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October Film Festival-palooza!

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Who knew this October would offer seven different film festivals?  But that’s exactly what’s happened thanks to a mix of regular scheduling and COVID-19 forced re-scheduling.  For the viewer wanting to see or try new movies, the options these festivals offer range from short films to some highly buzzed-about movies.

October 1-14

Cinequest/Cinejoy–Coronavirus concerns made Cinequest an early film festival casualty with its being cancelled halfway through.  Now through the online aid of Creatics, Cinejoy arrives to give viewers a second chance to see some Cinequest films they missed.  So catch such films as “WBCN And The American Revolution” (documentary about the first alternative FM radio station and its cultural and political impact), “Far East Deep South” (Baldwin and Edwin Chiu’s research into family history takes them to Mississippi, where they learn of a time when Chinese immigrants lived in the American South), “The Return of Richard III On The 9:24 A.M. Train” (when a dying man hires actors to impersonate his family, he doesn’t expect that the actors playing his loved ones turn out to be more neurotic than him), and “Come F*ck My Robot” (virgin hired to test a prototype sex robot has problems when the robot won’t consent to sex).  Signing up for free with Creatics is a prerequisite to ordering tickets.

October 3-10


17th San Francisco Greek Film Festival–Broke-Ass readers will definitely want to check this event as most of the films being offered will be shown this year for free.  The sole exception is the drive-in screening of “Topkapi” at San Mateo’s Par 3 at Poplar Creek.  It’s a screening in honor of the centenary of the birth of star Melina Mercouri.

“Free” offers a great reason to sample online some of the newest in Greek film.  Siege On Liperti Street concerns a bankrupt family in danger of losing their home near the UN Buffer Zone in Nicosia.  With nothing left to lose, they decide to fight back to save the roof over their heads.   When Tomatoes Met Wagner is a strange but true documentary.  To save the dying farming village of Elias, a couple of cousins team up with the village grannies to cultivate their tomatoes for export by playing Richard Wagner’s music to them.  Could these bottled organic tomatoes be the key to Elias’ salvation?  Electric Swan is set in a building whose movements give its unfortunate residents nausea.  While the top floor residents fear falling, the lower floor residents fear drowning.  See what else is being offered here.  

October 4-11

3rd Annual Drunken Film Fest–Also free and even (socially distant) live is the third edition of what East Bay Express readers voted last year as the Best New Cultural Event.  Once again, the festival offers a collection of independent short films from around the world (e.g. Japan, Haiti, and Estonia).  The offerings include the self-explanatory “You Are Going To Explode,” the music video “Said No Lover,” the animated tale of infidelity “Symbiosis,” the mixing of kid’s Afro and school Picture Day that’s “Pick,” and a visit to Quilt City, USA in “Quilt Fever.”     

However, to keep the festival COVID-compliant, live screenings will break from the tradition of holding them at various Oakland bars.  On October 4-6 and October 8-10, attendees will gather at the Tribune Tower open air parking lot, located at 13th Street in Oakland.  Remember to register in advance for a chance at a spot.  For the online experience on October 7 & 11, Twitch will show most of the previous three nights’ worth of films without geoblocking.  Booze for this festival sounds as if it’s BYOB.

Incidentally, be a real mensch by making digital payments directly to the filmmakers whose work is being shown. 

October 8-18

One Night In Miami

43rd Mill Valley Film Festival–COVID-reduced circumstances has only slightly diminished the biggest of the Fall’s film festivals.  This year’s Mill Valley Film Festival presents tributes to such famed actresses as Kate Winslet, Viola Davis, and Dame Judi Dench.  There will be a studio-grade outdoor cinema to show some of the festival’s bigger offerings such as the historical lesbian romance Ammonite.  Such highly buzzed about films as One Night In Miami, Nomadland, and Blithe Spirit make their Bay Area bows.  

But even if you exclude the real high-profile films, there’s still some good stuff to see online.  Right-wing types will hate (and you’ll love) The Big Scary “S” Word and The Boys Who Said NO!  One film looks at the history of socialism in America, the other recounts the impact of the nonviolent opponents of the Vietnam War-era draft.  Jumbo is an acclaimed tale of first love involving an introverted amusement park custodian and the park’s giant Tilt-A-Whirl.  Ruth: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words creates a portrait of the already much-missed Notorious RBG using only footage of her own words and actions.  Or try the SXSW Grand Jury Award Winner Shithouse.  The title is the name of a college campus’ party haven.  But it also describes  floundering college freshman Alex’s life at school.  How or if Alex can “crush college,” you’ll need to see for yourself.

October 9-18

2020 San Francisco Independent Short Film Festival–The San Francisco Independent Film Festival folks now bring you more than 150 short films from around the world (and around the Bay Area of course).  Try Dennis: The Man Who Legalized Cannabis (story of how local LGBTQ+ activist Dennis Peron fought in the 1990s to get pot to HIV/AIDS patients), Inmanencia (a meditative film that will reawaken viewers to love again the sounds and sights of nature), Kintsugi (therapist who treats victims of sexual abuse finds her treatment methods can’t help her deal with her own sexual abuse trauma), Dirty Business (welcome to Minh Khai, Vietnam, a place where the world’s plastic trash finds new life), or a la fin… (an animated and subdued look at COVID-19, raging wildfires, and other hellscape crises of 2020).

October 14-19

CAAMFest Forward–The Center for Asian American Media offers a bigger mix of virtual screenings, discussions, and even drive-in cinema at SF’s Fort Mason Center.  Treat the event put on during Asian Pacific Heritage Month as a cinematic appetizer.  This new event offers a feast of the newest in Asian and Asian American film.  Your options include: Hamtramck, USA (portrait of America’s first Muslim-majority city), The Girl Who Left Home (in this Filipino American musical, an aspiring musical theater actress is forced to return home to Maryland in the wake of her father’s death), A Simple Life (the award-winning Ann Hui story of a film producer (Andy Lau) trying to provide care for his family’s lifetime servant (Deanie Ip) after she suffers a stroke), Bulge Bracket (female investment banker interested in climbing the corporate ladder faces the Wall Street patriarchy), and Cover/Age (how the fight to ensure healthcare for all in the US shouldn’t mean leaving out elderly immigrants).

October 15-25

Our Flag Will Never Be Red

2020 United Nations Association Film Festival–This year’s theme for the annual international documentary festival is “The Power Of Empathy.”  Is it a coincidence that this personal quality seems nonexistent in the current American president and his cultists?  The online nature of this year’s festival will allow curious viewers to check out a documentary mix filled with films easily found in the US and good international offerings unlikely to be shown elsewhere.  Try Our Flag Will Never Be Red (guess how media concentration in the hands of six Brazilian families led to authoritarian POS Jair Bolsonaro leading Brazil), The Last Mambo (the history of the Bay Area’s Latin music scene), Naila And The Uprising (learn the story of the first Palestinian intifada through the eyes of a woman who played a key role in it), The Reunited States (meet people who’ve taken on the challenge of promoting political depolarization and communication across the political divide), or A Black Jesus (Wim Wenders produced this tale of Sicilians in a dying village divided over using the labor of asylum seekers to revitalize the town).

The movie theatres may generally still be closed.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t have access to films that Netflix’s algorithms never thought you’d like.

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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.