With roughly 100 feature programs each year (plus short films), the San Francisco International Film Festival traditionally emphasizes great foreign films without U.S. distribution, with a good showing of domestic independents and a smattering of great retrospective choices. The festival annually awards an Akira Kurosawa Award for lifetime achievement in directing (previous winners include Robert Altman, Clint Eastwood, Abbas Kiarostami, Arthur Penn, Stanley Donen, Satayajit Ray, Marcel Carné, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Robert Bresson, Michael Powell, and Akira Kurosawa) and a Peter J. Owens Award in acting (previous winners include Dustin Hoffman, Stockard Channing, Winona Ryder, Sean Penn, Nicholas Cage, Annette Bening, and Harvey Keitel) as well as the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award for lifetime achievement of artisans of short films, animation, documentaries or work for television and the Mel Novikoff Award for raising awareness of film. The festival also hosts seminars and, of course, big-ticket society parties. As in recent years, the "home" of the festival is the AMC Kabuki 8, though other venues include the glorious Castro Theatre and, stretching into other corners of the Bay Area, the invaluable Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, and the Aquarius in Palo Alto. In my visits to the festival over the last decade, I've always been mightily impressed with the festival's programs and well-oiled machinery. The SFIFF always promises glitz, glamour, fun, surprises, and the best of world cinema. For complete festival info., go to www.sffs.org.
For Groucho's coverage of the 2005 festival, click here.