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San Francisco is home to the Oldest and Most Awesome Film Festival in the world

SFIFF 2016 in SAN FRANCISCO : San Francisco is home to the Oldest and Most Awesome Film Festival in the world. And you have a few more days to partake!

Guest Post By: Svet Sky

sf int film fest

Every Spring, I get super stoked. It’s beautiful in San Francisco, and I know that come April, I get two weeks of incredible movie premiers, live events and inspirational creatives flocking to our city.  What surprises me year after year is how few San Franciscans know that we are home to  the oldest film festival in the world. Let’s change that!

For the last 5 years, I’ve had the pleasure of attending and writing about the San Francisco International Film Festival – an incredible combination of movies, events, talks, parties and community that comes together to celebrate film, creativity and connection. This year, it’s time to invite you all to the party. And yes, there are still a few days for you to check out some incredible films and events.

This year, there are 175 movies representing over 45 countries. If the films are the Cruffin, what comes with the films, is the delicious Bakehouse SF filling you’re happy to wait an hour in line to taste. Yes, I’ve done it too. It’s OK.

It’s rare that art comes alive in such a real way, and the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) does such an incredible job of getting the people who make it all possible to come and hang out with the rest of us. There is typically a director, producer and/or actor present at every film screening.

This year’s opening night was particularly unique. The energy was buzzing with the color purple, as everyone had learned earlier that day that Prince had passed.When the Executive Director of the SFFS, Noah Cowan, welcomed everyone to the festival, his first words were, “ We are gathered here today, to get through this thing called life.”

It felt like everyone took a big deep breath in and out  together.  I might have cried. Maybe.

The whole audience was with him, sinking deeper into their comfortable seats, surrounded by the beauty and force that is the legendary Castro Theatre.


What I loved most about the Opening Film, “Love and Friendship” aside from the hilarious and brilliant performance by Kate Beckinsale (who was present, funny and gorgeous ) was that it was exactly what the Director Whit Stallman promised as he introduced the film.  Yes, this film, based on the Jane Austin novella was in fact, purely enjoyable. Without getting into the nitty gritty details of the film, I’ll say that its female characters are entertainingly immoral, fun, quirky and authentic in a way that inspires me to keep being more myself. Go see it, you’ll have some fun, and appreciate the genius that is, Jane Austin.

I learned on Opening Night that Amazon Studios helped distribute Love and Friendship, and works to support smaller budget films find their audiences. Last years brilliant film about the Beach Boys, “Love and Mercy,” which I also screened first at the SFIFF 2015, was the first film to be distributed by this new wing of Amazon. Bravo!

Another standout is, “Check it.” I became intrigued with the documentary because I was curious to learn more about the first ever gay gang in the world. This intensely real documentary chronicles the life of a few members of a gang in Washington, DC. I was deeply moved by this movie, and not just because I grew up in D.C. This documentary is a testament to the power of the human spirit, of transformation and mostly, of community. The directors, Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer were present and shared a way the audience can get involved and educated about the issues affecting the gay and transgender community. If this is an issue you’re passionate about learning more about, please visit

global vision

I ran into Dana in the Mission after the screening. Speaking with her, I could feel how passionate she is about helping the kids in this gang share their story and get off the streets. This to me, is what the festival is about – raising awareness around issue that matter to our society and to the world at large.

Another film I screened which greatly inspired me is called, “As I Open My Eyes.” The story of Farah, and the journey she goes on as she claims her independence among the society on the brink of a revolution. The director Leyla Bouzid flew in from Tunisia for the premier, and was so excited and humble as she introduced the film. The best part of this movie was the original music created and performed throughout the film.

If you’re in San Francisco this week, go and check out the festival. You still have a few days of movies, events and inspiration to be found. The venues this year have expanded, so you might find yourself at the Alamo Drafthouse, BAMPFA, Castro Theatre, Roxie Theater or the Victoria Theater. I’m attending a workshop tonight called, “ Beginnings and Endings: Master Class with David Thomson.” A little exploration of Citizen Kane and Psycho, in a beautiful setting, with creative people in the city that we all love? Yes, please.

castro theater

To learn more about the SFIFS and the SFIFF 2016, please visit the SFIFF website.


59th San Francisco International Film Festival

The 59th San Francisco International Film Festival runs April 21-May 5 at the Castro Theatre, the Alamo Drafthouse New Mission, the Roxie Theater and the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco and BAMPFA in Berkeley. Held each spring for 15 days, SFIFF is an extraordinary showcase of cinematic discovery and innovation in one of the country’s most beautiful cities, featuring nearly 200 films and live events, 14 juried awards with nearly $40,000 in cash prizes and upwards of 100 participating filmmaker guests.

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