The Big Screen

It deals with the issues confronting humanity in the 21st century, such as peace and security, climate change, human rights, terrorism, humanitarian, and gender equality.

These words are part of the United Nations mission. But they could equally be applied to the San Francisco International Film Festival. The event, running from April 23 to May 7, will show roughly 181 films from 49 countries. Here are some screenings not to miss:

Steve_Jobs_The_Man_in_the_Machine_01Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

When struggling with a tough decision, Bay Area locals don’t ask themselves “What would the president do?” but “What would Steve Jobs have done?” That’s why Alex Gibney’s Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine will fascinate the populace in this 7-by-7-and-beyond area. Known for his controversial film on Scientology, Going Clear, Gibney has created another polarizing doc that disenchants the higher ups in the sanctum known as Apple. Gibney himself professes to love his iPhone less after making the film. He is slated to attend the screening.

New_Society_July_Miranda_03Photo by Pamela Gentile, courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Unconventional is a word used time and again to describe Miranda July’s work, whether it be her performance art, novels, or films, particularly the one narrated by a cat. An upbringing in Berkeley tends to nourish a girl’s right side of the brain. In her solo theatrical performance, “New Society,” prepare to participate—although all details are being kept hush-hush. But, technically, then, it sounds like it won’t be solo.

Very_Semi_Serious_01Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Sure, The New Yorker has good articles. But sometimes we buy it for the cartoons. San Francisco filmmaker Leah Wolchok documents those beloved cartoonists in Very Semi-Serious. It’s a particularly timely ode to an underappreciated art after the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo earlier this year.

Black_Panthers_Vanguard_of_the_Revolution_02Photo by Pirkle Jones, courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

How did the Black Panthers grow from a small group of men in Oakland to a movement of millions? That’s the subject of The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. After the screening, director Stanley Nelson and members of the Black Panther party will discuss the civil rights issues from yesterday to today, and Oakland’s part in them.

54_Directors_Cut_PosterPhoto courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

When 54 was released in 1998, it wasn’t really 54—at least as director Mark Christopher envisioned it. Miramax execs ordered gay scenes cut. The main character, Shane, a bisexual, was demoted to being straight as he frolicked through the mythical disco era of Studio 54 in New York. A bootleg copy began circulating (of poor quality) that propelled it to instant gay cult-classic status. Christopher has since assembled a quality version (54: The Director’s Cut) that will debut at the festival.

Welcome_to_Me_01Photo courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

Palm Springs gets its 15 minutes of fame in Shira Piven’s Welcome to Me. The performance of Kristen Wiig is another reason to see this dark comedy about a woman with borderline personality disorder who wins the lottery.

Castro_TheaterPhoto by Pamela Gentile, courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society
Title photo by Tommy Lau, courtesy of the San Francisco Film Society

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