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The San Francisco International Film Festival (April 21–May 5) opens its 54th year with an exhilarating lineup of films from around the world and an inspired variety of accompanying festivities. Highly anticipated by its loyal and passionate audiences, championed by civic and community leaders, admired by filmmakers and closely watched by industry professionals, SFIFF is one of the most important events on the Bay Area cultural calendar and an important stop on the international festival circuit. SFIFF54 opens April 21 and runs through May 5, with 188 films from 48 countries.

It all begins Thursday, April 21 with Beginners (USA 2010), as Opening Night at 7:00 pm at the historic Castro Theatre raises the curtain on director Mike Mills’ charming autobiographical tale inspired by his own father’s decision to come out late in life. A graphic artist (Ewan McGregor) who has always been unlucky in love embarks on a new relationship and gradually absorbs the lessons imparted by his father (Christopher Plummer), who emerges from a passionless marriage at 75 and comes out of the closet, refusing to let even a cancer diagnosis blunt his eagerness to let love into his life. After the screening, the Opening Night party kicks off at 9:30 pm at the elegant Terra Gallery in SOMA, where partygoers can celebrate and mingle while enjoying refreshing cocktails, international culinary delights and live music.

The Festival’s Centerpiece screening is a not-to-be-missed night showcasing the latest work from a celebrated new director. This year features Azazel Jacobs’ Terri (USA) followed by a chic party at one of San Francisco’s hottest nightspots. A heavy, shambling junior high student, Terri is the physical incarnation of all the insecurity and awkwardness that accompanies emerging adolescence, befriended by vice principal and fellow misfit Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly) in this hilariously touching, deeply humane tale of youth in transition. Terri will screen at 7:30 pm on Saturday, April 30 at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, followed by the Centerpiece party at 9:30 pm at CLIFT, located at 495 Geary Street (at Taylor). Cool cocktails and delectable hors d’oeuvres will add up to one hot scene.

The Festival’s Closing Night offers a rousing finale at 7:00 pm on Thursday, May 5, beginning with a screening of On Tour (France/Germany). Acclaimed French actor Mathieu Amalric directs and stars in this sexy yet wistful comedy about a disgraced French TV producer making a comeback with a troupe of buxom, brassy American burlesque performers touring the French countryside. After the screening, the Closing Night party commences at 9:30 pm at the Factory (525 Harrison Street near First Street) one of San Francisco’s most vivacious nightclubs, where partygoers will dance the night away to sizzling beats and enjoy delicious hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.

The Kanbar Award, honoring excellence in screenwriting, goes this year to the legendary Frank Pierson. The scribe behind some of the freshest and most enduring films in the canon of American cinema, including Cool Hand Luke and Dog Day Afternoon, Pierson also directed and helped write the storied (and infamously difficult) production of Barbra Streisand’s A Star Is Born. In addition to Awards Night, Pierson will join the Festival on Saturday, April 30, at 12:30 pm at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas for an onstage interview followed by a screening of the iconic film for which he received the Academy Award, Dog Day Afternoon (USA 1975). On Friday, April 29, 5:00 pm at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas Pierson will conduct a master class, Frank Pierson: A Writer’s Life, with an intimate discussion about the craft of screenwriting.

The Film Society’s Mel Novikoff Award, named for the pioneering San Francisco film exhibitor, is bestowed annually on an individual or institution whose work has enhanced the filmgoing public’s knowledge and appreciation of world cinema. This year’s recipient is the tireless Serge Bromberg, an indispensible force for film restoration and preservation as well as a film programmer, filmmaker and first-rate showman to boot. At An Afternoon with Serge Bromberg, Sunday, May 1 at 5:00 pm at the Castro Theatre, Bromberg will take part in an onstage interview followed by a special program featuring some of the earliest examples of 3-D motion pictures as well as some contemporary gems, and hosted and accompanied on piano by the inimitable Bromberg himself.

This year’s Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award, which honors a filmmaker working in forms other than narrative feature, goes to internationally celebrated artist Matthew Barney. Best known for his Cremaster cycle (1994–2002) of experimental films and related art works, Barney has changed the way we look at and make film. At An Afternoon with Matthew Barney, Saturday, April 30 at 5:00 pm at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, Barney will be presented with the award and participate in an onstage interview prior to a screening of his latest cinematic creation, Drawing Restraint 17.

Each year, the Film Society asks a culturally prominent public figure to address one or more of the pressing issues facing the intersecting worlds of contemporary cinema, visual arts, technology, viewership, images and ideas. The 2011 State of Cinema Address will be delivered at 9:00 pm, Sunday, April 24 by indie film maverick Christine Vachon. During the course of her remarkable career Vachon has produced often controversial films such as Kids (Larry Clark, 1995), I Shot Andy Warhol (Mary Harron, 1996), Happiness (Todd Solondz, 1998), Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Peirce, 1999), Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, 2001) and Cairo Time (Ruba Nadda, SFIFF 2010), as well as all of Todd Haynes’s films including Poison (1991), Safe (1995), Far From Heaven (2002), I’m Not There (2007) and the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce (2011). Vachon will speak on the current state of independent film and the role of producers of provocative cinema going forward. One of indie film’s most formidable and well-respected figures, Vachon’s take on the State of Cinema promises to enlighten and provoke.

The Festival’s Live & Onstage events this year include New Skin for the Old Ceremony, a three-part evening Tuesday, April 26 at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, featuring films and music produced in response to the profound beauty and unexpected humor in the work of Leonard Cohen. Cohen’s 1974 album New Skin for the Old Ceremony inspires 11 new short films by 11 directors and is followed by a classic documentary focusing on Cohen’s writing and public persona in the late ’60s, Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Mr. Leonard Cohen (Donald Brittain, Don Owen, Canada 1967, 45 min). Rounding out the evening will be live renditions of several Cohen songs in performances anchored by local songsmith Kelley Stoltz and the duo Pale Hoarse. From A to Zellner features Austin-based brothers David and Nathan Zellner presenting selections from their considerable oeuvre of short films, including the newest, Sasquatch Birth Journal 2. The Zellners write, direct, produce, shoot, edit and often act in their films, which run the gamut from heartfelt and touching to raucous and absurd, Sunday, April 24 at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas. With Porchlight, Beth Lisick and Arline Klatte bring their acclaimed nonfiction storytelling series to SFIFF in a special night of true, sometimes titillating, often absurd tales about making movies, Tuesday, May 3 at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas. And in Tindersticks: Claire Denis Film Scores 1996–2009 Stuart Staples and his colleagues in the British chamber-rock band Tindersticks present an unforgettable live performance, accompanying a meticulously prepared montage of scenes from six Denis films for which Staples and his bandmates have composed original soundtracks; Monday, May 2 at the Castro Theatre.

The San Francisco International Film Festival, established in 1957, is the longest-running festival in the Americas. Over the past 54 years, SFIFF has shown more than 6,000 films from 150 countries to an audience of more than two million film lovers. The International is deeply rooted in the strongest and finest traditions of appreciation of film both as an art form and as a meaningful agent for social change. It is a cultural treasure for Bay Area audiences who embrace new ideas, compassionate humanity and world citizenship. Remarkably intimate for a festival of its size and scope, the International combines a range of marquee premieres, international competitions, hard-hitting documentaries, digital media work and star-studded gala events.

Official Website: http://fest11.sffs.org/

Added by cinesoul on April 1, 2011