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Hooray! The SF Independent Film Festival is Here!

Updated: Feb 18, 2019 12:09
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Guest Post by Peter Wong

Love independent film but too broke to head out to Park City for either Sundance or Slamdance?  Such local film-lovers are in luck, as the 21st San Francisco Independent Film Festival (aka IndieFest) returns to the Roxie and Victoria Theatres to bring both fun and partying to eager audiences. The festival runs from January 30, 2019 to February 14, 2019 at both theatres. But there are also parties and wild events at such nearby venues as Dalva and 518 Gallery.

What sort of parties and events are we talking about?  Veteran IndieFest attendees will welcome the return of live comics mocking the Super Bowl (“Super Bowl LIII: Men In Tights”) as well as the beloved “Power Ballad Sing-A-Long” for your anti-Valentine’s Day celebrations.  This year’s Big Lebowski event is a screening of The Big Lebowski accompanied by a live performance by the Shadow Cast of midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show screenings fame. Added this year are a live electronica re-scoring of Fantasia courtesy of The Firmament and a chance to play “Beetlejuice Bingo.”

But what about the films, more impatient readers may ask.  Well, the films selected for this year’s IndieFest definitely aren’t safe conservative fare.  What you will find this year includes a girls’ birthday party that turns into a female version of “Lord of the Flies” (Ladyworld), a prosecutor trying to prove a self-driving car’s AI has feelings (Centerline), and a chronicle of the last year of the life of a young artist with cystic fibrosis (Exit Music).

What follows are a dozen titles that this writer thinks are worth checking out:


ASK FOR JANE–Back in the 1960s, getting birth control was practically impossible.  Receiving an abortion guaranteed a quick ticket to getting arrested by the police. Self-induced abortions came with a serious risk of death.  After Rose and Janice help a fellow University Of Chicago student get a life-saving medical abortion, they decide to set up the clandestine abortion service known as Jane to help other desperate pregnant women.  But as Jane’s success grows, the police increase their efforts to shut it down. Based on a true story.

Daddy Issues

DADDY ISSUES–The burgeoning lesbian relationship between aspiring artist Maya and designer Jasmine takes an unexpected turn after the designer’s secret money source is revealed.  Jasmine has a sugar daddy who’s into very unusual age-play. The resulting love triangle winds up screwing up all their lives.

DESOLATION CENTER–Were you ever involved in Los Angeles’ punk or industrial music scene in the early 1980s?  Then you may have heard of Desolation Center. It put on guerilla punk and industrial music concerts with a twist.  Attendees were driven in rented school buses to desolate Mojave Desert locations for bizarrely unforgettable concerts.  Before Coachella, before Burning Man, there was Desolation Center.

I MAY REGRET–The unreliable central character story gets an intriguing twist in this tale.  Is the young live-in nurse plotting to murder the elderly woman under her care? Before you side with the patient, know that she’s starting to suffer from dementia and that the story is told from her perspective.

LEVEL 16–At the Vestalis Academy school for teen girls, its students are trained to be paragons of femininity.  Yet strong emotional bonds between the girls are heavily discouraged. Why? And what are these teens being trained for?  In this world which shares the atmosphere of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” student Vivien starts figuring out the Academy’s dark secret and how to fight it.

LITTLE WOODS—IndieFest’s Centerpiece film takes place among the rural poor in the former North Dakota fracking boomtown of Little Woods.  At the story’s center are sisters Ollie (Tessa Thompson) and Deb (Lily James). Ollie just wants to finish her probation and leave her old criminal life behind.  Deb’s having trouble with a deadbeat ex-husband and an unplanned pregnancy. The sisters are forced back together when their mother’s house faces foreclosure. Hard choices must be faced, including the temptation to do one last score.

The Man Who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot

THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT–Calvin Barr (Sam Elliott) once snuck into Nazi High Command and killed Hitler.  This grumpy old man’s still tough enough nowadays to take down three would-be carjackers. Now the FBI and the Canadian government want him to kill a virus-laden Bigfoot.  But as Barr prepares to face his final foe, he must confront the legacy of a life shaped by violence. Kick off Opening Night at the Roxie with this film!

MY FRIEND THE POLISH GIRL–Rich American amateur filmmaker Katie decides to use spottily employed Polish actress Alicja as her documentary subject.  But what begins as a project about an immigrant living in London turns into an ethical and cinematic mess where Katie reveals more about herself than her subject.   Visual styles ranging from video blogging to cinema verite liven the experience of watching this drama.

OCTAVIO IS DEAD!–This psychosexual ghost story centers on Tyler, a withdrawn young woman who moves into the apartment of her dead estranged father.  There, she discovers both her father’s ghost and her own sexuality. When Tyler starts wearing the dead man’s clothes, she becomes attracted to one of her father’s former students…who mistakes her for a boy.

SEVEN STAGES TO ACHIEVE ETERNAL BLISS BY PASSING THROUGH THE GATEWAY CHOSEN BY THE HOLY STORSH–A couple newly arrived in Los Angeles winds up living in the suicide headquarters of the Cult Of Storsh.  Under the teachings of the guru (Taika Waititi), the couple starts to find personal fulfillment. But part of the fulfillment process involves assisting in near-nightly suicides.

This Taco Truck Kills Fascists

THIS TACO TRUCK KILLS FASCISTS–In New Orleans, artist Jose Torres-Tama and his two sons Darius and Diego are part of the Taco Truck Resistance Network.  Flipping the Trump-era canard of “a taco truck on every corner” on its head, the theater troupe brings Mexican food and immigrant enlightenment to the masses under their banner of “No Guacamole For Immigrant Haters.”  Meanwhile, Torres-Tama struggles to raise his sons to be politically aware in racist America.

THE WOLF HOUSE–This Chilean stop motion animated film is told in a series of layered tales.  A girl named Maria runs away from her Chilean German community to escape punishment. The mysterious house in the woods that Maria finds offers questionable refuge.  Here, rooms expand and contract, pictures dance across the walls, and figures sprout from the floor. Maria’s own form soon starts becoming less stable. Is the house is trying to give Maria a message or another story?

Other film festivals may close by saying “see you at the movies.”  The IndieFest closer is “see you at the movies, the parties, and even the sing-a-long.”

For further information about IndieFest, its program, and ordering advance tickets, go to

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Peter Wong

Peter Wong

I've been reviewing films for quite a few years now, principally for the online publication Beyond Chron. My search for unique cinematic experiences and genre dips have taken me everywhere from old S.F. Chinatown movie theaters showing first-run Jackie Chan movies to the chilly slopes of Park City. Movies having cat pron instantly ping my radar.