which offers “weekend intensives” to smaller groups of students. Dean Patrick Kriwanek says the school teaches “LA-style,” or commercial-style, filmmaking. “Our teachers all come from the American Film Institute or have worked on features,” he says. “We’re trying to train our kids to produce the same level of work that you’d see out of UCLA or USC grad schools — excellent work that’s thoughtful.”

The school also takes the practical side of entertainment into account. “I always joke that we try to be 51 percent art school and 49 percent business school, but it’s really true,” he adds. “You really have to be a business person if you want to succeed.”

On this side of the bay, at Mission and Fifth streets to be precise, there’s the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking, which aims to “create filmmakers with careers in the entertainment industry.” Faculty members include Frazer Bradshaw, director of the acclaimed indie drama Everything Strange and New (2009) and screenwriter Pamela Gray (1999’s A Walk on the Moon). In addition to months-long programs, the school offers workshops like a crowd funding how-to (an essential area of expertise for any independent artist these days) and a single-day “boot camp-style” intro to digital filmmaking. *


Rep Clock: March 26 – April 1, 2014


Schedules are for Wed/26-Tue/1 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double and triple features marked with a •. All times pm unless otherwise specified.

ARTISTS’ TELEVISION ACCESS 992 Valencia, SF; $7-12. “Gaze #7: Generation Loss,” independent films and videos made by women, Thu, 8. Other Cinema: “Christian Divine’s Imperial 80s Cinema,” Sat, 8:30.

BALBOA THEATRE 3630 Balboa, SF; $10. “Popcorn Palace:” The Wizard of Oz (Fleming, 1939), Sat, 10am. Matinee for kids.

BERKELEY FELLOWSHIP OF UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS 1924 Bonita, Berk; $5-10. •International Inquiry into 9/11, and 9/11 Into the Academic Community, Thu, 7. With filmmaker Ken Jenkins and Peter Phillips of Project Censored.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, $8.50-11. “Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014):” •Synedoche, New York (Kaufman, 2008), Wed, 7, and Punch-Drunk Love (Anderson, 2002), Wed, 9:15; •Jack Goes Boating (Hoffman, 2010), Thu, 6, and Magnolia (Anderson, 1999), Thu, 8; “Midnites for Maniacs:” •Happiness (Solondz, 1998), Fri, 7:20, and 25th Hour (Lee, 2002), Fri, 9:45. “Drag Queens of Comedy,” with Coco Peru, Sasha Soprano, Lady Bunny, Shangela, Pandora Boxx, Bianca Del Rio, and DWV, Sat, 7 and 10. Hosted by Heklina and Peaches Christ. Advance tickets ($35-100) at Beauty and the Beast (Trousdale and Wise, 1991), presented sing-along style, March 30-April 6, 7 (also Sun/30 and April 6, 2:30; no show April 5).

CHRISTOPHER B. SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, $6.50-$10.75. times. Le Week-End (Michell, 2013), Wed-Thu, call for times. Nymphomaniac: Volume I (von Trier, 2013), March 28-April 3, call for times. “Science On Screen:” Journey of the Universe (Kennard and Northcutt, 2011), Mon, 7.

CLAY 2261 Fillmore, SF; $10. “Midnight Movies:” The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Sharman, 1975), Sat, midnight. with the Bawdy Caste performing live.

HUMANIST HALL 390 27th St, Oakl; $5. Human Resources Part II (Noble), Wed, 6:30.

JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER OF SF Kanbar Hall, 3200 California, SF; $25. “Jewish Cult Classics Marathon:” •The Plot Against Harry (Roemer, 1969); The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob (Oury, 1973); and The Troupe (Nesher, 1978), Sun, noon.

MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE 57 Post, SF; $10. “CinemaLit Film Series: Mystique of the City: Films Shot in San Francisco:” Tucker: The Man and His Dream (Coppola, 1988), Fri, 6.

PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE 2575 Bancroft, Berk; (510) 642-5249, $5.50-9.50. “Jokers Wild: American Comedy, 1960-1989:” “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex:* but Were Afraid to Ask (Allen, 1972), Fri, 7; Young Frankenstein (Brooks, 1974), Fri, 8:50. “The Brilliance of Satyajit Ray:” Days and Nights in the Forest (1970), Sat, 6:30; The Adversary (1970), Sun, 5:15. “Jean-Luc Godard: Expect Everything from Cinema:” Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1966), Sat, 8:45. “Afterimage: Ross McElwee and the Cambridge Turn:” Backyard (McElwee, 1984), plus other biographical shorts, Sun, 2:30; Photographic Memory (McElwee, 2011), Tue, 7.

ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, $6.50-11. “I Wake Up Dreaming” benefit: The Argyle Secrets (Endfield, 1948), Wed, 7, and D.O.A. (Maté, 1950), Wed, 9:30. This event, $25; benefits the upcoming noir film series (May 16-25) at the Roxie. “Frameline Encore:” Intersexion (Lahood, 2012), Thu, 7. Free screening. Cheap Thrills (Katz, 2014), March 28-April 3, 7, 9 (also Sat-Sun, 5). Mistaken for Strangers (Berninger, 2013), March 28-April 3, 7, 8:45 (also Sat-Sun, 3:30, 5). “Czech That Film: A Festival of Current Czech Cinema:” Honeymoon (Hrebejk, 2013), Sun, 4; Don Juans (Menzel, 2013), Mon, 7; Colette (Cieslar, 2013), Tue, 7; Lousy Bastards (Kašparovský, 2013), April 2, 7.

YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS 701 Mission, SF; $8-10. “Design and Architecture Films Showcase:” •Tadao Ando: From Emptiness to Infinity (Frick, 2013), and The Successor of Kakiemon (Raes, 2012), Thu, 7:30; Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation (Haupt, 2013), Sat, 7:30, and Sun, 2. *